10 must-see French films
Improve your level of French with our selection of the best of modern French cinema
ÊTRE ET AVOIR
This is a slow documentary about a school in a tiny village in the Puy-de-Dôme and the children that study here. The calm teacher Georges Lopez, together with the bucolic setting and the sweet youngsters gives this film a timeless feel and will help viewers to relive the joys of childhood.
Nominated for two Oscars, this is a tale of a world-famous French conductor who returns home after years of international success to attend his mother’s funeral. His encounter with an old friend and the discovery of his former teacher’s diary fuels a music-filled reminiscence of their childhood.
BIENVENUE CHEZ LES CH’TIS
This is a laugh-out-loud comedy about a postman in the South of France who is transferred to the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, with their supposedly backwards locals, known as the ‘Ch’tis.’ Writer and co-star Danny Boon delivers an outstanding performance, one which has helped the film to clinch the record for the highest box office takings in French film history.
THE LAST DIAMOND
Acclaimed actors Yvan Attal and Bérénice Béjo star in this crime caper, which seems a thief (Attal) on parole from jail head to the Belgian city of Antwerp to join a gang and steal the Florentine Diamond. To make it happen, Simon must get close to the woman running the auction, Julia (Bejo), and he soon falls in love and has some difficult decisions to make.
THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY
Adapted from American writer Richard C. Morais’s 2010 novel, the film follows the Kadam family as disaster forces them to leave India and head to Europe to seek a new life. They end up in the village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val in south-west France where they decide to open an Indian restaurant, much to the displeasure of Michelin-starred restaurant owner Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). Moving between sun-kissed village streets and delectable meals, and will make viewers hungry for travel and good food.
MICROBE & GASOLINE
From acclaimed French film director Michel Gondry comes a straightforward tale of teenage friendship. Daniel is a Versailles schoolboy who is frequently mistaken for a girl because of his small size and long hair. He finds an ally against the bullies in new student Theo and the pair leave behind their school and go on a road trip to the Alps in a home-made car hidden beneath a garden shed to avoid detection by police. With its intriguing storyline and fully developed characters, this is a welcome break from sex-obsessed teen comedies that have become the norm in cinemas.
Paul (Stéphane Guillon) is a Parisian author who, since the death of his wife, writes funeral speeches for the bereaved. He is approached by Emma (Julie Gayet), a widow who wants to write something about her late husband, to help her young song Adam cope with his sudden death. The author soon falls for Emma, but then suddenly the late Nathan comes knocking at his door. Starting as a dark comedy and then turning into a romance before becoming a tale of the supernatural, this is a film that will keep you on your toes.
Jean DuJardin stars as magistrate Pierre Michel, reassigned to Marseille to combat a drug-fuelled crime wave. His efforts to root out corruption bring him into conflict with crime boss Gaëtan Zampa (Gilles Lellouche). As the two men start to engage in a dangerous game of cat and mouse, Michel finds that his family life really does start to suffer. The film features some powerful performances, in particular from DuJardin whose breakdown while on the phone to his estranged wife reminds us why he is an Oscar winner.
Written and directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, this film is a quirky portrayal of contemporary Parisian life, set in the northern suburb of Montmartre. It focuses on shy waitress Amélie (Audrey Tautou), who struggles with her own isolation, preferring instead to change the lives of those around her for the better. Shot in over 80 locations across the French capital, the film draws on Jeunet’s unique visionary style and a compelling performance from Tautou to produce a story which captures the charm and mystery behind modern-day Paris.
Starring up-and-coming French actors Adèle Haenel and Kevin Azaïs, this is a quirky love story that comes as a welcome change from the many sugar-coated rom coms. When Arnaud’s father dies, he joins his brother to run the family carpentry business. At the home of one of their new clients he falls under the spell of Madeleine, an intense tomboy who believes the end of the world is near. To help prepare for the apocalypse she enrols in an army training course, with a love-struck Arnaud joining suit, but Madeleine’s stubbornness threatens to alienate her suitor.
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