France in the movies

2 Feb

French cinema is perceived as unapproachable and elitist by many non-native speakers. Yet these films often prove more popular in the French box office then big American blockbusters.

For instance, the best selling film of all time in French cinemas was The Titanic with 20 758 887 viewers, closely followed by comedy about the North of France, Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis, with 20 329 376 spectators.

In fact, according to Allocine, 11 out of the top 20 are French, including Le Grand Bleu and Les Visiteurs. These sit comfortably alongside nine huge international offerings like Harry Potter and The Lion King.

Most strikingly, these popular French films are nearly all comedies on a par with their Anglophone counterparts in terms of laughs. Far from the stuffy and intellectual image French cinema connotes.

So what films should a dubious newbie try?

L’auberge espagnol by Cedric Klapisch is one of the most loved comedies by the younger generation. Following the misadventures of Erasmus student Xavier (Romain Duris) on a year abroad in Spain, it paints an entertaining picture of cultural differences. Sequel Les Poupees Russes is just as good.

Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain is no doubt the most popular French film with the Brits, but even if you’ve seen it before, give it another watch for Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s quirky and beautiful depiction of Paris and Amelie’s strange world set to music by Yann Tiersen.

Le Premier Jour du reste de ta Vie by was one of my favourite releases of the last few years. Remi Bezancon’ s moving film is both comedy and tragedy; it explores one family’s difficult relationships as the three children grow into adults. The film definitely has the feel-good factor but will leave you reaching for the tissues.

Persepolis is based on the graphic novels by Marjane Satrapi; the Oscar nominated black and white cartoon follows her trials and tribulations growing up in Iran during the Islamic revolution and the conflicts between Western society and her own country’s values.

What films do you recommend?


10 Responses to “France in the movies”

  1. margor February 3, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

    Hey, in the same vain I would also recommend a couple rom-coms – Heartbreaker and Priceless! (L’Arnacoeur and Hors de Prix)

    • margot February 3, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

      That’s “Margot” not margor…

    • Leigh March 26, 2011 at 7:58 pm #

      Margot, those are my two favorite French films so far!! Do you have any other recommendations?? I am newly addicted to all French films, but having a hard time finding others like Priceless and Heartbreaker!! Thanks!


  2. Hannah February 3, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

    I watched Le Premier Jour du reste de ta vie over Christmas and loved it – very good recommendation!

  3. Anissa February 3, 2011 at 6:59 pm #

    La Môme, Je vais bien ne t’en fais pas, Des dieux et des hommes are great french movies 🙂

  4. Tom February 3, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

    Entre les Murs (aka The Class) is one of my favourite french films.

  5. Ruth Dawson February 3, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    Great post! I love films by Jean Pierre Jeunet and would highly recommend A Very Long Engagement and Micmacs – both a lovely, quirky watch.

  6. claire February 3, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

    Jeux d’enfants is quite good as well and loved the hilarious chaotic french comedy ‘Wasabi’ 🙂

  7. Constance February 4, 2011 at 3:55 am #

    Definitely some good French “rom-coms” out there. I’d add to “l’Arnacoeur” and “Hors de Prix” the very enjoyable “Prête moi ta main”.
    And some hilarious comedies. “Le diner de cons” reste un classique. And all the movies by the troupe du Splendide l (although I don’t think non-French people will find those movies funny…).


  1. Niche blog strategy: British Girl in Paris « KT's journalistic musings - February 17, 2011

    […] so tried to include more of this. Video links proved the most popular, such as my post about French films, as it gave people something to watch and talk […]

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