Top 5 Picks for French Drama

I like my films subtitled; just as I prefer my literature foreign.

As a film fanatic (and a contrarian at that), it wasn’t long before the formulaic Hollywood trifecta of violence, drugs and sex drove me to the brink of distraction. (“What’s wrong with that?” I hear you say. Nothing! Well, nothing at all if that’s your cup of tea…) As for me, I could never quite comprehend how comic-book heroes have come to dominate the big screens, or how a bland enactment of popular erotica have come to define box office success.

Enter: French drama. Its characters breathed life into the mindlessness. Its quirkiness a timely reminder that Cinema and Emotion can once again rendezvous hand-in-hand in the dark. Its unconventional wisdom perhaps stemming from the knowledge that the French, above all else, are the uncontested masters of Romance…

5. Amour (2012)

amour

A testament to the unflinching nature of love in times of old age, this film of a cultured, octogenarian couple is powerful in its characterisation and brutal in its narrative. It gives us a glimpse of what we must all come to confront one day, and lingers with the despairing unease of life’s grim choices. It is no wonder then, that the film scored an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2013 and earned its (late) leading lady a well-deserved Oscar nomination.

Director: Michael Haneke

Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant as Georges; Emmanuelle Riva as Anne

4. Samba (2014)

samba

Omar Sy lets loose his comedic yet sensitive side in the titular film, which represents the second collaboration between the French screen magnet and directors Nakache and Toledano (following their runaway success in The Intouchables). The film is as slick as ever, and prepares us for total cross-cultural immersion as the stoical Senegalese immigrant discovers an unlikely love (and an unlikely compassion) in his pursuit of a better life.

Directors: Olivier Nakache & Eric Toledano

Starring: Omar Sy as Samba; Charlotte Gainsbourg as Alice

3. Delicacy (2011)

DSC_6119.jpg

The girl with piercing eyes and pixie smile makes a welcoming comeback in Delicacy. Finding herself unexpectedly widowed, Audrey Tautou’s Nathalie embarks upon an accidental office romance with an average-looking, mildly talented man. Whilst I would be the first to lament the great devastation unleashed in its opening scenes, the film’s use of eloquent humour and flawless alacrity to develop an awkwardly matched dalliance remains one of its biggest drawcards.

Directors: David Foenkinos & Stephane Foenkinos

Starring: Audrey Tautou as Nathalie; Francois Damiens as Markus

2. The Intouchables (2011)

intouchables

Inspired by true events, The Intouchables will always be remembered as one of the most mesmerising and uplifting comedy-dramas of modern French cinematography. Rendering polished performances of a caregiver and his quadriplegic protégé, Sy and Cluzet are a delightful match in box office heaven as together they overcome the physical incapacities of life with laughter, tears and love aplenty.

Directors: Olivier Nakache & Eric Toledano

Starring: Omar Sy as Driss; Francois Cluzet as Philippe

1. Amelie (2001)

amelie

And who could forget Amelie? Cervantes’ Don Quixote is memorialised in the quirky, golden girl of French cinema. We bear witness to her fantasies, wallow in her loneliness and ultimately rejoice in her happiness. The film encapsulates everything there is to love about French drama; the whimsical, and yet infinitely touching exploration of the minutiae of provincial life. If you are yet to watch Amelie, make haste, you might just save yourself a lifetime of regret.

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Starring: Audrey Tautou as Amelie

No credit for images used.

23 Comments Add yours

  1. Michaela says:

    Thank you for the inspiration! I love French and British films so much. I’m a lot over American fun and film reality. Can’t wait to see those picks, as I’ve seen only Amelie (like hundred times 🙂 ).

    1. Jolene says:

      Thanks Michaela, happy to share inspiration… Amelie is an awesome film and character.

  2. I love French films. Thanks for suggesting a few that I haven’t seen yet:-)

    1. Jolene says:

      Pleasure! The French are great in storytelling… What has been your favourite? 🙂

      1. I like Camile Claudel and certainly I enjoyed The Intolerables.

        I miss a video story in a town I once lived in that had a huge French section. It was fun to read all the staff picks.

      2. Jolene says:

        Wow, that movie has a really high rating I need to check it out! Thanks for the recommendation. Yes, I know exactly what you mean. Video stores are extinct species now – the good old days…

  3. I’m a French film lover, too ☺️

  4. dbmoviesblog says:

    Great list. Awhile ago I also compiled a similar list, and am very pleased to see here Amour and the Intouchables.

    1. Jolene says:

      Thank you for visiting. They are just classic aren’t they! 🙂

  5. Rachel McKee says:

    Thank you for the recommendations! I haven’t seen any of these.

    1. Jolene says:

      Pls give them a go if you come across them🙂

  6. The Intouchables is my all-time favourite! 🙂 I cried and laughed at the same time while watching that film! 😛

    1. Jolene says:

      Hey Vy, absolutely! I get very immersed in my films (often putting myself in the shoe / soul / spirit of the protagonist), and this one had me bawling my eyes out… Great plot and awesome acting, couldn’t ask for more.

      1. I totally feel you! I am a film fanatic too! 😉

  7. Great list have not seen “amour”… so I will have to look for it. I have two more that I would suggest…

    LE CHORISTES beautiful film about a music teacher (Gérard Jugnot) in a school for troubled boys… fantastic music as well.

    And my favorite of all time… (not french but from Belgium…in french) LE HUITIÈME JOUR. This film is about a business man (Daniel Auteuil) who has put work before everything (including his beautiful family) he happenstances on a boy with down syndrome who is trying to find his way home. He reluctantly decides to help the boy… and ends up learning what is really important in life… wonderful film… crazy funny as well…

    (here is the trailer… couldn’t find my favorite scene)

    1. Jolene says:

      Thanks so much for the suggestions. I’m always banking on other people’s recommendations when it comes to my next experience, and they sound right up my alley… I can’t get enough of those arthouse films.

  8. Ida Auclond says:

    I should note those, I haven’t seen any of them. Not even Amélie and I am the biggest fan of that movie’s soundtrack (when Comptine d’un autre été plays in the middle of my playlist, I often stop what I’m doing for a few second and just enjoy the music).

    1. Jolene says:

      Oh really? I’ve completely forgotten about their score… shame on me, I need to check it out.

  9. Len Kagami says:

    Among these movies, I have only seen Amelia 🙂 It is very cute and interesting!

    1. Jolene says:

      Yes, great to hear! There is an Amelie residing in all of us! 😊
      Any recommendations for German films? Must admit I haven’t watched too many of them at all… 😳

      1. Len Kagami says:

        So do I. But one movie that I would recommend you is “Head Full of Honey” (Honig im Kopf in German) – a travel themed movie 🙂
        It tells the journey of an old man who is trying to travel from Hamburg to Venice, where he first met his lost wife. The interesting twists of this movie is that the man has Alzheimer! His son is unable to go with him because he is always busy. So the old man travels with the help of his grand daughter – a nine-year-old 🙂
        Overall, I think it is a nice tragicomedy. It is entertaining but at the same time very meaningful.

      2. Jolene says:

        Omg, thanks so much for this recommendation! That sounds soo sad I’ll get my tissues ready. As I have very fond memories of my own grandpa I will chase this one down for sure!
        I was also thinking about a film compilation on travel. You’ve inspired me to get back into it. Thanks! 🤗

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