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The 100 best French films: 10-2

Our definitive countdown of the finest French films – as chosen by industry experts

10

La Belle et la Bête (1946)

Director: Jean Cocteau

Cocteau's fairytale set standards in fantasy which few other film-makers have reached. Despite the Vermeer-like compositions, he has some trouble capturing the right tone for the 'realistic' scenes...

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9

The 400 Blows (1959)

Director: François Truffaut

Write about what you know, they say. So in 1959 François Truffaut, neglected son, passionate reader, delinquent student and cinephile, wrote and filmed one of the first glistening droplets of the French New Wave...

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8

L'Atalante (1934)

Director: Jean Vigo

Some filmmakers have a lifetime in which to develop their art, to explore their themes, to express their world view. Others do it in a single film. 1934’s ‘L’Atalante’ is the single feature from the then 29-year-old French master Jean Vigo and was made as its director died of TB...

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7

Contempt (1963)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

If Godard could be reduced to a single genius idea — essential to his filmmaking if obviously not the whole story — it might go something like this: To love cinema is to love life. He is the original movie geek, swaddling his films in adoring reference, and embracing, pushing, reveling in the plasticity of pop...

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6

Playtime (1967)

Director: Jacques Tati

Tati's Hulot on the loose in a surreal, scarcely recognisable Paris, tangling intermittently with a troop of nice American matrons on a 24-hour trip. Not so much a saga of the individual against an increasingly dehumanised decor, it's more a semi-celebratory symphony to Tati's sensational city-set...

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5

Eyes Without a Face (1959)

Director: Georges Franju

An incredible amalgam of horror and fairytale in which scalpels thud into quivering flesh and the tremulous heroine (Scob) remains a prisoner of solitude in a waxen mask of eerie, frozen beauty. Having crashed the car which destroyed her face, her doctor father (Brasseur) feverishly experiments with skin grafts...

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4

Pierrot le fou (1965)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Jean-Paul Belmondo mooches up to Samuel Fuller at a cocktail party and, naturally, asks him his thoughts on cinema. Fuller replies: ‘Film is like a battleground. Love. Hate. Action. Violence. Death. In one word: Emotions.’ His succinct and, let’s be honest, utterly hip rejoinder...

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3

Les Enfants du Paradis (1943)

Director: Marcel Carné

In Marcel Carné’s rich, literary romance from 1945 ('France's answer to "Gone with the Wind'!"), four men tussle for the affections of one woman, the conflicted, sphinx-like Garence (Carné regular Arletty), an ice maiden in the league of Marlene Dietrich...

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2

The Mother and the Whore (1973)

Director: Jean Eustache

Three-and-a-half hours of people talking about sex sounds like a recipe for boredom; in Eustache's hands, it is anything but. There is no 'explicitness': the film is about attitudes to, and defences against, sex and the body...

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No. 1

Comments

1 comments
James Knox
James Knox

i haven't seen almost all of these