CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to France Magazines today CLICK HERE

Reel Life - the history of French cinema

PUBLISHED: 09:09 17 October 2018

Francois Truffaut on the set of the film Day for Night copyright Unifrance

Francois Truffaut on the set of the film Day for Night copyright Unifrance


As the Festival Lumière 2018 draws to a close in Lyon this weekend we explore some of the landmarks of French Cinema history.

When Antoine Lumiѐre achieved the first projection of a moving picture in Paris in 1895, France’s place in cinematic history was ensured. Four main companies dominated the early days of film in France, with names such as Gaumont and Pathé entering the everyday lexicon of cinema, enduring even today.

From that point on, France’s innovation in the arena of film and cinema grew steadily, managing to limp through the lean years just after World War I, to develop landmark styles such as Impressionism and poetic realism with directors such as Jean Vigo, Jacques Feyder and Marcel Carné.

In 1945 Carné’s Les Enfants du Paradis was released, after a difficult gestation during the Nazi occupation. The film, set in the theatre world of Paris in the 1820s, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1947 and voted Best French Film of the Century in a poll of 600 industry professionals in 1995. Francois Truffaut reputedly later commented, “I would give up all my films to have directed Children of Paradise.”

It was Truffaut, and contemporaries including Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol and André Bazin who in the late 1950s and 1960s became the creative spirits behind one of France’s best-known and most influential film movements – the Nouvelle Vague or New Wave. Bringing a new gritty realism to both filming techniques and subject matter, usually accompanied by a hefty dose of iconoclasm and personal expression, the style was particularly popular with the disaffected youth of the time. Most of the directors grew up – and filmed – in Paris, contributing to the city’s still enduring status as the world’s coolest big-screen location.

French cinema soon started to become more commercial, with many crime capers and thrillers released to international local acclaim. Actors such as Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon gained world-renown too.

The 1980s saw a renewed surge in the creativity of French cinema with the uber-cool Cinema du Look which championed slick and stylish filming, combined with introspective and alienated characters. Diva (1981), directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix, was at the forefront of this wave of directors, followed with great success by Beineix’s Betty Blue (37°2 Le Matin) in 1986, Luc Besson’s Le Grand Bleu in 1988, and Les Amants du Pont Neuf by Leos Carax in 1991.

Later years have seen the French film industry continue to flourish, with Paris still claiming more cinemas per capita than anywhere else in the world, and a creative output almost as high as that of the USA. Creativity is still the watchword, with films such as Delicatessen, Amélie and Brotherhood of the Wolf all weaving together whimsy, fantasy and realism to public acclaim.

The more international side of the industry has also expanded, with an increasing number of collaborations between French producers and directors with other countries, particularly the US. The French Film Commission offers a number of incentives to foreign companies wanting to use locations in France, including tax rebates, experienced and qualified local crew, dedicated agencies to provide assistance to foreign film projects, and of course, the quality and accessibility of the locations in the first place. We haven’t yet seen the end of chase scenes through the streets of Paris on the big screen.

Article by France Magazine France Magazine

More from Travel

Known for its gastronomy, architecture and eco-friendly way of thinking, we take a look at what makes Lyon such a special place to live and visit.

Read more
Wed, 15:16

Discover the windmills of France, their history and new leases of life

Read more
Culture and attractions
Wed, 10:01

Fred Sirieix, Gordon Ramsay and Gino d’Acampo head off in a campervan to south-west France in their latest TV adventure

Read more
Thursday, October 11, 2018

France has long been a muse for artists, but do the locations that inspired the likes of Monet and Van Gogh still look as picturesque today?

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

If you’re heading off on holiday to France and don’t want to leave your beloved pet at home, make sure to book your flight with one of these airlines and you won’t have to

Read more
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Inspired by the Ryder Cup? We’ve rounded up some of France’s top courses where you can put your golf skills to the test

Read more
Friday, September 28, 2018

France has some iconic avian species. From the shores of the Mediterranean to the rooftops of Alsace Robin Gauldie discovers the best places to see these big birds.

Read more
Monday, September 24, 2018

Celebrate one of France’s finest exports with a trip to one of these traditional wine festivals

Read more
Monday, September 24, 2018

The sunny south of France, with its rich winemaking heritage, is just a two-hour flight away from the UK.

Read more
Monday, September 24, 2018

It may be nearly Halloween, but from wine harvests to light festivals, there are plenty of ways to have fun in France this month without the fear factor!

Read more
Subscribe today

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now