What better way to kick off LWD French Week than with some wonderful Francophile films? I’ve selected several favorites to share with you, as well as a few that are on my “must-see” list. I hope you’ll make time to watch at least a couple of these this week!
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for French Week
Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring (double feature)
I’ve recommended these two films before here:
But they bear a repeat. If you’ve not seen these gorgeous films yet, do yourself a favor and do so this week!
I saw them the first time back when I was homeschooling my two teenagers. I spent a lot of time in our local public library seeking out films to watch with the kids each week. I tried to find movies that had an educational and/or cultural element and we watched a fair number of foreign films.
It’s important to watch both films as, together, they tell a complete story. The films are based upon the novels by Marcel Pagnol.
David and I watched this film in an intimate, “black box” theater in Oklahoma City. It is a great movie and it was a wonderful experience. If you haven’t seen this one yet, it’s a must-see.
Director Damien Chazelle’s pick for “the greatest movie ever made” isn’t his masterwork La La Land, or even Citizen Kane. It’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
An inspirational story in the rich tradition of Music Of The Heart and Mr. Holland’s Opus, The Chorus has moved critics everywhere to declare it one of the year’s very best films! When he takes a job teaching music at a school for troubled boys, Clément Mathieu is unprepared for its harsh discipline and depressing atmosphere. But with passion and unconventional teaching methods, he’s able to spark his students’ interest in music and bring them a newfound joy! It also puts him at odds with the school’s overbearing headmaster, however, locking Mathieu in a battle between politics and the determination to change his pupils’ lives!
I haven’t seen this one yet but it sounds like something I would really enjoy.
Klouk (Bernard Crombey) is a car salesman who has to miss a family holiday to deliver a luxury Chevrolet station wagon to his boss’ wealthy client. He decides to take his friend Philippe (Xavier Saint-Macary) along with him for the ride across the length of France from Lille to the Cote d’Azur. On the way they give a lift to hitchhiker Charles (Etienne Chicot) who also brings along his friend Daniel (Patrick Bouchitey). A buddy road movie that came together from genuine friendship and developed throughout the months-long script workshop giving the film a casual and naturalistic quality that pre-dates Richard Linklater’s similar approaches by some decade, Fill ‘Er Up with Super is one of many touching road movie comedies about youth in a line of classics. A meditation on friendship and masculinity, it was voted one of the greatest of all French films by Time Out Paris which described it as a precious secret, one which could be likened to a documentary, yet in it’s more surreal moments retains a freshness larger than life.
Film review by Roger Ebert:
Hulot was the hero of “Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday,” but in “Mon Oncle,” he is a lost soul, unemployed, bemused and confused by the modern world. His sister Madame Arpel (Adrienne Servantie) believes she can help him. She lives with her husband Monsieur Arpel (Jean-Pierre Zolla) and their young son Gerard (Alain Becourt) in a futuristic architectural monstrosity, and a great deal of the movie’s time is spent exploring their cold new world.
This 1952 costume adaptation of three stories by Maupassant matches the originals in sensuality and irony, to which the director, Max Ophüls, adds his distinctive blend of visual extravagance and bitter, worldly wisdom. The first two episodes—concerning, respectively, a former ladies’ man, now elderly, who dons a mask to gavotte with young belles at a dance hall, and the women of a small-town brothel who send the local gentry into a tizzy when they close up shop to attend the first Communion of the madam’s niece—look past effervescent ribaldry to reveal the power of desire along with its elaborate rituals. (In the dance hall, Ophüls’s gliding, gyrating camera turns the pounding steps of a quadrille into an erotic night-club grind.) The third story, about a bright young artist whose romance with his model goes sour, is a philosophical tale with a whiplash ending. It presses the director’s elegant style to the breaking point, climaxing with a harrowing, vertiginous crane shot that rises to a nightmarish frenzy—and leads to one of the greatest last lines ever. In French.
My son and I spent the first couple of years of the pandemic watching foreign, classic or otherwise “artsy” films together on most Thursday nights. This is one we watched. I highly recommend it.
Charged with a yearning that almost transcends time and space, Portrait of a Lady on Fire mines the emotional and artistic possibilities that emerge when women can freely live together and see one another in a world without men.
Enjoy one or more of these films as we celebrate the 7th Annual French Week here on Life With Dee.
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