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Cannes Film Festival 2010 Spotlight: Top Ten French Films of all time

April 23, 2010 3:20 pm
posted by Simon

French film – Top 10 French films of all time

It’s Cannes Film Festival time again, one of the world’s oldest and indeed, most prestigious Film Festivals.  The chic French resort of Cannes will find itself in the spotlight once more for a fortnight of red carpet glitz, celeb spotting and the white knuckle fight for the coveted Palme d’Or…

Information about Cannes 2010

Cannes Film Festival 2010 takes place from the 12th – 23rd May 2010 with Alice in Wonderland director Tim Burton taking on the role of President of the Jury, the head of the committee which decides which films will receive a Cannes award. Ridley Scott’s hotly anticipated Robin Hood is scheduled to open the festival on the 12th May.

Pierre & Vacances have plenty of self-catering apartments in Cannes, and provide a great base for the festivals fans.  We like to mark the occasion every year (see our Cannes blog from last year here) and this year is no different. We’ve pulled together a list of arguably the finest French movies of all time.  Let the battle commence!

French Film History at a glance

The birthplace of cinema, France’s cinematographic legacy – which began with the Lumière brothers and Georges Méliès way back at the turn of the 19th century – has given rise to some of the greatest directors and cinematic style of all time.

Here’s a quick review of why French cinema rocks:

  • Late 1890s – Auguste and Louis Lumière invent the cinématographe, bonne idée!  Their L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat is considered as the official birth of cinematography

  • 1896 – Alice Guy Blaché makes her first film, La Fée aux Choux. Goes on to become head of production at Gaumont Pictures, where she makes around 400 films between 1897 and 1906 before moving to America
  • 1902 – Georges Méliès produces what’s widely considered the first science fiction film Le Voyage dans la Lune
  • 1920s and 1930s – Jacques Feyder becomes one of the founders of poetic realism in French cinema.  He also dominates French Impressionist Cinema
  • 1937 – Jean Renoir (son of painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir) directs La Grande Illusion and then in 1939, La Règle du Jeu, cited by many critics as one of the greatest films of all time
  • 1945 – Marcel Carné’s Les Enfants du Paradis (voted Best French Film of the Century in a ‘90s poll) is released.  Filmed during World War II the three-hour film is made despite the Nazi occupation

  • 1951 – André Bazin, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze and Joseph-Marie Lo Duca found ‘Cahiers du Cinéma’ , the uber influential French film magazine
  • Late 1950s and 1960s – The term ‘New Wave’ or ‘La Nouvelle Vague’ comes into being, coined by critics for the group of French filmmakers (including François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Éric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, and Jacques Rivette) influenced by Italian Neorealism and classical Hollywood cinema
  • 1960s and 1970s – sub-genres reign, including the modern caper film and a typical French blend of film noir and detective fiction.  French movie stars begin to claim fame abroad
  • 1981 – Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Diva sparks the beginning of the 1980s wave of French cinema, films made with a slick commercial style and emphasizing the alienation of the main characters.  Also known as Cinema du look, the movements main directors are Beineix, Luc Besson and Leos Carax
  • 2001 – Jean-Pierre Jeunet returns to France with Amélie which became the highest-grossing French-language film ever released in the United States
  • 2008 – Entre les murs wins the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the first French victory at the festival in 21 years

In no particular order, here’s our Top Ten French Films of all time:

1.     Breathless (À bout de soufflé), 1960, Jean-Luc Godard

Described by one critic as “jazzy, free-form, and sexy”, Breathless pays homage to American cinema whilst introducing a French style all of its own.  One of the original ‘Nouvelle Vague’ generation, the film follows petty criminal, Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo), who models himself on the film persona of Humphrey Bogart, and his American girlfriend, Patricia (Jean Seberg), a student and aspiring journalist.

2.     La Cage aux Folles, 1978, Edouard Molinaro

Molinaro’s classic comedy broke the mould when it was released in 1978.  Two gay men living in St. Tropez have their lives turned upside down when the son of one of the men announces he is getting married and brings home his fiancée’s ultra conservative parents to meet them.

3.     Betty Blue, 1986, Jean-Jacques Beineix

Romantic obsession leads to a grisly conclusion in this Oscar nominated drama.  An epic tale that’s beautifully shot and revered by film buffs for its amazing acting and artful mise en scene.   Passion, sex and a beautiful leading lady…this film perfectly encapsulates French cinema to a T.

4.     Jean De Florette, 1986, Claude Berri

Based on a novel by Marcel Pagnol, Jean De Florette is part of a duology, (followed by Manon des Sources) filmed in rural Provence over a period of seven months, doing much subsequently to promote the region as a tourist destination.  The movie starred three of France’s most prominent actors – Gérard Depardieu, Daniel Auteuil and Yves Montand – and is recognised as a classic thanks to the character development.

5.     Cyrano de Bergerac, 1990, Jean-Paul Rappeneau

Rappeneau revisits the classic, tragic tale by nineteenth century playwright, Edmond Rostand,  loosely based on a real life poet and fine swordsman.  Deterred in his pursuit of his cousin, Roxane, by his bulbous nose, Cyrano resorts to writing letters to her on behalf of one of his cadets, Christian, who is also in love with Roxane but doesn’t know how to tell her. She falls for the poetic charm of the letters but believes that they were written by Christian.  Move over William Shakespeare.

6.     La Haine, 1995, Mathieu Kassovitz

One of the most talked about and controversial French films, La Haine was written and directed by a largely unknown young filmmaker and actor, filmed in black and white, with no big name stars on a small budget. The plot focuses on a single day in the lives of three friends in their early twenties, from immigrant families living in an impoverished multi-ethnic French housing project in the suburbs of Paris, in the aftermath of a riot.  The controversy arises mainly from the subject matter – ‘les banlieues’ (the suburbs) – which by the 1990s had become synonymous with France’s major problems of unemployment, social exclusion, racial conflict, (sub)urban decay, criminality and violence.  Kassovitz took best director award at Cannes.

7.     Jules et Jim, 1961, François Truffaut

Truffaut perfectly captures both idyllic moments and gathering doom in this heavily influential and inventive encyclopaedia of the language of cinema.  The plot concerns the recurring theme in French cinema of the love triangle as two friends fall for the same woman.

8.     Un Coeur En Hiver, 1992, Claude Sautet

Subtly haunting, Un Coeur En Hiver is a story about the deepest human feelings and fears, centring on another love triangle.  Beautiful violin virtuoso Camille has two obsessions: the music of Ravel, and a friend of her husband’s who crafts violins.

9.     Amélie, 2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet

The part of Amélie was apparently written for Emily ‘Breaking the Waves’ Watson.  She wanted the part but had to decline because she didn’t speak French and had already agreed to be in Gosford Park.  Audrey Tautou instead made the role unforgettable with her enigmatic and mischievous smile in this whimsical depiction of contemporary Parisian life.

10.  The Class (Entre les murs), 2008, Laurent Cantet

Described by some as the new Dead Poets Society, the film owes a great part of its success to Cantet’s decision to use thousands of real students for the various parts in the selection process and then go through a year-long improvisation exercise with those who made it to the final cut.  The film offers something tangible akin to a slice of real life.

Where to stay for Cannes Film Festival

If soaking up the atmosphere from the sofa isn’t your idea of film heaven, Pierre & Vacances has a number of properties ideally located for celebrity spotting in Cannes as well as striking a pose at the glamorous beaches and towns along the French Riviera.

Pierre & Vacances’ has many properties which are ideally located for the festival, celebrity spotting at the ‘Palais des Festivals’ in Cannes and exploring the glamorous beaches and towns along the French Riviera, including the lively harbour of Antibes and picturesque Mandelieu.

Pierre Vacances discounts for Cannes Film Festival

Pierre & Vacances Cap Esterel Holiday Resort, Saint Raphael
A one bedroom apartment sleeping up to four people for one week from the 15th -22nd May 2010 starts from €410 (£362) – €200 off the normal price!
The Pierre & Vacances Cap Esterel Resort is a 210-hectare multi-activity holiday complex overlooking the Mediterranean. Perched on a red rock hillside, the village is surrounded by at purpose-built golf course and gardens and is just 30 minutes away from the white sandy beaches of Cannes. Onsite facilities include three large swimming pools with wave machines, two children’s pools, a small farm, tennis courts and bicycle hire.

Pierre & Vacances Cannes Mandelieu Resort, Cannes Mandeilieu – A one-bedroom apartment sleeping up to four people for one week from the 8th – 15th May 2010 starts from €490 (£432) – €200 off the normal price! Located on an island in the bend of the La Siagne River, just 800m from the sea, the Pierre & Vacances Mandelieu Resort is spread over a five-hectare estate. The property is located just 1km from the local shops and has a range of sports and leisure facilities on site. The centre of Cannes is a short shuttle bus away and the events of the Cannes Film Festival can be reached in less than ten minutes.

Find out more on www.pv-holidays, the website for Pierre & Vacances.

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