mercredi 15 juin 2011

Ten Great French Films (Part 2)

Flickr user: Ryan Baxter

...And we're back. I'm sorry to tell you that this sequel, like many good sequels, is a lot darker in content (although I still squeezed in an 'aw' inducing documentary and a comedy). So let's take a look at some more recent examples of French cinema...
6) The Unrelentingly Gritty Drama

La Haine
I'm quite surprised that we managed to complete a whole article (albeit one that was divided in half) talking about French films without having mentioned Vincent Cassel. He has provided so many memorable performances in many modern French films, as well as having had his fair share of Hollywood roles too. Most recently he starred in the Black Swan alongside Natalie Portman, but La Haine is an altogether different piece of inner (and outer) conflict. I can't quite begin to describe it. Cassel plays Vinz, who lives in an impoverished French housing project and who idolizes Taxi Driver's vigilante Travis. The film handles the vicious cycle of hatred and violence, that can seem almost inescapable. A film that grabs you and doesn't let go.

7) The Frank and Insightful Drama about Human Relationships

Dans Paris
A raw family drama, at times moving, at times bleak, but always emotionally engaging. Following the break-up of a long-term relationship, Paul moves back in with his father. Younger brother Jonathan also tries to bring him out of his depression, but has his own hidden grief that haunts him too. Moments of humour diffuse the sadness leading to an honest snapshot of a family muddling through life together. See also 35 Rhums (35 Shots of Rum)

8)The Sweet yet not Saccharine Documentary

Etre et Avoir To Be and to Have
Following a very small school of 4 – 10 year olds taught by a single teacher in France. This film brings to life a gifted professional but also gently represents the day to day life and moments shared with the children without resorting to sensationalism or hyperbole. Beautifully touching without feeling forced, this provides a singular insight into the life of this unique little school.

9) The Intense and Dangerous Biopic
Mesrine (Parts 1 & 2)
It’s that chameleon Vincent Cassel, again. And he completely inhabits the role of this legendary gangster. In many ways he is unrecognisable and it's more than gaining a few pounds and growing a thicket of a beard. From the first shot he oozes Mesrine's unshakable confidence and tightly wound intensity, hooking the audience onto a character who, on paper, should be detestible.

10) The Side-splitting Comedy
Le diner de cons The Dinner Party
Breaking box office records for home-grown French cinema at the time of its release, le dîner de cons is a popular example of French comedy. Centering around the premise of friends who scout out unique examples of idiots for their titular dinner parties, the film focuses on what happens one evening when a bad back leads one of the group, Pierre, unable to escape the company of his invited guest and the consequences of his cruel game. With a snappy combination of slapstick and dry wit, le dîner de cons is an enjoyably simple comedy romp.

So there we have it - 10 French films from 10 different genres. So now you really have no excuse to not keep up with your French! However, I also have to admit, although this list has been mainly about films that can give you some more French language exposure, I really really can't stop myself from also recommending Sylvain Chomet's Les Triplettes de Belleville, a wonderful antithesis of Disney films - it brings an amazing texture to its characters whom it paints with loving ugliness and caricaturistic detail, and an excellent soundtrack. It won't improve your French (there's hardly any dialogue, if I remember correctly), but it's a wonderfully realised film.

Anyway, with the list complete, feel free to step forth with your own favourite French films! Should there be a different film in one of the categories? Is there a French film you really think French learners should get their hands on immediately? We want to know (even if it's for nothing more than for our own private films-to-watch lists)!