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

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 […]

Bertrand Bonello write and directs this mesmerizing political thriller

‘Nocturama’ – A different kind of terrorism on Netflix

Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama (France, 2017) is mesmerizing. Ostensibly a terrorist thriller about a group of French millennials who stage an attack on the symbols of global capitalism, it becomes a portrait of anger and resistance transformed into an exacting yet vaguely-defined assault on property and information and cultural landmarks. The first half is a crisply […]

Jacques Tati directs, writes, and stars in this sublime comedy from France.

‘Playtime’ – Jacques Tati’s comic masterpiece on FilmStruck and Criterion Channel

A film comedy directed with the grace of a ballet, the painstaking detail of an action painting and the affection of a love song, Jacques Tati’s Playtime (1967) is one of the most sublime celebrations of individualism in the alienated landscape of modern urban life and consumer culture. This is a different kind of symphony of […]