Sunday, March 27, 2016

9 French Films to Check Out! (& A French Novel & An Italian Film)

A couple months ago, I decided to begin with one of my goals on my bi-annual goals list (yes, I know - geek alert!)  that I had been putting off until my Spanish level was at about C1 (Advanced). Doing really well on the DELE B2 official exam last summer and 6 more months of practice, convinced me I had to start.  The goal? Returning to French!  
It had been three years since I had spoken a word of one of my favourite languages. The last time before that - excluding a very challenging few days in Bordeaux last summer- was during my Masters thesis data collection in Rouen (post here!) and Montpellier (post here!) in Spring of 2013.  Since my PhD in Applied Linguistics topic is related to inhibitory control (blocking one language while speaking the other) - and this is exactly what I was having trouble with -  I got super excited and decided to hire a French tutor once a week, even if that meant tutoring more English. 

Before I dive into the reviews, I must say I find it incredible how "input" can drastically kickstart language skills.  For three years I had zero French input, even though I had taken B2+/C1 (Advanced) level classes on and off before that.  Over the past 8 weeks, this is all I've done per week to get my level back up:
  • 2 hours with Sarah, my French tutor. One grammar topic per week, one vocabulary theme per month, mostly speaking
  • 1 hour (average over month) of French-Spanish language exchange group
  • 3 hours of studying  (grammar and vocab using Grammaire en Dialogues , writing one page assignments, reading novels (Read Si C'etait Vrai by Marc Levy - it's an incredible story of a man who can interact with the "spirit"of a woman in a coma, falls in love and must help stop the hospital from euthanizing her)
  • 2 hours - watching a movie in French, either with no subtitles or French subtitles and taking notes on vocabulary

I truly feel that I can speak French again!!!  Here are the movies you should check out. All photos are from Use to check which country you should use on your proxy server. Remember to check using both the French and English movie titles!

Heartwarming Dramas

1. La Faute à Fidel (2006)

One of my favourites - I've seen and blogged about this before-  this film tell the story of political activism in 1970s Paris from the perspective of a 9 year old girl who goes from being rich - to suddenly "poor" as her parents turn to a more socialist approach to their lives. It's beautiful.

2. Intouchables (2011)

A must-see film about a man from a lower socioeconomic class who is hired to be a personal assistant to a rich quadraplegic in Paris. He treats him like a true friend, rather than just a patient  It's funny, entertaining and heartwarming - and based on a true story!  I had seen this one a couple times before - but there were a couple lines I had never understood. Language is amazing - I understood the entire film without subtitles - except for a few sentences of one conversation - so I had Sarah explain it to me!  

3. Crime D'Amour (2010)

 I must warn you that this one starts off SUPER have to have patience to watch it. Once it picks up, though, it's a great story about a boss and her new protege that will leave you guessing. If I tell you more, I'll ruin it -so just watch it! Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludavigne Sanier are incredible actresses in this film.

4. Pies Nus Sur Les Limaces (2010)  

I have to admit that I didn't really like this one too much - it was super weird.  It did get great reviews though, so it's probably a personal preference. It tells the story of a young girl who has a mental disability; her mother dies and her older sister (a successful lawyer) quits her job to care for her sister and put up with her strange love/hate relationship with the animals she cares for and others she murders.  I will say that the acting was superb - they played their roles well - but wow, it's a hard one to watch.

5. Samba (2014)

A beautiful drama about an immigrant from Senegal who tries to survive on jobs that don't require legal papers and is constantly fleeing the police. He falls in love with a businesswoman who is trying to piece her life back together after experience a burnout in the corporate world. It's a beautiful love story with a twist.

***Update:  11.  À la folie, pas du tout  
I had completely forgotten about this film - the first one that Sarah recommended to me, so I'm adding it in as #11.  It stars Audrey Tatou - who is amazing in her role as a shy woman trying to convince the love of her life to leave his wife.  This movie has a killer twist though - I will say no more...definitely watch it!

Comedies (& Romantic Comedies)

6. Populaire (2012)

Populaire is a very cute romantic-comedy film set in the 1950s about a boss and his new secretary - who is the "worst" secretary by popular standards. That is to say, she doesn't fit the image required for the profile - she's not your average 1950s chauvinist's definition of the  "sexy secretary" type. However, she is one hell of a typist - which leads her boss to train her to enter into the World Typing Championships - and to fall in love with her.

7. L'Arnacoeur (2010)

I wouldn't say L'Arnacoeur is anywhere close to my favourite , but it's definitely easy to understand and one of those movies where you don't have to think at all. Basically, it's a predictable romantic comedy about a guy who is hired by exes or family members to break up marriages weeks before the wedding - and falls in love with one of the brides.

8. Un Air de Famille (1996)

Quirky and funny, Un Air de Famille  takes place in a restaurant owned by one of the brothers in the family and basically takes you through an evening of family drama and secrets. The plot itself is not too enthralling, but for me, it was laugh-out-loud funny because I'm pretty sure every family is somewhat like this one! 

9. Le Prénom (2012)

Le Prénom is by far the best French movie I've ever seen. It is HILARIOUS. Again, it's simply about an evening where a family is together - and the drama that follows as ideas, opinions and secrets are revealed; the evening starts off with one family member announcing what they plan to call their son when he is born. If you watch one from this list, make it this one!! (The English title is "What's in A Name?" and can be found on Netflix USA)

Italian Drama

10. Il Capitale Umano (2013)

Il Capitale Umano is a drama that tells short stories which are all connected by the relationships between one character in each story. It starts with a car accident and follows on to the involved parties to truly look at themes human emotions, family and tragedy. Beautiful, and again - with a twist!

I haven't taken Italian for years  (and even that was only for a couple years), but I thought I'd throw this one in.  With my Spanish now though, I could understand quite a bit of this film without reading the subtitles!  

I hope this list is helpful! Definitely a great way to spend a couple hours a week :)

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