It’s been a while since I’ve posted. With early holiday decorating, work, cooking a feast for Thanksgiving dinner for two, Bonaparte and me, and anticipating if we will be home for Christmas due to another possible pandemic lockdown, it’s been the continuation of WTF else can go wrong in 2020.
Goodbye Thanksgiving. Hello Christmas–even though it might be spent “tout seul”–all alone!
I’ve been sitting around pouting over our cancelled trip to Paris—of which I would have been enjoying this very day as I sit here pounding upon my laptop’s keyboard. But instead, I bring Paris as well as other parts of France into your living rooms. Or bedrooms. Or family rooms. Or wherever you enjoy watching TV. It’s a way of traveling both through time and to another country and can get your imagination going during these trying times.
Same time last year. I discovered this beautiful pile of croissants at Cafe de Paris on Rue du Buci–our neighborhood hangout. Not this year….
Let’s face it— those Hallmark Holiday movies can, at times, be a bit of overkill so why not try something different? French movies–with subtitles for those who don’t speak the language! Subtitles don’t take away from the movie at all. In fact, I find that subtitles can assist in learning another language.
My bad. I realize this is a post about French cinema but…I had to get a photo of my favorite French Netflix series in here. Dix Pour Cent. As I eagerly await the new season I am BEGGING you to watch the first seasons. It’s the greatest!!
For you, I’ve compiled a listing of some of my favorite French movies. Trust me, if I listed all of them, this post would turn into a novel. And I must resume writing about the weight gloss (I have a lot to say on that) and other subjects. And Bonaparte has added his very pragmatic listing of French films that he highly recommends. As my husband is a man of very few English language words, he leaves no descriptions. Just films he loves that you might love.
I, on the other hand, will list some of my faves and brief descriptions. Before I do. Remember a few tips: Invest in a DVD player equipped to play foreign films. Seriously. There’s a difference between many foreign DVD’s and ones in the States. If you purchase an international DVD player, your life and movie-watching will be much easier.
Many of these movies can be found online if you wish to purchase. Many can be found for streaming on YouTube or Amazon Prime or any other streaming venues. TV 5 Monde shows many films as well. So here we go—some of my recommendations:
It’s my favorite movie of all time. ALL TIME!!
And I double-dog dare ya to not fall in love with Mathieu Kassovitz and Audrey Tautou–it is impossible. They are the most adorable couple ever!
Amelie or “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain: This is my Number 1 favorite movie of all time. Yes. ALL TIME! THIS is what every person who thinks “Emily in Paris” is a great show should watch. They would certainly change their minds about that horrific show after viewing the first ten minutes of Amelie. The film is delightful and a masterpiece. Audrey Tautou stars as the lovely but shy Amelie. A waitress in a Paris café, she feels her mission is to help others, all the while allowing love to pass her by. She develops a crush on a young Parisien, Nino, and the rest is a wild, bittersweet, scavenger hunt. All the characters in this movie are perfectly cast and the cinematography is outstanding. Shot in a greenish filter, the view is almost ethereal—like a dream. And in the end, when Amelie and Nino finally meet, I guaranty you will be crying like a baby. Over the years I’ve seen this movie about 30 times, and the ending still get me. I can’t stop crying. If you want a feel good, beautifully filmed movie, sweetest story that will have you grinning from ear to ear, please make this a must-watch!
This movie has something for everyone. It’s a great “couples” movie. It’s got some really intense trench and war scenes and the scenes between Manech and Mathilde pre-war are touching and beautiful. Hands down, this is one great epic film!
A Very Long Engagement: As with Amelie, this is another Jean-Pierre Jeunet film. This has a great deal of sentimentality for me—it’s the first movie Bonaparte took me to see. This epic drama has everything. It’s a love story. It’s a story about World War I. It’s tragic and beautiful and has a large cast—but the best surprise is Jodie Foster as Elodie, the wife of a soldier and her French is perfect—she is completely bi-lingual. Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard stars as prostitute Tina Lombardi headed for a bad fate. It follows the story of Mathilde and Manech, two young lovers who are engaged. Mathilde, played by Audrey Tautou, due to a bout with polio wears a leg brace but it doesn’t stop her. Manech, played by Gaspard Ulliel, is Mathilde’s fiancé headed for the trenches of war. When word reaches Mathilde that Manech has been killed, she refuses to believe it and the film turns to her search for him. It’s an excellent movie that you’ll want to watch on repeat!
The 400 Blows or les Quatre Cents Coups–whichever you prefer, this is one of the greatest films of all time. It’s depressing but hopeful and Antoine Doinel is one of the greatest characters ever. I recommend watching the series of his “life” into adulthood!
The 400 Blows: This film by New Wave Film maker Francois Truffaut introduces the iconic character Antoine Doinel. Antoine is Truffaut’s alter ego and much of the Doinel movies are based on incidents in Truffaut’s life. The 400 Blows has its comical moments, but for the most part is somewhat sad. Doinel doesn’t get much love at home and ends up in a school for truancy. There are five movies in the Doinel series and I highly recommend watching all of them. It’s interesting to watch the series as Doinel goes from young teen to adulthood. Jean-Pierre Leaud is excellent as the brooding Doinel.
I saw this for the first time back in NYC when I was 22 years old. At The Thalia theatre on the Upper West Side. After seeing Charles Denner, I had such a serious crush on him that I daydreamed about marrying a Frenchman. OH! Wait! I DID marry a Frenchman!
The Man Who Loved Women: Another Truffaut film, this one, from 1977 was the movie that started my decades-long crush on actor Charles Denner, who plays Frenchman Bertrand Morane in his insatiable pursuit of women. I loved it—it’s kind of sexist but who cares *French shrug*–its just a great movie!
Many of us are familiar with Jean Reno–he’s been in a lot of movies made in the USA. But..Christian Clavier is another story. He is one of the funniest actors on the face of the earth. I could devote an entire post on him alone. His face, his emotions–he’s just so funny–and if you love time travel this is such an entertaining movie. Warning-empty your bladder before viewing because you will laugh THAT hard!
Les Visiteurs: A hysterically funny movie, this is the first of I believe three Visiteurs movies. It stars Jean Reno, and Christian Clavier, who wrote the screenplay with John Hughes. It’s a time travel movie about a knight and his sidekick who, through a spell gone wrong find themselves in modern-day France. This movie has laugh-out-loud moments and Christian Clavier happens to be one of my favorite comedic actors. You may recognize Jean Reno from many movies made here in the States. If you are looking for a very sophomoric movie with a ton of humor, this is it!
I’m impressed. Somewhere there’s a video game based on this movie. But seriously folks–the suave and bumbling Jean Dujardin is great in these movies..
It was like watching The Artist all over again with these two–only with voices and far more laughs!
OSS 117 Cairo, Nest of Spies: You will definitely recognize two of the lead stars from this movie. Oscar winner Jean Dujardin (his Oscar from The Artist) and Berenice Bejo, wife of director/writer Michel Hazanavicius. Dujardin also starred in OSS117 Lost in Rio and next year he stars in another OSS 117 movie. A take on James Bond films, Dujardin is perfectly cast as the suave albeit bumbling spy. There’s a scene in this movie where he is singing a song in a restaurant and it is, hands down, one of the funniest scene’s I’ve ever viewed in my life. It reeks of every 1960’s spy, espionage, secret-agent movie and is done so very well! Enjoy. You’ll want more!
My favorite naughty girl! And naughty she is!
But put the sexist behavior behind-this WAS filmed in 1956 after all, and watch it for the visuals of old St. Tropez!
And God Created Woman: This Roger Vadim film turned Bardot into a star. It’s so stinking sexist and not in a good way either. But, it’s so worth watching because of Bardot and St. Tropez. This was filmed in 1956. Back when St. Tropez wasn’t the St. Trop we know now. No jet-setters. No yachts. It was a simple fishing village. My husband spent his summers here and his grandmother had a home here. The stories he tells me fills my head with wishes that St. Tropez was still a small fishing village! Bardot is so incredibly beautiful and the dancing scene in the bar/restaurant is epic. Filmed in black and white, it hasn’t really aged that well but I still think it is worth watching.
Gerard Jugnot is so wonderful in this–and it IS an exceptional film! It’s based on a true story and honestly-once will not be enough to watch this. I may watch it again this afternoon!
The Chorus: Want a good cry? Watch this movie. Seriously. It’s about a failed musician, Clément Mathieu, played by the wonderful Gerard Jugnot, who ends up teaching music at a boarding school for bad boys. Well, more like boys with issues because there’s only one who is really bad. But Mathieu starts a choir and the movie takes us on the journey. It’s loosely based on a real-life story. This is a beautiful movie that keeps you on edge but ends up being such a feel-good film. You’re going to need a box of tissues for this one!
I know. I know. There’s a certain campiness and cheesiness about this movie–but it’s FUN!! A great little costume dramedy and Robin Hood frenchie style!
Cartouche: Got kids? Got grandkids? Got your kid-at-heart ready? This is such a barrel of swashbuckling fun—it’s impossible not to love this one. Jean-Paul Belmondo, Claudia Cardinale and Jean Rochefort star in this most entertaining and thrilling movie! Taking place in the 18th century, it’s a kind of French-style Robin Hood movie. It’s just so much fun. In 1962, when this movie was made, I was seven years old. Trust me, I would have loved this movie whether or not I understood the language!
I laughed. I cried. I fell in love with Omar Sy…
It was also fun being in Paris at the premiere of this movie . I got to see my favorite French actors in the audience and Bonaparte beamed with pride at his cousin’s son’s success. It was a nice moment and this movie is just so “feel good”!
Demain tout Commence: Shameless plug here. This movie was written and directed by my husband’s cousin, Hugo Gelin. And the title is actually a saying his aunt, Daniele used to say all the time—tomorrow, it begins. This family-fare film is charming, funny and sweet. It stars the actor with the greatest smile on earth—Omar Sy. He’s a rather wild playboy type until one day he receives a surprise in the form of…. a baby. Is it his daughter or not? Anyway, the film follows his life with daughter. It is just such a sweet, sweet movie that will have you laughing and crying at the same time—and I’m sure you will fall in love with this little movie!
How successful was this movie? Enough so that when we visit Yves Gravesite in Montparnasse, there are buttons placed upon his grave!
Bonaparte’s brothers, Fracois and Martin. It was so much fun to see them in the movie. Makes me wish I had someone who would put me into a movie!!
La Guerre des Boutons: The original. Released in 1962 and directed by Bonaparte’s uncle, Yves Robert, he and Daniele produced this and put their money in this project which was filmed largely on their estate. My husband’s brothers Francois and Martin play two of the young boys in the movie. It’s about a war of the buttons. The movie is about two rival teams of kids whose fun combats escalate. The buttons are cut off from clothing in this movie based on the book by Louis Pergaud, who was killed in WWI. It’s also a book and movie with strong anti-military overtones. It was remade in Ireland in the 1990’s and again in 2011 in France. It is filmed in black and white. It may not be everyone’s choice but I think –especially in these uncertain times, it’s definitely worth watching!
This movie. It personifies Film Noir. It was so intense! Louis Malle created a masterpiece with this dark thriller–and the soundtrack was pretty darn great too!
Elevator to the Gallows: Whew. This movie by Louis Malle will have you biting your nails. It’s such a dark thriller. Starring Jean Moreau who is great, it’s the story of two lovers planning a murder. And the effect of an elevator. That’s all I’m going to say. It’s total film noir. And the soundtrack by Miles Davis adds to the darkness. This is one movie you should not miss!
This movie. It’s a gem that nobody seems to know about and I love it so much. This is that movie you watch when you are a bit stressed and the visuals and the story will be so soothing for you. I freaking LOVE this movie and the reaction from people–even my husband is “What movie are you talking about’?
Les Enfants du Marais: Set in the very early 1900’s, after WWI. This is just one of those surprise gems. I came across it a few years back when Netflix mailed movies to you. There isn’t a lot of action—it’s just a slow, almost laze-like film about life in the French marshland in the Loire Valley. It follows Riton, a sad-sack sort of guy, played by Jacques Villeret, with a wife and three really badly-behaved children. Jacques Gamblin plays Garris, who lives alone with his memories of The Great War, and their friends, Tane a train conductor and Amedee, a complete dreamer who basically does nothing but read. Amedee is played by one of my favorite actors, Andre Dussolier. The movie follows every day mundane life but it isn’t a boring movie. Visually it is beautiful and it’s one of those movies that you remember but can be difficult to find. Honestly, this movie deserves more love than it gets!
The French movie poster for Pardon Mon Affaire. This movie was so stinking funny. Jean Rochefort was clearly the big star here because everything from his timing to his facial expressions were hysterically funny. Want a great comedy? Here you go!
Pardon Mon Affaire: Alright. Another shameless family plug. But I swear, this movie is so funny that you’ll thank me for recommending it. Jean Rochefort and Daniele Delorme star as a married couple. Bonaparte’s uncle, Yves Robert who was married to his aunt, Daniele, wrote and directed the movie and Daniele starred as Jean Rochefort’s wife in the first of two movies. Daniele and Jean play a very happily married couple until one day, Jean is taken and obsessed with a young model wearing a red dress. There’s a lot of miscommunication and comedy in this film—and Jean Rochefort on a building ledge is one scene that continues to get a ton of laughs. In fact, this was remade in 1984 as The Woman in Red starring Gene Wilder and Kelly LeBrock. I’ll take the French version s’il vous plait!
This is another little gem of a movie and if you can find it–you’ve found a lost treasure!
The Hairdresser’s Husband: This was described as exotic. It was more dramatic than exotic if you ask me. Another movie starring Jean Rochefort–I’m gonna go on record as saying he’s one of my favorite actors. This was a quiet little movie about a man obsessed with hairdressers and he marries one. There life together seems wonderfully perfect and full of love–until one night. It’s really kind of depressing but it’s great at the same time. Personally, I loved it. And think it’s worth sleuthing to find it!
One of the sweetest and charming musicals ever. It never gets old and the music by Michel Legrand is classic. So are the shoes that Catherine Deneuve is wearing. I want those.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg: Did you know that Catherine Deneuve could sing? She can! The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a semi-operetta. There’s a lot of singing dialogue. The story centers around Genevieve, a teenaged girl working in her mother’s umbrella shop. She’s in love with Guy, a young auto mechanic. Guy is drafted into the Algerian war. Genevieve and Guy spend one night together. She gets pregnant. He’s away. In the meantime, Roland, an older man who is in love with Genevieve wants to marry her. He does. The rest of the movie is love gone awry. Guy returns and marries Madeleine. Both Guy and Genevieve move on with their lives until a snowy night years later when Genevieve stops by the auto mechanics with a bit of auto trouble. Jacques Demy wrote and directed this movie and it’s become a classic. It’s a great story plot but even better made as a musical. It’s very touching and Michel Legrand’s music is incredible and well-known. If you haven’t seen this 1964 classic, now is the time to watch it!
And those are just some of my favorite French imports. There’s an awful lot I haven’t mentioned because I want to move on and write about other subjects for now—but, this is a great narrowed-down start! Check out Bonaparte’s listing below!
FRENCH MOVIE LIST
Most of the films below are available on Netflix and/or video stores.
AMERICAN TITLE FRENCH TITLE
Indochine Indochine Drama/History
Au Revoir les Enfants Au revoir les enfants War Drama
My Father’s Glory (1) La gloire de mon père Comedy/History
My Mother’s Castle (2) Le château de ma mère Comedy/History
Pardon mon Affair Un éléphant ça trompe ….. Comedy
Métro Le métro War Drama
Jean de Florette (1) Jean de Florette Drama/History
Manon of the Spring (2) Manon des sources Drama/History
Cousin, Cousine Cousin, cousine Comedy
Camille Claudel Camille Claudel Drama/History
La Cage aux Folles La cage aux folles Comedy
Ridicule Ridicule Drama/History
Cyrano de Bergerac Cyrano de Bergerac Drama/History
Amelie Amélie Drama
Nikita Woman La femme Nikita Drama
The Tall Man with a Red Shoe Le grand blond à la chaussure … Comedy
Cesar and Rosalie César et Rosalie Drama
Vincent, François, Paul and the others Vincent, François, Paul et … Comedy
Umbrellas of Cherbourg Les parapluies de Cherbourg Music hall
400 Blows* Les 400 coups Drama
Beauty and the Beast* La belle et la bête Drama/History
Partners Les ripoux Comedy
French Kiss** Comedy
Monsieur Ibrahim Monsieur Ibrahim Comedy
The Barbarian Invasions (Fr Canadian) Les invasions barbares Drama
The Closet Le placard Comedy
Grand Illusion * La grande illusion War Drama
Swimming Pool La piscine Drama
Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob Les folles aventures du rabin Jacob Comedy
Story of Adele H. Adèle H. Drama/History
A Heart in Winter Un coeur en hiver Drama
The Wages of Fear* Le salaire de la peur Drama
L’Auberge Espagnol (Same title) Comedy
The Beat that My Heart Skipped (?) Drama
Elevator to the Gallows* Ascenseur pour l’échafaud Drama
Mr. Klein Monsieur Klein War Drama
Rules of the Game* La règle du jeu Drama
Right Now A tout de suite Comedy
Le Casque d’Or* (Same title) Drama
The Taste of Others Le goût des autres Comedy
Touchez pas au Grisbi* (Same title) Drama
Classe Tous Risques* (Same title) Action
I Would Lie to You (?) Comedy
The Sorrow and the Pity Le chagrin et la pitié War Documentary
Jules et Jim* (Same title) Drama
Lacombe Lucien (Same title) War Drama
La Chevre (Same title) Comedy
La Vie en Rose (Same title) Drama
Delicatessen (Same title) Drama
Three Men and a Baby 3 hommes et un coufin Comedy
The Man who Loved Women (?) Comedy
A Very Long Engagement De très longues fiancailles War Drama
Merry Christmas Joyeux Noel War Drama
Two Days in Paris 2 jours à Paris Comedy
Paris Je T’Aime (Same title) Comedy
The Valet Le valet Comedy
Return of Martin Guerre Le retour de Martin Guerre Drama/History
Night and Fog Nuit et brouillard War Documentary
Green Card** Comedy
All The Mornings of the World Tous les matins du monde Drama/History
Caché (Same title) Drama
Count of Monte Cristo Le comte de Monte Cristo Drama/History
The Children of Chabannes** Les enfants de Chabannes War Documentary
The Formatting is weird because I can’t add proper columns to this blog post. Thanks WordPress!
Any movie directed by François Truffaut usually is interesting, at least for the quality of dialogues, which are made in “good French”, i.e. without much slang and clearly said.
Movies made by Eric Rohmer are also in excellent French but stories tend to be very slow.
The “Style” description above is very general. “History” can refer to true historical subjects but also simply to movies taking place in early 20th Century or before.
* : Black and White movie
** : American made movie showing an excellent description of French life an/or behavior
And there you have it! French cinema recommendations from The Frenchman and me!
The Danton Movie theatre in Paris. I’ve passed this theatre thousands of times! And there’s always a few hours of treasured cinema time to come by in here!