With the forthcoming release of director Thomas Cailley’s French romantic comedy Les Combattants there appears to be an abundance of French films which get pushed to the side to make way for classic Hollywood representations of love.
Army wannabes Adele and Arnaud release they would rather escape together and follow their feelings, than follow relentless orders issued by their sergeant. Already an atypical romcom, Les Combattants is a fun romance with a great message: that there are some French films that truly stand out when it comes to the cinematic evocation of powerful, emotion love.
How can anyone talk about French films and not mention Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s beautiful Amelie? Audrey Tautou lends her talents to Juenet’s film as an innocent and naïve girl in Paris, a city in whosesurroundings she is destined to find companionship. The film shines when it takes us on a glorious joy ride of upbeat situations in a confusing and chaotic world, filling the viewer with warmth.
Some may find the bold choice of breaking the fourth wall and delving into the thoughts of our lead character irritating when trying to follow the narrative. Yet, this choice only enhances this gem, allowing an entirely different cinematic experience. We fall in love with her and her quest and a charmingly written piece, that anyone looking to dip their toes in French cinema should take the time to see.
Silent cinema has its own language with which to show emotion, with pure cinema and some canny editing it is the facial expressions and onscreen prompts which convey so much. Adding dialogue can arguably take away the true emotions on show. Yon only have to experience D. W. Griffiths’ Broken Blossoms to understand how powerfully we can connect with the silent era.
With the success of Hazanavicius’ The Artist, it seems the world hasn’t forgotten how satisfying it can be to watch a film without a word uttered on screen – unless you count Uggie the dog’s barks. With the likes of Jean Dujardin, John Goodman and James Cromwell this magnificent film carries the perfect combination of romance and comedy. Not to mention the amazing dance sequences and slapstick moments to win over the hearts of audiences.
Another award winning film, a very different experience to the previous upbeat silent, is Michael Haneke’s emotionally intuitive Amour. We are introduced to two elderly retired music teachers whose love seems unbreakable. Yet as old age consumes their health, the universe conspires to test their feelings to an unbearable degree.
This is romantic film on an entirely different level; no frills and no flowers, just deep meaningful emotions that at face value seem to be able to tackle anything. Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva make for a very convincing old married couple and bring a tear to your eye. A depressing, yet up-lifting romance that deserved all its awards.
Not what one would consider as a conventional romance albeit, Jean Luc Godards’ seminal A bout de soufflé; Breathless certainly warrants a place on this list. The unique introduction to the French new wave conveys a magic which sweeps you off your feet every time. The story of the classic bad-boy rebel and the well to do woman has been explored throughout literature and film time and time again. And here is works seamlessly in timeless black and white as we see the two form a bizarre, yet unbreakable bond.
An acquired taste, that’s for the sure, but no one can argue when it comes to the doors Godard opened to the wider world of cinema by making this film. A 60’s love story, with a weird and wonderful message at its heart.
In cinema it’s not simply the characters’ motivations, desires or even their clothes and the way they wear their hair which defines them; it’s also their surroundings. Joanne Harris’ novel Chocolat is all about how the location brings two people together.
Director Lasse Hallstrom has put his own flare on this love induced tale which makes for a delightful viewing experience even though the main language spoken is English. With the added bonus of pretty boy Johnny Depp sweeping up Juliette Binoche, this is a sweet little film that shows us how language can bring two people together. After all, they do say that French is the language of love.
Of course, we have only touched on a few of the many films such impeccable and influential French directors have given to us. Les Combattants is another romantic comedy that is sure to have fans swooning in the picture houses.