10 even more reasons to love the French … again!

by Martin Hafer

This is part 5 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) Two Men in Town: (José Giovanni, 1973): 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: This film pairs Jean Gabin and Alain Delon–which is reason enough to see the movie!  But the story is also terrific and offers some nice twists.

2) The Lady and the Duke (Eric Rohmer, 2001): This is the true story of a woman who was both the mistress of the future king of Britain, George IV as well as the King of France’s brother, the Duke of Orleans!

Why I loved it: Instead of creating the usual sets meant to represent 18th century Europe, Rohmer uses giant paintings in some scenes and the actors walk within the paintings! Very striking and very unlike Rohmer’s other films.

3) Bon Voyage (Jean-Paul Rappeneau, 2003): This story is set just before the Germans took over France in World War II and involves a variety of interesting characters.

Why I loved it: The acting, writing and direction are wonderful. It also offers some wonderful twists along the way.

4) The Intouchables (Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano, 2011): This is a true story about a parapelegic who is tired of the usual health aids. Instead, he hires a man who seems like the worst of choices and the two eventually become best of friends.

Why I loved it: While this could just be a typical ‘illness of the week’ film, it manages to inject a bit of class and fun into the mix. The film set all sorts of box office records, by the way.

5) Delicacy (David and Stéphane Foenkinos, 2011): A young widow is being pursued by her piggish boss. To throw him off the trail, she kisses a co-worker and pretends as if they are a couple. But why would this pretty young woman want anything to do with an ordinary balding man like this?!

Why I loved it: François Damiens was just terrific in the lead. He’s NOTHING like a Hollywood leading man and he does a wonderful job in this offbeat film.

6) Z (Costa-Gavras, 1969): While the director is Greek and this is the story about Greek politics, it is a French-made film. It’s about the murder of a prominent pro-communist politician and just how far people will go to keep this country from joining the Soviet Bloc.

Why I loved it: This film made me think. Does the ends justify the means to insure that any nation remains Pro-Western and anti-communist? Slickly made and hard to ignore.

7) Romantics Anonymous (Jean-Pierre Améris, 2011): A man owns a failing chocolate business. When a strange young woman comes to work for him, she could be the savior of the company. Additionally, the pair are falling in love…but they are so incredibly shy that you cannot imagine them EVER getting together!

Why I loved it: This is a perfect romantic-comedy. You cannot help but love the main characters and you’ll be amazed how much you want them to have their happy ending.

8) The Last Metro (François Truffaut, 1980): This is one of Truffaut’s last films and is set during the German occupation of France. It concerns an acting troop with a few secrets–including that one of their Jewish members is living under the floor to avoid detection.

Why I loved it: It’s probably Truffaut’s best film of the latter portion of his career. A great ensemble cast makes this one worth seeing.

9) Est-Ouest (Régis Wargnier, 1999): Following WWII, Stalin warmly invites all the Russian emigres to return home to the Soviet Union. Many take him up on this kind offer and are either executed or set to hellish gulags. A French woman who is married to one of these people realizes her predicament and wants to escape with her son.

Why I loved it: I’m a retired history teacher and these true events are rarely, if ever, talked about by anyone. This and the very interesting story make this one worthwhile, but it’s NOT for younger audiences due to the graphic nature of the movie.

10) Harvest (Marcel Pagnol, 1937): Like all of Pagnol’s stories, this one emphasizes people more than action. It’s the wonderful story of a decent but older man (Fernandel) who has all but given up on love…until he meets a lady.

Why I loved it: Pagnol was a genius. His writing and direction are first-rate and the story will win your heart. Don’t worry that the film starts off slowly!

Part 1 here.
Part 2 here.
Part 3 here.
Part 4 here.