10 Classic French Movies

Wednesday, January 26 by Clara Havens

This article spotlights 10 classic French movies that must be seen by any true film lover. Some of these movies have been around for some time, while others are relatively recent. Add these films to your list of must-see classic French movies.

  1. "La Belle et La Bete." (Beauty and the Beast) Oldie, 1946 to be exact, but still noted for its mysterious, dreamlike style. French director Jean Cocteau made this romantic fantasy film based on the classic fairy tale. Belle meets up with the Beast and is undermined by her evil sisters who don't want her back home. Belle escapes the Beast and he almost dies from a broken heart before turning into Prince Charming.
  2. "Jean de Florette." 1986. Based on a story by famous French writer Marcel Pagnol, this is a tale of some farmers who scheme to find a water source for their carnation crop. The background is Provence and the actors are Gerard Depardieu and Yves Montand. This film was followed by a sequel: "Manon des Sources."
  3. "Children of Paradise" (Enfants du Paradis). This film was made in France in 1945 during the Nazi occupation. The setting is Paris in the 1920's. It concerns a prostitute and the four men who love her, one of whom is a famous mime. "Paradise" is the balcony, or the cheap seats where the poor people sit in the theatre.
  4. "Grand Illusion." 1937 anti-war film which portrays war as a futile exercise. WWI European soldiers realize that they have more in common with each other than they knew. Directed by Jean Renoir, son of the famous artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
  5. "Les Diaboliques." 1955 suspense, horror thriller starring Simone Signoret as a woman who plots, along with her husband's mistress, to murder him. This flick has inspired knockoffs, including the remake starring Sharon Stone.
  6. "The Last Metro." (Le Dernier Metro). A 1980 Francois Truffaut film starring Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu. The setting is Nazi-occupied Paris. The actors in a Paris theatre must get home by the curfew imposed by the Nazis (hence, the "last subway" of the title). An actress is concealing her Jewish husband in the basement of the theatre.
  7. "Jules et Jim." Francois Truffaut film, 1962, set in the early 1900's. The story revolves around a love triangle gone bad. Jeanne Moreau is the "femme fatale" in this flick. Oskar Werner also stars in the film.
  8. "The 400 Blows" (Les Quatre Cents Coups). 1959 Truffaut film in the French New Wave style, which is dreamlike with jump cuts, scenes that are out of sequence, and voiceovers. A young French boy battles a tough life at home and at school.
  9. "Shoot the Piano Player." 1960 Truffaut film starring Charles Aznavour as a piano player in a Parisian dive bar. He gets involved with gangsters and trouble ensues.
  10. "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg). 1964 musical, romantic love story in which the dialogue is completely sung. The memorable music was composed by Michel Legrand. The story is set in a small French town during the Algerian conflict. This is a three-hanky film that tugs at the heartstrings.
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