13 November, 2011

Top Modern French Movies to Watch in America

Amelie, is the definitive modern French film.
So I was asked by my French professor to compile a list of French movies for the class to consider watching during our Friday exploits. Most of the semester we've been watching pieces of L'arnacoeur, otherwise known as "The Heartbreaker". It's probably one of my favorite romantic movies in French, and it follows Alex, who is played by Romain Duris as he tries to breakup couples for parents who don't want their daughters married. Of course the hitch is that he falls in love with one, and the rest is one big comedy. That's why I'll put L'arancoeur on any list of French movies you have to watch.

1) L'Arnacoeur (The Heartbreaker)
Combine the soundtrack of Dirty Dancing with the romance of Monte Carlo, and you have the funniest romance movie you've ever seen. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll dance.
Netflix
2) L'Auberge Espagnole  (The Spanish Inn)
Romain Duris becomes a student abroad in Barcelona as he discovers life as an Erasmus exchange student. It's a rather romantic look at young adult life in Europe as a life of friends and fun contrast the working world. Don't forget the sequel "Russian Dolls"
Netflix
3) Les Visteurs (The Visitors)
Combine Back to The Future with Robin Hood (they even stole the soundtrack) and you get Les Visiteurs. Jean Reno is time travelling romantic who attempts to go back in time to save his love but is accidentally sent into modern day future. The sequel continues the fun, and the third movie, a English American re-telling of the first throws a new twist at the end. Start with part one, and you won't be disappointed.
  Netflix (has only the third English version.)
4) Paris Je t'aime
This is one of those beautifully done multi-story format movies with some big American names in it. Elijah Woods, Natalie Portman, are but a few of the actors who invest in the story of average people who make Paris a not so average city.
  Netflix
5) Le Placard (The Closet)
Guy loses everything. Wife, house, kids... and then a rumor starts at work that he's gay and suddenly his world turns around.
  Netflix
6) Gazon Maudit (The French Twist)
When her husband begins making homophobic comments, she decides to teach him a lesson by sleeping with a woman. Eventually she falls in love, and the three must make a family.
  Netflix
7) Les Choses de la vie (Life's Choices)
If you like oldies but goodies, then this is it. Through a car wreck working backwards we examine the choices of the characters lives and how they arrive at their destination.
 
8) Le Grand Chemin (The Grand Path)
A charming tale of children and adults as they experience life in their little village.
 
9) Pour Elle (For her)
When your wife is convicted of murder and sent to jail for life, but is innocent, what do you do? You break her out. Now of course Pour Elle was remade in America as "The Next Three Days", but the original French version is far better in my opinion.
  Netflix
10) La Petit Baigneur (The Little Bather)
This is hands down one of the funniest French films I have ever seen. A man builds a boat called The Little Bather and then is subsequently fired. His boss, having learned of the boat winning a prestigious race, now must do anything to get his employee back. This film harks from an era of some the greatest French actors of all time.
11) Potiche (Vase: trophy wife)
Many French films attempt to dissemble false constructs of gender, social status, etc. This irony of art, such as in Pour Elle (the father as the mother), or Gazon Maudit, (non-monogamous, same-sex polygamy) seems to be at the core of a good French film. Potiche is another great movie because the power of a husband's multi-million dollar umbrella company is serendipitously placed in the hands of the wife he thinks is an idiot and nothing but a trophy wife.
  Netflix
12) Amelie
Of course, no French film list would be complete without mentioning Amelie. Most of us have already seen it, some of us a thousand times. There's no explanation for the attraction to the film, because if it were made in America we'd all walk out. Yet something magical happens in Amelie, but we can't put our finger on it. If you haven't seen it. Don't be stupid, watch it. It's the benchmark for modern French cinema. Netflix
13) Dans Paris (In Paris)
Do you have the courage to remake your life? Jump off that bridge and do something wild? This movie asks what happens when you decide to make that change to be apart of something bigger. Once again, the city of Paris is used as a breathtaking backdrop to the world of Romain Duris's character as he struggles for change. Netflix
14) Paris (2009)
It's one of the saddest, yet most strikingly beautiful looks at Paris as one man lives out his final days waiting for the possibility of a transplant surgery. Everyone has a story, this is one. As the tag line says "Experience life for the first time, again". Netflix
15) Irreversible
This is one of the first French films I ever watched. It's known for its very realistic rape scene, and that image is burned in my mind till this day. Rarely can a film change a person to such a level that they cringe at the thought of the scene, but this film will do just that. Netflix
16)Ma Vie en Rose
This Belgian film explores gender through a child's eyes. Ludovic a girl who the world perceives as a boy, struggles to convince everyone of who she is before they convince her she's not. Netflix

Of course I'm sure there are more, and I'll add to the list in time, but I'd also love to receive any recommendations readers may have. Just post them in the comments, and I'll check it out!