Known for their lack of action and abundance of intellectual meaning, French films have captivated audiences
worldwide for decades. Many French actors and directors are internationally recognized, even though their
movies usually play in independent, artsy theaters. The memorable characters and existential themes provide
a welcome antidote to action-packed American flicks.
Here is CinemaSpot's guide to the best in French cinema. So gather some cheese, a baguette and a bottle of
red wine and enjoy.
Known as a leader of the French New Wave films,
Jean-Luc Godard challenged old
narrative conventions in film. "Breathless," released in 1960, is widely considered to be his
masterpiece. He later directed "Everything's Fine," "Masculin Feminin" and "Alphaville."
François Truffaut, a friend and
contemporary of Godard, was also a master of the New Wave trend, producing hits such as "The
400 Blows," "Jules and Jim" and "The Last Metro."
explores the legacy of Truffaut and his films.
Also famous for French New Wave films, Louis Malle often
directed films that explored the meaning of life. Malle was an underwater camera operator for Jacques
Cousteau before directing "The Lovers" in 1958, which shocked Americans with its onscreen eroticism.
Other well-known Malle films include "My Dinner with Andre" and "Au Revoir les Enfants," a
semi-autobiographical portrayal of his childhood in a boarding school that hid Jewish students
during the second world war.
A master at simple storytelling that conveys complex intellectual themes,
Eric Rohmer directed such classic French
films as "Claire's Knee," "Chloe in the Afternoon" and "My Night at Maud's." Many of his films
are part of one of three series, Moral Tales, Tales of the Four Seasons, Comedies and Proverbs.
Mathieu Kassovitz is an up-and-coming director of such films as "Hate"
and "Cafe au Lait". These films explore modern French society and
its problems amid the old-fashioned beauty of Paris.
Starring in classic movies as "Indochine" and "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,"
is an internationally recognized film star. Her long career shows no sign of ending, with roles in recent films
such as "Est-ouest" and "Place Vendome."
Mention the words French actor and Gerard Depardieu
immediately pops into mind. The prolific actor has appeared in hundreds of French and American films,
including "Jean de Florette," "Germinal" and "The Return of Martin Guerre."
Juliette Binoche gained international attention with her
emotional performance in "Blue," one of Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors series. In 1996, Binoche
won an Oscar for her role in "The English Patient." She continues to dazzle international audiences
in such films as "Alice and Martin" and "Chocolat."
More French Favorites
An example of a typical French film with little action but compelling characters is
"When the Cat's Away". While Chloe, the main character,
searches for her lost cat, the audience enjoys a portrait of an old Paris neighborhood and
its quirky inhabitants.
While Krzysztof Kieslowski is a Polish director, his most famous film series explores French society.
Three Colors: "Blue", "White" and
"Red" showed his mastery of cinematography and compelling storytelling.
The story of a boy who wants to be a girl, "My Life in Pink"
explores gender issues in the family and society. Set in a well-manicured, modern French town,
the movie makes excellent use of bright colors to portray the boy's feelings.
After her mother dies in a car accident, "Ponette" tries to cope
with the loss. This unique and moving movie allows the viewer to experience grief through the
eyes of a young child.
Not all French movies have heavy intellectual themes. "The Dinner Game"
is the story of a man whose evening plans are fumbled by a well-meaning, if clumsy, dinner guest.
"Les Enfants du Marais" explores the friendship between two
men and their families living in an isolated rural area in southern France.