by Léa Dérédjian
Hailed for its aesthetics, emotion and intelligence, French cinema is the most appreciated in the world after Hollywood productions and before British cinema.
In 2018, French movies attracted 39.8 million viewers internationally. Some French films have been very successful in France in recent years, and they’re worth watching. Here are five:
Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis (2008) | Comedy
Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis is the biggest French success film, with more than 20 million tickets sold.
Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis is built around a main narrative arc based on the discovery of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of northern France, a place that is known to be cold, poor and rude, by a resident of the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region of southern France. The character arrives there with death in his soul, before discovering that the people are not what he was expecting. On top of this plot with a message of openness and tolerance are two love stories.
It is a light French comedy that can be interpreted as a social satire, that pits people from the suburbs against the inner city elite.
La vie d’Adèle (2013) | Romance
La vie d’Adèle brings together two of the most talented French actresses, Léa Sédoux and Adele Exarchopoulos, around a masterpiece about homosexuality that is full of emotions. At the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, director Abdellatif Kechiche won the Palme d’Or and the FIPRESCI Prize for the film.
The film follows Adèle, a teenager who discovers desire and freedom when an aspiring painter Emma enters her life. The film charts their relationship from Adele’s high school years to her early adult life and career as a school teacher.
The staging, her precise as well as abundant dialogue captivates us from the outset, immersing us in Adèle’s world and approaches with infinite accuracy themes such as social classes, cultural differences, misunderstanding and rejection of others, self-assertion, and passion in love.
Yves Saint Laurent (2014) | Biopic
Yves Saint Laurent is a biographical drama which recounts the life of one of the greatest French couturiers/fashion designers: Yves Saint Laurent.
Paris, 1957. At just 21 years old, Yves Saint Laurent is called upon to take charge of the destiny of the prestigious haute couture house founded by Christian Dior, who recently died. During his first triumphant parade, he met Pierre Bergé, an encounter that would change his life. Lovers and business partners, the two men joined forces three years later to create the Yves Saint Laurent company. Despite his obsessions and inner demons, Yves Saint Laurent is about to revolutionise the world of fashion with his modern and iconoclastic approach.
The film documents twenty years in the life of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, as seen through the eyes of Jalil Lespert, a talented actor who has also become a renowned filmmaker.
Un prophète (2009) | Thriller
Un prophète is an arthouse movie realised by one of the greatest directors of French movies – Jacques Audiard. The film won the Grand Prix at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
Sentenced to six years in prison for attacking police officers, nineteen-year-old Malik El Djebena is not a thug or even a dangerous offender. Alone, without support or protection, he was spotted by a group of Corsican prisoners who used him to get rid of an embarrassing witness. Having become the trusted man of César Luciani, “Godfather” of the Corsicans and true master of the place, Malik began to develop his own network.
This film is about how a naive young man manages by his intelligence alone to survive in the prison environment, then to find a place in it, to free himself from the networks between which he skilfully travels, and to leave the prison more powerful and dangerous than when he entered it. This is a very successful film that immerses the viewer in life in prison.
Intouchables (2011) | Comedy drama
Intouchables is phenomenon of French cinema. The movie is inspired by Philippe Pozzo di Borgo’s life, a quadriplegic since 1993, and his relationship with Abdel Yasmin Sellou, his caretaker.
Following a paragliding accident, Philippe, a wealthy aristocrat, hired Driss, a young suburban man just out of prison, as a live-in help. In short, the person least suited for the job. Together they will bring together Vivaldi and Earth, Wind and Fire, the verb and the joke, the costumes and the sweatpants… Two worlds will collide, tame each other, and give birth to a friendship that is unexpectedly crazy, funny and strong; it’s a unique relationship that sparks and makes them untouchable.
As soon as it came out, this movie drew many French people to the cinemas, with more than ten million viewings in just four weeks. Intouchables shows a France that is more and more solidary and united. This movie is very touching, especially since it’s a true story.
→ Follow the films in competition during the Cannes Film Festival from 14 to 25 May 2019