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Movie Titles

Argent de poche (Small Change), 1976
Diabolo Menthe (Peppermint Soda), 1977
Les 400 Coups, 1959
Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows), 1957
L’Enfant sauvage (The Wild Child), 1970
Jeux interdits (Forbidden Games), (1952)
L’Ange de Goudron (Tar Angel), 2001
Man on Wire, 2008

La cérémonie, 1995
Zéro de conduite : Jeunes diables au collège (Zero for Conduct), 1933

Le Papillon (The Butterfly), 2002

Le Scaphandre et le papillon
(The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), 2007

Yves Saint Laurent : 5 avenue Marceau 75116 Paris (Yves St. Laurent: His Life and Times), 2002

Paris Je T'aime, 2006

La Vie en Rose (La Mome), 2007
Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places)
Rois et Reine
La vie de chatêau
L'Auberge Espagnole
La Double Vie de Véronique
Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles (A Very Long Engagement)
Le Fabuleux Destin D'Amélie Poulain (Amélie)
Belle Epoque
L’Américain (The American)
Les Choristes (The Choir Singers)
Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise)
Est-Ouest (East-West)
La Haine (Hate)
8 Femmes (Eight Women)
Le Huitième Jour (The Eighth Day)
Ma Femme est une Actrice (My Wife is an Actress)
Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran (Mr. Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran)
Tanguy
Le Colonel Chabert - 1994

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Movie Reviews

Argent de poche (Small Change), 1976
Director: François Truffant
Language: French
Country: France
Run time: 104 minutes 

argentThis next Truffaut film was made almost as a lab experiment about children, with the kids from a village deep in provincial France, Thiers in the Puy-de-Dôme, in two grades of elementary school. There are preschool age children as well, especially little Gregory who is but two and a half. The scenes with the independent and adventuresome Gregory are remarkable for Truffaut’s ability to elicit a performance from a mere toddler. One of the two most dramatic sequences in the film is Gregory’s horrifying leap from the window of the apartment building (obviously staged with a dummy) and the stunned relief of the villagers and the audience to discover that he is unharmed by the fall. And then there is Sylvie, who is fed by the village. When her police inspector father and her chic mother refuse to let her take a ratty beloved pocketbook with her to a restaurant, she stays home alone, and picking up her father’s megaphone, announces her plight to the entire apartment building. In Europe they used to call these square buildings with the open courtyard “poor man’s television” because you could see so many melodramas unfolding behind the windows of the other apartments. Here the other dwellers respond to Sylvie’s demand for food with a clever pulley and basket. Patrick, madly in love with the mother of his friend Laurent, takes on the responsibilities of caring for a disabled father (the child really is father of the man in this case). And finally there is Julien (an echo of Antoine Doinel and a name used for other Truffaut characters), an abused child living in abject poverty who is rescued by the authorities after a school physical reveals the extent of his bruises and scars. Ironically it is the police inspector who is charged with his rescue, having just abandoned his own daughter in a fit of pique. The closing sequence is sincere and moving; the teacher who declares his moral credo to the world, of absolute responsibility and love for the children, regardless of their circumstances or conduct.
-Recommended by Rebecca Pauley, French Language Film Review Co-Editor

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Diabolo Menthe (Peppermint Soda), 1977

Director: Diane Kurys
Language: French
Country: France
Run Time: 97 minutes


diabloIn this tale of adolescent girls at the Lycée Jules Ferry in Paris, Kurys offers a tale of female adolescence that recalls Muriel Spark’s 1961 Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, made into a 1969 film. After a summer in Deauville with their dad, the Weber sisters Frédérique and Anne return to their divorced mother in Paris in October 1963. Typical back to school at a girls’ school that has since become coed, where cliques contrast the solitude of the Algerian student from Oran, who obviously represents the recent end (July 1962) of the Algerian War as well as prejudice against Arabs. The courses are listed, the teachers are grotesque sadistic monsters (as filtered by the students’ rebellious minds). The film is backgrounded by the social revolution of 1968 and its leftist perspectives. The redheaded Muriel reveals that her mother was bipolar and committed suicide. Fred and Anne go on a picnic with their mother and her new boyfriend. The news of JFK’s assassination (22 November 1963) leaves the school in tears. The French adored Jack and Jackie, who had lived in Paris for a year and spoke fluent French. Anne broods a lot, fiercely jealous of her older sister. A strong thematic of nascent sexuality, as one student tells a hilarious story of her “first time.” All the rites of passage are lined up: Anne craves stockings; she gets her first period and is slapped by her mother, an archaic tradition. Students are punished and ridicule the teachers in class by humming. The teachers are leftists and the students are politically clueless. They have their title soda in a cafe. Their father drives 300 miles round trip to take them out to dinner, a disaster. We see photos of the three of them earlier skiing at Alpe d’Huez. There is discussion of films of the day: Muriel by Alain Resnais, the story of a girl tortured during the Algerian War, The Great Escape by John Sturges, the Steve McQueen remake of La Grande Illusion, and Summer Holiday, all of which are homages to films that marked Kurys at the time. At Muriel’s party in St. Cloud, the girls listen to top songs of contemporary icons, “J’ai perdu mon âme” by Georges Brassens and “Shadow Boogie” by Jimmy Cliff. We follow Anne as she leaves with Xavier to go home, and we watch Frédérique come in late with her friend Marc. Love letters are torn up and we fade to black. At this point, the film turns political as Pascale recounts the demonstration and riot in February 1962 at Charonne during the Algerian revolution, the 7 students killed, their funerals in the rain at Père-Lachaise. The affair of Fred and Marc continues with a series of stills (dead moments) of them camping; Muriel disappears and the police investigate. The girls take up smoking. Anne leaves a note on the school fence about Muriel’s disappearance, then calls her father. Kidnapped or run away? Fred visits Muriel’s father and they embrace in a moment of Lolita decadence. The peace movement begins and the famed buttons appear. Students on both sides argue; one of the teachers is anti-semitic. Students fantasize about girls being abducted into a white sex slave trade. On a shopping trip, Anne is caught shoplifting. Muriel leaves with a friend to work on a farm, shouting “merde” to the school principal in homage to Zéro de conduite. Discipline is nonexistent. Fred takes up theater, playing Trissotin in Moliere’s Les femmes savantes. This film is rife with ambiguous sexual affinities and identities. Fred and Martine run off together, then appear on stage in costume. The closing scene returns to the beginning, as the cycle of the seasons continues and the girls are off to the beach to the music of Yves Simon. The very episodic structure of this film is itself an homage to Zero for conduct.
- Recommended by Rebecca Pauly, French Language Film Co-Editor

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Les 400 Coups

Director: Truffaut
Year: 1959
Run time: 99 mins 
Language: French
Country: France

Availability: netflix.com, amazon.com

les 400Le premier long métrage de Truffaut, dédicacé au critique de cinéma André Bazin, et ouvertement inspiré par le chef d’oeuvre précédent de Vigo, a fait fureur à sa sortie au festival de Cannes en 1959, et annoncé une révolution dans le cinéma français, l’arrivée de la Nouvelle Vague. Le film est devenu un culte classique de révolte adolescente, angst, angoisse et solitude. Truffaut a auditionné des douzaines de garçons pour le rôle autobiographique de sa propre persona avec le nom miroir, Antoine Doinel. Quand il a trouvé Jean-Pierre Léaud, il a su tout de suite que c’était lui, un vrai alter ego, mais plus fort, moins vulnérable que Truffaut n’a été lui-même à cet âge. Léaud allait faire encore quatre films dans la série Doinel films dans les 17 ans qui suivraient: L’amour à vingt ans, Baisers volés, Domicile conjugale et L’amour en fuite. Dans ce premier film, Truffaut monte en collage, parfois décousu, toujours spontané, une série de séquences et de scènes des souffrances quotidiennes de l’adolescent Antoine, qui vit avec une mauvaise mère égoïste et un beau-père lache. La mère le laisse savoir qu’elle voulait l’avorter parce que son père biologique l’avait abandonnée. Quand il la prend en train d’embrasser un amant en public, Antoine est dévasté.

Antoine rêve de devenir écrivain comme son héros Balzac, mais sa production actuelle littéraire consiste en des phrases de punition au tableau noir et des graffiti. Il souffre beaucoup à l’école et se révolte en perpétuité contre l’instituteur Petite Feuille (nom qui appelle l’onomastique). Les confrères d’Antoine sont interprétés par tous les autres garçons qui se sont présentés pour son rôle. Sa seule composition originale du film est une fausse lettre au directeur de l’école disant que sa mère est morte (ce qui était pour lui en fait assez vrai). Sa vraie maison est les rues du quartier, qu’il navigue avec son meilleur ami René. Les icônes de sa vie sont une soirée en famille au cinéma, une image qu’il vole devant le cinéma (de Harriet Andersson dans le film d’Ingmar Bergman Sommaren med Monika (1953), histoire de jeunes amants qui font la fugue pour se sauver et vivre sa vie. Antoine devient voleur, d’argent, de lait, et enfin, dans l’imprimerie d’une machine à écrire, et pour ce dernier vol il se fait happer et finit en prison. Les prises où il se fait emener dans le wagon policier dans une cage confirment son statut de martyr, tout comme le nom de la rue des Martyrs (endroit longtemps irrésistible aux écrivains). Sa peine est l’exil, à un institut pour adolescents criminels dans la banlieue à Villejuif. Dans une conversation avec la psychologue (qui ne se voit jamais), Antoine révèle son désespoir profond, puis s’évade de cette nouvelle prison et fait une fugue vers la mer/e, où Truffaut le laisse en freeze-frame.

Le titre du film vient de l’expression idiomatique "faire les quatre cents coups," ou se comporter en voyou. Une des scènes clés inoubliables du film montre Antoine et trois autres gens (Truffaut, Jeanne Moreau et une autre femme) dans le rotor, centrifuge de foire, tous applatis et suspendus au dessus du vide dans le vertige, definition beckettienne de la vie. Truffaut a tourné le film en noir et blanc pour les effets maximum de jour et nuit, lumière et ombre. Il a employé des caméras légères dans la rue, et le film entier a été post-synchronisé. Des effets sonores se sont rajoutés aussi après, comme les pas d’Antoine quand il fait la fugue à la fin, à cause des bruits du camion et de la rue. Tourner dans les rues de Paris, de rigueur pour la Nouvelle Vague, créait des conditions aléatoires et souvent chaotiques. La postsynchronisation offrait une libération d’équipement lourd et encombrant, et permettait un tournage rapide et spontané sans soucis d’intrusions inopportuns sonores. Donc derrière le masque de spontanéité qui marque la Nouvelle Vague il existait en fait grand nombre de trucs, de subterfuges qui à leur façon étaient adolescents et clandestins.
-Recommended byRebecca Pauly, Culture Club French Film Co-Editor

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Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows), 1957

ElevatorDirector: Louis Malle
Run Time: 92 minutes
Language: French
Available from amazon.com and netflix 

This film is a very engaging French thriller. Florence (Jeanne Moreau) and her lover Julien (Maurice Ronet) plot to kill Florence’s husband (Jean Wall) but a glitch with an elevator foils their ingenious plan. The musical score is by Jazz great Miles Davis. 
-Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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L’Enfant sauvage (The Wild Child), 1970

Director: François Truffaut
Run Time: 83 minutes
Language: French
Availability: amazon.com, netflix

Wild ChildThis film came out shortly after the social revolution of 1968, and demonstrates a profound revision of the image of an underdeveloped or disadvantaged child. This is a true story of the “savage of the Aveyron” from the end of the 18th century, right after the French Revolution, the first historically documented case of autism. This film shows Truffaut in a principal role, fatherly, patient, intelligent, humble, but also obsessed with his scientific project of civilizing Victor, the wild child. The society of the day, from the peasants who discovered him to the officials of the government and the institutes, just did not understand Victor. At first they were afraid of him in the forest, where he had been abandoned as a baby with a severe neck wound (real life imitating mythology, a forest Oedipus). Then the scientists locked him up in a school for deaf mutes, where he was bullied and beaten by his fellow inmates. Then transferred to an institute for subnormal children, Victor is immediately revealed as far too intelligent to remain in this chaotic environment. (There is a whole inverse thematic around the French term for autistic, “idiot savant,” because in this case it is the savants or scientists who are the idiots.) Finally Dr. Itard, played by Truffaut in an old-fashioned archaic stiff manner, takes Victor to his own home in Batignolles and hands him over to the governess Madame Guérin, who quickly “cures” Victor while the good doctor gives him 8 years of education. They take walks in the fields and visit kind neighbors. Victor gets milk and water in recompense for civilized learning behavior. He throws violent fits when the demands become excessive due to his obvious frustration, and longs for freedom. The situation is not only reminiscent of the world famous Helen Keller story, but stands as a working model of Rousseau’s work on education, L’Emile, developmental theory from the author who invented the term “the noble savage” for mankind. Victor runs away after being deliberately pushed to the limit by Itard, but then returns home of his own free will, to his shelter and to human companionship.
- Reviewed by Rebecca Pauly, French Language Film Review Co-Editor

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Jeux interdits (Forbidden Games), (1952)

Director: René Clément
Run time: 86 minutes
Language: French
Country: France


Jeux interditsThis film, adapted from the François Boyer 1947 eponymous novel (itself originally a filmscript), was made a number of years after World War II yet recreates perfectly the settings and feel of France in June of 1940 as the Nazi Panzer tanks were crushing the retreating French army and citizens. Shooting in black and white with a lot of carefully framed shots that seem to be stills in the middle of the film, Clément captured the frozen moments of the fantasy world of Paulette and Michel, the misfit young couple thrown together by fate when her family and pet dog are gunned down crossing a bridge and she is taken in by the Dollé family, a dazed orphan. The entire film in fact is about war and its effects—death, loss, separation. The Dollé family lose two sons in the film, the first, Georges, trampled by a runaway war horse, the younger, Michel, crushed when he falls epically and symbolically from the roof of the church while trying to remove its cross (this scene is from the novel). The crosses in the film are a constant leitmotif of suffering and sacrifice, but derisory, as the children create and fill their secret cemetery, in imitation of the sacrilege of adult devastation. Boyer’s novel is adapted to the screen by the often mocked screenwriters of “cinéma de qualité” Aurenche and Bost. The characters are improbable exaggerations of opposites. Paulette is a Parisian coquette (of only 5 in the film), innocent and stupid, naive and fragile, thrown into the peasant life of Saint-Faix, who develops a rapport of complicity and cruelty with Michel as they murder animals to fill their cemetery. The Dollé family spends the entire film at war with their neighbors the Gouard family. Francis Gouard goes off proudly to war (a little late in fact) in contrast to Georges Dollé who is fatally injured by a runaway war horse. At Georges’s bedside, Paulette and Michel say prayers they have learned from the local priest (Paulette is in a steep learning curve as she is Jewish). Interestingly, there is no mention in the film of her being at risk from the Nazis, unlike Jean Bonnet in Au Revoir les enfants who is taken forcefully by the Germans. Paulette and Michel’s cemetery, like so many clandestine enterprises of children in film, is hidden in the mill. They first bury Jock, her dead pet dog, then kill and bury a rat to keep him company, a rat they take from the resident owl, M. Mole (a perfect metaphoric giveaway of the stupidity of their enterprise, stealing food from a wise old owl). They proceed to steal chicks from the neighbors, then insects, frogs (a real witches’ brew), then 14 crosses for the graves. The brash theft of a cross from the widow Gouard’s tomb and the father’s destruction of it precipitates a border war between the families. Their blend of satanic clandestine cruelty and childlike lyric curiosity is very unsettling, putting into question as it does the fundamental innocence of children. And yet their parody of loss is their way of purging their anguish and fear regarding the war. Alternately parodic, ridiculous, and lyric and sensual, the film is thematically structured as well by the guitar music of Narciso Yepes, Spanish composer and musician who died in 1997. In another subplot, Francis returns as a deserter from the French army retreating in disarray and falls in love in Romeo and Juliet fashion with Berthe Dollé. Thus Paulette et Michel become the sosie couple, spying on Francis and Berthe at least twice, catching them in the act. Children on film as voyeur spectators of adults is a primary thematic of this subgenre. Michel’s confession to the police of his desecration of the Gouard grave calms the conflict between the families, but doesn’t save Paulette, who is taken away by the police to her ironic salvation at the Red Cross, her last and permanent cross in the film, where she is given a badge by the nun and runs off into the crowd, in good Italian neorealist fashion, crying “Michel, Michel” into thin air, restored to her authentic environment, which is now utterly alien, as her vanishing cry turns to “Maman, maman.”
- Reviewed by Rebecca Pauly, French Language Film Review Co-Editor

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L’Ange de Goudron (Tar Angel) (2001)
Director and Writer: Denis Chouinard
Run time: 110 minutes
Language: French
Country: Canada
Rating: NR
Awards: Best Canadian Film 2001 Montreal World Film Festival; Prize of the Ecumenical Jury 2002 Berlin International Film Festival

Ahmed escapes from Algeria when war breaks out there and takes his family to Canada. After working for three years at a hard and unsatisfying job as a roofer, he and the members of his family are about to receive Canadian citizenship. But Ahmed then learns that his son has been involved in illegal activities and is on the verge of committing a serious crime against the state. He fears that his cherished dream of a better life for his family is on the verge of destruction.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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Man on Wire, 2008
Director: James Marsh
Writer: Philippe Petit
Run time: 94 minutes
Language: English (with subtitles in French)
Country: UK
Availability: amazon.com

Man on WireFrenchman Philippe Petit is an extremely daring tightrope walker. This documentary focuses on his most dangerous feat: walking his tightrope between the New York City’s World Trade Center’s twin towers in 1974. We follow the preparations leading up to this illegal adventure, view the feat itself (he crosses over twice), and listen to post-feat interviews. The film is based on Petit’s book, To Reach the Clouds, his first book in English.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor



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La cérémonie, 1995
Run time: 112 minutes
Director: Claude Chabrol
Writer: Based on the novel by Ruth Rendell
Country: Canada
Language: French
Cast: Isabelle Huppert (Jeanne), Sandrine Bonnaire (Sophie), Jean-Pierre Cassel (George Lelievre), and Jacqueline Bisset (Catherine Lelievre
)

Le ceremonieSophie, a quiet and reserved young woman, obtains a position as a maid for an upper-class family in Brittany. She becomes friends with Jeanne, an outspoken individual, who works at the local post office. Sophie and Jeanne stoke each other’s feelings of jealousy and resentment against the bourgeois in general and Sophie’s employers, George and Catherine Lelievre, in particular. The consequences of their unhealthy association are dramatic. This is a disturbing film.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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Zéro de conduite : Jeunes diables au collège (Zero for Conduct), 1933

Director: Jean Vigo
Run time: 41 minutes
Language: French
Available from netflix.com and amazon.com

Zero de conduiteLe modèle de tous les autres films d’adolescence au pensionnat. Jean Vigo fils d’anarchistes et malade de tuberculose d’un jeune âge, a tourné moins de trois heures de film en tout, Zéro en 1933 et Atalante l’année après, avant de mourir tragiquement à 29 ans. Ce film des premiers jours du cinéma sonore emploie les techniques des intertitres nécessaires au cinéma muet, quoiqu’il y ait dans ce film un peu de dialogue. Les enfants qui partent en pensionnat se moquent éperdument de l’expérience, ridiculisant et parodiant les adultes dans le train et puis les figures d’autorité à l’école. Ils volent; ils se battent, ils font des conneries innombrables. Deux ou trois séquences en particulier accentuent le climat de révolte du film: le maître du dortoir finit lié au lit, mais en vertical, comme une espèce de crucifixion; puis la bataille des oreillers où il neige des plumes, puis la figure absurde du nain ministre d’éducation, toutes mettent en scène le cinéma comme théâtre, comme mélodramme de vaudeville, en même temps qu’elles offrent des images parfaitement surréalistes, esthétique et éthique dominantes des années trente à Paris. A la fin du film, les étudiants montent un assaut du toit de l’école, assaut de pleine révolte sinon de révolution, au plein milieu des cérémonies officielles remplies de gens importants en visite, scène devenue classique qui sera reprise en hommage par Lindsay Anderson dans son film de 1968 (année révolutionnaire) de la révolte dans un pensionnat anglais, au titre If, film qui a gagné la Palme d’Or à Cannes.
- Recommended by Rebecca Pauly

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Le Papillon (The Butterfly), 2002

Director: Philippe Muyl

Run Time: 85 minutes

Language: French

Cast: Michel Serrault, Claire Bouanich, Nade Dieu

Available from netflix.com and amazon.com

 

Le PapillonThis is a charming story of  Elsa, a sad little girl, and Julien, a sad older man, who meet and bring happiness into each other’s lives. The mother of the girl is young and unmarried, struggling to make a living and therefore forced to neglect her daughter. Julien is a widower who has shut himself off from the rest of the world and who spends most of his time with his butterflies. He and Elsa bond and daringly take off together on a hunt for a rare butterfly in the Alps.

- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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Le Scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), 2007

Director: Julian Schnabel

Run Time: 112 minutes

Language: French

Cast: Max von Sydow, Isaach De Bankolé

Available from netflix.com and amazon.com

Le ScaphandreThis moving film is based on the memoir of Elle France editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffered a stroke at the age of 43. The stroke left him completely paralyzed except for his left eye. He used this eye to blink out his memoir in which he describes his feelings of being trapped (as in a diving bell) and his ability to soar with his imagination (like a butterfly)

- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor.

 

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Yves Saint Laurent : 5 avenue Marceau 75116 Paris (Yves St. Laurent: His Life and Times), 2002

Director: David Teboul

Run Time: 77 minutes

Language: French

Documentary

Available from netflix.com and amazon.com

 

YSLThis film documents the rise of the great fashion designer,Yves St. Laurent. It is the fascinating account of a young genius who begins to work with Christian Dior and very soon becomes Dior’s heir. The tremendous impact of St. Laurent both on fashion and on the lives of women is explained and emphasized.

- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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Paris Je T’aime, 2006
Run Time: 111 minutes
Language: French
Actors: Juliette Binoche, Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Elijah Wood, Nataie Portman, Gerard Depardieu, Willem Dafoe and Nick Nolte

Paris Je T’Aime is an anthology of short films that provide viewers with a rich introduction to the City of Lights by poetic depictions of 18 of the city’s 20 arrondissements. The project proved extremely popular throughout Europe, earned high marks from critics, and is available on DVD in the US. The short films are as varied as their renowned directors who include the Coen Brothers, Wes Craven, Gus Van Sant, and Alexander Payne. They explore common human interactions, stories of love and loss, expose fantasy worlds of mimes and vampires, and provide poignant social commentary. In the process they communicate something uniquely profound about the individual districts and fundamental about the city as a whole. The diverse narratives, delicately threaded together, inspire viewers to understand the city beyond its principle monuments and appreciate it for its principle eccentricities. The five-minute format makes the short films great for the classroom setting and a balanced use of French and English throughout makes them as approachable for beginners as for the advanced. Opt for the Two-Disc Limited Collector’s Edition, with an essential collection of behind-the-scenes footage and background for each of the 18 arrondissements covered. When carefully paired with the Collector’s Edition extras, these 18 short films promise to greatly enhance and enliven textbook discussion of the Parisian districts.
-Recommended by Ben Redmond, Former Culture Club Assistant Editor

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La Vie en Rose (La Mome), 2007
Director : Olivier Dahan
Run Time : 140 minutes
Language : French/English

This lengthy biopic follows the life of legendary French chanteuse Edith Piaf, from her childhood spent in the circus, a brothel, and on the streets of Paris, to her struggles to perform in her later years while battling drug and alcohol addiction. Piaf’s complex character is played astoundingly well by Marion Clotillard, who seems to master both the joy and grief of Piaf’s life, sometimes simultaneously. She convincingly portrays the singer as both a hopeful youth and a prematurely aged woman. The storyline jumps constantly from one stage of the singer’s life to another, from childhood to the height of her fame, to her deathbed, and back; the structure mirrors Piaf’s short but tumultuous life, and suggests that the only consistency is a great emotional intensity. I’m not usually a big fan of sad movies, especially when I already know the sad ending (Titanic comes to mind), but La Vie en Rose is much more than a simple retelling of the facts Edith Piaf’s life.
- Recommended by Abbe Spokane, Culture Club Assistant Editor

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Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places), 2006
Director: Alain Resnais
Run Time: 123 minutes
Language: French
French/Italian co-production

coeurs

Coeurs offers an interesting cast of characters who live in their own lonely worlds and who try to break down the walls that separate them from others. Some of them are on the verge of succeeding in forming satisfying relationships but all in the end fail. Laura Morante plays Nicole who is trying to find an apartment for herself and her fiancé Dan (played by Lambert Wilson) but none of the apartments shown to her by Thierry, the real estate man (Andre Dussollier), are suitable (due more to their inherent incompatibility than the apartments themselves). Thierry is attracted to his secretary Charlotte (Sabine Azema) but they have enormous difficulty in understanding each other. Charlotte accepts a job caring for an irritable old man who is the father of Lionel, a bartender in the hotel where Nicole’s fiancée decides to live temporarily (played by Pierre Arditi). Thierry’s attractive but lonely sister Gaelle (Isabelle Carre) falls in love with Dan and meets him in the bar where Lionel works. Although a rather sad film about sad people, it has its humorous moments and all of the characters play their roles well. It is a film worth seeing.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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La double vie de Véronique, 1991
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Cast: Irène Jacob, Wladyslaw Kowalski, and Philippe Volter
Run Time: 1h 38 min
Language: French

See Review in French below

double_vie_veronique

Do you like puzzles? Then play sudoku. But if you prefer metaphysical riddles – watch La double vie de Véronique. This beautifully made film will take you on a wicked existential journey, which you are not likely soon to forget.

The premise of the film is a bizarre, but intriguing idea that we all have doubles, living somewhere in the world. Although we may be in different geographic locations, we are connected spiritually to one another and, thus, have similar dreams and experiences in life.

The film starts with a story of a young Polish singer Weronika and then shifts its focus to the French Véronique, a young music teacher, living in Paris. We learn about their connection while Véronique follows a trail of clues left by an inconnu, learning about herself and her double in the process.

La double vie de Véronique is, in fact, a bizarre scavenger hunt created by Krzysztof Kieslowski for the audience. Enchanted by this beautiful story, we follow a trail of symbols, colors, and sounds to figure out Kieslowski's enigma. We follow Weronika and Véronique through green corridors, grey cemeteries, listening for deafening ambulance sirens and soft clinging of china. Kieslowski intentionally puts us through such intense cinematographic experience - so we may come in full sensual contact with the bewilderment and spiritual search of both young women.

La double vie de Véronique also creates a captivating example of meta cinema. Alexandre, the puppet maker and writer, tries to manipulate Véronique into following his clues and, ultimately, meeting him in a cafe near Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris. Kieslowski does the same with his audience, as well as actors, pulling strings and making each of us play part in a mind game called "La double vie de Véronique".

Irène Jacob won the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991 and the film was recognized as the Best Foreign Film of 1991 at many prestigious international film festivals.

Although La double vie de Véronique represents a rich cinematographic experience, it is not appropriate for middle and high school, as it contains nudity and scenes of sexual nature.
- Recommended by Tanya Cooper, French Language Film Review Editor

FRENCH

La double vie de Véronique, 1991
Réalisateur: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Avec: Irène Jacob, Wladyslaw Kowalski, and Philippe Volter
Durée: 1h 38 min
Langue : Français

Vous aimez des casse-têtes? Jouez le sudoku. Mais si vous préférez les casse-têtes métaphysiques – regardez "La Double Vie de Véronique". Ce beau film vous apportera en voyage existentiel et bouleversant, que vous n’oublierez pas tôt. Au centre du film est une idée bizarre et fascinante que nous tous avons un double dans ce monde. Bien que nous puissions être aux endroits géographiques différents, nous nous sommes liés par l’esprit et, par conséquent, nous avons des rêves et expériences similaires dans la vie.

Le film commence avec l’histoire de Weronika, une jeune choriste polonaise, puis il met au point sa double – Véronique, une jeune institutrice de musique à Paris. On découvre leur lien pendant que Véronique suive des indices laissés par un inconnu et, en ce faisant, elle prend conscience de soi et sa double.

« La Double Vie de Véronique » est, en effet, une chasse au trésor que Krzysztof Kieslowski a crée pour l’audience. Captivé par cette histoire énigmatique, on suit la trace des symboles, des couleurs, et des sons afin de comprendre le jeu obscur de Kieslowski. On suit Weronika et Véronique à travers de corridors verts, de cimetières gris, en tendant l’oreille pour les sirènes assourdissantes de l’ambulance et pour les cliquetis doux de porcelaine. Kieslowski nous offre délibérément une telle expérience forte pour que nous puissions entrer en contact sensuel avec la perplexité et les recherches spirituels de deux jeunes femmes. « La Double Vie de Véronique » crée également un exemple fascinant de méta cinéma. Alexandre, le marionnettiste, essaie de manipuler Véronique à suivre ses indices et, finalement, à le rencontrer dans un café prés de Gare Saint-Lazare à Paris. Kieslowski fait la même chose avec les spectateurs, ainsi qu’avec ses acteurs, tirant les ficelles et nous faisant jouer une partie dans son jeu mental, dont le nom est "La Double Vie de Véronique." Irène Jacob a reçu le Prix d’interprétation féminine en Cannes et le film a été reconnu comme le meilleur film étranger du 1991 par plusieurs festivals internationaux du cinéma.

Bien que « La Double Vie de Véronique » soit un film excellent, il est impropre pour les élèves de collège et de lycée, comme il contient des scènes de nudité et des relations sexuelles.

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Rois Et Reine, 2004
Director: Arnaud Desplechin
Cast: Emmanuelle Devos, Mathieu Amalric, Catherine Deneuve
Run Time: 150 minutes
France

See English review below

Dans le film Rois et Reine, Nora (Emmanuelle Devos), femme réussie et indépendante, passe plusieurs jours pénibles à regarder son père mourir de cancer. Pendant qu’elle essaie désespérément d’alléger la souffrance de son père dans ses derniers jours, on découvre qu’ils partagent un secret noir…Parallèle à l’histoire de Nora est celle de son ancien amant, Ismaël (Mathieu Amalric), enfermé par erreur dans un asile d’aliénés d’où il désire s’évader. Sa conduite erratique et exagérée compense pour la douleur noire qu’a Nora pour son père. Les pensées d’Ismaël sur la différence entre les hommes et les femmes vous feront rire sûrement et sa façon de vivre excentrique est presque charmante. Cependant, Ismaël en plus d’être comique manifeste une personnalité compliquée. C’est un soi-disant "roi", un musicien professionnel, un drogué, et un père dévoué envers le fils de Nora âgé de 10 ans.

Les histoires de Nora et d’Ismaël créent deux "films de genre" qui forment une œuvre de cinéma riche en références mythologiques, en personnages vivides et bien développés, avec un complot engageant. Le film dure près de deux heures et demie, mais cette longue exploration des personnages par Desplechin est essentielle pour démontrer leurs tragédies personnelles.

Emmanuelle Devos est formidable en tant que Nora stable mais vulnérable. Elle se trouve entourée d’hommes et en profite quand elle peut. Son personnage est important pour le film comme symbole de culpabilité. Pourtant elle porte cette culpabilité pendant toute sa vie sans en souffrir les conséquences. Elle est coupable, mais sans remord. Sa relation compliquée avec son entourage illustre comment les apparences n’ont rien à faire avec ce que l’on supporte à l’intérieur de soi. Mathieu Amalric, brillant dans le rôle d’Ismaël, a bien mérité son César de meilleur acteur pour ce rôle en 2005.

Rois et Reine a reçu sept nominations pour les Césars, y compris Meilleur Film, Meilleur Directeur, et Meilleure Actrice.
(Traduit par Marcel LaVergne)

English

Rois et Reine is a tale about Nora (Emmanuelle Devos), a successful independent woman, who spends several agonizing days watching her father die from cancer. While Nora is desperately trying to make her father’s last moments less painful, we discover that they share a dark secret… Parallel to Nora’s is a story of her ex-lover, Ismaël (Mathieu Amalric), who is mistakenly confined to a mental asylum that he longs to escape. His erratic, over-the-top behavior offsets the dark overtones of Nora’s grief for her father. Ismaël’s musings on the difference between men and women will surely make you laugh and his eccentric way of living is almost charming. However, Ismaël is not just comic relief in Rois et Reine, his personality is a complicated composite. He is a self-proclaimed "roi," a professional musician, a drug addict, and a devoted father to Nora’s ten year-old son.

Nora and Ismaël’s stories create two "films de genre" that blend into a piece of cinema rich in mythological references, well-developed, vivid characters, and an engaging plot. The film is long, about two and a half hours, but Desplechin's meticulous exploration of his characters is essential to demonstrate their personal tragedies.

Emmanuelle Devos is great as a stable, yet vulnerable Nora. She is surrounded by men and takes advantage of them whenever she can. Nora’s character is important in this film as a symbol of guilt. Yet she carries this guilt throughout her life without letting it affect her. She is guilty, but she feels no remorse. Nora’s complicated relationship with her environment demonstrates how our appearances have nothing to do with what we bear inside. Mathieu Amalric is brilliant as Ismaël. He deservedly won the César Award for Best Actor for this role in 2005.
Rois et Reine was also nominated for 7 César Awards, including for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actress.
- Recommended by Tanya Cooper, French Language Film Review Editor

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La Vie de Chatêau, 2004
Director: Jean-Paul Rappeneau
Run time: 90 minutes

The Nazis are invading France during World War II. Beautiful Marie (Catherine Deneuve) lives in the French countryside with her husband Jerome (Philippe Noiret). She meets Julien (Henri Garcin), a French Resistance leader, and falls in love. The situation has potentially serious consequences.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni

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8 Femmes (Eight Women), 2003
Director: François Ozon
Run time: 111 minutes

Though quite quirky and probably not for everyone (read: serious film critics), this movie is perfect light viewing for a summer evening. French cinema icons Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Virginie Ledoyen, Fanny Ardant, Emmanuelle Beart, Isabelle Huppert, Ludivine Sagnier, and Firmine Richard all play women entagled in a juicy murder mystery. Full of great colorful costuming, witty writing, fights, secrets, sex, comedy, and campy renditions of French pop songs from the 60’s, 8 Femmes is like fluffy "beach reading" for your home theater.
- Recommended by Abbe Spokane

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Amélie (Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amélie Poulain), 2001
Director : Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Run time : 122 minutes.

Amelie had a record run in theaters in France, and is one of the most popular foreign films in America. If you haven't seen it yet, go to any movie rental store and get the VHS or DVD version, some mulled wine, a pint of raspberries and a comfy chair. With a nostalgic feel, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet tells the story of Amélie (Audrey Tatou), a charming young woman living in Paris, whose life is filled with coincidences. After discovering a box hidden in her apartment by a little boy in the 1940's, Amélie decides she is going to make people's lives a little happier by intervening in her subtle, mysterious ways. The story is engaging and imaginative, and if you're missing the City of Lights, this movie features great scenes from the city, especially of Montmartre and the Métro. Veteran musician Yann Tiersen perfectly captures the feel of the movie with an addictive soundtrack--it's available at most record stores, and is perfect upbeat but relaxing background music for dinner, reading, or cleaning the bathroom.
- Recommended by Abbe Spokane

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Belle Epoque, 1992
Director: Fernando Trueba
Run time: 109 minutes.

This film is lots of fun. It takes place during the Civil War in Spain in 1931. Fernando, a handsome young man, decides to leave the army and roams around the beautiful Spanish countryside. He meets an elderly painter named Manolo and they become friends. Manolo invites the deserter to stay at his house and Fernando finds, to his delight, that Manolo has four beautiful daughters who compete for his attention. Fernando Trueba is the director and producer of this film that won an Oscar for Best Foreign film in 1992.
- Recommended by Christine Meloni

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Est-Ouest, 1999
Director: Regis Wargnier
Run time: 121 minutes.

This film is set in June of 1946. Stalin issued an invitation to Russian émigrés around the world to return home. But it was a trap. When a ship from France arrived in Odessa, everyone was killed or thrown into prison except a Russian physician and his family who are sent to Kiev. His wife is French, and she wants to return to France immediately. But her passport is destroyed and she knows their family is under surveillance. The family's attempt to escape this nightmare keeps you in a state of tension until the dramatic ending.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni

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L’Americain (The American), 2004
Director: Patrick Timsit
Run Time: 94 min.

In this comedy, a Frenchman, Francis Farge, desperately wants to be an American. Actually, he believes that he is American and it just has not been officially recognized yet. With the help of a lawyer, Eddy, he attempts to get an American passport. He shows his patriotism by painting his car red, white and blue, eating hamburgers and erecting an American flag on his front lawn. He also tries to make his neighborhood the 51 st US state. The movie was made for French audiences but Americans will still find it humorous to see to what lengths Francis will go to be accepted as an American. While silly and cartoonish, l’Americain is certainly entertaining.
- Recommended by Susan Cuff

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La Haine (Hate), 1995
Director: Matthieu Kassovitz
Run time: 96 minutes.

This movie captures the reality of the deteriorating situation of residents of poor, immigrant, suburban communities in Paris through the lives of three young men. They are: Vinz, a Jew bursting with pent-up anger; Saïd, a talkative Arab; and Hubert, a well-built black man who dreams of becoming a professional boxer. The movie, filmed in black and white documentary style, follows these three as they struggle with police, racial tension and their own inability to fit into the city life of Paris.
- Recommended by Eva Keatley

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Le Huitième Jour (The Eighth Day), 1996
Director: Jaco van Dormael
Run time: 118 minutes.

Actors Daniel Auteuil (Harry) and Pascal Duquenne (Georges) shared the Best Actor award at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival for their roles in this brilliant movie directed by Jaco van Dormael. Harry, a frustrated, depressed, and lonely businessman is about to divorce his wife and has been neglecting his children. By a twist of fate, he meets Georges, a friendly young man with Down’s Syndrome who is trying to return home to his mother. The two men have much to learn from each other, and their adventures are portrayed beautifully and often humorously. Even if you don’t speak French, this movie is so visually captivating that you’ll understand the story and its characters regardless. This movie is perfect for relaxed Sunday-afternoon viewing, and is appropriate for anyone. Some Blockbuster stores carry the video, as well as many academic libraries.
- Recommended by Abbe Spokane

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Les Choristes (The Choir Singers), 2004
Director: Christophe Barratier
Run time: 96 minutes.

An accomplished orchestra conductor thinks back to his boyhood, the boarding school he attended, and a teacher who had a deep impact on his life. The entire movie is a flashback to the 1940’s when Clément Mathieu (Gérard Jugnot), a new teacher, begins a choir with young students at a boarding school. He practices with them clandestinely after the headmaster stops their practices. But despite obstacles, Mathieu forms the boys into an accomplished choir while touching the lives of the young boys involved. The film is a mixture of nostalgia and humor. When the director hears that a troublemaker has been kicked out of the school, he sighs, "He was my only baritone." Les Choristes is well worth watching, even if only to listen to the beautiful soundtrack. A viewer will walk away from Les Choristes well satisfied.
- Recommended by Susan Cuff

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Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise), 1945
Director: Marcel Carné
Run Time: 183 minutes

Starring: Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, Pierre Brasseur, Pierre Renoir, Maria Casarès, Gaston Modot.
Set amidst the glittering theatre world of 19th century Paris, the story follows four very different men - a pantomime artist, an actor, a duke and a criminal - who have one thing in common: their love for Garance, a beautiful and free-spirited actress. These men, (three of whom are based on historical figures), all love her in their different ways, but Garance - a worldly sophisticate - leaves them each when her freedom is threatened by their attempts to possess her. This is a spectacular love story by poet Jacques Prévert, full of passion, comedy, tragedy, and truly deserving of the label, classic.
- Recommended by Cathy Keatley

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Ma Femme est une Actrice (My Wife is an Actress), 2001
Director: Yvan Attal
Run Time: 95 mins.

In this light romantic comedy, real-life husband and wife Yvan Atall and Charlotte Gainsbourg play a couple whose marriage is in crisis. Yvan is a humble sportswriter who has wooed and married Charlotte, an enormously famous actress and international celebrity. When Charlotte travels to London to shoot a movie with her charming, suave co-star John, rumors run wild about an off-screen affair. This is your basic date movie and does not really get into the more complex issues involved in marrying a celebrity. In my mind, this makes it perfect Friday-night entertainment; enjoyable, but not too much brain power required. The best part is that the movie was a hit (as far as foreign language films are concerned) in the US and is available at most video rental stores as well as for purchase.
- Recommended by Abbe Spokane

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Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran (Mr. Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran), 2003
Director: François Dupeyron
Run time: 95 minutes.

This is a beautiful film that tells of the relationship that slowly develops between a lonely Turkish shopkeeper (played masterfully by Omar Sherif) and a lonely young boy in a district of Paris. Directed by François Dupeyron, this film shows the gradual maturing of Jewish Momo who has lost his parents and
gradually becomes the spiritual son of his Muslim neighbor. Scenes alternate between humorous and sad. The neighborhood prostitutes are amusing and kind. The solitude of the two main characters is initially heartbreaking. The photography is exceptional.
-Recommended by Christine Meloni

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Tanguy, 2001
Director: Étienne Chatiliez
Run time: 109 mins.

The "prolonged adolescence" is a well-known phenomenon in France; adult children remaining in their parents’ homes after graduating university, and long after most American families would tolerate. Such is the case with Tanguy. He’s 28 years old, brilliant, charming, social, and (finally) about to finish his doctoral thesis. He also trashes the house, leaves his dirty clothes everywhere, steals the best wine for dinner with friends, and brings home a long string of young women for sleep-overs. It appears that Tanguy’s mother, Edith, will be able to recover from a nervous breakdown over her son’s household habits when she learns that he’ll be leaving for China after finishing his thesis. Just as his mother gets used to telling Tanguy how much she’ll miss him, he decides to defer his thesis just one more year. At this point, the film becomes a hilarious comedy as Tanguy and his parents wage a silent battle over his place in the family home. Anyone with children (or parents, for that matter) will find the inner workings of Tanguy’s family wildly entertaining.
-Recommended by Abbe Spokane

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Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles (A Very Long Engagement), 2004
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Run time: 134 minutes

This film is based on the book by Sebastien Japrisot. Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Audrey Tatou, director and star of the feel-good favorite Amélie, have teamed up again to tell the story of Mathilde, whose fiancé, Manech, disappeared from the front in World War I. It appears that Manech and four other French soldiers were tied up and sent to "no man’s land" and left to the Germans. Mathilde refuses to believe Manech is dead and embarks on a quest to unravel the mysteries surrounding the deaths of Manech and his fellow soldiers. The contrasts between the war trenches and idyllic 1920’s Paris and between romance and combat make for an intricately engaging plot and cinematography. The movie has a great site with photos, history, and music at http://wwws.warnerbros.fr/movies/unlongdimanche
- Recommended by Abbe Spokane

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L'Auberge Espagnole, 2002
Director: Cédric Klapisch
Run time: 122 mins
Xavier is a French business student who decides to study in Spain as part of an "Erasmus" program. He is sad to leave his girlfriend (played by Audrey Tautou of Amelie) but they both promise to keep in touch and visit. When he arrives in Barcelona he knows very little Spanish and relies on the hospitality of a French married couple that he meets in the airport. He eventually finds an apartment and lives with six other students from Italy, England, Denmark, Belgium, Germany and Spain. The film while in French, also mixes in Spanish and English. L'Auberge Espanol is a comedic slice of an exchange student's life abroad. An excellent movie that shows why learning a foreign language is so important.
-Recommended by Susan Cuff

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Le Colonel Chabert, 1994
Run time: 111 mins
Le Colonel Chabert is an adaptation of Honor de Balzac's classic of the same name. The story centers on Colonel Chabert (played by ubiquitous but talented actor Gérard Depardieu), one of Napoleon's trusted commanders known as a hero at the battle of Eylau. Chabert, presumed dead for over 10 years, returns to claim his rightful place in society. The problem is that a lot has changed while he's been gone: Paris is now dominated by a small group of corrupt and power-hungry aristocrats. His wife, aware her husband could still be alive, has cashed in on his fortune and worked her way into the aristocracy. Chabert now faces the daunting task of getting his death annulled to reclaim his honor and property in a society that wants to keep him a distant memory.
-Recommended by Kwame Kuadey

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