10 more reasons to love the French … again!

by Martin Hafer

This is part 4 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 brilliant 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 and months 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) My Afternoons With Margueritte (Jean Becker, 2010): An illiterate man likes to eat his lunch in the park while he feeds the pigeons. One day an elderly lady joins him and they soon become friends. This relationship is both charming and poignant.

Why I loved it: The finale is heartwarming and requires a few Kleenex as the film explores the meaning of love. A film not to be missed.

2) Le Jour Se Leve (Marcel Carné, 1939): After killing a man, the killer locks himself in a room and hides from the police. Then you see the events that led up to the murder.

Why I loved it: The film was remade by Hollywood. Both films are good but the French version is better due to Jean Gabin’s terrific ‘everyman’ sort of performance.

3) He Loves Me….He Loves Me Not ( Laetitia Colombani, 2002): A man horribly treats his girlfriend and your heart breaks because of how this beast behaves towards her. Then, you realize that NOTHING you saw is as it seems.

Why I loved it: While Audrey Tautou in Amelie, He Loves Me…He Loves Me Not is her best film. The mosaic scene at the end of the movie is simply amazing!

4) Army of Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969): This is the story of the French resistance during WWII and is complex, taut and exciting.

Why I loved it: To me, Melville is the greatest of the French directors and this is his best film–reason enough to see the movie.

5) J’Accuse (Abel Gance, 1919): The first great anti-war film. It debuted just a year after WWI ended and is does have an anti-German slant to it–which isn’t surprising considering how fresh the scars of the war still were.

Why I loved it: Overall, there are so many great lessons in this film and it looks great because filming actually began DURING the war. Just be careful to see the longer newly restored version.

6) J’Accuse (Abel Gance, 1938): Despite also being from the same director and having the same title, this anti-war film is significantly different from the 1919 film. Both are well worth your time.

Why I loved it: The final scene where the man destroyed by war calls out to the dead to rise from the fields to haunt the people of Europe is powerful and extremely moving. Too bad WWII began just a year later–and its message was in vain.

7) Daddy Nostalgia (Bernard Tavernier, 1990): Dirk Bogarde’s last film, it’s an emotionally charged story of a dying man and his estranged daughter try to connect and deal with each other like adults for the first time.

Why I loved it: While not a fun film in the least, it is very moving and gives an unflinching look at a man’s life and his final days. Draining, but brilliant.

8) Intimate Strangers (Patrice Leconte, 2004): An unhappy woman wants to talk with a therapist about her marriage and dissatisfaction in life. By mistake, she goes to the wrong office and begins unloading to an accountant. Stunned, he doesn’t know what to say or do.

Why I loved it: This film is why I fell in love with Fabrice Luchini’s acting and soon saw every Luchini film I could find. He is far from a matinee idol but plays a wonderfully befuddled and likeable guy.

9) Le Grand Amour (Pierre Étaix, 1969): As a man is about to get married, he breaks through the ‘4th wall’ and talks to the audience about himself and his life.

Why I loved it: Style. Étaix wrote, directed and starred in this highly unusual and very likeable film. You just have to see this one to understand why it’s so unusual.

10) Diaboliquement vôtre (Julien Duvivier, 1967): A man awakens in the hospital. He’s apparently been in a horrible accident and doesn’t remember anything about his life. When he’s brought home to his mansion by his wife, he still has no memory of her, his home or even who he is.

Why I loved it: This movie is one giant mind game! There are many twists and turns and this one always keeps you guessing!

Part 1 here.
Part 2 here.
Part 3 here.