French Movies to Watch Absolutely

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French Movies and the Birth of the Cinematographe

Over the decades, France has occupied an important position among the most significant movies to watch. The history of cinema begins precisely in France with French movies, at the end of the nineteenth century, when Louis and Auguste Lumiere invented the Cinematograph. France was at that time the most culturally advanced nation and Paris was the world capital of the arts.

From universal exhibitions to the most vital artistic movements of literature and painting all seem to take place in Paris. The Lumière brothers exploit an intuition that had already been in the air for a long time and on which several inventors in various parts of the world were working. 

Thomas Edison, the directors of Brighton school in the United Kingdom and other artists and inventors had patented their prototype for the projection of cinematographic images. But it was in the turmoil of Paris that the suitable conditions were created for the official presentation of the Cinematografo, the contraption created by the Lumière Brothers. 

The history of cinema, especially at its origins, identifies with the history of French cinema. The first eccentric character of a long line of French artists who chose cinema to invent new languages ​​is George Melies

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George Melies Films 

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George Melies

After hundreds documentaries made by the Lumière brothers and their cameramen who they sent around the world to film real life George Melies arrives, and cinema takes the first of its countless turns. 

Melies, a Parisian magician and magician, was struck by the screening of the Lumière brothers at the Capuchin café. He absolutely wanted a copy of the Cinematografo to work on some of his projects, but the Lumiere refused to sell him one. 

Determined not to give up, Melies had one built on his own. A few years later he created a futuristic soundstage in the garden of his house. It was a theater with completely glass walls and roof that let the sun’s rays filter through at any hour of the day. 

Depending on the light that Melies wanted to obtain, he chose the time to film the scenes. It was there that he made most of his films which were subsequently seen all over the world, surreal and dreamlike short films of rare beauty, which were colored by hand frame by frame.

Too bad he did not know how to manage the entrepreneurial side of his business which ceased a few years later. The reason was not only Melies’ financial mismanagement, who instead of renting his films sold them, losing profits. But above all, the immediate birth of industrial cinema starting from 1896. 

The Birth of film Studios 

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French studios

In 1896 and 1897 the two great French studios were born, Pathe and Gaumont, which immediately monopolize the market by cutting out the artisans and the small ones. independent directors like Melies. The artistic and individual decline of cinema began immediately after its birth. 

In fact, the cinema immediately turned out to be a huge business. Crowds of people all over the world flocked to cinemas in front of the big screen to experience the stories in images. The industrial groups sniffed the business and immediately began to transform the cinema from art into an entertainment industry. 

The first stars of the big screen were created who came from the Theater of the Comédie Francaise. The first were conceived and structured genres of films, according to the highest grossing at the box office. A mechanism that would have been perfected at much higher levels by Hollywood a few decades later. 

French Movies in the 1920s

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Jean Epstein

In the 1920s, cinema probably reached its peak in France. It is the decade of the pictorial avant-gardes that mix with pure cinematographic art. While Pathe and Gaumont begin the serial production of standardized film products, there is a ferment in the art world that would not have been seen later. 

This is the avant-garde cinema which in France produces a long series of masterpieces. From the impressionism of Abel Gance, Jean Epstein (with his grandiose masterpiece Cuore Fedele), to the first French surrealist films Come Entr’act by René Claire. 

Impressionism and the new avant-gardes: French cinema of the 1930s

In the 1930s impressionism blends with poetic realism with directors of the caliber of Julien Duvivier, Marcel Carné and Jean Renoir. The free and unclassifiable genius of the films of Jean Vigo, like Atalante and Zero for conduct. 

French Movies After the War

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André Bazin

At the end of the fifties and sixties, French cinema was reborn after a long slowdown due to the Second World War. It reaches its maximum expression also thanks to a gentleman named André Bazin. 

He was a film journalist who, by the inscrutable will of fate, brings together in his editorial staff of the Cahier du Cinema those who would have been the most important directors in the world in the following years. 

An undertaking that would have been deemed impossible even by those who had the opportunity to travel the entire planet, with an infinite budget, in search of talents of this kind. 

Instead this gentleman, a little older than them, found them all in his little and unlucky editorial office: Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Éric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette and Robert Bresson

And from these angry young people, half critics half directors, the new Wave of French cinema was born, the Nouvelle Vague. A movement that would spread all over the world, creating new waves almost everywhere, from the United States of America to Iran

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Francois Truffaut

The key moment of the story was the Cannes Film Festival in 1959, where the first works bywere presented Francois Truffaut and Alain Resnais: it is Hiroshima Mon Amour and the 400 shots. Films are hugely successful by consecrating the new mode of independent and artistic production. In particular, The 400 Blows by Truffaut will become the symbolic film of the Nouvelle Vague

Thanks to the Nouvelle Vague, a golden season of art cinema world-wide, a new revolution against the monopoly of the entertainment and film-product industry. 

From the ferment of the Nouvelle Vague came dozens of talented directors, including the extraordinary Jean Cocteau, who tried his hand at cinema with the eyes of a poet. 

At that time France also hosted and produced the works of various directors who emigrated from other countries who found their highest expression in their French movies, such as Luis Bunuel. 

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French Movies after the 1970s

Since the beginning of the 1970s in France, as in the rest of the world, television has crushed the film market, reducing it to less than a tenth of what it was in the 1950s. Even the famous directors of the Nouvelle Vague see the takings of their films collapse. 

Not to mention directors like Jean-Luc Godard, real revolutionaries of the art of cinema who have become insignificant from a commercial point of view. The taste of the public becomes more and more homologated due to the bombing of television language: a low-level language. 

The TV series begin to accustom the public to a different relationship with moving images. The visual and pictorial art that had influenced the art cinema, together with the musical rhythm of the montage and poetry, become completely secondary factors. 

People are fond of more than anything else serial characters, to the story, preferring more and more domestic laziness to the social ritual of cinematic viewing on the big screen. All the great European directors are in crisis, while the American market reinvents itself by producing increasingly commercial films. 

In this period, a director such as Luc Besson made a name for himself. His filmography consists largely of commercial films. We are at a completely different level than a few decades earlier. Even in its country of origin, which has always supported an artistic vision, cinema is transformed into something more homologated. 

French Movies of the 90s

In the 90s there seems to be a certain revival of arthouse film that wants to follow in the footsteps of the Nouvelle Vague. Leos Carax, Olivier Assayas, Patrice Leconte, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Mathieu Kassovitz. There are some quality results, but they are isolated episodes. Each director works on his own and there is no comparison, it is the connection of ideas from the 60s. 

Then names such as emerge François Ozon, Xavier Giannoli and Michel Gondry. In fact, many of these directors are overrated. Their films are never really true arthouse films but rather hybrid products, halfway between genre and art films. 

In short, the definitive conviction has been created that to please the public one must not experiment too much, and focus on products that work commercially. In this period the financial aspect of cinema predominates over any other vision. If a film does not make a profit, the director is out of the game. 

French Movies of the 2000s

At the beginning of the 2000s, things started to change again. Non-linear digital video cameras and editing software become low-cost means of expression for filmmakers who do not have access to finance because they are outside the logic of commercial production. 

Many things have changed since Jean Luc Godard’s 16mm experiments in the 1960s, but the spirit of digital cinema is the same: making a film to take the language of cinema to the next level is the filmography of an author. Digital, however, allows a much more radical reduction in production costs than the 16 mm of the Nouvelle Vague. 

To date, the phenomenon of very low-cost films shot digitally is proliferating both in France and around the world. But this new type of film struggles to establish itself in the world of cinema distribution and marketing. The public has been used to it for decades since great studios to watch spectacular movies with great popular stars. 

The marketing mechanisms for the release of a new film have remained exactly the same that Hollywood applied immediately after its birth. A massive advertising campaign to maximize profits in ever faster times. 

Cinemas are exclusive distribution shops of mainstream cinema, sometimes of mainstream movies that are disguised as arthouse films, to cover even the small niche of audiences that are still looking for art films. 

Independent cinema, on the other hand, thinks in a completely opposite way: it thinks in terms of decades. The purpose of the art film is to enhance itself more and more over time. Do not forfeit the maximum possible profits in the shortest possible time, and then be forgotten. 

French Films to Watch: Masterpieces of Cinema History

Many French directors and films have become milestones in the history of cinema. French cinema is one of the cinemas that has experimented with the most innovative languages ​​and has given life to the most fascinating avant-gardes. Here is a list of key French movies, masterpieces of cinema history and particularly successful and significant movies. 

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

Genre: Sci-Fi, Adventure

Director: Georges Méliès

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Georges Méliès (Professor Barbenfouillis)
  • Bleuette Bernon (Fairy)
  • Victor André (Michel Ardan)
  • Henri Delannoy (Astronaut)
  • Farjaux (Selenite)
  • Kelm (Selenite)

Plot:

A group of astronomers, led by Professor Barbenfouillis, embark on a fantastical adventure: a journey to the Moon. Aboard a projectile fired from a giant cannon, the astronauts land on the Tycho crater.

Reception:

A Trip to the Moon was a huge success at the time of its release, enchanting audiences with its innovative special effects and its fantastic imagination. The film is considered a masterpiece of silent cinema and a milestone in the science fiction genre.

Les Vampires (1915)

Genre: Serial film, Crime, Thriller

Director: Louis Feuillade

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Édouard Mathé (Philippe Guérande)
  • Musidora (Irma Vep)
  • Marcel Lévesque (Oscar Mazamette)
  • Jean Aymé (Joseph Bouquier)
  • Henri Desfontaines (Le Grand Vampire)

Plot:

Journalist Philippe Guérande investigates a gang of criminals called “The Vampires”, led by the mysterious Irma Vep. The gang carries out thefts, kidnappings and murders with great skill and cruelty. Guérande, aided by his faithful collaborator Oscar Mazamette, sets out on their trail to unmask and stop them.

Reception:

Les Vampires was a great success at the time of its release, becoming a cult movie and influencing generations of filmmakers. The serial was praised for its gripping plot, memorable characters and the innovative cinematographic techniques used.

Faithful Heart (1923)

Original title: Cœur fidèle

Genre: Drama

Director: Jean Epstein

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Léon Mathot
  • Gina Manès
  • Edmond Van Daële
  • Madeleine Erickson
  • Marie Epstein

Plot:

Set against the Marseille docks, “Faithful Heart” tells a melodramatic story of thwarted love. The plot details are vague, but it is known to involve a love triangle and social barriers that prevent the lovers from being together.

Reception:

The film received positive reviews for its innovative camerawork and editing techniques, which experimented with rhythmic editing, overlays, close-ups, and point-of-view shots. However, the narrative itself was not widely discussed in critical reception.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Genre: Silent Historical Drama

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Renée Jeanne Falconetti (Joan of Arc)
  • Eugene Silvain (Cauchon)
  • André Berley (Warwick)
  • Maurice Schutz (The Inquisitor)

Plot:

The film focuses on the trial and execution of Joan of Arc, a young woman who claimed to receive divine visions and led the French army to victory during the Hundred Years’ War. The story unfolds over several hours leading up to her execution, depicting the emotional and psychological torment she endures during her interrogation by Church authorities.

Reception:

The Passion of Joan of Arc is widely considered a cinematic masterpiece. Praised for its innovative camerawork, stark imagery, and especially Renée Jeanne Falconetti’s powerful performance as Joan, the film has garnered a reputation for its emotional intensity and portrayal of religious persecution.

Napoléon (1927)

Genre: Epic historical silent film

Director: Abel Gance

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Albert Dieudonné (Napoléon Bonaparte)
  • Gina Manès (Letizia Ramolino)
  • Vladimir Roudenko (Maximilien de Robespierre)
  • Antonin Artaud (Marat)
  • Philippe Hériat (Narrator)

Plot:

Napoleon tells the story of the early years of Napoleon Bonaparte, from his childhood in Corsica to his rise as a successful military leader in Italy. The film explores his ambition, idealism, and determination against the backdrop of the turbulent French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.

Reception:

Napoleon was an ambitious and innovative work for its time. Praised for its groundbreaking cinematic techniques, such as the triple screen finale and use of innovative montage, the film had a significant impact on the history of cinema. However, its monumental length (originally over 5 hours) and production difficulties hindered its distribution and initial reception. Today, Napoleon is recognized as a classic of French silent cinema and a visionary work of early cinema.

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Un Chien Andalou (1929)

Genre: Short surrealist film

Director: Luis Buñuel

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Pierre Batcheff (The Man)
  • Simone Mareuil (The Woman)
  • Luis Buñuel (Man with a Razor)
  • Salvador Dalí (Seminarist)

Plot:

Un Chien Andalou is a short film without a clear narrative. It presents a series of dreamlike, often disturbing, and visually striking images that defy traditional logic and storytelling. The film opens with a man sharpening a razor, and then cuts to a woman’s eye being sliced open. Other scenes include a man dragging a grand piano through the streets, a group of ants crawling out of a man’s hand, and a dead donkey on a piano.

Reception:

Un Chien Andalou was a controversial film upon its release, but it has since been praised for its groundbreaking surrealist imagery and its influence on the development of avant-garde cinema. The film is considered a classic of surrealist cinema and a landmark in the history of experimental film.

L’Âge d’Or (1930)

Genre: Surrealist satirical comedy

Director: Luis Buñuel

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Gaston Modot (The Young Man)
  • Lya Lys (The Young Woman)
  • Max Ernst (Bearded Man)
  • Pierre Prévert (Narrator)

Plot:

L’Âge d’Or is a satirical film that criticizes bourgeois society, religion, and authority. The plot is fragmented and presents a series of surreal vignettes that explore themes of love, sexuality, violence, and repression.

Reception:

L’Âge d’Or was a highly controversial film upon its release. It was accused of blasphemy and obscenity and was banned in France for several years. However, the film has since been reevaluated and is now considered a classic of surrealist cinema. 

About Nice (1930)

With an old used movie camera bought with money lent by his wife’s father, Jean Vigo shoots a documentary on Nice. Meeting Boris Kaufman changes the French director’s initial project, which will be influenced by Dziga Vertov’s operator. The nature and tourist locations of Nice: casinos, carnivals, beaches, bars with tables in the sun. Upper bourgeois Nice is compared with poor neighborhoods.

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La Chienne (1931)

Genre: Drama

Director: Jean Renoir

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Michel Simon (Maurice Legrand)
  • Janie Marèse (Lulu)
  • Georges Flamant (Dédé)
  • Magdeleine Bérnard (Adèle Legrand)
  • Pierre Duryea (Paul)

Plot:

La Chienne tells the story of Maurice Legrand, a shy and submissive man who works as a clerk in a hardware store. He is married to Adèle, a sour and unhappy woman. One day, Maurice meets Lulu, a young prostitute, and falls in love with her. He begins an affair with her, which leads him to neglect his work and family. When Adèle discovers the affair, she throws Maurice out of the house. He goes to live with Lulu, but their relationship is stormy and violent. In the end, Maurice kills Lulu and is arrested.

Reception:

La Chienne was a controversial film upon its release. It was accused of immorality and misogyny. However, the film has since been reevaluated and is now considered a classic of French cinema.

Wooden Crosses (1932)

Genre: War film, Drama

Director: Raymond Bernard

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Pierre Blanchar (Gilbert Demachy)
  • Annabella (Yvonne)
  • Philippe Hersent (Charles Leroy)
  • Gabriel Gabrio (Sergeant Volpatte)
  • Jean Murat (Captain Aubert)

Plot:

Wooden Crosses (French: Les Croix de Bois) follows the story of Gilbert Demachy, a young and patriotic law student who enlists in the French army at the start of World War I. Filled with idealistic notions of war, he soon experiences the brutal realities of trench warfare on the Western Front.

The film portrays the camaraderie and resilience of French soldiers amidst the horrors of battle. As the war drags on, Demachy witnesses the devastating physical and emotional toll it takes on his comrades and himself. He grapples with disillusionment and the loss of innocence.

Reception:

Hailed by critics upon its release, Wooden Crosses was praised for its unflinching depiction of the horrors of war. It was seen as a powerful anti-war statement and a tribute to the sacrifices made by soldiers. The film’s innovative cinematography and use of real war veterans in the cast added to its realism and emotional impact.

Zero for Conduct (1933)

Original title: Zéro de conduite

Genre: Comedy/Documentary

Director: Jean Vigo

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Jean Dasté – Huguet, the new supervisor
  • Robert Le Vigan – Headmaster Happe
  • Louis Rivero – College prefect (surveillant)
  • Roger Blin – Pupil Colin
  • Lucien Descaves – Pupil Blond

Plot:

Four rebellious boys at a repressive French boarding school, constantly punished and frustrated by the strict rules and harsh discipline, decide to stage a revolt against the oppressive authorities. They find an unlikely ally in the new, more understanding supervisor, Huguet, who sympathizes with their struggles. Together, they cause playful chaos, disrupting the school routine and challenging the established power dynamic.

Reception:

Initially banned in France for its perceived anti-authoritarian message, the film gained acclaim upon its eventual release in 1945. It is celebrated for its innovative camerawork, playful humor, and social commentary on childhood and educational institutions. The film’s classification as either a comedy or documentary is debated, with some appreciating its realistic portrayal of school life and others emphasizing its satirical and fictional elements.

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L’Atalante (1934)

Genre: Drama / Documentary

Director: Jean Vigo

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Michel Simon (Père Jules, the old sailor)
  • Dita Parlo (Juliette, the young bride)
  • Jean Dasté (Jean, the groom)
  • Gilles Margaritis (The cabin boy)
  • Louis Lefebvre (A worker)

Plot:

L’Atalante is the story of Jean, a young bargeman who marries Juliette, a city girl. Together they board L’Atalante, the barge that Jean uses for river transport. Juliette, accustomed to city life, feels suffocated in the small space of the barge and struggles to adapt to the nomadic and Spartan life of her husband and the old sailor Père Jules, who lives with them on the boat.

While sailing along the French rivers, Juliette has an adventure with a charming swindler she meets in a port. Disconsolate and bored, she decides to abandon the boat. Jean, desperate, chases her and brings her back on board.

Reception:

L’Atalante is the last film by Jean Vigo, a director who died shortly before the end of filming. Released in 1934, it was a box office flop and panned by critics at the time. However, over time it has been reevaluated and is now considered a masterpiece of French cinema. It is praised for its visual poetry, innovative cinematography, performances by the protagonists and the ability to tell the story in a poetic and realistic way. difficulties of married life and the melancholy of existence.

La Grande Illusion (1937)

Genre: War drama

Director: Jean Renoir

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Jean Gabin (Captain Maréchal)
  • Pierre Fresnay (Captain de Boëldieu)
  • Erich von Stroheim (Captain von Rauffenstein)
  • Dita Parlo (Elsa)
  • Marcel Dalio (Rosenthal)
  • Julien Carette (Lieutenant Maréchal)

Plot:

La Grande Illusion (The Grand Illusion) follows the story of French aviators Captain Maréchal and Captain de Boëldieu who are captured by the Germans during World War I. Initially held in a relatively comfortable prison camp, they plot and attempt a series of escapes, each more daring than the last.

The film explores the themes of class, honor, and patriotism amidst the horrors of war. Captain Maréchal, a working-class mechanic who became an officer, embodies the “everyman” soldier. Captain de Boëldieu, an aristocrat, represents the traditional French officer class. Their experiences in captivity and their escape attempts reveal the breakdown of social barriers in the face of war.

The film also features a memorable performance by Erich von Stroheim as a disillusioned German officer, Captain von Rauffenstein.

Reception:

La Grande Illusion was a critical and commercial success upon its release. It won the award for Best Artistic Ensemble at the 1937 Venice Film Festival and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1939. Praised for its humanist message, its nuanced portrayal of war, and its strong performances, La Grande Illusion is considered a classic of French cinema and a powerful anti-war film.

Remorques (1939)

Genre: Drama

Director: Jean Grémillon

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Jean Gabin (André Laurent)
  • Madeleine Renaud (Yvonne)
  • Michèle Morgan (Norah)
  • Charles Blavette (P’tit Louis)
  • Jean Marchat (Victor)
  • Nane Germon (André’s mother)
  • Jean Dasté (The doctor)
  • René Bergeron (The mechanic)

Plot:

André Laurent, captain of the tugboat “Cyclone”, is a rough man used to hard work. He is married to Yvonne, a patient and understanding woman. One day, during a sea rescue, André meets Norah, a young woman who has lost her husband in the shipwreck. An immediate attraction is born between them, but André is torn between his sense of duty and his desire for Norah.

Reception:

Remorques was a great box office success and a highly acclaimed film by critics. It was praised for its realistic direction, accurate script, and intense performances. The film won the Best Director Award at the 1939 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1940.

La Règle du Jeu (1939)

Genre: Comedy-drama, Satirical

Director: Jean Renoir

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Nora Gregor (Christine de La Chesnaye)
  • Paulette Dubost (Marquise de La Chesnaye)
  • Mila Parély (Lucienne)
  • Marcel Dalio (Octave)
  • Julien Carette (Robert de La Chesnaye)
  • Roland Toutain (Stéphan)
  • Gaston Modot (Marceau)
  • Pierre Magnier (André Jurieux)

Plot:

La Règle du Jeu (The Rules of the Game) is set in 1930s France and tells the story of a group of aristocrats and bourgeois. The story revolves around the marriage between Christine, a young woman from a wealthy family, and Robert, an aviator. Their love is hindered by social conventions and the jealousies of the other characters.

Reception:

La Règle du Jeu was a box office failure at the time of its release, criticized by critics for its complexity and its social satire. However, over the years it has been re-evaluated and is now considered a masterpiece of French cinema. The film has been praised for its innovative direction, its brilliant screenplay, and its masterful performances.

Les Enfants du Paradis (1943)

Genre: Romantic drama

Director: Marcel Carné

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Arletty (Claire “Garance” Reine)
  • Jean-Louis Barrault (Baptiste Deburau)
  • Pierre Brasseur (Frédérick Lemaître)
  • Marcel Herrand (Pierre-François Lacenaire)
  • Pierre Renoir (Jéricho)
  • María Casares (Nathalie)
  • Louis Salou (Comte Édouard de Montray)
  • Gaston Modot (Fil de Soie)

Plot:

Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise) is set in Paris in the 1820s and tells the story of four people whose lives are intertwined by love, ambition, and betrayal.

  • Garance is a beautiful courtesan who is loved by three men: Baptiste, a mime; Frédérick, an actor; and Pierre-François, a poet and murderer.
  • Baptiste is a talented mime who is in love with Garance, but she does not return his feelings.
  • Frédérick is a successful actor who is also in love with Garance. He is jealous of Baptiste and tries to sabotage his career.
  • Pierre-François is a poet and murderer who is also in love with Garance. He is a complex and dangerous character who ultimately destroys himself and those around him.

Reception:

Les Enfants du Paradis was a critical and commercial success upon its release. It was praised for its beautiful cinematography, its lush sets and costumes, and its powerful performances. The film won the award for Best Artistic Ensemble at the 1937 Venice Film Festival and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1939.

Le Corbeau (1943)

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Pierre Fresnay (Dr. Rémy Germain)
  • Micheline Francey (Laura Vorzet)
  • Ginette Leclerc (Denise Martinet)
  • Pierre Larquey (Dr. Vorzet)
  • Louis Jouvet (Commissario Janvier)
  • Léonce Corne (Schlegelmilch)

Plot:

Le Corbeau (The Raven) takes place in an anonymous French town and tells the story of a series of anonymous defamatory letters, signed with the nickname “Le Corbeau” (The Raven). The letters accuse various inhabitants of the town of immoral behavior and crimes, including Dr. Rémy Germain, a recently arrived doctor. The baseless accusations sow suspicion and paranoia among the townspeople, leading to tension and even violence.

Reception:

Le Corbeau was initially controversial due to its negative portrayal of human nature and French society. However, over the years it has been recognized as a masterpiece of French cinema, praised for its suspense, masterful direction, and intense performances.

La Belle et la Bête (1946)

Genre: Fantasy, Drama

Director: Jean Cocteau

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Josette Day (Belle)
  • Jean Marais (Beast/Prince)
  • Michel Auclair (Avenant)
  • Marcel André (Père)
  • Nane Germon (Leontine)

Plot:

Belle, the youngest daughter of a merchant, offers herself to the Beast, a monstrous creature who lives in an enchanted castle, to save her father’s life. Imprisoned in the castle, Belle discovers that the Beast is not only a monster, but also a man with a kind heart, victim of a curse. Over time, Belle learns to love the Beast for his soul and inner beauty, breaking the curse and transforming him into a handsome prince.

Reception:

Beauty and the Beast was a critical and commercial success upon its release. The film was praised for its visionary direction, its dreamlike atmosphere, and its intense performances. Beauty and the Beast is considered a masterpiece of French cinema and one of the most beautiful versions of the classic fairy tale.

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Beauty and the Devil (1950)

Genre: Fantasy / Mystery / Thriller

Director: René Clair

Country of Origin: France / Italy (co-production)

Cast:

  • Michel Simon (Professor Henri Faust)
  • Gérard Philipe (Mephistopheles)
  • Nicole Besnard (Marguerite)
  • Simone Valère (Hélène)
  • Carlo Ninchi (Wagner)
  • Raymond Cordy (Valentine)
  • Tullio Carminati (Le duc de Valois)
  • Paolo Stoppa (Le roi)

Plot:

Beauty and the Devil (original title: La Beauté du diable) is a retelling of the Faust legend. Professor Henri Faust, an aging alchemist on the verge of retirement, despairs at his lack of progress in understanding the secrets of nature. Suddenly, Mephistopheles, the devil’s servant, appears and offers Faust a deal: eternal youth in exchange for his soul. Faust, tempted by the prospect of renewed youth and a life of pleasure, agrees to the pact.

Reception:

Beauty and the Devil was a critical success upon release. Praised for its imaginative retelling of a classic story, the film was lauded for its innovative special effects, witty dialogue, and strong performances. While some critics found the ending ambiguous, the film’s exploration of morality, temptation, and the pursuit of knowledge continues to resonate with audiences today.

Le Plaisir (1952)

Genre: Drama, Comedy

Director: Max Ophüls

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Claude Dauphin (Henri Duvernoy)
  • Gaby Morlay (Madame Tellier)
  • Madeleine Renaud (Fanny)
  • Ginette Leclerc (Rose)
  • Mila Parély (Lucienne)
  • Danielle Darrieux (Geneviève)
  • Pierre Brasseur (Joseph)
  • Jean Gabin (Monsieur Martin)
  • Jean Servais (Narrator)

Plot:

Le Plaisir (The Pleasure) is a 1952 anthology film by German director Max Ophüls, adapted from three short stories by Guy de Maupassant: “The Mask”, “The House of Tellier”, and “The Model”.

Episodes:

  • The Mask: An aging and decadent man, obsessed with lost youth, wears a mask to hide his wrinkles and frequents masked balls to feel desired again.
  • The House of Tellier: The prostitutes of a brothel are invited to a first communion in the countryside. The experience confronts them with their lives and choices, arousing reflections and regrets.
  • The Model: A young model of humble origins becomes the mistress of a wealthy businessman. Their relationship is marked by social disparity and hypocrisy, leading to a tragic ending.

Reception:

Le Plaisir was a critical and commercial success upon its release. The film was praised for its masterful direction, elegant cinematography, and intense performances. Le Plaisir is considered a masterpiece of French cinema and an example of auteur cinema.

Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953)

Genre: Comedy

Director: Jacques Tati

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Jacques Tati (Monsieur Hulot)
  • Nathalie Pascaud (Martine)
  • Micheline Rolla (Mme Edith)
  • Jean Tarbouillet (Monsieur Arpel)
  • Louis Perrault (Monsieur Rateau)
  • Raymond Follies (Monsieur Lebeuf)
  • Betty Peuget (Madame la concierge)

Plot:

Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (original title: Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot) is a delightful French comedy about a quirky vacationer named Monsieur Hulot. He arrives at a bustling seaside resort with his pipe, raincoat, and signature striped shirt, immediately standing out from the crowd.

Reception:

Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday was a critical and commercial success. It launched Jacques Tati’s international career and established him as a master of comedic observation. The film was praised for its visual humor, its charming portrayal of Monsieur Hulot, and its evocative depiction of a bygone era of seaside vacations.

The Wages of Fear (1953)

Genre: Thriller / Adventure

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Country of Origin: France / Italy (co-production)

Cast:

  • Yves Montand (Mario)
  • Charles Vanel (Luigi)
  • Folco Lulli (Jo)
  • Peter Van Eyck (Bimba)
  • Vera Clouzot (Linda)
  • René Blancard (Commandant)

Plot:

The Wages of Fear (French: Le salaire de la peur) is a 1953 film considered a masterpiece of French cinema and one of the most tense films ever made.

The story takes place in a remote town in Central America where a fire at an oil well threatens to destroy everything. The only hope to save the situation is to transport 900 kilos of nitroglycerin over 600 kilometers of rough and dangerous roads.

Reception:

The Wages of Fear was a critical and commercial success upon its release. The film was praised for its masterful direction, realistic cinematography, breathtaking action sequences, and intense performances by the actors. The film won the Palme d’Or at the 1953 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Les Diaboliques (1955)

Genre: Thriller, Horror

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Simone Signoret (Nicole Horner)
  • Véra Clouzot (Christina Delasalle)
  • Paul Meurisse (Michel Delasalle)
  • Charles Vanel (Michel Delasalle’s Headmaster)
  • Michel Serrault (Inspector Fichet)
  • Jean Brochard (Alfred, the School Janitor)

Plot:

Les Diaboliques (The Devils) is a 1955 French psychological thriller film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. The film stars Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, and Paul Meurisse.

The story follows Christina and Nicole, the wife and mistress of Michel Delasalle, the sadistic headmaster of a boys’ boarding school. The two women, who are both victims of Michel’s abuse, form an alliance and plot to murder him. They drown him in the school’s swimming pool and then dispose of his body in the furnace.

Reception:

Les Diaboliques was a critical and commercial success upon its release. The film was praised for its suspenseful plot, its stylish cinematography, and its intense performances by the actresses. Les Diaboliques is considered a classic of French cinema and a precursor to the giallo genre.

Mon Oncle (1958)

Genre: Comedy

Director: Jacques Tati

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Jacques Tati (Monsieur Hulot)
  • Jean-Pierre Zola (Gérard Arpel)
  • Adrienne Servantie (Madame Arpel)
  • Betty Schneider (Tata)
  • Jean-Pierre Cassel (The Young Delivery Boy)

Plot:

My Uncle (French: Mon Oncle) is a 1958 comedy film written, directed, and starring Jacques Tati. The film is the third in the series featuring the character of Monsieur Hulot.

The story follows Monsieur Hulot, an eccentric man nostalgic for the past, who visits his sister and brother-in-law, a bourgeois family living in a modern villa full of technological gadgets.

Reception:

My Uncle was a great success with critics and audiences. The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the Palme d’Or at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival. It is considered one of the masterpieces of French comedy and a cult film for lovers of auteur cinema.

Elevator to the Gallows (1958)

Genre: Crime, Thriller

Director: Louis Malle

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Maurice Ronet (Julien Tavernier)
  • Jeanne Moreau (Florence Carala)
  • Georges Poujouly (Louis)
  • Yori Bertin (Véronique)
  • Jean Wall (The Police Inspector)

Plot:

Julien Tavernier, the lover of Florence Carala, the wife of his boss, plans the murder of her husband with her. The plan seems perfect, but an unforeseen event blocks Julien in the elevator of the building, while the police investigate the crime. Meanwhile, two young rascals steal Julien’s car and find themselves involved in a series of tragic events.

Reception:

Elevator to the Gallows was a great success with critics and audiences, winning the Palme d’Or at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival. The film was praised for its innovative direction, its noir atmosphere, and its intense performances. It is considered a classic of French cinema and a fundamental work of the thriller genre.

The 400 Blows (1959)

Genre: Coming-of-Age Drama

Director: François Truffaut

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Jean-Pierre Léaud (Antoine Doinel)
  • Claire Maurier (Antoine’s Mother)
  • Albert Rémy (Antoine’s Stepfather)
  • Guy Decomble (René)

Plot:

The 400 Blows (French: Les quatre cents coups) follows the story of Antoine Doinel, a rebellious young boy growing up in post-war France. Neglected by his parents and struggling in school, Antoine finds solace in skipping class, petty theft, and adventures with his friend René. His defiance escalates as he grapples with a sense of loneliness and a yearning for a more fulfilling life.

Reception:

The 400 Blows was a critical and commercial success, launching the French New Wave movement and establishing Truffaut as a major director. The film was praised for its realistic portrayal of childhood, its innovative camerawork, and its nuanced performance by Jean-Pierre Léaud as Antoine Doinel. The 400 Blows is considered a landmark film in cinema history.

Pickpocket (1959)

Genre: Crime, Mystery

Director: Robert Bresson

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Martin LaSalle (Michel)
  • Marika Green (Jeanne)
  • Jean Pélégri (Inspector)
  • Pierre Leymarie (Antoine)

Plot:

Pickpocket follows the story of Michel, a young man who develops a compulsive need for pickpocketing. He is initially drawn to the thrill of the act and the skill it requires. However, as he continues to steal, he becomes increasingly isolated and haunted by the fear of being caught.

The film explores themes of morality, alienation, and the search for meaning in a seemingly indifferent world. Michel encounters a woman named Jeanne who offers him a path towards redemption, but his obsession ultimately leads him down a destructive path.

Reception:

Pickpocket is considered one of Robert Bresson’s greatest films. It is praised for its minimalist style, its use of non-professional actors, and its psychological exploration of a troubled character. The film has been influential on other filmmakers and is considered a classic of French cinema.

Breathless (1960)

Genre: Crime, Drama

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Jean-Paul Belmondo (Michel Poiccard)
  • Jean Seberg (Patricia Franchini)
  • Daniel Boulanger (Parvulesco)
  • Jean-Pierre Melville (Georges)
  • Henri-Jacques Huet (The Inspector)

Plot:

Michel Poiccard, a young man with a troubled past, steals a car and flees to Paris. During his escape, Michel kills a police officer. Arriving in Paris, he takes refuge with Patricia, an American student he meets by chance. A passionate relationship develops between the two, but Michel is wanted by the police. Cornered and with no way out, Michel attempts a final escape with Patricia, but their fate is sealed.

Reception:

Breathless was a revolutionary film that marked the beginning of the French New Wave. The film was praised for its innovative direction, its freewheeling script, and its realistic portrayal of youth. It is considered a classic of French cinema and one of the most influential films of the 20th century.

The Hole (1960)

Genre: Crime, Mystery

Original title: Le Trou (French)

Director: Jacques Becker

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Michel Constantin (Gaspar)
  • Philippe Leroy (Roland)
  • Jean Keraudy (Manu)
  • Marc Michel (Josse)
  • Charles Lavaux (The Warden)

Plot:

The Hole (Le Trou) tells the story of four men imprisoned for long sentences who meticulously plan and execute a daring escape. They dig a tunnel (the hole) from their cell to freedom over a period of months, using any materials they can get their hands on and concealing their work from the prison guards. As the project progresses, tensions rise among the men due to the stress and the ever-present risk of discovery.

Reception:

The Hole is a highly regarded crime film praised for its realism, suspenseful atmosphere, and nuanced performances by the cast. Director Jacques Becker, known for his humanist approach, portrays the characters not just as criminals but also as men driven by a desire for freedom. The film is considered a classic of French cinema and a suspenseful exploration of human resilience.

Purple Noon (1960)

Genre: Thriller, Crime

Director: René Clément

Country of Origin: France, Italy

Cast:

  • Alain Delon (Tom Ripley)
  • Maurice Ronet (Philippe Greenleaf)
  • Marie Laforêt (Marge Sherwood)
  • Erno Crisa (Mr. Greenleaf)
  • Frank Latimore (Freddie Miles)

Plot:

Tom Ripley, a young American man in debt, is hired by wealthy Mr. Greenleaf to convince his son Philippe to return home from Italy. Tom travels to Mongibello, where Philippe lives, and befriends him. Initially attracted to Philippe’s luxurious lifestyle, Tom soon becomes obsessed with his charm and wealth. When Philippe refuses to return home, Tom decides to orchestrate a diabolical plan to usurp his identity and life.

Reception:

Purple Noon is a highly successful film, praised for its stylish direction, gripping suspense, and Alain Delon’s magnetic performance. The film is considered a classic of the thriller genre and a top-notch psychological thriller.

Last Year at Marienbad (1961)

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Director: Alain Resnais

Country of Origin: France, Italy (co-production)

Cast:

  • Delphine Seyrig (Woman)
  • Giorgio Albertazzi (Man)
  • Sacha Pitoëff (Second Man)
  • Françoise Spira (Woman in White)
  • Pierre Bardaid (Man in White)

Plot:

Last Year at Marienbad (French: L’Année dernière à Marienbad) is a film shrouded in mystery. It follows a conversation between a man and a woman at a luxurious hotel, with a younger man observing them. The man attempts to convince the woman that they met and had an affair the previous year at Marienbad, a place they both seem to vaguely remember.

The narrative unfolds through flashbacks, fragmented memories, and dreamlike sequences, making it unclear whether the events described actually happened or are simply figments of their imaginations. The film explores themes of memory, perception, and the passage of time.

Reception:

Last Year at Marienbad was a controversial film upon release. Some praised its innovative style and exploration of memory, while others found it confusing and pretentious. Despite the mixed initial reception, the film has gained a cult following over the years and is considered a landmark work of the French New Wave.

Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962)

Genre: Drama, Fantasy

Director: Agnès Varda

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Corinne Marchand (Cléo)
  • Antoine Bourseiller (Antoine)
  • Dominique Davray (Angèle)
  • Dorothée Blanck (Dorothée)
  • Michel Legrand (Bob)
  • José Luis de Villalonga (L’amante)
  • Eddie Constantine
  • Danièle Delorme
  • Jean-Luc Godard
  • Jean-Claude Brialy
  • Serge Korber
  • Anna Karina
  • Yves Robert

Plot:

Cleo, a young and successful singer, anxiously awaits the results of a medical test that could reveal a serious illness. To pass the time and ease her anxiety, Cleo wanders around Paris from five to seven in the afternoon, meeting a series of curious and eccentric characters.

Reception:

Cleo from 5 to 7 was a critical and commercial success upon its release. It was praised for its innovative style and its exploration of themes such as time, mortality, and the nature of cinema. The film has been included in several lists of the greatest films of all time.

Jules and Jim (1962)

Jules and Jim (1962)

Genre: Drama, Romance

Director: François Truffaut

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Jeanne Moreau (Catherine)
  • Oskar Werner (Jules)
  • Henri Serre (Jim)
  • Marie Dubois (Thérèse)
  • Vanna Urbino (Gilberte)

Plot:

Jules and Jim is a romantic drama film that tells the story of a love triangle set in Paris before and after World War I. Jules, an Austrian biologist, and Jim, a French writer, form a strong friendship based on their passion for literature and women.

They both fall in love with Catherine, a free-spirited and intelligent woman. The film explores the complex dynamics that develop between the three characters, which are filled with love, jealousy, friendship, and betrayal.

Reception:

Jules and Jim is considered a classic of French cinema and a masterpiece of the Nouvelle Vague. It was praised for its innovative direction, powerful performances, and its exploration of the themes of love, loss, and friendship.

The film won numerous awards, including the Silver Ribbon for Best Foreign Film and the BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress for Jeanne Moreau.

Le Doulos (1962)

Genre: Crime, Thriller

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Jean-Paul Belmondo (Silien)
  • Serge Reggiani (Maurice Faugel)
  • Jean Desailly (Norbert Kusniak)
  • Fabienne Dalí (Fabienne)
  • Michel Piccoli (Roland Darzac)
  • Philippe Nahon (Gilbert)

Plot:

Le Doulos (The Finger Man in English) is a French crime thriller centered around a world of gangsters and betrayal.

  • Maurice Faugel, a recently released ex-convict, seeks revenge for the murder of his wife.
  • He becomes involved in a planned heist with a ruthless gangster named Norbert Kusniak.
  • Meanwhile, Silien, a small-time crook played by Jean-Paul Belmondo, is drawn into the operation. It becomes unclear whether Silien is a genuine participant or a police informant (the “doulos” of the title).

As the plot unfolds, trust and suspicion simmer between the characters, leading to a tense and suspenseful atmosphere.

Reception:

Le Doulos is considered a landmark film of French crime cinema. It is praised for its stylish direction, its exploration of loyalty and betrayal, and the captivating performances, particularly by Belmondo. The film’s influence is evident in numerous subsequent crime thrillers.

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Crooks in Clover (1963)

Genre: Comedy, Gangster

Director: Georges Lautner

Country of origin: France, Italy, West Germany

Cast:

  • Lino Ventura (Fernand Naudin)
  • Bernard Blier (Raoul Volfoni)
  • Francis Blanche (Paul Meurisse)
  • Claude Rich (Antoine)
  • Jean Lefebvre (Théo)
  • Robert Dalban (Patrice)
  • Horst Frank (Franz)
  • Venantino Venantini (Paolo)

Plot:

Crooks in Clover (French title: Les Tontons Flingueurs) is a comedy-gangster film that follows the story of Fernand Naudin, a peaceful man who runs a small tractor factory.

  • His life is turned upside down by the death of his friend Louis “the Mexican”, who bequeaths him his mistress Patricia and shady business dealings.
  • Fernand finds himself having to face a gang of gangsters, led by the crooked Raoul Volfoni, who want to get their hands on Louis’ assets.
  • With the help of his “Tontons”, a group of ex-gangster friends, Fernand prepares to defend Patricia and his inheritance.

Reception:

Crooks in Clover is considered a cult film in French cinema. Despite an initially lukewarm reception, the film has over time acquired great popularity and success, becoming a classic of the comedy-gangster genre.

The Fire Within (1963)

Genre: Drama

Director: Louis Malle

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Alain Delon (Alain Leroy)
  • Maurice Ronet (Georges)
  • Jeanne Moreau (Lydia)
  • Léa Massari (Olga)
  • Alexandre Rignault (Fred)

Plot:

The Fire Within tells the story of Alain Leroy, a depressed alcoholic who leaves a rehabilitation clinic in Versailles. Feeling hopeless and suicidal, he revisits old friends and acquaintances in Paris, desperately searching for a reason to live. As he reconnects with people from his past, Alain confronts his inner demons and grapples with the emptiness he feels.

Reception:

The Fire Within is a critically acclaimed film praised for its raw portrayal of depression and existential angst. Alain Delon’s performance as the troubled Alain is particularly lauded, and the film’s exploration of difficult themes resonates with audiences.

The Soft Skin (1964)

https://youtu.be/IHr4EmCpwg4?si=NaXT3-lIJvUvvUqe

Genre: Romantic Drama, Thriller (some sources)

Director: François Truffaut

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Jean Desailly (Pierre Lachenay)
  • Françoise Dorléac (Nicole)
  • Nelly Benedetti (Franca)
  • Sabine Haudepine (Sabine Lachenay)
  • Georges Delerue (Himself)

Plot:

The Soft Skin (French title: La Peau douce) tells the story of Pierre Lachenay, a well-respected and seemingly happily married publisher. During a business trip to Lisbon, he has a chance encounter with Nicole, a beautiful and young airline stewardess. They are instantly attracted to each other and begin a passionate affair.

Pierre becomes increasingly obsessed with Nicole, neglecting his work and his family. He attempts to maintain both his marriage and his secret affair, but the situation becomes unsustainable. The film explores themes of desire, infidelity, and the complexities of relationships.

Reception:

The Soft Skin was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival.  Critical reception was mixed upon release, but the film has gained a cult following over the years. It is praised for its stylish direction, strong performances by Jean Desailly and Françoise Dorléac, and its nuanced exploration of human emotions.

That Man From Rio (1964)

Genre: Adventure, Comedy

Director: Philippe de Broca

Country of origin: France, Italy

Cast:

  • Jean-Paul Belmondo (Adrien Dufourquet)
  • Françoise Dorléac (Agnès Villermosa)
  • Jean Servais (Professeur Catalan)
  • Adolfo Celi (De Castro)
  • Simone Renant (Mme. Dufourquet)

Plot:

Adrien Dufourquet, a young French soldier on leave, is drawn into a wild adventure when his fiancée Agnès is kidnapped by a gang of criminals. To save her, Adrien embarks on a perilous journey that takes him from Paris to Rio de Janeiro, on the trail of a lost treasure and a mysterious statuette.

Reception:

That Man From Rio was a huge box office success, grossing over 100 million French francs. The film was praised for its fast-paced action, humor, and exotic charm. It helped to establish Jean-Paul Belmondo as one of the most popular stars of French cinema.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

Genre: Musical, Romantic Drama

Director: Jacques Demy

Country of Origin: France, West Germany

Cast:

  • Catherine Deneuve (Geneviève Emery)
  • Nino Castelnuovo (Guy Foucher)
  • Anne Vernon (Madeleine)
  • Marc Michel (Roland Cassard)
  • Ellen Farner (Mme. Emery)

Plot:

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (French title: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) is a romantic drama set in the port city of Cherbourg, France. It tells the story of Geneviève, a young woman who works at her mother’s umbrella shop, and Guy, a handsome mechanic. They fall deeply in love and plan to marry, but Guy is forced to leave Cherbourg to complete his National Service in Algeria.

Geneviève, heartbroken and already pregnant with Guy’s child, is pressured by her mother to marry a wealthy businessman named Roland to secure a stable future. The film follows their separate paths and the enduring impact of their lost love.

Reception:

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg received critical acclaim upon release. It was praised for its innovative use of music, with all dialogue sung in a beautiful and operatic score by Michel Legrand. The film’s poignant story and captivating performances by Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo resonated with audiences.

Pierrot le Fou (1965)

Genre: Crime, Romance, Road Movie

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Jean-Paul Belmondo (Ferdinand Griffon/Pierrot)
  • Anna Karina (Marianne Renoir)
  • Dirk Sanders (Laszlo Kovacs)
  • Raymond Devos (Salesman)
  • Graziella Galvani (Patricia)

Plot:

Pierrot le Fou (French for “Pierrot the Fool”) tells the story of Ferdinand Griffon, a discontented and increasingly alienated office worker. Feeling trapped in his monotonous life, he runs away with Marianne Renoir, a beautiful woman and former babysitter for his children.

Together, they embark on a spontaneous and impulsive road trip across France, pursued by gangsters and haunted by Ferdinand’s fractured psyche. The lines between reality and fantasy blur as they delve deeper into crime and violence.

Reception:

Pierrot le Fou is a landmark film of the French New Wave movement.  It is praised for its innovative style, with fragmented narratives, jump cuts, and playful use of pop culture references.  The film explores themes of alienation, rebellion, and the search for meaning.  The performances of Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina are also highly regarded.

Belle de Jour (1966)

Belle de Jour (1966)

Genre: Drama, Psychological

Director: Luis Buñuel

Country of origin: France, Italy

Cast:

  • Catherine Deneuve: Séverine Serizy
  • Jean Sorel: Pierre Serizy
  • Michel Piccoli: Henri Husson
  • Geneviève Page: Madame Anaïs
  • Pierre Clémenti: Marcel

Plot:

Séverine Serizy, a young bourgeois woman, leads a seemingly perfect life. She has an affectionate husband, a beautiful home, and an enviable social position. However, Séverine is haunted by erotic fantasies and secretly desires a more exciting life.

One day, Séverine decides to frequent a luxury brothel, where she takes on the pseudonym “Belle de Jour.” In this environment, Séverine can finally express her sensuality and experience new forms of pleasure.

Séverine’s double life begins to complicate when she falls in love with one of her clients, a young and charming businessman. Séverine finds herself torn between two worlds: her bourgeois life and her secret life as a prostitute.

Reception:

Belle de Jour was a controversial film at the time of its release. Its explicit depiction of sexuality and its exploration of taboo themes such as masochism and voyeurism shocked some critics and viewers.

However, the film was also praised for its masterful direction, its intense performances, and its thematic complexity. Belle de Jour is considered one of Luis Buñuel’s most important films and a masterpiece of surrealist cinema.

Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)

Genere: Drammatico

Regista: Robert Bresson

Paese di origine: Francia

Cast:

  • Anne Wiazemsky: Marie
  • Walter Green: Jacques
  • François Lafarge: Gérard
  • Jean-Claude Guilbert: Arnold
  • Philippe Asselin: padre di Marie

Trama:

Il film narra la storia di Balthazar, un asino che passa di mano in mano, sperimentando la crudeltà e la gentilezza degli esseri umani.

Balthazar inizia la sua vita felicemente con Marie, una bambina gentile che lo accudisce con amore. Tuttavia, quando Marie cresce, Balthazar viene venduto a Gérard, un uomo che lo tratta con crudeltà.

Dopo una serie di vicissitudini, Balthazar finisce nelle mani di Arnold, un alcolizzato che però si affeziona a lui. Quando Arnold muore, Balthazar viene abbandonato e si ritrova solo e spaventato.

Il film termina con Balthazar che, ormai vecchio e malato, viene abbattuto.

Accoglienza:

Au Hasard Balthazar è stato un film controverso al momento della sua uscita. La sua rappresentazione cruda della vita animale e la sua mancanza di una trama tradizionale hanno spiazzato alcuni critici e spettatori.

Tuttavia, il film è stato anche elogiato per la sua regia magistrale, la sua fotografia evocativa e la sua profonda riflessione sulla natura umana. Au Hasard Balthazar è considerato uno dei film più importanti di Robert Bresson e un capolavoro del cinema francese.

Playtime (1967)

Genre: Comedy / Drama (sometimes classified as a satire)

Director: Jacques Tati

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Jacques Tati: Monsieur Hulot (plays the main character)
  • Barbara Dennek: American tourist
  • Rita Maiden: American tourist
  • France Rumilly: Public relations officer
  • France Delahalle: Young woman

Plot:

Playtime follows the misadventures of Monsieur Hulot, a bowler-hatted, pipe-smoking character known for his awkward charm and knack for causing unintentional chaos. In this film, Hulot travels to a futuristic, glass-and-steel Paris to meet an American businessman.

The film portrays a bustling, modern city filled with technological marvels and architectural wonders. However, through Hulot’s experiences, the film satirizes the dehumanizing aspects of this modern world. Hulot struggles to navigate the city’s confusing layout, gets caught in a series of misunderstandings, and disrupts the carefully orchestrated opening of a new restaurant.

Reception:

Playtime was a critical and commercial failure upon its release. It was the most expensive French film made at the time, but audiences found the humor dry and the pacing slow. However, the film’s reputation has grown over time. Critics now praise it for its innovative camerawork, witty visual gags, and insightful commentary on modern life. Playtime is considered one of Jacques Tati’s greatest achievements and a landmark film in the history of satire.

cult-movie

Le Mépris (1967)

Genre: Drama

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Country of origin: France, Italy

Cast:

  • Brigitte Bardot: Camille Javal
  • Michel Piccoli: Paul Javal
  • Jack Palance: Jeremy Prokosch
  • Fritz Lang: himself
  • Giorgia Moll: Francesca Vanini

Plot:

Paul Javal, a French playwright, is hired by American producer Jeremy Prokosch to rewrite the screenplay for a film adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey. Paul moves to Capri with his wife Camille, where he begins working on the project.

While Paul is busy with work, Camille becomes bored and begins flirting with Prokosch. Their relationship becomes increasingly intimate, fueling Paul’s jealousy.

The tension between Paul and Camille increases when Prokosch decides to radically change the film’s script. Paul feels frustrated and powerless, and his relationship with Camille deteriorates further.

Reception:

Le Mépris was a controversial film upon its release. Its stark depiction of marital life and its critique of the American film industry scandalized some critics and viewers.

However, the film was also praised for its masterful direction, its evocative cinematography, and its intense performances. Le Mépris is considered one of Jean-Luc Godard’s most important films and a masterpiece of modern cinema.

The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)

https://youtu.be/znlKuELSGXM?si=998iNLtWd1WPoJ1I

Genre: Musical, Comedy

Director: Jacques Demy

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Catherine Deneuve as Delphine Garnier
  • Françoise Dorléac as Solange Garnier
  • George Chakiris as Etienne
  • Jacques Perrin as Maxence
  • Michel Piccoli as Simon Dame
  • Jacques Riberolles as Guillaume Lancien
  • Grover Dale as Bill
  • Geneviève Thénier as Josette

Plot:

The film follows the story of Delphine and Solange, 25-year-old twins who live in the small town of Rochefort. Delphine is a dance teacher and Solange is a music teacher, and both dream of finding love.

One day, a traveling fair comes to town, and Delphine and Solange meet two handsome strangers, Etienne and Maxence. The four of them fall in love, but their happiness is threatened when Etienne and Maxence are offered jobs in Paris.

Delphine and Solange decide to follow their lovers to Paris, where they embark on a series of adventures. They eventually find success and happiness, both in their careers and in their personal lives.

Reception:

The Young Girls of Rochefort was a critical and commercial success upon its release. It was praised for its charming story, its beautiful music, and its vibrant visuals. The film was also a box office hit, becoming one of the most popular French films of the year.

Le Samouraï (1967)

Genre: Crime thriller

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Alain Delon: Jef Costello
  • François Périer: Commissaire Le Guen
  • Nathalie Delon: Jane Lagrange
  • Cathy Rosier: Valérie
  • Jean-Pierre Melville: Narrator

Plot:

Jef Costello is a professional hitman, known for his coldness and precision. One day, he is hired to assassinate the owner of a nightclub. The job seems simple, but Costello makes a mistake: he drops a cigarette at the crime scene.

The police, led by Commissaire Le Guen, begin to investigate Costello. Le Guen is an intelligent and tenacious man, and he knows that Costello is a dangerous adversary.

Costello, meanwhile, tries to cover his tracks. He takes refuge in an apartment with his mistress, Jane, and tries to procure an alibi.

As the tension increases, Costello finds himself cornered. He must find a way to escape the police and, at the same time, maintain his code of honor.

Reception:

Le Samouraï was a critical and commercial success upon its release. It was praised for its stylish direction, its dark atmosphere, and Alain Delon’s performance. The film is considered a classic of French cinema and a masterpiece of the film noir genre.

Mouchette (1967)

Genre: Drama

Director: Robert Bresson

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Nadine Nortier: Mouchette
  • Jean-Claude Guilbert: Arsène
  • Paul Hebert: Father
  • Marie Cardinal: Mother
  • Alexandre Fabre: Farmer

Plot:

Mouchette is a young girl who lives in a small village in rural France. She is from a poor and dysfunctional family, and she is often abused by her father.

One day, Mouchette is walking through the woods when she comes across a man who has been injured in a hunting accident. The man is a stranger, and he asks Mouchette for help.

Reception:

Mouchette was a critical and commercial success upon its release. It was praised for its stark realism, its beautiful cinematography, and its powerful performance by Nadine Nortier. The film was also a box office hit, becoming one of the most popular French films of the year.

The Collector (1967)

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Director: Éric Rohmer

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Patrick Bauchau: Adrien
  • Haydée Politoff: Haydée
  • Daniel Pommereulle: Daniel
  • Jean-Claude Brialy: The Writer
  • Catherine de Seynes: The Young Woman

Plot:

Adrien and Daniel, two friends, are spending the summer in a villa on the French Riviera. Their tranquility is disrupted by the arrival of Haydée, a young, independent, and uninhibited woman.

Haydée seduces both friends, creating a situation of tension and jealousy. Adrien, in particular, is attracted to her, but he is also troubled by her wanton behavior.

Over the course of the summer, the three characters confront their own ideas about love, sexuality, and freedom. Haydée, in particular, represents a challenge to their bourgeois beliefs.

Reception:

The Collector was a critical and commercial success upon its release. It was praised for its sophisticated direction, its intelligent screenplay, and its realistic portrayal of human relationships. The film is considered one of the best examples of French cinema of the 1960s.

Naked Childhood (1968)

Genre: Drama

Director: Maurice Pialat

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • François Négret: François
  • Jean-Pierre Léaud: Gérard
  • Marie-Hélène Breillat: Monique
  • Philippe Clay: Monsieur Minguet
  • Monique Mélinand: Madame Minguet

Plot:

François, a 10-year-old boy, is placed in foster care after his mother abandons him. His disruptive behavior leads him to be transferred from one family to another, until he arrives at a country house with an elderly couple.

Reception:

L’Enfance nue was a controversial film upon its release. It was praised for its realistic direction and its raw depiction of a difficult childhood, but it was also criticized for its portrayal of abuse and violence. The film was nevertheless a critical success and won the Prix Jean Vigo in 1969.

The Swimming Pool (1968)

Original title: La Piscine

Genre: Psychological thriller

Director: Jacques Deray

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Alain Delon: Jean-Paul
  • Romy Schneider: Marianne
  • Maurice Ronet: Harry
  • Jane Birkin: Penelope

Plot:

Jean-Paul and Marianne, a married couple, travel to Saint-Tropez for a summer vacation. They spend their days relaxing by the private pool of their friend’s villa, enjoying the carefree atmosphere.

Their tranquility is disrupted by the arrival of Harry, a charming but cynical friend of Jean-Paul, and his teenage daughter Penelope. The presence of Harry and Penelope injects tension and jealousy into the couple’s relationship. As the story unfolds, hidden desires and past conflicts come to the surface, leading to a dramatic confrontation.

Reception:

The Swimming Pool was a critical and commercial success upon its release. It was praised for its stylish visuals, its suspenseful plot, and the strong performances of the cast, particularly Alain Delon and Romy Schneider. The film became a popular depiction of the anxieties and complexities of relationships within a luxurious setting.

The Unfaithful Wife (1968)

Original title: La Femme infidèle (1969)

Genre: Crime drama

Director: Claude Chabrol

Country of origin: France, Italy

Cast:

  • Stéphane Audran: Hélène Desvallées
  • Michel Bouquet: Charles Desvallées
  • Maurice Ronet: Victor Paumelle
  • Jean-Claude Brialy: Antoine

Plot:

Hélène Desvallées, a beautiful and bored housewife, begins an affair with Victor Paumelle, a charming art dealer. Her husband, Charles, a successful businessman, becomes suspicious and hires a private detective to follow Hélène. When Charles discovers the affair, he confronts Victor, leading to a deadly confrontation.

Reception:

The Unfaithful Wife was a critical success upon its release. It was praised for its suspenseful plot, its exploration of marital infidelity, and the strong performances of the cast, particularly Stéphane Audran and Michel Bouquet. The film is considered a classic of French cinema and a masterpiece of the crime drama genre.

L’Armée des Ombres (1969)

Original title: L’Armée des Ombres (1969)

Genre: War, Drama

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

Country of origin: France, Italy

Cast:

  • Lino Ventura: Philippe Gerbier
  • Simone Signoret: Mathilde
  • Paul Meurisse: Lucas
  • Jean-Pierre Cassel: Le Masque
  • Claude Mann: Félix
  • Alain Libolt: Jean-François

Plot:

In Nazi-occupied France, Philippe Gerbier, an engineer, is an active member of the French Resistance. He and his comrades carry out acts of sabotage and assassination against the Nazis, risking their lives every day. The film follows Gerbier and his companions as they fight for the liberation of France, facing torture, death, and betrayal.

Reception:

Army of Shadows was a critical and commercial success. It is considered one of the best films about the French Resistance ever made. The film won the César Award for Best Film in 1970 and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

My Night with Maud (1969)

Genre: Drama, Romance

Director: Éric Rohmer

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Jean-Louis Trintignant: Jean-Louis
  • Françoise Fabian: Maud
  • Marie-Christine Barrault: Françoise
  • Antoine Vitez: Vidal

Plot:

Jean-Louis, a devout Catholic man, meets Maud, a divorced and independent woman, on Christmas Eve. They spend the night together conversing about religion, philosophy, and love. Their conversation challenges Jean-Louis’s beliefs and makes him question his life and priorities.

Reception:

My Night at Maud’s was a critical and commercial success. It won the Louis-Delluc Prize and the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival. It was praised for its intelligent writing, refined direction, and the intense performances of the cast. The film is considered a classic of French cinema and a masterpiece of “conversation cinema”.

The Butcher (1969)

Original title: Le Boucher (1970)

Genre: Psychological thriller, Mystery

Director: Claude Chabrol

Country of origin: France, Italy

Cast:

  • Stéphane Audran: Hélène, the schoolteacher
  • Jean Yanne: Popaul, the butcher
  • Mario Donnat: Edmond, the inspector
  • Annie Joussen: Louise
  • Serge Reggiani: Monsieur Jacques

Plot:

Hélène, a recently arrived schoolteacher in a small French town, becomes increasingly disturbed by a series of grisly murders that resemble the work of a serial killer. As the murders continue, suspicion falls on Popaul, the town’s taciturn butcher.  Hélène, drawn to Popaul despite her suspicions, investigates the murders on her own, uncovering a web of secrets and hidden desires within the seemingly peaceful community.

Reception:

The Butcher was a critical success upon its release. It was praised for its suspenseful atmosphere, its exploration of human darkness, and the strong performances of the cast, particularly Stéphane Audran and Jean Yanne. The film is considered a classic of French cinema and a chilling exploration of violence and social unease.

The Red Circle (1970)

Genre: Crime, Thriller

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

Country of origin: France, Italy

Cast:

  • Alain Delon: Corey, the thief
  • Yves Montand: Jansen, the ex-policeman
  • Gian Maria Volonté: Vogel, the escapee
  • Bourvil: Commissaire Mattei
  • Paul Meurisse: Rico

Plot:

The film follows three men: Corey, a recently released thief; Vogel, an escaped convict; and Jansen, an alcoholic ex-cop. The three meet by chance and, driven by different circumstances, decide to collaborate on a jewelry heist in Paris. The plan is meticulous, but the tension and secrets of their past threaten their collaboration and their very lives.

Reception:

The Red Circle was a critical and commercial success. It is considered one of the best film noirs ever made and a masterpiece of French cinema. The film was praised for its impeccable direction, masterful screenplay, and the intense performances of the cast.

Day for Night (1973)

Original title: La Nuit américaine (1973)

Genre: Romantic comedy-drama

Director: François Truffaut

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Jacqueline Bisset: Julie Baxter / Pamela
  • Jean-Pierre Léaud: Alphonse Jouvet
  • Valentina Cortese: Séverine / Madame Littel
  • Jean-Pierre Aumont: Alexandre, the producer
  • Dani: Liliane
  • Alexandra Stewart: Stacey

Plot:

Day for Night follows the chaotic production of a melodrama titled “Meet Pamela.”  Truffaut himself plays a character named Ferrand, the film’s director, who struggles to complete the movie while facing personal and professional challenges. The cast and crew deal with various issues, including romantic entanglements, jealousies, and unexpected events that disrupt the filming schedule.

Reception:

Day for Night was a critical and commercial success. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1974 and is considered a masterpiece of metacinema, a genre that self-reflexively explores the filmmaking process. The film was praised for its humor, warmth, and insightful portrayal of the complexities of filmmaking.

Vincent, François, Paul and the Others (1974)

Original title: Vincent, François, Paul et les autres (1974)

Genre: Drama, Romance

Director: Claude Sautet

Country of origin: France, Italy

Cast:

  • Michel Piccoli: Vincent
  • Serge Reggiani: François
  • Yves Montand: Paul
  • Stéphane Audran: Catherine
  • Juliet Berto: Janine
  • Umberto Spadetto: Jean

Plot:

Vincent, François, and Paul are three friends in their mid-life years facing personal and professional crises. Vincent, a factory owner, struggles with the changing social and economic landscape. François, a doctor, feels disillusioned with his work and contemplates leaving medicine. Paul, a writer, experiences a creative block.

Their lives become intertwined as they navigate their romantic entanglements, family issues, and anxieties about aging. Catherine, a former flame of Vincent, re-enters his life, while François grapples with his relationship with Janine. Paul seeks solace in a new relationship.

Reception:

Vincent, François, Paul and the Others was a critical and commercial success. It was praised for its nuanced portrayal of male friendship, its exploration of mid-life crisis, and the strong performances of the cast. The film is considered a classic of French cinema and a poignant reflection on the complexities of life and relationships.

Céline and Julie Go Boating (1974)

Original title: Céline et Julie vont en bateau (1974)

Genre: Fantasy, Comedy

Director: Jacques Rivette

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Dominique Labourier: Julie
  • Juliet Berto: Céline
  • Bulle Ogier: Camille
  • Philippe Maron: Octave
  • Nathalie Vernier: Sophie

Plot:

The film follows Julie, a librarian with a fascination for tarot cards, and Céline, a flamboyant magician with a mysterious past. Their paths cross in a Parisian park, where they begin an unusual friendship based on playful exchanges of objects. Julie invites Céline to stay at her apartment, and they start to swap identities, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy.

Reception:

Céline et Julie vont en bateau is considered a cult classic of French cinema. It was praised for its innovative narrative style, dreamlike atmosphere, and the captivating performances of Dominique Labourier and Juliet Berto.  The film explores themes of identity, friendship, and the power of imagination.

India Song (1975)

Genre: Drama, Romance

Director: Marguerite Duras

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Delphine Seyrig: Anne-Marie Stretter
  • Michael Lonsdale: Monsieur M. (the vice-consul)
  • Mathieu Carrière: Lido
  • Claude Mann: Monsieur J.
  • Vernon Dobtcheff: Monsieur Dupont-Dufort
  • Didier Flamand: Arthur
  • Claude Juan: Mohran

Plot:

Set in 1930s Calcutta, India Song tells the story of Anne-Marie Stretter, the bored wife of a French diplomat. Unsatisfied with her marriage and the oppressive atmosphere of the colonial setting, Anne-Marie engages in a series of passionless affairs with French and Indian men.

The film does not follow a linear storyline; instead, fragments of conversations, voiceovers, and evocative images tell the story of Anne-Marie. Her unhappiness and sense of malaise are palpable, as is the growing political and social unrest of colonial India.

Reception:

India Song was a controversial film upon its release. It was praised for its poetic direction, dreamlike atmosphere, and Delphine Seyrig’s intense performance. However, it was also criticized for its slow pace and lack of traditional narrative structure.

Despite the initial controversy, India Song has become a classic of arthouse cinema. It is considered a visually stunning film and a powerful meditation on boredom, desire, and the decadence of colonialism.

Fill ’er Up With Super (1976)

Original title: Le Plein de Super (1976)

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Director: Alain Cavalier

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Patrick Bouchitey: Patrick
  • Étienne Chicot: Etienne
  • Bernard Crombey: Klouk
  • Xavier Saint-Macary: Xavier
  • Béatrice Agenin: Beatrice

Plot:

Four friends, Patrick, Etienne, Klouk, and Xavier, embark on a road trip across France in a luxurious Chevrolet station wagon.  The film follows their journey as they navigate conversations about life, love, sex, and loss.  Their carefree exploration is complicated when Klouk, a car salesman, is tasked with delivering the vehicle to a wealthy client, forcing him to choose between his responsibility and the camaraderie of the trip.

Reception:

Fill ‘er Up With Super is a lesser-known but critically acclaimed film.  It is praised for its honest and unfiltered portrayal of male friendships and the complexities of relationships.  The film’s humor and exploration of masculinity resonated with audiences and critics alike.

Love on the Run (1978)

Genre: Romantic comedy

Director: François Truffaut

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Jean-Pierre Léaud – Antoine Doinel
  • Claude Jade – Christine Doinel
  • Marie-France Pisier – Colette
  • Dorothée Albertini – Sabine
  • Daniel Mesguich – Julien

Plot:

Antoine Doinel, now an adult and married to Christine, has a seven-year-old daughter, Sabine. He works as an archivist at a funeral home and his life is quiet, albeit a bit monotonous. One day, he meets Colette, a woman he had known in his youth, and a strong attraction develops between them. Antoine begins to live a double life, between his family and his lover, until the situation becomes untenable and he has to make a decision.

Reception:

The film was well-received by critics, who praised Truffaut’s direction, Léaud’s performance, and the screenplay. It was also a commercial success, grossing over $10 million at the box office.

Watch Love on the Run

Every Man for Himself (1979)

Original title: Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980)

Genre: Drama

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Country of origin: France, Switzerland

Cast:

  • Jacques Dutronc: Jacques Guermont, a television director
  • Nathalie Baye: Denise Rimbaud, Jacques’ ex-girlfriend
  • Isabelle Huppert: Yvonne Lagrange, a prostitute

Plot:

Every Man for Himself is a social commentary set in Switzerland. It follows the lives of three interconnected characters:

  • Jacques Guermont: A television director struggling with his personal and professional life. He is frustrated by the limitations placed on him by the television industry and contemplates abandoning his career.
  • Denise Rimbaud: Jacques’ ex-girlfriend, who is also an actress in one of his television projects. Their relationship is strained, and they navigate unresolved emotions.
  • Yvonne Lagrange: A prostitute who becomes involved in a complex sexual encounter with a businessman and his assistant.

The film explores themes of alienation, disillusionment, and the struggle for freedom in a consumerist society. It utilizes a fragmented narrative structure and Godard’s signature intellectual dialogue to challenge viewers’ assumptions about love, work, and human connection.

Reception:

Every Man for Himself marked Jean-Luc Godard’s return to a more commercial style of filmmaking after a period of experimentation. It was a critical and commercial success, garnering praise for its performances, insightful social commentary, and innovative filmmaking techniques.

Buffet Froid (1979)

Genre: Black Comedy, Grotesque Thriller

Director: Bertrand Blier

Country of Origin: France

Cast:

  • Gérard Depardieu: Alphonse Trampe
  • Bernard Blier: Commissioner Louise Murat
  • Carole Bouquet: Laura Louise
  • Jean Carmet: Mosconi
  • Michel Serrault: the drunken man at the bar

Plot:

Alphonse Trampe, an unemployed philosopher, finds his life turned upside down when he encounters a mysterious stranger on the subway and accidentally kills him. Instead of reporting the incident, he assumes the man’s identity and finds himself embroiled in a series of bizarre and violent events. Commissioner Louise Murat investigates the murder and finds herself on the trail of Alphonse.

Reception:

Buffet Froid was a controversial film upon its release. Some praised it for its originality, innovative direction, and powerful performances. Others criticized it for its graphic violence and nihilistic tone. Despite the initial controversy, Buffet Froid has become a cult movie and is considered an important work in French cinema.

Série Noire (1979)

Genre: Film noir, psychological thriller

Director: Alain Corneau

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Patrick Dewaere: Franck Poupart
  • Myriam Boyer: Mona
  • Marie Trintignant: Jeanne
  • Bernard Blier: Marceau

Plot:

Franck Poupart, a frustrated and unhappy door-to-door salesman, meets the young prostitute Mona and becomes obsessed with her. Together, they plan to kill Mona’s wealthy aunt and steal her money. But their plan goes awry, and Franck finds himself in a spiral of crime and violence that will lead to his downfall.

Reception:

Série Noire was a great success in France, where it won several César awards, including Best Film and Best Actor for Patrick Dewaere. The film was also praised by international critics for its direction, screenplay, and performances. It is considered one of the best French film noirs of all time.

Loulou (1980)

Genre: Drama / Romance / Thriller

Director: Maurice Pialat

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Isabelle Huppert: Nelly
  • Gérard Depardieu: Loulou
  • Guy Marchand: André (Nelly’s husband)

Plot:

Nelly, seemingly trapped in a bourgeois life with her cultured husband André, finds herself drawn to Loulou, a rough-around-the-edges ex-convict, during a night out at a disco. Their impulsive connection leads Nelly to abandon her comfortable life and move in with Loulou. However, their passionate fling soon clashes with the realities of Loulou’s unemployed state and Nelly’s own doubts.

Reception:

Loulou received mixed reviews upon release. Some praised the film’s raw portrayal of passion and social conflict, while others criticized its bleakness and lack of resolution. The film did garner critical acclaim for the performances of Huppert and Depardieu, and director Maurice Pialat was nominated for the prestigious Palme d’Or award at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival.

The King and the Mockingbird (1980)

Original Title: Le Roi et l’Oiseau

Genre: Animated fantasy

Director: Paul Grimault

Country of origin: France

Plot:

The King and the Mockingbird is a whimsical tale set in a fantastical kingdom ruled by a tyrannical king who seeks to control everything, including love. The story follows a kind-hearted chimney sweep and a beautiful shepherdess who fall in love.  Aided by a mischievous mockingbird, the couple must defy the king and his cruel inventions to be together.

Reception:

The King and the Mockingbird is considered a masterpiece of animation. Praised for its stunning visuals, imaginative story, and timeless themes of freedom and love, the film has garnered a cult following worldwide. It is credited with influencing renowned animation studios like Studio Ghibli.

A Room in Town (1982)

Original title: Une chambre en ville

Genre: Musical drama

Director: Jacques Demy

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Dominique Sanda: Adrienne Langlois
  • Michel Piccoli: Monsieur Langlois
  • Danielle Darrieux: Madame Langlois
  • Richard Berry: Guillaume

Plot:

Set in Nantes during a workers’ strike in 1955, A Room in Town tells the story of Adrienne, a young woman unhappy in her marriage to the authoritarian Monsieur Langlois. She meets Guillaume, a charming steelworker, and falls in love with him. However, their relationship is complicated by the fact that Guillaume is already engaged to another woman and, unbeknownst to her, is a tenant of Adrienne’s pragmatic mother, Madame Langlois. Through beautiful music and dance numbers, the film explores the complexities of love, social tensions, and the search for happiness.

Reception:

A Room in Town was met with positive reviews, receiving nine César Award nominations, including Best Film and Best Director. It was praised for its catchy music, powerful performances, and its ability to blend romance, drama, and social themes. It is still considered a classic of French musical cinema today.

Sunless (1983)

Original title: Sans soleil

Genre: Documentary, drama

Director: Chris Marker

Country of origin: France

Narrator: Florence Delay

Cast:

  • Sandino Pereira (archival footage)
  • Fumio Kōan (archival footage)
  • Chris Marker (uncredited) (voice only)

Plot:

Sunless is an essay film that explores themes of memory, travel, and colonialism. The film is narrated by a woman (Florence Delay) who reads from letters written by a man (assumed to be Marker) traveling to Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Japan, and the United States. The film interweaves these letters with archival footage, voice-over narration, and music to create a poetic and thought-provoking meditation on the human experience.

Reception:

Sunless is considered a landmark film of the essay film genre and has been praised for its innovative use of form and its exploration of complex themes. The film has been included on several lists of the greatest films ever made, including BFI’s Sight & Sound 2012 directors’ poll, where it was ranked 29th.

To Our Loves (1983)

Original Title: À Nos Amours

Genre: Coming-of-age drama

Director: Maurice Pialat

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Sandrine Bonnaire: Suzanne
  • Maurice Pialat: Father (also co-wrote the screenplay)
  • Évelyne Ker: Mother
  • Christophe Odent: Brother
  • Dominique Besnehard: Boyfriend at the Disco

Plot:

Fifteen-year-old Suzanne (Bonnaire) navigates the tumultuous terrain of adolescence in a dysfunctional family. With a distant and critical mother, a physically and emotionally abusive father, and a strained relationship with her brother, Suzanne finds solace in fleeting sexual encounters. Her promiscuity becomes a coping mechanism to numb her emotional pain and assert a sense of control amidst the chaos at home. However, a developing relationship with a friend named Luc threatens to disrupt her superficial connections and force her to confront deeper feelings.

Reception:

To Our Loves was critically acclaimed for its raw portrayal of teenage angst and familial dysfunction. Bonnaire’s powerful performance as Suzanne garnered her the César Award for Most Promising Actress. The film received further recognition with the César Award for Best Film in 1984. Despite its subject matter, the film garnered praise for its honesty, emotional depth, and Bonnaire’s captivating performance. It remains a powerful and thought-provoking exploration of the complexities of adolescence.

Maine Océan (1986)

Genre: Comedy, drama

Director: Jacques Rozier

Country of origin: France

Year: 1986

Cast:

  • Bernard Ménez: Le Garrec
  • Yves Afonso: Petitgas Marcel
  • Luis Rego: Lucien Pontoiseau
  • Lydia Feld: Mimi de Saint-Marc
  • Rosa-Maria Gomes: Dejanira
  • Pedro Armendáriz Jr.: Pedro De La Moccorra
  • Bernard Dumaine: Court President
  • Jean-Paul Bonnaire: District Attorney

Plot:

The film follows the story of Dejanira, a Brazilian dancer who boards the “Maine Océan” train from Paris to Saint-Nazaire (near the ocean) without a ticket. Two inspectors try to fine her, but they struggle to understand her due to the language barrier. She is rescued by Mimi, a fiery lawyer, with whom she strikes up a friendship. The two women then find themselves in court on behalf of Mimi’s client, a sailor with a peculiar way of speaking. Through unexpected encounters and comic situations, the film explores light themes of friendship and spontaneous adventures.

Reception:

Maine Océan received positive reviews, being praised for its light and carefree atmosphere, lively performances, and ability to tell a simple story in an entertaining way. While not a deeply dramatic film, it is considered an enjoyable and relaxing watch.

The Night Is Young (1986)

Original title: Mauvais Sang

Genre: Crime, romance

Director: Leos Carax

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Denis Lavant: Alex
  • Michel Piccoli: Marc
  • Juliette Binoche: Lise
  • Julie Delpy: Nathalie
  • Hans Meyer: Hans

Plot:

Set in a dystopian near future of Paris, the film follows Alex, a young man who works for a criminal named Marc. Alex is tasked with stealing a serum that can cure a deadly new disease transmitted through non-emotional sex. He becomes infatuated with Lise, a call girl working for Marc, and their relationship complicates his mission. Meanwhile, Alex’s brother, Jean, is obsessed with finding a mythical tape recording and navigates his own relationships with women.

Reception:

Mauvais Sang received mixed reviews upon release, with some praising its visual style, acting, and innovative storytelling, while others found it confusing and lacking in substance. Over time, the film has gained a cult following and is now considered a significant work of French cinema, known for its neo-noir aesthetic and exploration of love, desire, and rebellion in a futuristic setting.

Van Gogh (1991)

Original title: Van Gogh

Genre: Biography, Drama

Director: Maurice Pialat

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Jacques Dutronc as Vincent van Gogh
  • Alexandra London as Marguerite Gachet
  • Bernard Le Coq as Theo van Gogh
  • Elsa Zylberstein as Clasina Maria Hoornik
  • Leslie Azzoulai as Augustine Roulin

Plot:

The film follows the last 67 days of Vincent van Gogh’s life, focusing on his relationships with his brother Theo, his physician Paul Gachet, and the women in his life.

Reception:

The film was a critical and commercial success, winning the César Award for Best Actor for Dutronc and the BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It was also nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.

Delicatessen (1991)

Original title: Delicatessen

Genre: Post-apocalyptic, Science fiction, Black comedy

Directors: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Dominique Pinon as Louison
  • Marie-Laure Dougnac as Julie Clapet
  • Jean-Claude Dreyfus as Clapet
  • Rufus as Troglodist Leader
  • Edith Scob as Troglodist Granny

Plot:

In a dystopian future, a butcher named Clapet runs a delicatessen in his apartment building. He secretly lures new tenants and uses their meat for his shop, catering to the building’s residents struggling with food scarcity. When a new arrival, Louison, falls for Clapet’s daughter Julie, tensions rise as a group of vegetarian troglodytes from the building’s underground threaten to expose Clapet’s dark secret.

Reception:

Delicatessen received generally favorable reviews, praised for its unique visual style, dark humor, and imaginative world-building. It achieved moderate commercial success and established Jeunet and Caro as distinct voices in French cinema.

The City of Lost Children (1995)

Original title: La Cité des enfants perdus

Genre: Fantasy, Science fiction

Directors: Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Ron Perlman as One
  • Judith Vittet as Miette
  • Daniel Emilfork as Krank
  • Jean-Claude Dreyfus as The Cyclops (six clones)
  • Jean-Louis Trintignant as Narrator

Plot:

In a dark and steampunk-inspired city, a mysterious child-stealer named Krank kidnaps children to steal their dreams in order to maintain his own youth. One, a strongman from a carnival, sets out to rescue his abducted little brother, Denree, from Krank’s clutches. Along the way, he teams up with Miette, a young girl who is searching for her lost sister.

Reception:

The film was critically acclaimed, praised for its unique visual style, imaginative storytelling, and dark humor. It was also a commercial success, becoming a cult classic.

La Haine (1995)

Original title: La Haine

Genre: Social drama, Crime thriller

Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Vincent Cassel as Vinz
  • Saïd Taghmaoui as Saïd
  • Hubert Koundé as Abdel
  • Vincent Lindon as Vangel, the police officer

Plot:

The film follows three friends, Vinz, Saïd, and Abdel, living in the suburbs of Paris in the aftermath of a violent police riot. The story unfolds over 24 hours, exploring the tensions between the young men and the authorities, their frustrations with social injustices, and their struggles with personal demons.

Reception:

La Haine received critical acclaim upon release, winning the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1994. It is praised for its raw portrayal of social issues, its energetic direction, and its powerful performances by the young cast. The film remains a highly influential and relevant work, sparking conversations about race, police brutality, and social inequalities.

My Sex Life… or How I Got into an Argument (1996)

Original title: Comment je me suis disputé… (ma vie sexuelle)

Genre: Romantic comedy

Director: Arnaud Desplechin

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Mathieu Amalric as Paul Dedalus
  • Emmanuelle Devos as Esther
  • Emmanuel Salinger as Nathan
  • Marianne Denicourt as Sylvia
  • Thibault de Montalembert as Bob
  • Chiara Mastroianni as Patricia
  • Denis Podalydès as Jean-Jacques
  • Jeanne Balibar as Valérie

Plot:

Paul Dedalus, a thirtysomething philosophy professor in Paris, is dissatisfied with his romantic life. He starts an affair with Sylvia, the girlfriend of his best friend Nathan, while still in a relationship with Esther, with whom he has a stagnant relationship.

Reception:

The film was well-received by critics, who praised its intelligent writing, sensitive direction, and realistic performances from the cast. It won the César Award for Best Original Screenplay and received two nominations for Best Male and Female Newcomer.

The Life of Jesus (1997)

Original title: La Vie de Jésus

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Director: Bruno Dumont

Country of origin: France

Plot:

The film follows a group of unemployed and uneducated young adults living in a small town in northern France. They spend their days aimlessly on motorbikes, harassing others, and grappling with boredom. The arrival of a young Arab man disrupts their routine, leading to a tragic chain of events.

Reception:

The film received critical acclaim for its unconventional portrayal of marginalized youth and its raw, realistic style. It won several awards, including the BFI Sutherland Trophy and the Prix Jean Vigo.

Histoire(s) du Cinéma (1998)

Original title: Histoire(s) du Cinéma

Genre: Experimental, Documentary

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Jean-Luc Godard (narrator)
  • Alain Delon
  • Brigitte Bardot
  • Humphrey Bogart
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Anna Karina
  • Jean-Pierre Léaud
  • Roberto Rossellini
  • Fritz Lang
  • Dziga Vertov

Plot:

The film is a complex and layered work that explores the history of cinema through a series of collages, quotes, and reflections. Godard traces the key stages of the seventh art, from its birth to its most recent developments, intertwining images of classic films with snippets of footage and scenes of everyday life.

Reception:

Histoire(s) du Cinéma was met with great critical acclaim, with critics praising its intellectual complexity, visual beauty, and originality. The film is considered a seminal work of experimental cinema and a milestone in Godard’s filmography.

Amélie (2001)

Original title: Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain

Genre: Romantic comedy

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Audrey Tautou as Amélie Poulain
  • Mathieu Kassovitz as Nino Quincampoix
  • Dominique Pinon as Joseph
  • Rufus as Raymond Dufayel
  • Jamel Debbouze as Lucien
  • Yolande Moreau as Madeleine Wallace
  • Isabelle Nanty as Georgette
  • Urbain Cancelier as Collignon
  • Artus de Penguern as Bretodeau

Plot:

Amélie Poulain is a young woman with a vivid imagination and a deep sense of empathy. She works as a waitress in a small café in Montmartre and spends her free time observing the people around her. One day, she finds a box of old toys hidden in her apartment. Inspired by this discovery, she decides to make a difference in the lives of others, performing small, unexpected acts of kindness.

Reception:

Amélie was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $330 million at the box office and winning numerous awards, including the César Award for Best Film and the BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The film was praised for its whimsical direction, clever screenplay, and Audrey Tautou’s charming performance.

The Chorus (2004)

Original title: Les Choristes

Genre: Musical drama

Director: Christophe Barratier

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Gérard Jugnot as Clément Mathieu
  • François Berléand as Pépinot
  • Jean-Baptiste Maunier as Pierre Morhange (adult)
  • Maxence Perrin as Pierre Morhange (child)
  • Bruno Solo as Rachin
  • Cyril Descours as Mondain
  • Didier Flamand as Maxence

Plot:

In 1949, Clément Mathieu, an unemployed music teacher, takes a job as a supervisor at a boarding school for troubled boys known as “Fond de l’Etang.” He discovers a harsh and punitive environment run by the strict headmaster, Pépinot. Inspired by the boys’ hidden musical talents, Mathieu forms a choir, offering them a sense of purpose and hope. He faces resistance from Pépinot and navigates the complexities of the boys’ lives.

Reception:

The Chorus was a critical and commercial success, winning numerous awards including the César Award for Best Film and two nominations at the 77th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Song (“Vois sur ton chemin”, known as “Look to Your Path” in English). The film is praised for its heartwarming story, powerful performances, and beautiful music.

Caché (2005)

Original title: Caché

Genre: Psychological thriller

Director: Michael Haneke

Country of origin: France, Austria

Cast:

  • Daniel Auteuil as Georges Laurent
  • Juliette Binoche as Anne Laurent
  • Maurice Bénichou as Majid
  • Lester Makedonsky as Pierre Laurent
  • Christine Vereb as la concierge

Plot:

Georges Laurent, a successful television host, begins receiving anonymous videotapes that show him and his family being secretly filmed. The videos, which have no audio, become increasingly disturbing and show more and more personal details, suggesting that the sender has known Georges for a long time. Georges feels threatened and tries to find out who is watching him, going back over his past looking for any potential enemies. His investigation leads him to confront a secret and painful event from his youth, which he thought was buried forever.

Reception:

Caché was a critically acclaimed film, winning several awards including the Best Director Award at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. It is considered an intense and ambiguous psychological thriller that explores themes of guilt, memory, and secrecy.

The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005)

Original title: De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté

Genre: Crime drama

Director: Jacques Audiard

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Romain Duris as Tom Seyr
  • Niels Arestrup as Robert Seyr
  • Mélanie Laurent as Miao Lin
  • Linh Dan Pham as Mimi (credited as Linh Dan)
  • Emmanuelle Devos as Sandra

Plot:

Tom Seyr, a young man trapped in a life of petty crime working for his gangster father Robert, longs for a different future. He stumbles upon a passion for classical piano while accompanying his father on a business deal at a concert hall. This chance encounter leads him to pursue piano lessons from a reclusive Chinese teacher, Miao Lin. As Tom delves deeper into his musical aspirations, he faces the conflicting pressures of his violent family background and his newfound passion.

Reception:

The Beat That My Heart Skipped was a critical and commercial success, winning the César Award for Best Film and receiving a BAFTA nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. It is praised for its raw portrayal of a troubled young man, its exploration of family dynamics, and its unique blend of crime and music themes.

La Vie En Rose (2007)

Original title: La Môme

Genre: Musical drama, Biography

Director: Olivier Dahan

Country of origin: France, Czech Republic, United Kingdom

Cast:

  • Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf
  • Gérard Depardieu as Louis Leplée
  • Sylvie Testud as Mômone
  • Jean-Paul Rouve as Louis Barrier
  • Emmanuelle Seigner as Titine
  • Pascal Greggory as Raymond Asso

Plot:

The film follows the life of French singer Edith Piaf, from her impoverished childhood on the streets of Paris to her rise to international fame and her struggles with love, loss, and illness. The film uses a non-linear narrative, weaving together flashbacks and present-day scenes to portray Piaf’s complex and emotional journey.

Reception:

La Vie en Rose was a critical and commercial success, earning numerous awards including the Academy Award for Best Actress for Marion Cotillard, the César Award for Best Film, and the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. The film is praised for its powerful performances, especially Cotillard’s portrayal of Piaf, its emotional storytelling, and its evocative recreation of historical periods.

The Class (2008)

Original title: Entre les murs

Genre: Drama

Director: Laurent Cantet

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • François Bégaudeau as François Bégaudeau (playing himself)
  • Vincent London as Said
  • Franck Keïta as Souleymane
  • Esther M’Coco as Esther
  • Carla Besnaïni as Carla
  • Laura Desmouceaux as Laura

Plot:

The film follows François Bégaudeau, a middle school teacher in a tough neighborhood in Paris, as he navigates the challenges of teaching a diverse and challenging class. He grapples with issues of discipline, communication, and cultural differences while trying to inspire his students and foster a sense of community in the classroom.

Reception:

La classe was a critical and commercial success, winning the Palme d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and receiving numerous other awards. It is praised for its realistic portrayal of the French educational system, its sensitive exploration of social and cultural issues, and the strong performances from both Bégaudeau and the student actors.

A Christmas Tale (2008)

Original title: Un conte de Noël

Genre: Comedy-drama

Director: Arnaud Desplechin

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Catherine Deneuve as Junon Vuillard
  • Jean-Paul Roussillon as Abel Vuillard
  • Mathieu Amalric as Henri Vuillard
  • Anne Consigny as Elizabeth Vuillard
  • Melvil Poupaud as Simon Vuillard
  • Emmanuelle Devos as Sylvia
  • Chiara Mastroianni as Catherine
  • Vincent Lindon as Luc

Plot:

The Vuillard family is reunited for Christmas after their matriarch, Junon, falls ill and requires a bone marrow transplant. The film explores the complex relationships and past conflicts between family members as they navigate their individual struggles and come together during this difficult time. Themes of illness, forgiveness, and family bonds are central to the story.

Reception:

A Christmas Tale received positive reviews from critics, praised for its ensemble acting, witty dialogue, and poignant exploration of family dynamics. While some found the film’s long runtime challenging, others appreciated its layered narrative and bittersweet humor. The film garnered several accolades, including a nomination for the Golden Palm award at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

A Prophet (2009)

Original Title: Un prophète

Genre: Drama, Crime

Director: Jacques Audiard

Country of Origin: France

Cast: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif

Plot: “A Prophet” follows the story of Malik El Djebena, a young man of Algerian descent sentenced for a minor crime and sent to a French prison. Initially vulnerable and unprotected, Malik is subjected to the harsh laws of the prison and forced to navigate the criminal world that reigns supreme within. Under the protection of an influential gang leader, César Luciani, Malik begins to climb the ranks of the criminal hierarchy, learning the rules of the game and navigating through alliances and betrayals.

Reception: “A Prophet” received widespread critical acclaim and achieved great international success. The film was praised for its engaging direction, gripping storytelling, and impressive performances by the cast. It won numerous awards, including the Grand Prix Speciale della Giuria at the Cannes Film Festival and nine César Awards, including Best Film and Best Director. Additionally, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Enter the Void (2009)

Original Title: Enter the Void

Genre: Drama, Fantasy

Director: Gaspar Noé

Country of Origin: France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan

Cast: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Cyril Roy

Plot: “Enter the Void” follows the story of Oscar, a young American drug addict living in Tokyo with his sister, Linda. After a series of tragic events, Oscar is killed during a police raid at a nightclub. However, instead of completely disappearing, his consciousness seems to wander the city, experiencing visions and memories of his past while observing the earthly world and his loved ones.

Reception: “Enter the Void” received mixed reviews from critics and elicited strong reactions from audiences. The film was praised for its visual audacity and experimental narrative, blending elements of art cinema with influences from horror cinema and psychedelia. However, it was also criticized for its excessive length and graphic violence, which may not be suitable for all viewers.

Thelma, Louise et Chantal (2010)

French-movies

Original title: Thelma, Louise et Chantal

Genre: Comedy

Director: Benoît Pétré

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Jane Birkin – Thelma
  • Caroline Cellier – Louise
  • Catherine Jacob – Chantal
  • Delphine Chanéac – Gabrielle
  • Alysson Paradis – Nelly
  • Judith El Zein – Samira 

Plot: 

Three women, Thelma, Louise and Chantal, are invited to the wedding of an ex in La Rochelle. They decide to travel together by car and during the journey, full of adventures, they confide in each other, argue and confront their weaknesses. 

Reception: 

The film received generally positive reviews. Critics praised Pétré’s direction, the actresses’ performances and the screenplay, calling the film funny, moving and well-made.

Tournee (2010)

French-movies-tournee

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Director: Mathieu Amalric

Country of origin: France

Cast:

  • Mathieu Amalric – Joachim Zand
  • Miranda Colclasure – Candy
  • Suzanne Ramsey – Betty
  • Dirty Martini – Norma
  • Julie Ann Muz – Bubbles

Plot:

Joachim, a former television producer, returns to France from the United States with a new show: “New Burlesque”. With a group of American burlesque dancers, he embarks on a tour of several French cities, facing many difficulties and setbacks along the way. The show, which mixes burlesque and comedy, does not always meet with the expected success, but Joachim and his girls do not give up and continue to pursue their dream.

Reception:

The film was presented in competition at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the FIPRESCI Prize and the Award for Best Director. It received positive reviews from critics, who praised Amalric’s direction, the actors’ performances, and the film’s nostalgic atmosphere.

Captive (2012)

Genre: Action, drama, psychological thriller, war

Director: Brillante Mendoza

Country of origin: France, Philippines, Germany, United Kingdom

Cast:

  • Isabelle Huppert – Thérèse Bourgoine
  • Marc Zanetta – Vincent Marquin
  • Kathy Mulville – Therese’s sister
  • Coco Martin – Commander Elias
  • Bea Garcia – Commander Elias’ wife

Plot:

A group of tourists, including Frenchwoman Thérèse Bourgoine, are kidnapped by a group of Islamic militants in the Philippines. The film follows Thérèse’s ordeal as she is held captive in the jungle for months, enduring harsh conditions and psychological manipulation by her captors. Meanwhile, the authorities work tirelessly to locate and rescue the hostages.

Reception:

Captive received mixed reviews from critics. Some praised the film’s realistic portrayal of the hostage crisis and Huppert’s powerful performance, while others found the narrative slow and the ending ambiguous. The film was screened in competition at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival.

Amour (2012)

Original Title: Amour

Genre: Drama, Romance

Director: Michael Haneke

Country of Origin: France, Austria, Germany

Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert

Plot: “Amour” tells the poignant story of Anne and Georges, an elderly couple of musicians facing the challenges of old age and illness. After Anne suffers a stroke that leaves her partially paralyzed, Georges cares for her devotedly as their lives are drastically altered by illness and mutual dependence. The film explores the theme of unconditional love and fidelity through the trials of sickness and impending death, offering a moving and uncompromising look at the fragility of life and human relationships.

Reception: “Amour” was met with enthusiastic praise from critics and garnered numerous international awards. The film was acclaimed for its emotional sensitivity, impeccable direction, and extraordinary performances by the cast, particularly Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, in addition to receiving nominations for Best Picture and Best Director.

Viramundo (2013)

Original title: Viramundo: Uma Viagem Musical com Gilberto Gil

Genre: Documentary, Musical

Director: Pierre-Yves Borgeaud

Country of origin: France, Switzerland

Cast:

  • Gilberto Gil
  • Peter Garrett
  • Paul Hanmer
  • Vusi Mahlasela

Plot:

The documentary follows Brazilian musician and former Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil on a musical tour across the Southern Hemisphere. The film explores themes of cultural diversity, globalization, and the power of music to connect people from different backgrounds. Gil visits Australia, South Africa, and his home country of Brazil, where he collaborates with local musicians and shares his message of unity and hope.

Reception:

Viramundo received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised its beautiful cinematography, uplifting message, and Gilberto Gil’s charismatic performance. The film was also a box office success in Brazil.

Lightning (2013)

French-movies-lighting

Plot:

French movie in two parts: A Legend – Four Season Documentary. Autumn follows a lightning hunter, associated with Baal, the Syrian god of lightning. Winter is committed to analyzing melancholy, the final stage of depression and the ways in which it can be overcome. Spring revives Symeon the Stylite, a maniac god who lived atop a column for 40 years.

The summer, based on the text of Marivaux’s “Dispute”, stages the shocking encounter between two intense creatures, Azor and Eglé, stranded on the island of Sutra. In this island paradise they eat Kama, the forbidden fruit and, although madly in love, are expelled.

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Custody (2019)

Original title: Jusqu’à la garde

Genre: Drama

Director: Xavier Legrand

Country of origin: France

Cast:

Léa Drucker – Miriam Besson
Denis Ménochet – Antoine Besson
Thomas Gioria – Julien Besson
Mathilde Auneveux – Joséphine Besson

Plot:

After a difficult divorce, Myriam tries to obtain sole custody of her eleven-year-old son Julien, shocked by the psychological and physical violence of his father Antoine. Despite the overwhelming evidence, the judge decides on joint custody, forcing Myriam to fight to protect her son and herself from Antoine’s uncontrolled fury.

Reception: 

The film received critical acclaim for Legrand’s masterful direction, the intense performances of Drucker and Ménochet, and the realistic and heartbreaking depiction of domestic violence. He has won numerous awards, including the Silver Lion – Special Award for Director at the Venice Film Festival and the César Award for Best Film.

Adele Resilienza

Adele Resilienza

Law graduate, graphologist, writer, historian and film critic since 2008.

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