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My Top 5 French Films

As a lover of film and of other cultures, I really love watching French films. They tend to be wacky, whimsical or just plain odd but that’s why they’re so great! They can be so different compared to American and even British films which is really refreshing in my opinion. Just refrain from watching L’Écume des Jours (‘Mood Indigo’ in English) as I think it’s the worst French film out there – it’s strange but not in a good way and really depressing at the end. However, on a brighter note, here are my all-time favourite French films that I believe are a worthwhile watch:

1)      Le Petit Nicolas (Little Nicholas) (2009) directed by Laurent Tirard

I had to give the number one spot to this delightful family comedy. The story follows the fun adventures of schoolboy ‘Nicolas’ in 1960s France. After a series of misunderstandings, Nicolas convinces himself that he is going to be a big brother and ends up feeling unwanted. He gets up to all sorts of mischief trying to impress his parents, including a failed attempt at cleaning up his house with his friends and trying to raise enough money for his sibling to be kidnapped. This may sound like just a children’s film but I definitely think that all ages can appreciate it. The comedic timing is spot on throughout and Nicolas’ parents have great lines that we can all relate to. The acting in this film is amazing, especially from Maxime Godart, who plays Nicolas. I love the supporting characters too, especially Nicolas’ best friend who’s obsessed with good food and the teacher’s pet who is equally cute and annoying. I definitely recommend this film and would give it a five star rating.

2) Amélie (2001) directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet

This quirky romantic comedy is another classic that I’m still in love with. It follows the titular character’s coming of age in Paris after she spent her childhood being isolated from others due to a misdiagnosed heart defect. She starts working as a waitress and after returning a box to its rightful owner, she decides to try and improve other people’s lives in an imaginative way. One of the reasons why I love this so much is due to Amelie being a great protagonist. She’s playful and imaginative yet shy but always tries to see the best in people. The rest of the characters are all eccentric and flawed in their own way but they are all eventually redeemed. The comedy is decidedly French and is mostly made up of scenes with Amelie’s wild imagination which are very interesting and make the film rather memorable.

3) Les Choristes (The Chorus) (2004) directed by Christophe Barratier

I remember watching this French classic with my parents when I was in secondary school and I still love it. The story is about successful orchestra conductor Pierre Morhange and his memories of his schooldays in 1949. A new supervisor, Clement Mathieu, arrives at Morhange’s school (which is for so-called ‘difficult’ boys) and after seeing how strict the teachers are, he decides to improve the liveliness of the place up by setting up a choir. At first, Morhange refuses to sing, even though he has an amazing singing voice, but Mathieu finally gets Morhange out of his shell and the two develop an inspiring student-teacher relationship. This film made me so emotional, especially at the end when the school bully wreaks havoc on the school. It was definitely one I would call inspiring.

 4) Les Visiteurs (The Visitors) (1993) directed by Jean-Marie Poiré

This fantasy film is the best French comedy I’ve ever seen. After medieval knight ‘Godefroy Amaury de Malfête’ accidentally shoots his fiancée’s father while under the influence of an evil witch’s potion, he goes to an old eccentric wizard in the hopes that the latter can send him back in time to just before the accident. Unfortunately, things go wrong and he, along with his serf ‘Jacquouille’, ends up in 1992 France. They are both initially horrified and confused by everything they see and try to get back to their own time. The comedy in this film is just amazing and works even when it’s crude. The best scenes are when Godefroy discovers a car for the first time and when they arrive at his descendant’s house only to flood the house after leaving a tap on and unknowingly wasting expensive Chanel perfume while having a bath. The ending is great too as Godefroy finally manages to convince his direct descendant, Beatrice, that he really is her ancestor. My only issue with the film is that it hasn’t aged particularly well but if that’s not an issue for you I would watch it anyway.

5) Les Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec (The Extraordinary Adventures of d’Adèle Blanc-Sec) (2010) directed by Luc Besson

This fantasy adventure film is amazingly wacky with great special effects and ‘Adèle’ is a strong witty female protagonist. Based on a comic book series of the same name and set in 1912, the film follows Adèle’s attempts to resurrect an Egyptian doctor, whose medical knowledge turns out to be very advanced, so that her sister can be saved after a tennis accident made her comatose. Along the way, a professor manages to hatch a dinosaur and it’s up to a bumbling policeman and a famous big game hunter to track it down. Science meets absurd fantasy in this film and it’s extremely well designed and acted. My favourite scene is when Adèle has to break another character out of prison and she shows just how resourceful she is by coming up with various disguises until she finds one that works. I just wish that there could be a second film, especially as Adèle’s fate is left uncertain at the end. The third act is also a bit slow but apart from that, it’s just great fun!

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