1 Love It
Save it

The 100 best French films: The list

Time Out's definitive countdown of the best French films – as chosen by industry experts

100

Enter the Void

Director: Gaspar Noé

French-Argentinian filmmaker Gaspar Noé doesn’t do subtlety. He’s experimental in some ways; in others, he has the refinement of Michael Bay. ‘Enter the Void’ is Noé’s third feature and his first since the storm of ‘Irréversible’. It’s a more ambitious, unwieldy project...

Read more
99

That Man From Rio (1964)

Director: Philippe de Broca

A delightfully preposterous thriller (the McGuffin is some stolen Amazonian treasure), wittier than any of the Bond spoofs that subsequently flooded the market and a good deal racier than 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'. Handsomely shot on location in Brazil...

Read more
98

Remorques (1939)

Director: Jean Grémillon

A number of cross-references apply: Reed's ‘The Key’, likewise a melancholy tale of doomed love set against a background of rough seas and salvage vessels; Le Quai des Brumes, the two stars' initial pairing, Gabin here reprising his blend of the tender and the explosive...

Read more
Advertising
97

Le Trou (1960)

Director: Jean Becker

A secular response to Bresson's ‘A Man Escaped’. No question of grace here, simply of grind and grime as four prisoners - joined and eventually betrayed by a fifth - laboriously tunnel their way to a derisory glimpse of freedom. Telling a true story, Becker maintains a low-key approach, courting reality, avoiding music in favour of natural sound...

Read more
96

Un air de famille (1996)

Director: Cédric Klapisch

In a French provincial town, Henri Menard (Bacri) runs the old family restaurant where the clan convenes every Friday night. This Friday, everyone's ego is in for a bruising. A subtle, breezy comedy of manners, Klapisch's follow-up to ‘When the Cat's Away...’ may not have quite the novelty and charm of that work...

Read more
95

Vincent, François, Paul et les autres (1974)

Director: Claude Sautet

An actor’s director, Claude Sautet crafts films with an extraordinary attention to human detail, privileging dialogue and character development over plot turns or technical experimentation. Although unostentatious, Sautet’s camera work is subtly masterful, producing some very memorable images...

Read more
Advertising
94

Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953)

Director: Jacques Tati

Tati's most consistently enjoyable comedy, a gentle portrait of the clumsy, well-meaning Hulot on vacation in a provincial seaside resort. The quiet, delicately observed slapstick here works with far more hits than misses...

Read more
93

Caché (2005)

Director: Michael Haneke

A smart marriage of the thriller genre with a compendium of strong ideas about guilt, racism, recent French history and cinema itself, Michael Haneke’s eighth feature is an unsettling, self-reflective masterpiece. It opens with a lingering, static shot of a bourgeois Parisian home...

Read more
92

Le Feu Follet (1963)

Director: Louis Malle

Arguably the finest of Malle's early films, this is a calmly objective but profoundly compassionate account of the last 24 hours in the life of a suicide. Ronet gives a remarkable, quietly assured performance...

Read more
Advertising
91

The Tenant (1976)

Director: Roman Polanski

With Polanski becoming a naturalised Frenchman, it was logical that he should start tackling specifically French subjects, and this small-scale return to the territory of Repulsion seemed a promising beginning...

Read more
90

Mr. Klein (1976)

Director: Joseph Losey

The action of Losey's film takes place against the Nazi deportation of French Jews - a set of circumstances which the film doesn't so much explore as get lost in...

Read more
89

Sans Soleil (1983)

Director: Chris Marker

Imagine getting letters from a friend in Japan, letters full of images, sounds and ideas. Your friend is an inveterate globe-trotter, and his letters are full of memories of other trips...

Read more
88

The Night is Young (1946)

Director: Leos Carax

In his second feature (following Boy Meets Girl), Carax combines his personal concerns - young love, solitude - with the stylised conventions of the vaguely futuristic romantic thriller. Loner street-punk Alex (Lavant) joins a gang of elderly Parisian hoods...

Read more
Advertising
87

Panique (1946)

Director: Julien Duvivier

‘Panique’ is Julien Duvivier’s most personal and fully realised film. Adapted from a Georges Simenon novel, it more than lives up to its name: an icy nihilistic fable about a solitary eccentric whose strange habits draw increasing suspicion...

Read more
86

Le Plaisir (1952)

Director: Max Ophüls

Ophüls' second French film following his return from the USA was adapted from three stories by Maupassant. Le Masque describes how an old man wears a mask of youth at a dance hall to extend his youthful memories...

Read more
85

La Vie de Jésus (1997)

Director: Bruno Dumont

Making use of locals instead of professional actors lends authenticity to this impressive look at a group of otherwise innocuous teenage lads in a boring northern French town...

Read more
Advertising
84

Les Baisers de secours (1989)

Director: Philippe Garrel 

In Philippe Garrel’s delightfully meta film, a successful director (played by Garrel) offers the lead role in his next project – an autobiographical film – to the celebrated actress Minouchette (Anémone), but his wife Jeanne, also an actress...

Read more
83

Les Vampires (1915)

Director: Louis Feuillade

1915: Slaughter at Gallipoli; first use of gas on the Western Front; Lusitania sunk. And as diversion, this serial saga (in 10 episodes) of a band of robbers whose principals include Satanas, who keeps a howitzer behind the fireplace...

Read more
82

Games of Love and Chance (2004)

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche

At first, Kechiche’s follow-up to the admirable ‘La Faute à Voltaire’ looks set to be a fairly routine account of life in the Maghrebi hood, with 15-year-old Krimo mooning over Lydia while his ex insists to any kid who’ll listen that they haven’t in fact split up...

Read more
Advertising
81

The Unfaithful Wife (1968)

Director: Claude Chabrol

One of Chabrol's mid-period masterpieces, a brilliantly ambivalent scrutiny of bourgeois marriage and murder that juggles compassion and cynicism in a way that makes Hitchcock look obvious...

Read more
80

India Song (1975)

Director: Marguerite Duras

Duras' main protagonist is Anne-Marie Stretter (Seyrig), a bored consular wife in '30s India, and the film details the languorous desperation that drives her to suicide. But the formal approach to this subject is like nothing before in film history...

Read more
79

La Collectionneuse (1967)

Director: Eric Rohmer

The third of Rohmer's six moral tales, and the first of his films to achieve wide recognition. The collector of the title is a delectable nymphet, footloose in St Tropez...

Read more
Advertising
77

The Night Caller (1975)

Director: Henri Verneuil

Belmondo plays super-cop on the tops of Paris buildings and undergound trains, piling stunt on daredevil stunt and risking his neck for a particularly silly story. Like The Eiger Sanction, there's some mileage...

Read more
76

The City of Lost Children (1995)

Director: Marc Caro et Jean-Pierre Jeunet

A child smiles delightedly in his toy-filled room as Santa emerges from the chimney-piece, but joy turns to terror as the bearded visitor is followed by more of the same; cut to a man screaming in a laboratory where, unable to dream himself, he has stolen the nightmare...

Read more
75

Clean Slate (1981)

Director: Bertrand Tavernier

Purists may object to Tavernier's treatment of Jim Thompson's excellent if sordid and sadistic thriller, Pop.1280, but this eccentric, darkly comic look at a series of bizarre murders...

Read more
Advertising
74

Le Doulos (1962)

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

Darker than Bob le Flambeur, Melville's second foray into the Parisian underworld borrows its epigraph from Céline: 'One must choose: die... or lie?' Appropriately, in a film devoted to the principle of duplicity...

Read more
73

L'Age d'or (1930)

Director: Luis Bunuel

'Our sexual desire has to be seen as the product of centuries of repressive and emasculating Catholicism... it is always coloured by the sweet secret sense of sin,' mused Buñuel in his autobiography My Last Breath...

Read more
72

Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1979)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Godard's return to celluloid after a decade of experiment in video is in one sense forced: the sources of finance for his projects were drying up, and he himself admits that the film was made as a passport back into the business. But in another, this is his most personal work in years, less important for its return to narrative...

Read more
Advertising
71

Fill ‘er Up With Super (1976)

Director: Alain Cavalier

Made in 1976, Alain Cavalier’s ‘Fill ‘er Up With Super’ is a well-kept secret among French cinephiles. A road movie set in the south of France, it chronicles – through a series of comic and touching vignettes – the burgeoning friendship among four men...

Read more
70

Du côté d'Orouët (1973)

Director: Jacques Rozier

In September, as their classmates prepare for the school ‘rentrée’, three teenage girls set off for a sea village on the Vendée coast, determined to make the most of their remaining weeks of freedom. There they meet a local man, Gilbert (Bernard Menez in his first role), whom they tease and tantalize mercilessly...

Read more
69

La Piscine (1968)

Director: Jacques Deray

Four characters. A Mediterranean villa. Sun, sex and… suspicion. The ingredients are fairly simple in this welcome reissue for a star-powered psychological thriller which has remained underexposed on these shores...

Read more
68

A Christmas Tale (2008)

Director: Arnaud Desplechin

It may still be Christmas for the troubled Vuillard clan in the northwest French town of Roubaix but it’s not shared seasonal goodwill that’s bringing this extended brood back together in the family home...

Read more
Advertising
67

Loulou (1980)

Director: Maurice Pialat

‘Loulou’ is a challenging, absorbing example of the awkward beauty of the late Maurice Pialat. Superficially, it’s a keenly observed, naturalist, semi-improvised, hand-shot ‘slice-of-life’, set in the post-Women’s Lib Paris of the late 1970s...

Read more
66

La Beauté du diable (1950)

Director: René Clair

In spite/because of what must have seemed impeccable credentials - Clair, the two leads, a screenplay by dramatist Armand Salacrou, and nostalgic, Méliès-inspired sets by Barsacq - this version of the Faust legend is a turgidly literary cocktail...

Read more
65

A Prophet (2009)

Director: Jacques Audiard

Filmmakers love a good prison. No, scrub that, filmmakers adore a bad prison. You can see why. For writers and directors, the volatile jail is a ready-made theatre, its prisoners and guards with their various conflicts...

Read more
Advertising
64

La Chienne (1931)

Director: Jean Renoir

M Legrand, a mild-mannered, middle-aged cashier, uses painting as a means of expression, of escape from his shrewish wife and the tedium of his job. After an accidental encounter with femme fatale Lulu (Marèze)...

Read more
63

Le Goût des autres (1999)

Director: Agnès Jaoui

Castella is an industrialist, married, temporarily inconvenienced by the presence of a bodyguard while a sensitive business deal is ironed out. In his own world, he's king. A dutiful (groundbreaking) trip to the theatre is a revelation. It's not the play which moves him, but the lead actress, Clara (Alvaro)...

Read more
62

Je t’aime, je t’aime (1968)

Director: Alain Resnais

One of Resnais' most underrated explorations of the tone of time and memory. Claude Ridder (Rich), a failed suicide, is visited by two men who invite his cooperation in an experiment (already tried with a mouse) to project him into the past...

Read more
Advertising
61

Napoléon (1927)

Director: Abel Gance

Bambi Ballard's latest restoration of cinema's supreme, grandiloquent epic (63 mins longer than the version premiered by Kevin Brownlow in 1979, tinted and with an extended three-screen climax) is the closest we're ever likely to get to Gance's original...

Read more
60

Une chambre en ville (1982)

Director: Jacques Demy

Although one of Jacques Demy’s final films, ‘Une chambre en ville’ had been in the works for several decades before it was finally produced in 1982... 

Read more
59

The King and Mister Bird (1980)

Director: Paul Grimault

The result of a long collaboration (and tortured production history) between animator Grimault and the respected screenwriter Jacques Prévert, this animated cartoon tells of the downfall of the king and kingdom of Tachycardia...

Read more
58

Delicatessen (1991)

Director: Marc Caro et Jean-Pierre Jeunet

The near future: taking a job and a bedsit at a shabby rooming-house above a butcher's shop, ex-clown Louison (Pinon) falls for the butcher's daughter. But her father, unhappy about the blossoming romance, deals in human flesh...

Read more
Advertising
57

The Cheat (1936)

Director: Sacha Guitry

At age 12, our hero is sent to bed supper-less for stealing eight sous. When he wakes up his entire family is dead from food poisoning, leading him to conclude that dishonesty and survival are intimately linked. We follow his subsequent career as thief and card sharp...

Read more
56

La Grande Vadrouille (1966)

Director : Gérard Oury

Gerard Oury is the uncontested king of French popular comedy and, with 17 million tickets sold its opening weekend (a record that was only broken by Titanic in 1998), ‘La Grande Vadrouille’ is without doubt his greatest and most enduring work. Chock full of now classic scenes...

Read more
55

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

Director: Jacques Demy

In the garage where he works, Guy (Nino Castelnuovo) plans a trip to the opera. His colleague is unimpressed: ‘All that singing’s a pain – I prefer movies.’ ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’, it’s safe to say, would not be for him...

Read more
Advertising
53

Pickpocket (1959)

Director: Robert Bresson

Released in the same year as Godard’s ‘Breathless’ (1959) and filmed on the same sun-dappled Parisian streets, Bresson’s mid-career tale of the mysterious operation of grace and redemption on the fate of a young thief is considered by many to be his masterpiece...

Read more
52

Un chien andalou (1929)

Director: Luis Bunuel

Prelude: a young woman sits compliantly as Buñuel takes a razor and slices her eye open. What follows is a documentary rendering of the dream state, of dream logic; and/or a surrealist exposition involving, for example, a swarm of ants, underarm hair, a striped box...

Read more
Advertising
51

The Red Circle (1970)

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

Melville's special achievement was to relocate the American gangster film in France, and to incorporate his own steely poetic and philosophical obsessions. He described this, his penultimate film, as a digest of the nineteen definitive underworld...

Read more
50

La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1927)

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer

Dreyer's most universally acclaimed masterpiece remains one of the most staggeringly intense films ever made. It deals only with the final stages of Joan's trial and her execution, and is composed almost exclusively of close-ups: hands, robes, crosses, metal bars, and (most of all) faces...

Read more
49

Histoire(s) du cinéma (1998)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Godard’s ambitious, sweeping 8-part video project exploring, as per the pun in the film’s title, the “history,” “histories,” “story” and “stories” of cinema is often considered the most important work of his late career...

Read more
48

Naked Childood (L'enfance nue) (1968)

Director: Maurice Pialat

Among the seismic innovations of the French New Wave, it’s easy to gloss over the unsentimental approach of a movie like Franois Truffaut’s The Four Hundred Blows. Youth itself seemed to be being discovered (onscreen, at least)...

Read more
Advertising
47

Série noire (1979)

Director: Alain Corneau

Although the setting is changed from Big City USA to the dismal, wintry Paris suburbs, this neo-noir retains the outline of Jim Thompson's source novel (A Hell of a Woman), following the trajectory of its door-to-door salesman until, with an almost audible 'Voilà!'...

Read more
46

Plein soleil (1960)

Director: René Clément

René Clément and Chabrol's collaborator Paul Gégauff got hold of Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr Ripley decades before Wim Wenders laid hands on the novelist's psychopathic protagonist in The American Friend...

Read more
45

The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005)

Director: Jacques Audiard

Remaking James Toback's 1978 Fingers, director Jacques Audiard (Read My Lips) has turned the story of Tom (Duris), a petty Parisian crook specializing in real-estate swindles and classical piano, into a melancholy study of alienation and reinvention...

Read more
Advertising
44

Maine Océan (1986)

Director: Jacques Rozier

In Jacques Rozier’s iconic 1986 film, ‘Maine Océan’ is the name of the coral-hued train that runs along the coast from Paris to Saint-Nazaire, with Bernard Menez and Luis Rego at the controls. When a beautiful Brazilian dancer (Rosa-Maria Gomes) boards the train, speaking not a word of French, a discombobulated lawyer...

Read more
43

My Night with Maud (Ma nuit chez Maud) (1969)

Director: Eric Rohmer

Six months after the death of Eric Rohmer at the age of 89, the BFI is re-releasing a good-looking new print of ‘My Night with Maud’, the French filmmaker’s 1969 work which, a decade into his slow mutation from Cahiers critic to director...

Read more
42

Silken Skin (La peau douce) (1964)

Director: François Truffaut

Those whose knowledge of French nouvelle vague linchpin François Truffaut begins with ‘The 400 Blows’ and ends with ‘Jules and Jim’ should seek out this steely 1964 study in the cruel mechanics of illicit love...

Read more
Advertising
41

Mouchette (1967)

Director: Robert Bresson

Adapted from a Georges Bernanos story, Mouchette describes the life and tribulations of a poor, barely mature peasant girl (played with sullen but affecting grace by non-professional Nadine Nortier), and remains a magnificent and deeply rewarding example of Bresson's stripped-down methods of cutting and framing...

Read more
40

Hiroshima mon amour (1959)

Director: Alain Resnais

Hiroshima's mushroom cloud has probably inspired more glib statements and images than any other 20th century phenomenon. So it's particularly refreshing to find that it still has some meaning in Resnais' first feature, now almost thirty years old...

Read more
39

Les Diaboliques (1955)

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Devilishly suspenseful, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s thriller about two women who conspire to knock off a sadistic boarding-school headmaster (Paul Meurisse)  – one of the women is his wife, the other his mistress – has all the dark humour and clever tension of a Hitchcock...

Read more
38

To Our Loves (À nos amours) (1983)

Director: Maurice Pialat

15-year-old Suzanne (Bonnaire) seems unable to progress beyond a rather doleful promiscuity in her relations with boys. Alone of her family, her father (played by Pialat himself) understands her, but when he leaves home for another woman...

Read more
Advertising
37

Lola Montès (1955)

Director: Max Ophüls

A biography of the celebrated 19th century adventuress, but not a biography in the conventional sense: the lady's life is chronicled in a highly selective series of flashbacks, framed by scenes in a New Orleans circus where she allows herself to be put on show to a vulgar and impressionable public...

Read more
36

Les Tontons flingueurs (1963)

Director: Georges Lautner

Homicides provide the punch lines in this classic gangster comedy. The trouble starts when dying mob boss “The Mexican” (Jacques Dumesnil) summons ex-gangster Fernand (Lino Ventura) to take care of some of his business, and as can only be expected...

Read more
35

Le Boucher (1969)

Director: Claude Chabrol

Classically simple but relentlessly probing thriller, set in a French village shadowed by the presence of a compulsive killer. Some lovely Hitchcockian games, like the strange ketchup that drips onto a picnic hamburger from a clifftop where the latest victim has been claimed...

Read more
Advertising
34

Breathless (À bout de souffle) (1960)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Godard's first feature, adapted from an existing scenario written by François Truffaut, spins a pastiche with pathos as joyrider Belmondo shoots a cop, chases friends and debts across a night-time Paris, and falls in love with a literary lady. Seberg quotes books and ideas and names...

Read more
33

La Jetée (1962)

Director: Chris Marker

“This is the story of a man marked by an image of his childhood.” So begins Chris Marker’s 1962 elliptical 27-minute time-travel adventure, “La Jetée,” a narrated montage of black-and-white still photographs about a man who leaves his irradiated, post–World War III present and leaps into the past and future...

Read more
32

Celine and Julie Go Boating (Céline et Julie vont en bateau) (1974)

Director: Jacques Rivette

They meet, like Alice and the White Rabbit, in a sun-dappled French park, amateur illusionist Celine (Juliet Berto) bounding heedlessly past studious librarian Julie (Dominique Labourier). One dropped scarf and a lengthy foot-chase later, these two effusive ladies with catlike curiosity are practically inseparable...

Read more
Advertising
31

La Haine (1995)

Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

Twenty-four hours in the Paris projects: an Arab boy is critically wounded in hospital, gut-shot, and a police revolver has found its way into the hands of a young Jewish skinhead, Vinz (Cassel), who vows to even the score if his pal dies...

Read more
30

Claire’s Knee (1970)

Director: Eric Rohmer

The fifth and most accessible of Rohmer's six 'moral tales', Claire's Knee is the story of the temptation of an affianced diplomat (Brialy) while on holiday, and its successful suppression...

Read more
29

Beau travail (1999)

Director: Claire Denis

Denis' extraordinary movie centres on Galoup (Lavant) who, while holed up in Marseille, recalls his time as a sergeant-major in the Foreign Legion. In the desert, he drilled raw recruits...

Read more
28

Belle de jour (1966)

Director: Luis Bunuel

Marlene Dietrich had Sternberg. Anna Karina had Godard. Catherine Deneuve had Buuel, as the revival of 1967’s Belle de Jour reaffirms; the film is a perverse valentine to this coolest of Gallic beauties...

Read more
Advertising
27

Le Corbeau (1943)

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

David Thomson calls Clouzot's a 'cinema of total disenchantment'. This exposé of a malicious small town in France must be one of the most depressed films to emerge from the period of the German Occupation...

Read more
26

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

Director: Georges Méliès

A former magician, Georges Méliès created his silent film ‘A Trip to the Moon’ in 1902, just six years after the Lumière Brothers’ legendary first projection. ‘A Trip to the Moon’ is a cinematic legend in its own right...

Read more
25

Le Samouraï (1967)

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville 

Melville's hombres don't talk a lot, they just move in and out of the shadows, their trenchcoats lined with guilt and their hats hiding their eyes. This is a great movie, an austere masterpiece, with Delon as a cold, enigmatic contract killer who lives by a personal code of bushido...

Read more
Advertising
24

Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962)

Director: Agnès Varda

‘Cléo from 5 to 7’ was French new waver Agnès Varda’s second feature and is filled with the beauty of Paris’s natural light. ‘Hold on, pretty butterfly!’ says Cléo (Corinne Marchand, pictured), a fretful and fame-occupied singer...

Read more
23

Last Year in Marienbad (1961)

Director: Alain Resnais 

Something of a key film in the development of concepts of cinematic modernism, simply because - with a script by nouveau roman iconoclast Alain Robbe-Grillet - it sets up a puzzle that is never resolved: a man meets a woman in a rambling hotel and believes he may have had an affair with her the previous year at Marienbad...

Read more
22

Buffet froid (1979)

Director: Bertrand Blier 

Rigorously absurd contemporary film noir which presents every character, incident and situation known to the genre, but none of the customary explanations, motivations or consequences. A blackly surreal procession of amoral and/or illegal acts...

Read more
Advertising
21

Santa Claus is a bastard (1982)

Director: Jean-Marie Poiré

A cult classic with French audiences, ‘Santa Claus is a Bastard’ was adapted from a play of the same name, co-written by its actors. A black comedy packed with sharp and politically incendiary dialogue...

Read more
20

Van Gogh (1991)

Director: Maurice Pialat 

This stunningly photographed and skilfully acted film uses an accretion of naturalistic detail to present an emotionally restrained but utterly compelling account of the last three months of Van Gogh's life. Living in Auvers-sur-Oise with his sensitive and knowledgeable patron Gachet (Sety), Van Gogh (Dutronc)...

Read more
19

The Green Ray (1983)

Director: Eric Rohmer 

It's July, and Delphine (Rivière), a young Parisian secretary, is suddenly at a loss regarding her holiday; a friend has just backed out of a trip to Greece, her other companions have boyfriends, and Delphine can't bear spending August in Paris...

Read more
18

Au hasard Balthazar (1966)

Director: Robert Bresson 

Animal as saint: Bresson's stark, enigmatic parable, a donkey (named after one of the Three Wise Men) is both a witness to and the victim of mankind's cruelty, stupidity - and love...

Read more
Advertising
17

Les Valseuses (1974)

Director: Bertrand Blier 

A huge hit in seventies France, this offbeat comedy follows two youths waving a finger at society. Their pursuits include car theft, robbery, three-way sex, and general impulsive offensiveness, while their development is limited to the degree of selectivity...

Read more
16

Mon oncle (1958)

Director: Jacques Tati

Tati's first film in colour. Yes, his contrast of the glorious awfulness of the Arpels' automated Modernistic house with Hulot's disordered Bohemianism is simplistic. Yes, Hulot as champion of the individual is oddly de-personalised...

Read more
15

La Grande Illusion (1937)

Director: Jean Renoir 

As relevant as ever, Jean Renoir’s 1937 masterpiece, ‘La Grande Illusion’, is a film about common values and decency – the ability in all of us to act with respect and warmth towards those with whom we share bonds stronger and deeper than national boundaries and political divisions...

Read more
Advertising
14

The Wages of Fear (1953)

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot 

Throughout his professional life, France's Henri-Georges Clouzot suffered comparisons to Alfred Hitchcock - the former's critical reputation languished for it, and he took it hard. Clouzot needn't have worried...

Read more
13

Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967)

Director: Jacques Demy

From ‘Jour de Fête’ to ‘Céline and Julie Go Boating’, there’s an enchanting minor strain in French cinema devoted to visually reproducing the heady sensation of going to the cinema. And so it is with Jacques Demy’s pastel-hued masterpiece ‘Les Demoiselles de Rochefort’, a luminous musical about dreams, romance and destiny...

Read more
12

Day for Night (1973)

Director: François Truffaut 

If we’re to learn anything from François Truffaut’s delicately cynical, New Hollywood-style satire from 1973 on the joys and pains of movie making, it’s that we must view directors as social and professional chameleons...

Read more
Advertising
11

L'Armée des ombres (1969)

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

Discretion is the better part of valour, they say. And you couldn’t imagine a more discreet tribute to the heroes of the wartime French Resistance than this terrific late-’60s thriller by the ex-Maquis member Melville, the director best known for his gangster masterpieces like ‘The Samourai’... 

Read more
10
La Belle et la Bête (1946)
1/10

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...

Read more
9
The 400 Blows (1959)
2/10

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...

Read more
8
L'Atalante (1934)
3/10

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...

Read more
7
Contempt (1963)
4/10

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...

Read more
6
Playtime (1967)
5/10

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...

Read more
5
Eyes Without a Face (1959)
6/10

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...

Read more
4
Pierrot le fou (1965)
7/10

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...

Read more
3
Les Enfants du Paradis (1943)
8/10

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...

Read more
2
The Mother and the Whore (1973)
9/10

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...

Read more
1
La Règle du jeu (1939)
10/10

La Règle du jeu (1939)

Director: Jean Renoir

Banned on its original release as 'too demoralising', and only made available again in its original form in 1956, Renoir's brilliant social comedy is epitomised by the phrase 'everyone has their reasons'. Centreing on a lavish country house party...

Read more

Comments

0 comments