Marion Cotillard and Mathieu Amalric in the French drama by Arnaud Desplechin

‘Ismael’s Ghosts’ – Life, art, and love on Amazon Prime

French filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin makes films about the messiness of families, lovers, and creative lives that can become quite messy in their telling. Ismael’s Ghosts (France, 2018) jumps abruptly back and forth in time and between biography and fiction and dreams, smudging the line between biography, fiction, and artistic imagination. Desplechin regular Mathieu Amalric is […]

Manish Dayal and Helen Mirren in 'The Hundred-Foot Journey,' directed by Lasse Hallstrom

‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’ to French cuisine

The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014) is a film for our culture: a feel-good foodie drama of racial tolerance, cross-cultural acceptance, and fusion cuisine. It’s produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey and directed by Lasse Hallstrom (the classiest of contemporary feel-good filmmakers) and it stars Helen Mirren as the bastion of fine French cuisine and unshakable […]

‘Point Blank’ – pulse-pounding French thriller on Amazon Prime

The French crime thriller Point Blank (France, 2010), not to be confused with John Boorman’s 1967 post-noir masterpiece, opens in full sprint and pretty much stays in that adrenaline-pumping state. There is one peaceful interlude, a flashback to the calm before the storm with nursing student Samuel (Gilles Lellouche) and his pregnant wife (Elena Anaya), […]

Mathieu Amalric and Catherine Deneuve, directed by Arnaud Desplechin

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

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 […]

Quentin Dolmaire and Lou Roy-Lecollinet in Arnaud Desplichin's 'My Golden Days'

‘My Golden Days’ on Criterion Channel

My Golden Days (2015), from French filmmaker Arnaud Desplichin, is ostensibly a sequel / prequel to Desplichin’s breakthrough feature My Sex Life… or How I Got Into an Argument (1996) but it lives on its own as a remembrance of times past. Mathieu Amalric (Desplichin’s cinematic alter-ego) reprises his role as Paul Dédalus twenty years […]

Sylvain Chomet's animated film of a Jacques Tati script

‘The Illusionist’ on Criterion Channel

With The Illusionist (France, 2010), animator Sylvain Chomet (of the delirious The Triplets of Belleville) transforms an unproduced script by they great French auteur Jacques Tati (Mon Oncle) into a tender tale of a French magician and a Scottish girl in the theater-folk society of London as the old world of stage performance gives way […]

‘Eyes Without a Face’ – the poetry of horror on HBO Max, Criterion Channel, and Kanopy

George Franju’s perverse and poetic Eyes Without a Face (France, 1959) is at once lyrical, haunting, and deviant, an elegantly horrifying classic of sadism and shadowy grace. A famed plastic surgeon (Pierre Brasseur), wracked with guilt over disfiguring his once beautiful daughter (Edith Scob) in car wreck, lures young woman to his secluded mansion with […]

Bertrand Bonello write and directs this mesmerizing political thriller

‘Nocturama’ – A different kind of terrorism on Criterion Channel

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 […]

‘Le Cercle Rouge’ on Criterion Channel

Crime cinema has never been so meticulously and coolly executed as in Le cercle rouge (France, 1970). Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1970 heist classic stars Alain Delon and Gian Maria Volonte as coolly professional thieves, Yves Montand as a soused sharpshooter who regains his self-respect when he joins their team, and Andre Bouvril as the unrelenting cop […]

‘The City of Lost Children’ – a fairy tale for adults on Amazon Prime

The fantastic visions of Belgian filmmakers Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet culminated in The City of Lost Children (France, 1995), fairy tale for adults. Evoking utopias and dystopias from Brazil to Peter Pan, Caro and Jeunet create a vivid but menacing fantasy city in a perpetually twilight world. In this rough port town lives circus […]