French cinema has a decades-old reputation for being some of the most sophisticated, elegant and groundbreaking of filmmaking from all over the world, and that reputation is not at all close to being tarnished in 2016. The last decade alone has seen many French films win the Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious Palme d’Or, not to mention 2011 film The Artist scooping up the Best Picture Academy Award. And on the back of the recent Cannes Film Festival 2016 line up announced, we’ve chosen five incredible examples of French film that will stay with you long after viewing (two of which scooped the Palme d’Or) and make you want to relocate to the City of Lights forevermore. If you have yet to venture into French cinema, start with these, and you’ll never look back.
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Julian Schnabel’s profound and sublimely affecting biopic of Jean-Dominique Bauby is a must-watch. Mathieu Amalric plays the title role of the former Elle magazine editor who was struck down by locked-in syndrome; paralysed from the neck down and only able to communicate with blinks from his left eye. This film is based on the remarkable book of the same name, which Bauby wrote soon after the tragic event happened, painstakingly dictating it a letter at a time using nothing but blinks. The director seamlessly weaves us through the events from Bauby’s perspective with striking visuals, an incredible score and acting of the highest caliber throughout the movie. The film received four Academy Award nominations, and we guarantee you won’t get through it without shedding quite a few tears.
Amour is director Michael Haneke’s impeccable study of the decline of an elderly woman, Anne (played by Emmanuelle Riva), and the desperate efforts of her husband, Georges (played by Jean-Louis Trintignant) to keep things together as her condition worsens. This is far from what you would term ‘feel-good cinema’ but is a deeply moving insight into the complexities of a loving relationship transcending through time. This is a slow-mover but the film is held together by the suburb leading performances of its two actors. The final scene is utterly heart wrenching and will stay with you for hours after. It deservedly won the Palm d’Or and received five Academy Award nominations.
Blue Is The Warmest Colour
This was the 2013 French film that had everyone talking. The three-hour drama centers around a journey of love and self-discovery embarked on by teenager Adele as she undergoes an intense and passionate relationship with older, blue-haired Emma. Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux light up the screen and though the movie’s graphic sex scenes (and graphic they are) had everyone talking, the film’s underlying messages about love in all its complex forms is near perfect. Director Abdellatif Kechiche’s collaboration with both actresses was deemed so significant that for the first time ever, all three were co-awarded the Palm d’Or.
I’ve Loved You So Long
Kristin Scott Thomas gives a career-defining performance in this moving, devastating mystery drama about a woman who is released back into society after spending 15 years in prison. The how and why is slowly revealed over the course of the film, and Thomas is utterly perfect in the lead role. We won’t spoil anything; you simply have to watch it. To this day, it remains beggars belief as to why Thomas was not given an Oscar for what is her finest performance.
Rust And Bone
This is an underrated, remarkable and raw film centering on the affliction of Stephanie, played superbly by Marion Cotillard. We won’t share the details of this affliction here, but things escalate as she begins to fall in love with the moody Ali, played by Matthias Schoenaerts as the two form an unlikely bond in the most trying of circumstances. The film is unflinching, moving and tender at the unlikeliest of times. It’s another must-see.