The history of cinema is chock-full of god-awful titles. No news there. But how many great films have had to overcome such titles to reach audiences? More than you might think. Take, for example, “The Americanization of Emily.” What was Paddy Chayefsky thinking?! Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge Paddy Chayefsky fan. I’ve read all of his teleplays and screenplays; and I’ve watched all of the television dramas and films drawn from those scripts. But “The Americanization of Emily?!” Not only is it too long and impossible to remember, but it’s intentionally obscure. And the list of god-awful titles doesn’t stop there. Not by a long shot. Consider –
“August” – Tells me nothing about the film. Not the genre or the subject matter. Nor is it mysterious or intriguing. It’s simply the month during which the story takes place.
“The Beguiled” – Too generic. Suggests seduction and perhaps witchcraft. Neither, however, has anything to do with the film’s plot.
“Bravo Two Zero” – Obscure military lingo. Supposed to communicate authenticity, but in fact communicates nothing at all.
“The Broken” – Too vague. Could refer to anything at all.
“The Chumscrubber” – I don’t even know what to say about this one!
These are but a few examples from my sub-list, “A rose by any other name”: Great Films with God-Awful Titles. All of the films on the sub-list are worth watching. And they wouldn’t have been improved by better titles. But why make a great film and then call it something that discourages people from seeing it? It makes no sense to me.