Two amazing French films that would be perfect for a date nite…

I love films from all over the world but would have to say that my favorites often come from France.  This is because their films, unlike too many American ones, emphasize the story and often have seemingly ordinary characters.  Explosions and mega-budgets are much rarer—and the films are often very satisfying.  One of my favorites is an older one and one is rather recent—but both make for a very satisfying viewing experience—and one that would be great to share with someone you love—even if they insist they hate films with subtitles!

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (directed by Jacques Demy) was a totally unique film when it debuted.  While it IS a musical, it does something that should NOT have worked—every line of dialog is sung by the actors!  It’s super-unusual but works magnificently for several reasons.  Demy was a genius—and he directed the film masterfully.  The scene at the end of the film in the snow is among the greatest scenes I can recall and it is just beautiful.  I feel myself tearing up as I think about it—it was that strong and impactful.  The film looks great.  The locale used and actors (especially Catherine Deneuve) are just perfect—perfect.  Most importantly, the plot and the message are simply marvelous—and contradict much of what Hollywood has been telling us about love.  This is perhaps not the best French film ever made, but it certainly is my favorite to watch—and I could do so again and again.

The story is about two young lovers, Geneviève and Guy.  She is too young to marry, and her mother (who owns an umbrella store) is not about to give her permission.  As for Guy, he soon learns that he’s been drafted—and cannot marry her even if he wants.  However, they both are SURE that their lives will be ruined if they cannot wed.  What’s next for these earnest lovers?  See the film.

My Afternoons with Margueritte, on the other hand, is a newer film—debuting in 2010.  It’s unusual because it is a love story—not a sensual love story but a story about love nevertheless.  It stars Gérard Depardieu and Gisèle Casadesus (who turns 100 this June).  Depardieu plays Germain–a man who cannot read.  He strikes up a very unexpected relationship with Margueritte—an elderly woman who adores reading.  Their common bond is their love of birds—and they both meet in the park to feed the pigeons.  Soon, Margueritte is reading to Germain and this opens up a whole new world for him.  And, after a while, he learns to read with Margueritte’s help.  However, out of the blue, Margueritte is placed in a retirement home and Germain finds he cannot live without her!  What’s next?  Well, like with The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, you’re going to have to see for yourself!

While Depardieu has received a lot of negative publicity in recent years (for an incident involving him urinating in the cabin of a commercial airplane when the flight attendants refused to allow him to use the toilet as well as his new status as Vladimir Putin’s BFF), none of these unusual incidents should take away from his perfect performance in My Afternoons with Margueritte.  As an actor, he still is brilliant.  Additionally, Casadesus is just as marvelous—delivering a very touching performance that was every bit as strong as Depardieu’s.  Plus, the film has so much to say about family, love and friendship—far more than you’d find in 99% of the movies you’re likely to see.

Both films excel in so many ways—but mostly they just make you smile.  Additionally, it’s easy to appreciate that neither is like anything you’ve seen before—and to me, that’s what makes a wonderful film.  An added bonus is that either one would make a marvelous date film—and are best enjoyed with someone you love.  Enjoy and, as always, let me know what you think of these movies.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) Grade: A+

My Afternoons with Margueritte (2010) Grade: A+

Article by Lead Entertainment Writer and Film Critic, Martin Hafer

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