Photo: French Cinema & TV
A look at how French narratives rarely shy away from controversial and difficult topics.
Must Watch French Cinema and TV:
A heart-breaking period drama that tackles societal limitations forced on women during a time in history when love was censored and marriages arranged. The French film ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ entangles romance, feminism, and classicism to deliver a perfectly directed and written drama. The performances by Adèle Haenel and Noémie Merlant are magnetic and impeccably visceral. It’s a story that goes beyond nostalgia; it’s a masterpiece that allows you to transport yourself to a seaside village in France and within the chilling walls of a palace sustained by limited funds. A mother’s desperation to keep her home and social status afloat leads her to delegate her daughter’s marriage. However, the daughter has her eyes on someone else, a woman whose income relies on her artistic talents. Despite serving the elite, she is entitled to a sense of freedom that daughters of the aristocracy envy.
‘From the Land of the Moon’ is a beautifully composed film that captures the insanity that often trails repression and self-resignation to a life that feels beyond our control. The story centers on Gabrielle, who finds herself imprisoned by a loveless marriage designed by her parents. Introduced as a frustrated woman, Gabrielle is seen nurturing a crush on her town’s local schoolteacher. She ruminates his intentions towards her after he recommends Wuthering Heights, a novel about a woman who falls for an unattainable man and never leaves her hometown. Gabrielle shamelessly throws herself at him and is quickly rejected at a dinner.
The symbolism of Wuthering Heights carries over to adulthood when she’s now an unhappy wife and mother to a teenage boy. The film follows her ideation of a sickly man named Lieutenant André Sauvage (Louis Garrel), whom she meets in a mental institution, comfortably situated in the idyllic landscape of the Swiss Alps. She becomes consumed by insatiable desire and an obsession with sex and intensity. ‘From the Land of the Moon’ is a coming-of-age tale of a girl fascinated by sex and love and how she evolves into a woman who craves a life created on her terms.
‘A Faithful Man’ is a poignant film that explores three perspectives of a love triangle. Louis Garrel, Laetitia Casta, and Lily-Rose Depp lead this charming film that captures the nuances of French romance. The tone throughout the film is unmistakably passive and almost masks undertones of passion, jealousy, and obsession. Abel and Marianne have been together for years when one morning, Marianne casually mentions that she is pregnant by another man, Paul and that she has been unhappy with their relationship for quite some time. Abel takes this news with a quintessential Parisian pretense of a laissez-faire attitude.
From there, we met Eve, Paul’s younger sister, who has been mildly stalking Abel since she was little and had finally found herself in a situation where she could finally have him. However, Marianne remains almost omnipresent, and the story shifts between viewpoints for all parties involved. We watch as Abel’s life transforms as he settles in with Eve and how he adapts to the dynamics of a new relationship. Years later, Abel finds his way back to Marianne after Paul passes away, and Abel is now living with Marianne and her young son, Joseph. Abel becomes suspicious of how Paul died after Joseph admits that Marianne poisoned Paul after sleeping with a doctor. With history almost repeating itself, they find themselves in a new version of unhappiness.
Despite Abel’s passivity, he gravitates towards women who are assertive and decisive. With Eve and Marianne’s confidence, they easily dictate their love lives, and it’s interesting to recognize the similarities in their personalities as the perspective shifts throughout the film. One notable scene is when Eve challenges Marianne for Abel’s heart, telling her this is “war,” Marianne responds by telling Abel he should sleep with Eve. That carefree approach to polyamory makes ‘A Faithful Man’ a must-see for any admirer of French cinema.
‘Nothing to Hide’ is a French film about an unconventional dinner party where a group of friends is forced to confront their insecurities, the imperfections of their relationships, and their secrets. ‘Nothing to Hide’ reveals how the seams of a marriage can unravel when technology and jealousy take center stage. Vincent and his wife Marie invite two other couples and a fourth wheel to their home for an intimate dinner party. The dinner starts with unremarkable conversation until the topic of who locks their cellphones dominates the table. At this point, Marie becomes intrigued and suggests a game where they each grant everyone at the table inhibited access to each other’s cellphones.
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All guests must place their phones at the center of the table, and every text, email, and phone call will be accessible and open for discussion with the group. As messages and phone calls start rolling in, distrust ensues, and friends’ secret lives are revealed, along with hurt feelings and shocking confessions. ‘Nothing to Hide’ is a gripping story that studies our cellphones are the key to accessing our most private selves.
Last but not least, ‘Call My Agent!’ is a satirical comedy that celebrates the magic and charm of the French film industry. The illustrious and chaotic lives of overworked talent agents are on full display. The charismatic personalities of the French talent firm lead the series through four seasons. The show reveals how the relationships between coworkers can evolve to a deeper bond that helps sustain our ambitions and our drive to become successful both in our professional and our personal lives.
Camille Cotton leads the noteworthy cast of ‘Call My Agent!’ and is often joined by legendary French stars who often play themselves. The series is a satirical study on fame, ego, and the passion that drives the entertainment industry. The luster of French cinema is celebrated with scenes filmed at the Cannes film festival, iconic Parisian locations, globally acclaimed movie stars such as Isabelle Huppert, Cecile de France, and Juliette Binoche playing fictionalized versions of themselves.
By Gina Michele Yaniz
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Gina Michele Yaniz is a writer and digital media content creator with a deep love for storytelling. Charmed by the notable influence of the entertainment industry, Gina is passionate about uplifting the voices of artists and celebrating powerful material. She likes to embody the philosophy of writing through a non-judgmental and a genuine perspective while expanding the perception of film industry. Along with Hollywood Insider, Gina values the responsibility the media holds and wishes to use her writing to provide meaningful content. During her free time, Gina loves to watch period pieces, stand-up comedy, and indulges on her avid interest for reading articles on self-care.