Seven Binge Worthy French Films to Get You Through Self-Isolation

French Cinema has other-worldly charm to it which distinguishes it from all the other cinemas of the world be it the superhero blockbusters of Hollywood or melodramatic musicals of Bollywood.

Here are seven French films that promise to get you through the maddening effects of self-isolation which has besieged us all.

The Swimming Pool (2003) is an erotic thriller directed by François Ozon and starring Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier. The plot is predicated on British crime novelist, Sarah Morton (Charlotte), who travels to her publisher’s lavish summer house in Southern France to seek seclusion of sorts for the work she is about to embark on for her next book.

However, the arrival of Julie (Ludivine Sagnier), who claims to be the publisher’s daughter, ushers in a rather chaotic and strange series of events. Such events are adequate enough to deprive Sarah of the peace and quiet she yearns for in a supposedly tranquil part of France as a novelist who is apparently suffering from writer’s block. The film’s intriguing yet mystifying mix of erotica and thriller set in a part of France that is a far cry from bustling Paris makes you fall in love with it. It is not just the plot, the setting and the way actors have immaculately performed their roles will make you shower praise on this film but also for the soundtrack by Philippe Rombi.

Hors de prix (2006) is a comedy directed by Pierre Salvadori, and starring Audrey Tautou and Gad Elmaleh. Jean (Gad Elmaleh), a waiter at a luxury hotel on the French Riviera, is mistaken to be a millionaire by Irène (Audrey Tautou), a gold digger who convinces wealthy men to fund her sumptuous lifestyle in exchange for companionship. Irène’s elderly lover gets drunk and falls asleep on her birthday, so she goes to the bar in the hotel where she and Jean meet. After making her several impressive cocktails, they retire, tipsy, to the hotel’s Imperial Suite where they spend the night together. After this night the movie kick starts on the note which will keep you entertained till the end as it is a bonanza of humor, romance, and drama that one gets to see in this French comedy. Both Tautou and Elmaleh are not just superstars but are household names in France. They continue to have a substantial international following owing to their dynamic performances and good quality of artistic work.

Amélie (2001) is a romantic comedy directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It is a playfully quaint depiction of what goes on in the Paris of the contemporary era, set in artistic Montmartre. It tells the story of Amélie, a timid waitress played by Audrey Tautou. Amélie decides to change the lives of those around her for the better while struggling with her own isolation. While she does these changes, she finally makes herself gravitate towards her own happiness which she finds in a romantic relationship with an attractive young Parisian guy named Nino. The film is to this date the highest-grossing French-language film released in the United States, and one of the biggest international successes for a French film since it was able to secure not just two BAFTA Awards but also a Best Film award at the European Film Awards. What makes this film special is indeed the innocence of the leading protagonist intertwined with her frequent retreats from it.

Les grands espirits (2017) is written and directed by Olivier Ayache-Vidal and stars renowned actor Denis Podalydès. One day, when François (himself a teacher in letters in the prestigious Henri IV French high school) declares that only an experienced teacher should be sent to schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods, he is overheard by a representative of the French Ministry of Education. He is then compelled to leave his affluent school in Paris and go to the suburbs, in the “Barbara” High School of Stains, an institution with a bad reputation. As François goes to the ill-reputed school, he bumps into the kinds of students he would have never imagined as his and now his nightmare has become a reality but indeed in an immensely comic manner. This film will truly acquaint you with the diverse and colorful society of France.

Elle (2016) is a thriller directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by David Birke, based on the novel Oh… by Philippe Djian. The film stars France’s answer to Hollywood’s Meryl Streep and that incredibly talented actress is none other than Isabelle Huppert as a businesswoman who is sexually assaulted in her home by a masked assailant and decides not to report it due to her past experience with the police. Michèle Leblanc (played by Isabelle Huppert) is raped in her home by an assailant in a ski mask, then cleans up the mess and resumes her life. She is the head of a successful video game company, where her male employees are alternately resentful of or infatuated with her. Furthermore, she is the daughter of an infamous mass murderer whose parole hearing is approaching. Haunted by her father’s actions, Michèle is wary of law enforcement and does not report her rape to police. Michèle grows increasingly suspicious of the men in her life. She receives harassing text messages from her assailant at a blocked number, indicating that he is stalking her. With the increasing pace of a thriller which at times haunts you, this movie will truly keep you glued to your small screen until the end.

Ne le dis à personne (2006) is a French thriller film directed by Guillaume Canet (a renowned actor himself). The film stars acclaimed French artist François Cluzet in a leading role as Alexandre Beck. Mr. Beck is a doctor who has slowly been putting his life back together after his wife Margot was murdered by a serial killer. Eight years on, Alex is doing well, until he finds himself implicated in a double homicide, which has plenty of evidence pointing to him as the killer – though he knows nothing of the crimes. The same day, Alex receives an email that appears to be from Margot, which includes a link to a surveillance video clip that features his late wife looking alive and well. The message warns Alex that they are both being watched. Things are bound to take a turn for the unexpected but in the end, you will for sure have joy and this combination of various emotions make this film a special one among many others done by Cluzet.

La douleur (2017) is a French drama film directed by Emmanuel Finkiel. It was selected as the French entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards. The film showcases the agony and tribulation of Marguerite Duras (played by acclaimed French actress Melanie Thierry) during the Nazi occupation of France. It’s indeed a film which will move you to tears while watching this masterpiece.

So, while observing self-isolation and being stuck at home, you can relish these seven amazing French films. Stay safe, keep washing your hands and try to avoid going out unnecessarily.

The author pictured with Stephane Gaillard, the former Director of Alliance Française de Lahore.