The French Top 10
On the eve of the 2009 Alliance Francaise French Film Festival, 3D’s Daniel Crichton-Rouse chronologically takes you through the ten best examples of French cinema this decade – hire these babies and whet your appetite for this year’s programme.
Le goût des autres (The Taste of Others)
Agnès Jaoui, 2000
Holding a 100 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and sitting in ninth place of its best-reviewed films, Le gout des autres is arguably the greatest addition to French cinema of this decade so far – and launched the career of Agnes Jaoui, who went onto direct Comme une image (Look at Me). An intelligent, humorous film about marriage, affairs and love (although not necessarily in that order).
Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain (Amelie)
Jean-Pierre Jeunet 2001
Amelie hardly needs any introduction to Australian audiences, since we voted it the second best film of all-time in an At The Movies poll a few years back. Audrey Tautou stars as the lovable, yet incredibly shy, Amelie Poulain, a cafe shop employee that endeavours to bring good to those around her, while trying to win the heart of Mathieu Kassovitz. Cooky, cutesy and incredibly stylised, Amelie is possibly the most iconic French film outside the nouvelle vague.
Le Placard (The Closet)
Francis Veber, 2001
It’s hard to believe Daniel Auteuil wasn’t always the funnyman. Starring alongside Gerard Depardieu and Thierry Lhermitte, Le Placard is one of the most refreshing comedies – in any language – to have been produced in the past 10 years. Auteuil, sensing he’s about to be fired, ‘comes out’ as a scare tactic to remain employed. However, he doesn’t count on Lhermitte giving Depardeiu the tasks of revealing this fraud, at any cost. Delightfully un-PC and absolutely hilarious.
A ma sœur! (For My Sister)
Catherine Breillat, 2001
Catherine Breillat has made a name for herself as a director that doesn’t hold back in the face of censorship. Her 1999 film – Breillat’s most notorious work – Romance, featured explicit, unsimulated sex scenes, while 2004’s Anatomy of Hell begins with a woman attempting suicide in a gay bar, and also features unsimiluated intercourse. (Both, incidentally, star porn star Rocco Siffredi.) A ma sœur! is no less taboo, with its themes of teenage sexuality and rape. It is also known as Fat Girl is some parts of the world.
François Ozon, 2003
Aside from the fact Ludivine Sagnier adorns the poster to this film in a skimpy bikini, Ozon’s magnum opus Swimming Pool is an unnerving, slow paced film about an English writer on a sojourn in France to clear her head and write. Sagnier plays the daughter of the owner of the house where the writer, Charlotte Rampling, is staying, and arrives unannounced, bringing various men home nightly. Part mystery story, part exploration of voyeurism, Swimming Pool is a sexy film that will stay with you.
De battre mon cœur s’est arete (The Beat That My Heart Skipped)
Jacques Audiard, 2005
While he’d starred in popular films such as CQ (a Roman Coppola film) and The Spanish Apartment prior to De battre mon cœur s’est arete, it was this 2005 film that put Romain Duris’ name on the international map. Playing a real estate agent trying to escape the world of crime he’s been drawn into for a life as a pianist, De battre is a brutal and poignant film about self-discovery. Powerful stuff.
Michael Haneke, 2005
Not only the most important French film of the 2000s, Michael Haneke’s Cache, when it’s finally understood (if ever) will probably historically remain one of the country’s most important films. Starring France’s two biggest box office draw-cards – Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche – Haneke’s study of paranoia and the middle-class makes for some of the most horrifying cinema you’ll experience. Cache also contains the most disturbing bout of random violence I’ve witnessed on film yet.
Ne le dis a personne (Tell No One)
Guillame Canet, 2006
It’s been eight years since Alex Beck’s (played by Francois Cluzet) wife Margot was murdered. Suddenly finding himself the prime suspect of a double-murder, Beck receives an email supposedly from his wife containing footage that reveals she’s still alive. One of the most successful foreign films of all time in the US, and not a bad seller in its home country, many a director could learn a thing or two from Canet about how to make a thriller.
Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places)
Alain Resnais, 2006
Overshadowed by its glossy cousin Paris (released a year apart in Australia), 86-year-old Alain Resnais (director of 1959’s Hiroshima Mon Amour) created a masterpiece in Coeurs, an ensemble piece following the lives of Parisians of various classes whose paths cross – all connected by their emotional withdrawal from society. A melancholic film offset by the humour in the everyday, this understated gem deserves a place of your DVD shelf.
Entre les murs (The Class)
Laurent Cantet, 2008
The winner of the Palme d’Or 2008 – the first French film to do so in 21 years – Entre les murs is the semi-autobiographical story of a literature teacher in an inner city Parisian school. The film stars Francois Begaudeau (who also wrote the book the film is based on) as the teacher.
The 20th Alliance Française French Film Festival 2009 runs 04-19 March.