Get In Cannes Film Festival Spirit With These 7 Brilliant French Films
The Festival de Cannes has begun, with one of the most fashion-forward red carpets of the year, followed by the usual opening ceremony festivities. But there might be an even better reason to celebrate French culture, since the Cannes Film Festival is happening alongside the 125th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower's public opening. The Tower was opened on May 6 to dignitaries, but the public was not allowed in until nine days later. So bon anniversaire to the still-public Eiffel Tower!
Those of us trapped in the US will have to wait to see the exclusive premieres at Cannes, and we'll have to settle for pinning hundreds of Eiffel Tower pictures instead of seeing it in person. But that doesn't mean we can't celebrate French beauty from the comfort of our own Netflix queues. Before Blue is the Warmest Color made us question the portrayal of female sexuality in film, there were many great French films that will make you giggle, tear up, and seriously consider moving to Paris. You may have forgotten about these movie masterpieces in the sea of great American films this year, but never fear, we're ready to re-educate. Here's your refresher course in French films old and new that still make us say "manifique." Now allons-y!
Of course we have to start with a classic. Amelie embodies the quirkiness of French comedy, and most of its jokes are laugh-out-loud funny, even when written in the subtitles. It's also a great reminder that Audrey Tautou has the world's best eyebrows-bangs combo. Unfortunately it's no longer on Netflix, but Amazon Prime subscribers can watch it for free.
Romantics Anonymous (2010)
Luckily Netflix kept one solid French rom com about two nervous, emotionally unstable people falling in love. Their flaws are often the subject of the film, but rather than mock their sometimes dizzying indecision, the film embraces their offbeat love story. The lovers in question are also boss and employee, giving a positive alternative to the classic sexual harassment relationship shown in American workplace comedies.
Paris, je t'aime (2006)
I don't like Love Actually or New York, I Love You, but I have a major crush on the source of their anthology format: Paris, je t'aime. This film has 18 short love stories by 22 directors, which all represent an individual arrondissement (neighborhood) of Paris. Start watching for the beautifully-shot scenes of Paris scenes, stay for the best vampire love story of the 21st century.
The Class (2008)
At first glance, The Class seems like just another Dead Poets Society remake, with the hardworking, perfect teacher and the unruly-but-eventually-tamed crop of students. In the first 10 minutes, you'll realize that this movie has taken that trope and flipped it on its head to expose the problems with inner-city French schools. Mr. Marin is rude and sometimes racist, and his students have complex motivations for their jokes, cooperation, and rage. While you're watching, you might even see some the problems with the American school system pop up in French.
The Chorus (2004)
Although The Chorus is another film about a teacher leading a group of ill-behaved students, it has a completely different tone than The Class. In the film, a newbie teacher at a boys' correctional school leads a chorus that gives them hope, and shows that French child actors can sing. Don't miss the moments when the boys show off their serious singing chops.
Joyeux Noel (2005)
For a few years after its release, this film replaced A Christmas Story and The Muppet Christmas Carol as my family's go-to holiday film. It centers on a trench in World War I, where fighters on both sides laid down their arms on Christmas to celebrate a Christmas dinner together. Although it's no longer on Netflix, it's worth renting to find out if they resume fighting the next day.
Michael Haneke's masterpiece is one of the three best films I've ever seen. The tale of the changing relationship between and elderly husband and wife after the wife has a stroke will make you cry, and it might scare you more than you'd expect. Haneke's account of dignity in old age and death has been called the new face of horror, and I would wholeheartedly agree. Rent or buy this film, but don't try to watch it alone.