Le Best of French Cinema

Category: Language

It’s summertime. That means happy-go-lucky, action-packed, bigger-than-life Hollywood films. If you’re looking for something different and a way to practice another language (or get good at reading subtitles), regardez (watch) these films in French, among my favorites of le cinéma français.  They take you away from the special effects and saccharine happy endings that riddle summer blockbusters, and invite some depth and beauty into the summer.

Le grand bleu” (The Big Blue) 1988
You’ll never stare out into the ocean again and not think of this film. Two boyhood friends compete with one another for the world free-diving championship. Stars Jean Reno, Jean-Marc Barr and Rosanna Arquette and directed by Luc Besson (also know for “La femme Nikita”, another great French film). An extremely poignant, often funny and unforgettable film, despite the dated 80s synthesizer music.

Le goût des autres” (The Taste of Others) 2000
Directed by Agnès Jaoui, this movie creeps up on you. Wham, at the end you’re floored by its subtlety and truthfulness. An unappealing man falls for his charming, popular female opposite, yet the tables imperceptivity turn by the film’s end. A movie about human nature and the whims of attraction.

A bout de souffle” (Breathless) 1960
You can watch the suave, chain-smoking Jean-Paul Belmondo all day and never tire of his smirks and swagger. He’s perfect as a petty criminal who has to hide out with his American girlfriend, played by pixie Jean Seberg. The plot, however, is beside the point. What makes the film iconic and so watchable is its movement and self-assuredness. The director Jean-Luc Godard changed all the rules with this one. After the film debuted, cinema was never the same again. As for the American remake starring Richard Gere, forget it.

Trop belle pour toi” (Too Beautiful for You) 1989
How do you make the trite, overdone story of a rich man’s love affair with a secretary fresh again? You have the oafish yet charming Gerald Depardieu play the husband and the beyond gorgeous Carole Bouquet play the wife. You weave in lots of Shubert along with the giggles of the secretary, played by Josiane Balasko, and voilà, a smart film about what men may really want – perhaps a little substance over beauty. Directed and written by the proliferate Bertrand Blier.

J’adore these other films as well: the French Canadian film “Jésus de Montréal” (Jesus of Montreal), “Trois coleurs: Bleu” (Three Colors: Blue), “Trois coleurs: rouge” (Three Colors: Red), “De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté” (The Beat That My Heart Skipped), “Entre les murs” (The Class), and nearly any movie with French film legend Catherine Deneuve, including “Indochine” (Indochina).