This is part 3 in my new 10 part series of 100 wonderful French films that you should watch out for. Trying to select a mere 10 from so many wonderful films is no easy task, and even though French movies are among my favorite, I can't possibly watch every film they make!
I'm also working on other nationalities of film lists that you should watch out for in the weeks to come. And don't worry, there are no incomprehensible art films among my movie choices. So, here is the list that's in no particular order, and if you find yourself disagreeing with any of them, or feel I've missed out a film that you'd like me to cover, please add your comment below. I try to respond to them all.
1) The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007, Julian Schnabel): This is an unbelievable but true story. Jean-Dominique Bauby suffers a stroke and has to live with an almost totally paralyzed body. Despite this, he manages to write a bestselling book.
Why I loved it: Despite being a sad and occasionally difficult story to watch, it's also an awfully amazing story as Bauby's only way to communicate was to move one eye--and using this eye and a trained interpreter he was able to write this book!
2) Jean de Florette (Claude Berri, 1986): A greedy landowner and his dim-witted nephew conspire to ruin a farmer on adjacent property in order to get him to sell his land. Unfortunately, their plan results in unexpected results which you learn about in the sequel.
Why I loved it: Like any story by Marcel Pagnol, the characters are rich, believable and complex.
3) Manon of the Spring (Claude Berri, 1986): The fantastic sequel to Jean de Florette is even better. After poor Jean is destroyed, his relative, Manon, obtains the land and is determined to make a go of the farm.
Why I loved it: In addition to the great characters in the previous film, there is a delicious irony to the ending that makes it all worth together perfectly.
4) The Closet (Francis Veber, 2001): A boring man is sure that the condom company he works for is going to fire him. His new friend and neighbor gives him an idea--pretend that you are gay and they'll be a lot less likely to fire you!
Why I loved it: While Daniel Auteuil is wonderful in the lead, Gerard Depardieu is even more memorable as a homophobic co-worker who responds very strangely when he thinks his co-worker is gay. You just have to see it to believe it in this delightful comedy!
5) Diabolique (Henri-Georges Cluzot, 1955): This is the original version and like so many wonderful films, Hollywood made a second-rate remake. A wife and the husband's lover decide to work together to kill the guy. Naturally, there are complications!
Why I loved it: This film has some wonderful and unexpected twists. A very dark and complex story that will keep you guessing!
6) Au Revoir Les Enfants (Louis Malle, 1987): During WWII, a French Catholic boarding school takes in many Jewish children and hides them among the student body. There is a constant worry that the Nazis will eventually figure out the ruse.
Why I loved it: Although there have been so many films about WWII and the Holocaust, this one is unique in so many ways. In my opinion, it's probably Malle's best film.
7) Joyeux Noel (Christian Carion, 2005): This is based on a true story. Early in WWI, soldiers on both sides of the battlefield get sick of fighting and decide to call a truce for the Christmas holiday. The generals are enraged, as these men are expected to mindlessly kill each other for God and country!
Why I loved it: I am not a big fan of war films but since this one is true and is so lovingly made, it's well worth your time.
8) Flic Story (Jacques Deray, 1975): The true story of an incredibly dangerous and bloodthirsty escaped criminal who goes to amazing lengths to avoid capture.
Why I loved it: This is a wonderful cat and mouse story and Alain Delon and Jean-Louis Trintignant are just fabulous in the leads. Additionally, the film lacks the usual cliches you find in most crime films.
9) Populaire (Régis Roinsard, 2012): This is a very, very strange romantic comedy. A man realizes that his secretary is an amazingly fast typist--so fast that she COULD become the world champion speed typist!
Why I loved it: The plot is totally ridiculous, yet the film works wonderfully thanks to the film's terrific style, great direction and Déborah François' wonderful performance as the goofy secretary, Rose.
10) Ernest & Celestine (Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar, Benjamin Renner): This Oscar-nominated film is the adorable story of a very unlikely friendship between a bear and a mouse.
Why I loved it: The animation is so unusual and lovely, it's obvious to see why it was nominated. I think it was the best full-length animated film...the Oscar folks didn't agree!