Weekend Rentals: Fete de la Federation Edition

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This past Monday, francophiles and French citizens celebrated Bastille Day. And since gossiping about President Sarkozy and his wife is no way to celebrate the holiday — and Film Forum is no longer featuring its wonderful series on Godard — here are a few suggestions for some French films worth renting.

The Rules of the Game (1939):

Directed by Jean Renoir, the son of the Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste and a man regarded as one of the greatest directors of all time, the film is an incendiary satire of the self-absorption within France’s bourgeoisie on the eve of World War II. The film only slowly reaches the point at which the viewer sees that the nation’s elite are feuding with each other over sex while their country faces imminent war. The movie was so powerful that a man set fire to a newspaper at its premiere in an attempt to burn down the theater, while the French government (and later the occupying Nazi regime) banned the film. The Rules of the Game survived and remains both a cinematic achievement ad well as a relevant social critique.

Breathless (1960):

Jean-Luc Godard’s first feature film heralded the French New Wave, in which French cinephiles who had spent years theorizing about the films of directors like Welles and Hitchcock began testing their theories and beliefs in practice, and in doing so, shook the world of cinema. Breathless, which tells the story of a man who considers himself a film noir hero, breaks the traditional laws of directing with jump cuts, natural lighting, and an nontraditional use of music. Even if film theory is not your idea of entertainment, Breathless is still a fun film that will open your eyes to how movies work.

Amelie (2001):

Starring Audrey Tautou in her most famous role, Amelie is a very fun and very French experience. The film centers on Amelie Polain, a young waitress in Montmartre who is trying to find meaning in her life. Eventually, she finds that small actions can make other people incredibly happy — though locating her own means of happiness continues to elude her. With beautiful colors and shot in a style that feels joyous and free, plus an amazing performance by Tautou, Amelie is a great summer film that will make you wish you decided to go to study abroad after all.

— Brandon Hammer

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  1. a-whaaa?

    The 400 Blows needs to be on this list!

  2. hmmm

    Good list, although Breathless is just..blah. The will make you roll your eyes.

  3. Opinion

    That is an awesome picture.

  4. neeeed

    jules et jiiiiiim

  5. fdsa  

    francophiles make me want to drive a tractor with spikes on the front down the sidewalk

  6. orrr

    get off your ass and go see the dark knight

  7. NO)

    Watch some good Godard. Breathless and Band a Part are good if you are a wuss. Watch Week End and Alphaville and then get your ass kicked.
    Then watch the Dark Knight which is Star Trek II:Wrath of Khan X 100.

  8. ...  

    Then watch the Dark Knight which is Star Trek II:Wrath of Khan X 100.

    i'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

    the spectator has a great french film article in the same vein posted right now!

  9. The weekend

    would be better spent watching the Joker do his pencil trick.

  10. pierrot

    le fou

    colors and lights, son

  11. Anonymous  

    Dark Knight hypemeter is pretty much already at 100% so it won't ruin anything for me to throw down as well: it's that good. I went in with absurdly high expectations and it exceeded them.

    Also, on Breathless: I don't know anything about movies or film theory or whatever, but I do have a pretty sensitive "pretentious bullshit" detector, and I really liked Breathless.

  12. au hasard


    not for everyone, but some will love it

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