To categorise an entire country’s cinematic output in a single article is a seemingly impossible task, and one that will likely leave a cavalcade of audiences wondering where their favourite releases are located.

This feature however is designed as a tool to guide and inform viewers who perhaps aren’t as well-versed in the incredible range of motion pictures available worldwide, and to point them in the right direction so they can experience some truly remarkable content; to find a hidden gem.

The country that opened one’s eyes to the unfathomable range, beauty and quality of cinema was our geographically-near cousins France; the filmic culture thrives in amongst the quaint Parisian apartments, the swelling cigarette smoke and the existential conversations shared. Cinema’s rich history really began in France; revolutionary auteurs such as Georges Méliès, the Lumière Brothers and Luis Buñuel paved the way for the plethora of talent which we see showcased to this day. It is a magnificent sphere that has spawned some of the finest directors, performances and pictures of all time. Trying to whittle down just five was beyond a copious task, but we believe these movies highlight the gravitas and importance of French filmmaking.

The 400 Blows

The 400 Blows (1959)

Few directors have impacted on cinema the way François Truffaut did. Serving as a critic in the prestigious Cahiers du Cinéma, he, Jean-Luc Goddard and André Bazin stood at the forefront of the revelatory movement which would later become known as the ‘French New Wave’. Many claim that Goddard’s suave À bout de soufflé (Breathless) is the quintessential film of the era, but audiences hadn’t seen anything quite like The 400 Blows. Gangsters are all over cinema’s past; much of the 30s and 40s thrived upon their presence in Film Noir and many other genres. Portraits of youth crime, corrupt society and parental neglect was an entirely different animal. Like all film movements, the Wave was about rebellion; a means to expose and shock, thrill and captivate. An expression of artistry and integrity in a world recovering from war. Audiences needed films like The 400 Blows, they needed directors like Truffaut. When a large percentage of your filmic viewership has experienced such horrors, reality serves ever-present even in fantasy.

This is a beautiful picture; one wholly rendered by emotion, authenticity and respect. Studies of tarnished youth became the foundations of the ‘Kitchen Sink’ drama in the UK with titles like Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Kes, but fewer representations were ever as delicately formed and idealistically presented as the film in question. Burrowed in the dwelling sadness, the angst and desperation lies glimmers of hope; a beacon for the future. A means of building upwards from what was crumbled down years ago. The 400 Blows serves as a documentation of what it means to be young and impressionable, but also what the world does to get by; the previous generation attempts to inform the next about the mistakes once made.