With the Alliance Française French Film Festival returning to cinemas after a three-month hiatus due to COVID-19, SBS On Demand offers you some of the best of the fest with a season of classic flicks for you to enjoy in the comfort of your own home – with a bottle of red and a crusty baguette, naturally.
Let The Sunshine In (2017)
It is impossible to list all that is wonderful in French cinema without a mention of the exquisite Oscar-winning talents of Juliette Binoche. In Let The Sunshine In, Binoche plays Parisian artist and middle-aged divorcée Isabelle, who takes an introspective journey to find herself after a string of questionable life choices. Binoche is at the top of her game, exploring with acute authenticity what it means to be, to love and to be loved. Her stellar performance landed her a nomination for Best Actress at the César Awards. It’s raw, sometimes melancholic, but never less than brilliant.
Tell No One (2006)
Actor/director Guillaume Canet’s second feature, Tell No One is adapted from Harlan Coben’s bestselling page-turner and landed four César Awards, including Best Director for Canet and Best Actor for French favourite François Cluzet (Turning Tide). The story of a woman’s disappearance and the search for a serial killer is paved with high tension and twists galore, showcasing not only Canet’s expertise with actors but his skill at pacing a story. With a cast completed by international actresses Marie-Josée Croze (The Barbarian Invasions) and Kristin Scott Thomas (Love Crime), this is a thriller not to be missed.
As talented an actor as he is a director, Guillaume Canet stars in this international espionage slow-burner directed by Oscar-nominated Christian Carion (Joyeux Noël). Canet plays Pierre, an embassy worker embroiled in the machinations of an American secret service operation that aims at helping a Soviet spy defect to the West during the Cold War. Playing Soviet spy Grigoriev is another award-winning actor/director, Serbian Emir Kusturica (Arizona Dream). Whether you’re a John le Carré fan or simply enjoy a strong story with a human heart, this is a film for you.
See You Up There (2017)
Two WWI survivors, one of them heavily disfigured in battle, start a memorial con to get back at a post-war society that has abandoned them. Adapting Pierre Lemaître’s prestigious 2013 Prix Goncourt winner, actor/director Albert Dupontel took home the César Awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay with a visually stunning cautionary tale that will steal your heart. His recreation of Paris in 1919 is stupendous and his direction of actors, including Nahuel Pérez Biscayart (BPM) and Laurent Lafitte (Little White Lies), is impeccable.
Before he directed Alien: Resurrection and Amélie, Jean-Pierre Jeunet turned French cinema on its head with his co-writer and co-director Marc Caro. Their first and most mischievous child, Delicatessen, landed them a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Film and four César Awards, including Best First Film and Best Screenplay. As dark as dark can be, this pitch-black comedy, anchored in a world where food is the main currency, is a reinvention of the cinematic space, thanks to larger-than-life characters, unforgettable editing choices and the stunning visual sensibility for which Jeunet is rightly lauded.
Café De Flore (2011)
Eclectic Oscar-nominated Quebecois director Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) likes to surprise his audience from one film to the next, and with Café de Flore he certainly does that. With two love stories entangled in time and emotion, Vallée offers us an intriguing and mesmerising gem of storytelling that won three Genie Awards in Canada, including one for Best Actress to actress/singer Vanessa Paradis (The Girl on the Bridge). An ode to tolerance and human resilience, Café de Flore is sure to touch your heart and to captivate until its unexpected conclusion.
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (2007)
In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor of French glamour magazine Elle, suffered a stroke so severe that his body was paralysed. Living with locked-in syndrome, he could only communicate with the world by the blinking of his left eye. In 1997, still in the same state, he released his autobiography, which became a worldwide bestseller. In 2007, painter/director Julian Schnabel (Basquiat) adapted his astonishing story for the big screen, delivering a masterpiece which landed four Oscar nominations, two Golden Globe wins, including Best Foreign Film, and two César Awards wins, including Best Actor for arthouse actor/director Mathieu Amalric (Sink or Swim, The Bureau). A tour de force on every level.
The French-iest of German directors, controversial and thought-provoking Michael Haneke (Funny Games) delivers one of his most important films. Powerful taboo-breaking Amour breathes life into the unspoken subject of death. New-Wave icons Emmanuelle Riva (Hiroshima Mon Amour) and Jean-Louis Trintignant (A Man and a Woman) play Anne and Georges Laurent, an ageing couple faced with the consequences of sickness and dependence in their golden years. Winner of the Palme d’Or in Cannes and Best Foreign Film at the Oscars and the Golden Globes, this emotional journey moved the world and will no doubt move you too.
La Vie En Rose (2007)
It is not every year that a French actress is awarded the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role. It has only happened three times. Ever. Claudette Colbert for It Happened One Night and Simone Signoret for Room At The Top. La Vie En Rose, the biopic of French singing superstar Edith Piaf, was a dream role for Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone). She also received the Golden Globe, the BAFTA Award and the César Award for her performance. And for good reason. Her portrayal of the revered chanteuse is flawless. From her early life to her forced retirement due to substance abuse, from her joys and hopes to the heartbreak of her love life, Cotillard delivers every emotion to perfection.
If one director was going to appear twice in our Top Ten, it had to be Jean-Pierre Jeunet, for the whimsy and wonder that is Amélie. Anchored in the joyful nostalgia of Parisian charm stolen from the 1950s, the ‘fabulous destiny of Amélie Poulain’, to give the film its complete French title, follows the infectious mischief of Amélie, the radiant Audrey Tautou (Beautiful Lies). From harmless pranks to random acts of kindness, Amélie makes the world a better place, sometimes forgetting her own happiness in the process. The quirky good nature of this candy-coloured comedy turned heads and gathered five Oscar nominations, including Best Foreign Language Film, as well as four César Awards, including Best Film and Best Director.