Catherine Deneuve stars in the bittersweet musical from Jacques Demy

‘Umbrellas,’ ‘Young Girls,’ and the essential Jacques Demy on FilmStruck

Jacques Demy, the most romantic of the French nouvelle vague filmmakers, loved American movies, especially musicals, but his taste for American musicals and candy-colored romance was balanced with a bittersweet sensibility. For all the energizing music and dreamy love affairs, his romances more often than not don’t really get happy endings. FilmStruck presents a collection […]

Odette Joyeux and Jacques Tati in the romantic ghost story by Claude Autant-Lara

DVD: ‘Claude Autant-Lara: Four Romantic Escapes from Occupied France’ on Eclipse

Claude Autant-Lara: Four Romantic Escapes from Occupied France (Eclipse, DVD) Confession time: I had never seen a film by French director Claude Autant-Lara before this set and frankly had no concept of his reputation beyond the distaste that the critics-turned-filmmakers of the La Nouvelle Vague held for his work. He was the tradition of quality […]

Mathieu Amalric and Catherine Deneuve, directed by Arnaud Desplechin

‘A Christmas Tale’ – A messy family holiday on Criterion Channel and Sundance Now

A Christmas Tale (France, 2008), Arnaud Desplechin’s mercurial, knotty and cinematically vibrant drama of family dysfunction stirred up over a Christmas gathering, was my pick for best film of 2008. Directing with restless energy, Desplechin sketches out a family tragedy, the untimely death of a first-born, that precedes the story by decades and then only […]

Johnny Hallyday stars in Patrice Leconte's French crime drama with Jean Rochefort

‘Man on the Train’ – Elegiac French crime drama on Amazon Prime

Man on the Train (France, 2004), Patrice Leconte’s elegiac crime drama is a well-tuned character piece starring screen legend Jean Rochefort and French pop icon Johnny Hallyday as strangers with nothing in common whose chance meeting sparks a powerful friendship. Rochefort is the droopy, self-effacing dreamer Monsieur Manesquier, a retired teacher who would like nothing […]

Anna Magnani stars in Jean Renoir's adaptation of the Prosper Merimee play

Jean Renoir’s ‘The Golden Coach’ on Amazon Prime and FilmStruck

Anna Magnani stars as the earthy, vivacious diva of The Golden Coach (France/Italy, 1952), an adaptation of a Prosper Merimee play about a traveling troupe of Italian commedia dell’arte players in a Peruvian backwater where three men (a viceroy, a bullfighter, and a fellow performer) vie for the affections of the company’s leading lady. An […]

‘My Life as a Zucchini’ – Oscar-nominated animation from France on Netflix

The Academy Award-nominated animated feature My Life as a Zucchini (France, 2016) uses stop-motion animation to tell the bitter-sweet story of an imaginative, vulnerable boy nicknamed Zucchini who is orphaned after the death of his abusive, alcoholic mother and sent to a foster home. But while it is set in France (the view from Zucchini’s […]

Jean Rollin’s weird, trashy, and dreamy ‘Requiem for a Vampire’ on Amazon Prime

There was no director like Jean Rollin, the French horror fantasist who died in the waning days of 2010 at the age of 72 and left behind a strange and wonderful (and sometimes horrible) legacy in his distinctive films. His reputation never really extended beyond cult circles but the weird sensibility and distinctive style and […]

Vera Clouzot in Henri-Georges Clouzot's Hitchcockian thriller with Simone Signoret

The original ‘Diabolique’ on Amazon Prime and Criterion Channel

Henri-Georges Clouzot was called the Hitchcock of France for his shadowy thrillers and the atmosphere of distrust and suspicion that ran through so many of his films. Diabolique (France, 1955, not rated, with subtitles), his 1955 thriller about a plot to commit a perfect murder and the wrenching tension when the corpse disappears, plays like […]

Charles Berling and Juliette Binoche star in Olivier Assayas’ touching French drama

‘Summer Hours’ on Hulu and Criterion Channel

Olivier Assayas’ Summer Hours (France, 2008) plays like a miniature, a small film of small dramas in the scope of large lives. Mortality once again hangs over the story of a family estate and the rich treasures of art history that goes with it. Family matriarch Helene (Edith Scob) has preserved the country home of […]

Animated feature from France based on the graphic novels of Jacques Tardi

‘April and the Extraordinary World’ – Steampunk animated adventure on Netflix

April and the Extraordinary World (France, 2015), inspired by the graphic novels of the great French comic artist Jacques Tardi, is a steampunk adventure set in an alternate reality Paris where the World Wars never occurred, electricity was never discovered, twin Eiffel Towers anchor a direct cable-car route to Berlin, and the smoke that powers […]