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Five great French films NOT from the French New Wave
1. A Very Long Engagement (directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2004)
In the trenches of the Somme, during the First World War, five French soldiers are accused of self-mutilation to escape their duty. Sentenced to death by a court martial, they are taken to an outpost called Twilight Bingo and left to their fate in the no man's land that separates the two sides. They were apparently all killed. Among them is Manech, a young Breton, the fiancé of the film's heroine, a young romantic named Mathilde, who does not believe that her lover is dead. If he were dead, she would know. Armed with this intuition, she investigates and gradually gathers the clues that will lead her to discover what happened that day at Bingo Crépuscule. Using superstitions, she is led to blow away the dust that veils this dark and mysterious case.
A Very Long Engagement truly is an epic French production worthy of Hollywood. If the visual style of the film is familiar, look no further: it’s directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the director of Amelie, for which he cast the same lead actress, Audrey Tautou.
Stream it on Starz, DirectTV - Rent it on: YouTube, Amazon
2. I’m Not an Easy Man (Eleonore Pourriat, 2018)
For their first feature ever in French, Netflix produced a very witty comedy. This intelligent film questions our relationship to gender while entertaining us. Eleonore Pourriat's eye finds a series of amusing situations that make us think about a possible deconstruction of society, here through the prism of an incredible story that is a lot of fun to watch. The cast also has a very clever way of playing with the stereotypes. Marie-Sophie Ferdanne, best known for her stage career, embraces the masculine stereotypes in a way that feels both incredibly funny and real!
Stream it on: Netflix
3. Three Colors Blue (directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1993)
Julie's life is turned upside down after a car accident. When she wakes up, she learns that her husband, a famous composer, and her little daughter died in the accident. She finds herself alone.
In spite of a dark resume, Blue is an endearing film that offers Juliette Binoche one of her most beautiful roles. Directed by Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski, the film presents us with the mental state of a character who is learning to live again. Strong and intense, with images of the Paris of the 1990s already nostalgic.
Stream it on: HBO Max
4. The Class (directed by Laurent Cantet, 2009)
The French title, Entre les Murs, literally "Between the Walls", is more mysterious than the title chosen in the United States.
The film is based on the autobiographical book written by François Bégaudeau. Here he plays himself, a young French teacher in a class at a notoriously difficult college in northeastern Paris. He will have to "face" his students: Esmeralda, Souleymane, Khoumba and the others. François does not hesitate to go beyond the academic framework and to push the teenagers to their limits in order to motivate them, even if it means sometimes taking the risk of excess.
The film, often close to the documentary, relies on an excellent cast of very young actors who give all their energy in a film taking, winner of the Palme d'Or in 2009.
Stream it on: The Criterion Channel
5. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (directed by Julian Schnabel, 2007)
American painter Julian Schnabel steps behind the camera to tell the incredible true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, based on the book Bauby wrote during his hospital stay. The film is based on the book written by Bauby during his stay in hospital. He tells the story of his life before his stroke and his experience with locked-in syndrome, which locked him in a body that no longer responds to his mind, hence the metaphor of the title. He wrote most of the chapters of his book by dictating each letter to an actress who helps him, through the only means of communication he had left: the blink of his left eye.
The film is never leaden: Schnabel's inspired camera invites us inside Bauby's brain, where dreams, fantasies and reality merge.
Stream it on: Amazon