FRENCH LANGUAGE FILM REVIEWS

La Marche de L’empereur (2005)
March of the Penguins

An independent  language advantage film review by Emmanuel Lainé

After a long summer of feasting, the emperor penguins of Antarctica begin to march inland to the breeding grounds where each of them were born. Walking in a long single line, they all know where they are going, even those making the march for the first time, and when they get there they carefully choose their mates.

From the director Luc Jaquet, ‘The March of the Penguins’ is a new type of documentary, closely related to fiction. This movie describes the long and cruel reality of being a penguin in the harshest environment of Antartica. The impressive scene of the males protecting their eggs against the freezing cold blizzard adds to their reality. It is like some kind of Hitchcock suspense: will the females come back on time to take their turn to protect the eggs?

In a few words, The March of the Penguins is a beautiful movie. It’s moving, and emotionally charged. Perfect for an hour and a half with your family and provides a very simple ecological message. Its simplicity is portrayed by the incredible beauty of the harsh landscape and the survival instinct of an extraordinary species.

In  easy to understand French  with english subtitles , it is  ideal for beginners. This film is also available in English with Morgan Freeman as the voice-over.

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De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté (2005)
The Beat that my Heart Skipped

An independent  language advantage film review by Emmanuel Lainé

At 28 years old, Tom (Romain Duris) is a property developer with a business that is gradually falling deeper and deeper into illegal dealings in order to generate more profit. A meeting with someone from his past will force him to believe that time is still on his side, that he will become someone else, but more specifically, to become the concert pianist he once dreamt of being. Continuing with the illegal dealings of his job, he gets ready for an audition.

‘The Beat that my Heart Skipped’ won best movie at the Cesar awards 2005 and is a typical French movie. The story enables the actors to show their full potential in which Tom (Romain Duris, also in L’auberge Espagnole and Les Poupees Russes), Robert (Niels Arestrup), Chris (Emmanuelle Devos, also in Read my Lips) and Miao Lin (Linh-Dan Pham, also in Indochine) excel. Directed by Jacques Audiard (also Read my Lips), ‘The Beat that my Heart Skipped’ is an astonishing journey into the familiarity of French society through the eyes of a family.

The French language is easy to understand and I’d recommended this film for beginners. In French with English subtitles.

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A la Folie, Pas du Tout (2002)
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Carroll

The title and cover of this French film suggest a beautiful love story set in picturesque France. But be ready for an entertaining, and sometimes morbid, journey through obsessive and unrequited love as Angélique falls in love with her older man, Loïc. Sadly for her, he is happily married and his wife is expecting a baby. An interesting insight into a story told from opposite sides.

Angélique is played by Audrey Tautou of Amelie fame and is accompanied on screen by her love interest played by Samuel le Bihan also in Brotherhood of the Wolf. First film from new Director Laetitia Colombani. In French with English subtitles. Rated 12 in the UK.

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La Pianiste (2001)
The Piano Teacher

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

La Pianiste is a tale of the limits one man is willing to go to be with the woman that he loves and the relationship between teacher and pupil.

Erika (Isabelle Huppert) is a piano instructor at a famous music school in Vienna. She is a highly respected musician but a harsh teacher. She lives with her mother (Annie Girardot) and does not have a husband or a lover in her life. Erika satisfies her sexual appetite by watching extreme porn videos and voyeurism which sometimes involves pain and self-mutilation. She discovers that she has attracted the attentions of Walter ( Benoît Magimel), one of her students. When Walter stands up for one of his fellow students after a recital Erika is angry and storms off to the bathrooms where Walter follows her. Erika approaches Walter in a sexual way and refuses to fully satisfy him unless she can have complete control over the relationship. Once Walter realises what Erika’s control will involve he refuses to go ahead with it. He then decides to turn the tables and give Erika a taste of her own controlling attitude.

This film is shockingly violent in places but also very watchable. You are drawn into the controlling relationship and the messed up characters. You want to understand why these things are happening but are given no explanation. Michael Haneke has directed a film which is very shocking at times but also extremely thought-provoking.

In French with English subtitles.

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Amelie (2001)

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Carroll

Amelie, born of a distant father and an eccentric mother, has been sheltered by her parents. As she leaves home she leads us through her fantasy life while she works as a waitress in Paris. She makes a surprise find and then discovers that she must spend her life helping others find love and happiness. Until she falls in love herself, that is! This movie leaves you laughing, crying, captivated and often perplexed – but after all it is a French film, and a great one at that.

The director of this French film is Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Amelie is played by Audrey Tautou. In French with English subtitles.

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Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)

An independent  language advantage film review by Andrea Martins

The storyline of this film is very intriguing and gripping. Set in 1764, it is based on the legend of a monstrous beast that apparently lived in the Gevaudan region of France. The story follows the investigations of Gregoire de Fronsac (played by Simon le Bihan) and his side-kick Mohawk (played by Mark Dacascos) into the murders of women and children who seemed to have been hunted down and killed by this savage beast. Their investigations lead to several rendez-vous with a beautiful prostitute (Monica Belluci) who helps them to find the beast. The beast, as it turns out, is not all that it appears to be…

This film has some amazing action scenes and some even more amazing martial arts fighting that add to the enjoyment of the story. It is beautiful to watch and although a little ridiculous in places (martial arts in France in the 1700’s?!), it is entertaining and worth watching. I recommend you watch the extras as it gives more information about the legend and the beast.

The (French) language is easy to understand and although you can watch this film with the dubbing switched on, I would recommend that you watch it with the subtitles to have a more complete experience of the Gevaudan legend. In French with subtitles.

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Trois Couleurs Bleu (1993)
Three Colours Blue

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

Three Colours Blue is the first part of Kieslowski’s trilogy and demonstrates the first element of the French Republic – freedom.

It is set in Paris, where Julie (Juliette Binoche), wife of the famous composer Patrice de Courcy (Benoît Régent), must cope with the death of her husband and daughter in a car accident which she survives. During the film, Julie cuts herself off from her past and her friends. She falls in love with Olivier Benoit, her late husband’s helper and she discovers her late husband was having an affair.

In my opinion, this part of the trilogy is the best of the three. I am slightly biased as I love Juliette Binoche and Benoît Régent, but this has got to be one of the best films I have seen this year. I would recommend this to anyone with a knowledge of French (or even without any French) as it is absolutely fantastic. If you are going to watch a French film soon I would definately make it this one.

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Trois Couleurs Blanc (1993)
Three Colours White

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

Three Colours White is the second part of Kieslowski’s trilogy and illustrates the second element of the French Republic – equality.

The first part of the film is set in Paris, where we meet Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski), the main character who is pleading with a judge in a divorce court. He is a Polish immigrant and is getting divorced from his wife, Dominique (Julie Delpy). His divorce leaves him as a beggar. He has a chance meeting with a fellow Pole, Mikolaj (Janusz Gajos) who takes him back to Poland and they set up business together. In Poland, Karol changes and becomes ambitious and focuses on making money with Mikolaj. He uses his new ambition to create a scheme to win back Dominique and ultimately ruins her life with his actions.

The second part of Kieslowski’s trilogy doesn’t let him down. I enjoyed this part a little less than the Three Colours Blue (only due to the cast) but would definitely watch it again and it is great if you want to watch a French film with or without the subtitles.

The French accent is reasonably easy to understand as simple French is used and you can also choose whether you want subtitles or not, which is useful as you may want to test your French out and if you are struggling you can always add the subtitles on later. Overall this film is fantastic; I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to absolutely everyone, regardless of whether you can understand French or not. In French with subtitles.

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Trois Couleurs Rouge (1994)
Three Colours Red

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

Three Colours Red is the final part of a trilogy by Kieslowski.

The film is set in Geneva, Switzerland and follows Valentine Dussaut (Irène Jacob), a young model and Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a retired judge, who meet by chance after Valentine accidentally hurts his dog. The film is primarily concerned with Joseph’s eavesdropping on his neighbours telephone calls and through this the relationship between the two main characters is formed. This friendship is the central theme of the film; along with the concept of fraternity – the trilogy is based on the three elements of the French republic, freedom (blue), equality (white) and fraternity (red).

A parallel story runs through the film, focusing on Valentine’s neighbour Auguste, Auguste’s conversations with his girlfriend, Karin are monitored by Joseph and play an integral part to the film as a whole.

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Delicatessen (1993)

An independent  language advantage film review by Andrea Martins

From the same director of Amélie, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, creates a surreal yet entertaining story of a butcher and his customers living in starving France. The film is set within a tumbledown house where its inhabitants survive via the butcher’s cannibalistic tendencies. For every new assistant that arrives for work and board, dinner is served for the butcher’s inhabitants.

The French is quite easy to understand as the conversations are often one-to-ones – but look out for what can only be French spoken with an American accent at some points!

This was the first film from Jean Luc Godard. In French with English subtitles. Rated 15 in the UK.

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A Bout de Souffle (1959)
Breathless

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Carroll

This is what you think about when you think of a foreign language movie! A beautifully shot black and white movie with amazing close-ups and intense conversations about life and what it means. Michel is on the run in Paris at the end of the 1950s and you follow his trail, including his love affair with an American in France. So classic is this film, that it was remade in the US in the mid-1980s, but don’t go with that version, stick to the la version originale.

His daughter Julie, changes the chain of events when she falls in love with the next new assistant Louison, a circus performer. Only an underground group of vegetarian freedom fighters can help save both her and her man from her father’s meat cleaver.

This is a very dark but funny film with beautiful staging and cinematography. It shows the small-town France where its inhabitants are neurotic and slightly deranged in their own individual way. It was nominated for the Bafta Film Award in 1993 and won several awards throughout Europe before that.

Beware of the French accent: it’s simple country French which some French learners might find challenging to understand initially. In French with English subtitles.

To buy  Breathless and other French language films>>


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