10 more reasons to love the French!

by Martin Hafer

Recently, we ran the first article in my new 10 part series of 100 wonderful French films that you should watch out for. Part 1 here. 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) Drole de Drame (1937, Marcel Carné): The plot to this comedy is very complicated and strange. Irwin (Michel Simon) is wonderful as a rich guy who’s lost all his money and has sunk so low that he writes crime novels!!

Why I loved it: This film is jam-packed with crazy but likable characters, much like the wonderful Cary Grant film Arsenic and Old Lace.

2) Red Lights (2009, Cédric Kahn): A man and his wife are on their way to pick up their child from camp. They stop for food and they make two big mistakes–he has too much to drink and a stranger bums a ride from them.

Why I loved it: Where it goes is something else! Plus Jean-Pierre Darroussin is terrific as the seemingly ordinary husband who gets himself into a heap of trouble!

3) Rififi (1955, Jules Dassin): The American director Dassin left the States during the red scare and went on to make even better films in France. This is THE heist film that all others are based upon…and it manages to do it even better.

Why I loved it: French crime films are amazing…yet this one manages to be the best. Great characters, great twists and a wonderful ending.

4) La Chienne (1931, Jean Renoir): This film was later remade by Hollywood as the much tamer Scarlet Street. It’s a captivating story of a woman who is simply awful!

Why I loved it: This film was often copied because it’s so good. One of the best early sound films from France.

5) A Trip to the Moon (1902, Georges Méliès): While only 13 minutes long, it was considered among the first full-length films ever made! It’s a magical trip to the moon with some incredibly dated special effects which were the envy of the world at the time.

Why I loved it: This film is dated, naturally, but it’s also incredibly charming and fun. Plus, for you historians out there, it is a milestone in the history of filmmaking.

6) A Very Long Engagement (2004, Jean-Pierre Jeunet): This drama is about a woman who searches for her fiance who was lost during WWI. Despite every assurance that he is dead, she insists that she will not stop until she knows for certain.

Why I loved it: This film stars Audrey Tautou and it looks great, but it also gives you a chance to see Marion Cotillard before she was world famous as she plays a woman who is completely insane and she practically steals the show!

7) The Baker’s Wife (1938, Marcel Pagnol): A town is thrilled to finally have a baker who is good…really good! But when his wife leaves him, he’s too depressed to bake and the town decides to chip in and try to lend him a hand.

Why I loved it: Despite a very simple story, it makes the most of it with great characters, great acting and great charm.

8) The Wages of Fear (1953, Henri-Georges Clouzot): While this film starts off slowly, it’s an incredibly tense film about a man so desperate for money that he agrees to drive a dangerously overloaded truckload of nitroglycerin without any of the necessary safety equipment.

Why I loved it: Tension! This film will keep you on the edge of your seat and you cannot take your eyes off it.

9) This Man Must Die (1969, Claude Chabrol): A father spends the movie obsessively searching for the hit and run driver who killed his son.

Why I loved it: The film offers a wonderful twist. And Michel Duchaussoy is simply terrific as the grieving father.

10) Diary of a Country Priest (1951, Henri Bresson): An eager young priest works hard to help the people of his parish even though they aren’t especially likeable or appreciative.

Why I loved it: The ending says it all. Everything comes together wonderfully and it’s a nice story of faith that will appeal to Christians, agnostics…or anyone else.