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vendredi 11 mars 2011

Ten Great French Films (Part 1)

Flickr user: Ryan Baxter

Keeping your foreign language alive and kicking doesn't have to be a chore once you get home - choose something that engages you easily, and let your interest do the rest. I'm addicted to Cinema, and films are a really easy way to keep up your exposure to the language and also not feel like you're doing homework! If you want to be really daring, you can even turn the subtitles off! This week we take a look at some French cinema.


Having consulted an expert panel of judges - ie. my film-loving francophile friends on facebook (wow, unintentioned alliteration!), and the francophones in the office - I've put together a tasty line-up of film specimens. Here follows the not-so-usual suspects (and some who, deservedly, are):

1)The New Wave Classic

Les 400 Coups The 400 Blows
What's the point in being a French student if not to be able to make a passing reference to French New Wave cinema? Okay, maybe there are several other factors! But regardless of the historical context, Les 400 Coups is an engaging film about the struggles of a rebellious boy, Antoine, against his parents and his teachers, and his attempts to break free from the overly disciplined and injust environment. You are behind Antoine every step of the way - rejoicing in his escapes, saddened by his disappointments, and sharing his hopes - this is a film that will really arrest your emotions.
2) The Subtly Subversive Musical

Les Parapluies de Cherbourg The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Enchanting, playful, and with the lightest touch of social commentary that you could probably argue if it was even there in the first place, Les Parapluies injects a dazzling musicality into the mundane. Focused on a love story, sweeping off into romantic songs, the film is nonetheless tempered with lighthearted asides such as singing about the hem of a skirt! And of course, it's the film that threw Catherine Deneuve into the spotlight...
3) The High-tension Thriller
Ne le dis à personne Tell No One
Guillaume Canet confirms his transition from acting to directing with this edgy yet emotional thriller based on the novel by Harlan Coben. Eight years after the death of his wife Margot, Alex is gradually getting back to normal life. However new evidence is suddenly brought to the case and he finds himself suspected of murder. Later that day he receives a link to a surveillance camera showing Margot alive and well, along with the message to 'tell no one'. A desperate rush to prove his innocence and find his wife ensues. See also 2010's Les Petits Mouchoirs for a very different kind of film by the same director.
4) The Parkour Action Movie

Banlieue 13 District 13
Set in near future Paris in a suburban district that has been abandoned and walled in by the government where organised crime rules supreme, a renegade and an undercover cop make up the 'unlikely pair' combo that will attempt to retrieve a nuclear bomb stolen by a local crime lord. Of course, the plot's all a bit on the ridiculous side, but that's because it's merely a stage on which to present the amazing parkour talents of David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli. And they are incredible. The action sequences are crackling with ingenuity and prowess, and watching the pair navigate rooftops and tackle the martial arts is really a non-stop thrill from start to finish.
5) The One That Will Stay In Your Heart

Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain Amélie
No list of French film recommendations would be complete without Amelie. Of course it's an obvious choice, but with good reason. If you are a French student, I'm pretty sure you'll have encountered this gem before. A fantastical film of quirks and colour that really harnesses director Jean-Pierre Jeunet's unique cinematic approach. Bringing together a delightful plethora of characters which by now has become much of Jeunet's trademark, you tumble into Amélie's world and become entranced by it. And don't even get me started on the music...

As with the epic biopic, Mesrine, this article has gotten too big for its own good and so has been split into two parts. Meanwhile feel free to comment - have you seen any of these films? What did you think? Any films that you would prefer to nominate for those categories?

To Be Continued...