When we think about the French culture, the first few things that spring to our minds are: fashion, glamour, food and wine, the Eiffel Tower and “draw me like one of your French girls” [ah, Titanic]. The last thing [sometimes not at all] that comes to mind is French cinema.
Yes, we’re aware of the French cinema [To those of you who nodded no: there are things outside of Hollywood. Tadaa!] and it’s there in the back of our minds. Sometimes, it’s at the tip of our tongues since movies like La Vie En Rose (2007), Amélie (2001), and most recently Blue Is The Warmest Colour (2013) are hot topics of discussion, but seldom do we ever discuss the other great movies French cinema has produced. I’m about to change that.
The following are top 5 movies [in my opinion] that have come out of the French film industry that you need to check out [it’s great for brushing up on your high school French lessons too]:
- Asterix and Obelix (2002):
I’m not sure about you, but as a child I was really into reading comics. One of my favourite comic books to read was Asterix and Obelix. They were Gauls [Celtic people inhabiting Gaul in the Iron Age and the Roman period] who went on adventures saving their little village from the Roman occupation.
They did so by drinking magic potions giving to them by their druid [a learned and educated man of the society] which gave them magic power. Little did I know, the comic book’s origin was Franco-Belgian and it had become so popular that it was translated into over a 100 languages and has been adapted into 12 films, of which my personal favourite is Asterix and Obelix Mission Cleopatra.
Here, they travel to Egypt with their Druid Getafix to help Cleopatra build a new palace for Julius Caesar in three months – otherwise she loses the bet and her personal architect gets eaten by crocodiles! I know it sounds a bit childish, but there is nothing more entertaining than watching French legends Gerard Depardieu (as Obélix) and Christian Clavier (as Asterix) take on these roles and bring the comic book heroes to life! But of course, feel free to watch the rest too – surely, they won’t disappoint!
Cyrano De Bergerac (1990):
Usually Cyrano films are of the comedy genre, and this one is no different- with the added twist of romance! After all, what French film would be complete without a touch of l’amour? [There is a reason the French are known for their kissing!]
This film follows the tale of Cyrano, an officer of the guard who is in love with his cousin Roxanne [a little unconventional, I know, but I guess this was quite common back then], but feels his giant nose will come in between their potential romance. Of course, Roxanne is completely oblivious to his affection. So, Cyrano starts writing poetic letters to her from another Cadet, Christian, who is also in love with her but doesn’t know how to tell her. Then, of course, confusion ensues.
Again, Gerard Depardieu does a wonderful job playing hopeless romantic Cyrano, while the handsomeVincest Perez plays Christian and the beautiful French actress Anne Brochet portrays clueless Roxanne. Truly a wonderful French rom-com!
We all remember the 2004 American film Taxi right? The romantic comedy starring Jimmy Fallon (before his Late Night days) and Queen Latifa is actually based off the original Taxi – a French film following the life of newly-recieved-taxi-license-owner Daniel who gets in trouble with the law after he is caught speeding.
In order to prevent his license from being revoked he offers to help French police officer, Emilien, who – surprisingly – cannot drive! They embark on a journey to prevent German bank robbers from getting away with their crimes. So it’s similar to the American version we remember, except instead of gorgeous model Giesele Bunchen being a bank robber, it’s a whole group of German robbers. Bonus: The ever-so-elegant Marion Cotillard plays the love interest of our Taxi driver, Daniel.
Trust me, the original is much better, and funnier!
Coco Avant Chanel (2009):
This one is for the fashion lovers, and it’s my absolute favourite [I’ve seen it a dozen times]. The film revolves around the life of famous French couturier Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. I’ve always been a fan of Chanel’s – I feellike everything that comes out of Maison Du Chanel is absolutely flawless and elegant [Karl Lagerfeld has never let the name and style of Chanel get tarnished and, for that, I will forever love him].
This film follows the life of Coco Chanel after she gets left at the orphanage, how she got her famous nickname “Coco”, her unstable yet envious love affairs with some of France’s finest. The excitement doesn’t end there: we see her introduction into the French elite where she started off as a mere chapeliere (hat maker) to seeing her build her legacy of the world’s most recognisable brand: Chanel.
It’s enchanting to watch Chanel encounter complications and face them with perseverance to become the most famous face in fashion. A must-watch!
Le Mystère Picasso (1956):
There is not a person in this world who is not familiar with the name Pablo Picasso, art-lover or not. Known as the “Father of Modern Art”, Pablo Picasso shaped the way art is now created and will be in the future due to his eccentric painting styles and his complete disregard of what people thought of his work. His legacy in ideology carries on and artists are no longer confined by what art “should be” but instead make their perspective of life into art.
This documentary follows the technique Picasso used to create his masterpieces and the intense process which went into his pairings until his work was complete. It is truly a magical insight into the brain of one of the world’s most brilliant and revolutionary artists.
So, there you have it, the top 5 French films that you definitely need to watch! Clearly, some of these aren’t recent movies and that’s what makes them gems [Not to say the new ones aren’t]. But when it comes to classics, let’s turn the clock around and give these iconic films an endearing ‘Merci de nous enseigner’!
Keep watching this space fore more foreign movies to explore and tell us your favourites in the comments below: