Few film industries in the world can rival France’s cinema in terms of quality and scope during the last 120 years or so. From Georges Méliès’ sleight-of-hand and the Lumière brothers’ innovations to today’s tyros like Julia Ducournau and Ladj Ly, French film is a constantly developing organism, restless for new stories and new ways to tell them. There’s a reason it’s known as the cradle of the New Wave, with luminaries like Jean Renoir, Agnès Varda, and François Truffaut calling it home.
Below are some of the must-watch French films.
1. Welcome To The Sticks
Director- Dany Boon
Julie has been depress for some time despite living in Salon-de-Provence, a charming town in the south of France. Philippe Abrams, her husband, a post office administrator, tries at all costs to obtain a transfer to a seaside town on the French Riviera. The issue is that he is caught red-hand while attempting to defraud an inspector. Philippe is immediately exile to the remote and unheard-of town of Bergues in France’s far north. The crucified man abandons his child and wife for his terrifying destination, a dreadfully cold place populated by hard-drinking, unemployed rednecks who speak an incomprehensible dialect known as Ch’ti. Philippe quickly realizes that all of his assumptions were false and that Bergues is not synonymous with hell.
Director- Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Amélie attempts to improve the lives of those around her by weaving her unique brand of mischievous magic. She befriends a shut-in neighbor, pulls pranks on another, steals a garden gnome, and returns objects she collects to their rightful owners. Amélie daydreams romantically in the café where she works and marvels at life’s ironies. She discovers a small box containing a child’s mementos one day and decides to track down its rightful owner.
3. The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Director- Julian Schnabel
The true story of Jean-Dominique Beauby, a 43-year-old magazine editor who is paralyze from the neck down after suffering a stroke. He can see and hear but cannot speak, communicating only by blinking his left eye to indicate yes or no. Despite the support of an expert medical team and his family, he is literally trap inside his own body and faces a terrifying situation. Only when his speech therapist, Henriette Roi, devises a system for him to “speak” one letter at a time by blinking his eye does the world open up for him.
4. Potrait Of A Lady On Fire
Director- Celine Sciamma
Marianne is commission to paint the wedding portrait of Hélose, a young woman who has recently left the convent, in 1760 France. Marianne arrives under the pretense of the company since she is a reluctant bride-to-be, observing Hélose by day and covertly painting her by firelight at night. As they experience Hélose’s first moments of freedom, attraction and intimacy grow between the two women. Hélose’s photo quickly evolves into a joint effort and monument to their love.
Director- Celine Sciamma
A family moves to a new neighborhood, and a 10-year-old girl named Laure presents herself to the neighboring kids as a boy named Mickäel. Mickäel’s identity as a transsexual boy is heavily implied. This film chronicles his interactions with his newfound acquaintances, Lisa, his younger sister, and his parents, as well as his potential love affair. It emphasizes the importance of gender identity in social contact from a young age, the challenges of being transgender and young, and how Mickäel navigates these issues while playing and loving as a child.
6. Blue Is The Warmest Color
Director- Abdellatif Kechiche
Adèle is a high school student who is just starting to explore her gender identity. She dates guys but is sexually unsatisfy with them, and she is rejected by a female friend whom she adores. She fantasizes about something more. Adele meets Emma, a free-spirited girl who is rejected by Adèle’s friends because of her sexuality, and as a result, most of Adèle’s friends reject her as well. Emma becomes more than just a friend to her as she is the one person with whom she can be really honest. Adèle and Emma work together to explore social acceptance, sexuality, and the emotional spectrum of their developing relationship.
7. Paris, I Love You
Director(s)- Wes Craven, Olivier Assayas, Emmanuel Benbihy, Gurinder Chadha & more
Paris is known as the City of Love. Twenty filmmakers have five minutes each; the audience must piece together a single narrative from twenty separate moments. Transitional interstitial sequences, as well as the introduction and epilogue, connect the 20 moments. Each transition starts with the last shot of the previous film and ends with the first shot of the next film, extending the enchantment and emotion of the previous segment, preparing the audience for a surprise, and creating a cohesive atmosphere. There’s a mysterious character who keeps reappearing as a witness to Parisian life. The common theme of Paris and love binds everything together.