Strange but true: ‘American Hustle’ will be released as ‘American Bullshit’ in Germany

Bradley Cooper starring in a remarkable facsimile of a cigarette ad from 1980.

This is not a joke. David Russell’s American Hustle, due out in the U.S. on Dec. 19th, will be released as American Bullshit in Germany next February. That was actually the screenplay’s original title, but of course no studio would release a film here by that name. (U.S. distributor Columbia wouldn’t be able to advertise it in newspapers or on network TV, and no studio would ever risk under-publicizing a movie with this star-studded a cast.)

AmericanHustle_intlThe title doesn’t register as a profanity in Germany, of course. Maybe it sounds colorful and edgy to German speakers, and who knows, maybe David Russell and his co-writer Eric Singer actually prefer this title. (Back in 1999, a reverse situation occurred with  Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me: that title that played as comical and harmless in the U.S., but “shag” as a verb is a vulgarity in Great Britain, and the studio didn’t change it for the U.K. release.)

American Hustle is a fictionalized account of the ABSCAM scandal — a prolonged FBI investigation into political corruption— of the late 1970s and early ’80s. The intrigue involves a pair of con artists played by Christian Bale and Amy Adams, and an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper, sporting impressively bad period hair), as well as assorted scheming politicians and Mafiosi. American Hustle sums up the everybody’s-on-the-make vibe.

District 12 was never like this.

Meanwhile, given the recent revelations about NSA spying on the cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, not to mention snooping on millions of German citizens (as well as millions of others all over the world), I can’t help wondering if the phrase “American bullshit” doesn’t have a slightly different ring in Germany right now — if it might not suggest a tautology, you could say, to millions of Germans and other Europeans.

You can watch the German-language trailer for American Bullshit below. The German trailer is flashier and better edited than the U.S. preview, though the montage here reinforces the nagging sense I got from the English trailer that David Russell is just doing reheated Scorsese with this film. (And didn’t Russell already use Led Zep’s “Good Times, Bad Times” in The Fighter?) On the other hand, hearing a German actor dubbed over Christian Bale means you lose the Noo Yawk accent Bale adopted for his character — that accent alone screams “crime/mob movie” to U.S. viewers.

American Hustle opens in the U.S. on December 19th. American Bullshit opens in Germany on February 13th, 2014.

UPDATE, 2/13/14: American Hustle is being released in Germany under its original title after all. After the movie was nominated for multiple Oscars and Golden Globes, no doubt it made far more sense to stick with the better-known title rather than risk confusing German audiences with the title American Bullshit. (If you watch the online trailer from German distributor Tobis above, you’ll notice it has been amended by simply slapping the word “Hustle” over “Bullshit” at the end of the preview.)

If anyone got hold of a print copy of the American Bullshit poster (see the top of this post), congratulations, you have a bona fide collector’s item!

Amy Adams broadens her range by playing a SOLID GOLD dancer. (You might have to be a certain age to get this joke.)

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