Breaking down the best French films of 2014, and the new French films for 2015 proved to be one hell of a job. 2012 was already an excellent year for French cinema with Rust & Bone, Holy Motors and Dans La Maison, 2013 blew us away with modern classics like La Vie d’Adele.
I do not think that in the last decade I have been able to put together such a hugely diverse list consisting of 8 French films that each are masterpieces in their own right. 2013’s list gives the French cinephile more than he could ever hope for – it has romance, comedy, thrillers, but mainly interpersonal dramas revolving around themes such as sexuality & lust (in six out of the eight films our desires of the flesh are recurrent themes).
French cinema in preview: French films 2015
Our most anticipated French films of 2015.
Directed by Mia Hansen-Love
Starring Félix de Givry, Pauline Etienne and Vincent Macaigne
Mia Hansen-Love (who’s abovementioned directors’ Olivier Assayas wife by the way) directed a handful of small, beautiful films like Le Pére de mes Enfants (2009) and Un Amour de Jeunesse (2011). With Eden, she’ll probably reach a slightly bigger audience: the film unfolds the story of the rise of the French house scene in the nineties through the eyes of an aspiring DJ and is scored by electro icons Daft Punk.
Directed by Jacques Audiard
Starring Vincent Rottiers
Not much is known about this project yet, but given its director (Audiard was responsible for both Une Prophete (2009) and De Rouille et d’Os (2012) this is one we’re extremely curious about. All we know so far about Erran is that it’s about a runaway Sri Lankese Tamil warrior in Paris.
La Blessure (2015)
Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche
Starring Gérard Depardieu
Another one we’re anticipating mainly because of its directors’ previous efforts, which culminated in 2013’s stunning La Vie d’Adéle. A more extensive synopsis will follow later; right now all we know about it’s about a teenager looking to get lose his virginity on a vacation in Tunesia. Yet again Kechiche explores themes as the discovery of sexuality and first love. With the same brilliant outcome we hope.
Top 10 Best French films of 2013 and 2014
Please do take into account that we are a Belgium/Netherlands based website working with films that are released in our countries in 2013. Most of the trailers have English subtitles, but unfortunately a few them are still only in French. Let the countdown of 2013’s French essential must-watch films begin. Many of the films are 2014 films in the US, like Jeune et Jolie and La Vie D’adele. Before reading, take note of a number of good 2013 French films that did not make the cut: La Fille du 14 Juillet, La bataille de Solférino, Apres mai, Camille Claudet 1915 and La Religieuse. 2014 French films that did not make the cut are: La Chambre Bleu, La French, Diplomacy, Eden. Many of them can be found on our genre lists though.
10. Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)
Directed by Olivier Assayas
Starring Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart and Chloë Grace Moretz
Very recently, it was announced that Kristen Stewart is the first American actress in over a thirty years to be nominated for a César Award, the French equivalent of the Oscar. If it had not been sufficiently proved yet, then Clouds of Sils Maria absolutely does: there’s more to Stewart than that sulky girl in love with vampires. In Clouds, Kristen Stewart plays the agent of an aging actress Maria(Binoche) who becomes haunted by her past as she takes on a role in a play that once launched her career. The two rehearse in a remote villa in the French Alps, which ends up in a psychological clash between the young and the aging as Maria has to come to terms with her fading career.
9.Avant L’Hiver (2013)
Directed by Phillip Claudel
Featuring Kirsten Scott Thomas, Daniel Auteuil
Avant L’Hiver, awkwardly translated into the international title Before the Winter Chill, was unlucky in being released in 2013, undoubtedly one of the best years in recent French film history. Therefore, due to it being a rather conventional, slow-paced psychological drama, it has remained largely overlooked. It did get a cinema release in several European countries, but in no way received the attention our next French films got. Indeed, it will in fact not blow you away as a La vie d’Adele does, but it is an excellent drama with a solid storyline that has a book-like feel to it. It is not surprising that French director Phillip Claudel, who also wrote the screenplay, used to be a successful novelist. If you enjoyed his Il y a longtemps que je t’aime (2008), do not hesitate to go watch this film about a bourgeois doctor who hides a relationship with another woman, which looks a great deal like an affair but is not quite that, from his wife (a role splendidly played by Kirsten Scott Thomas).
8. L’Ecume des Jours (2013)
Directed by Michel Gondry
Featuring Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou
This latest film by Michel Gondry, famous for absurd and surreal films like The Science of Sleep (2006) and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind (2004), did something to rub me the wrong way from the moment of its announcement. The way Gondry turns the film into this modern-day Melies style work of art, evoking a sort of nostalgic sense of quirky sincerity somehow annoys me beyond reason. Where Wes Anderson still (but less and less) gets away with his flirtations with childhood sentiment, the expiration date of Gondry’s experiments has passed. I guess the feeling you get from the photo above will tell you if you agree with me or not. Nonetheless, Michel Gondry remains an exceptional filmmaker and the film, internationally titled Moon Indigo, definitely has its moments, and still is a one of a kind flick that deserves to be watched. Especially the fans of writer Boris Vian, on whose book the film is based, will thoroughly enjoy it. Some people were wary of Gondry going full mainstream on it (after films like The Green Hornet, 2011), but he did no such thing.
7. Jeune & Jolie (2013)
Directed by François Ozon
Featuring Marine Vacth and Geraldine Pailhas
One of my favorite modern French filmmakers, François Ozon, never fails to beautifully frame intimate interpersonal dramas, often touching upon controversial and almost juicy topics, with great honesty and sincerity. Perhaps best known for his English/French spoken ‘thriller film’ Swimming Pool (2003), and more recently with one of the best French films of 2012, Dans la Maison (2012), Ozon released the highly anticipated Jeune et Jolie aka Young and Beautiful in early 2013. His film, featuring the astonishing Marine Vacth (above), portraits the story of a 17-year old upper-class Parisian girl who takes the exploration of sexuality to a whole new level by secretly trying her luck as a call girl. Jeune et Jolie, not unlike most Ozon films, is a visual treat, but perhaps lacks the depth of his previous films. Despite the often heard critique that the film is slightly superficial, Jeune et Jolie remains an absolute must-watch because it succeeds in making the viewer relate to – and understand the desire to sell your body, and the odd sense of satisfaction it accomplishes. This great film is released in the US in 2014.
6. Eastern Boys (2014)
Directed by Robin Campillo
Starring Olivier Rabourdin, Kyrill Emelyanov and Daniil Vorobyov
Part thriller, part romance gay drama, Eastern Boys tells the story of Daniel, a middle-aged Parisian men who embarks on a potentially dangerous romantic relationship with a young immigrant from Eastern Europe. In his naivety, he invites the boy over at his house, unaware of his dangerous friends who use Daniel merely as a bait. Eastern Boys is one of those rare hybrid films which is both tender during its romantic scenes and nerve-wracking during others.
5. Les Salauds (2013)
Directed by Claire Denis
Featured Vincent Lindon, Julie Bataille and Chiara Mastroianni
An a-typical ‘revenge’ film-noir that through mesmerizing yet disturbing scenes unfolds into a genre film without you realizing it. Completely stripped of actual action scenes, Les Salauds gets under your skin slowly, and does not let go until the end. The amazingly intuitive and visual storytelling by the experienced Claire Denis, keeps you in a constant a state of pleasant bewilderment, never really getting a grip on the characters, but strongly feeling their emotions. In the lead we find Marco, played by Vincent Lindon (Welcome, 2009)) who returns to Paris to target the man who Marco’s sister holds responsible for the suicide of her husband.
4. Fenus in Fur (2013)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Featuring Emmanuelle Seigner, Mathieu Amalric
Admittedly, the trailer of Venus in Fur, Roman Polanski’s latest project, is anything but inviting. Fortunately the film itself shows the genius of Roman Polanski, and deserves a place amongst the best French films 2013. The film is, in a nutshell, about an actress who desperately wants to persuade a director to cast her for a role in his play. La Vénus à la fourrure is very well received, and as not uncommon for Polanski films has also polarized the audience.
Bande de Filles (2014)
Directed by Céline Sciamma
Starring Karidja Touré, Assa Sylla and Lindsay Karamoh
Sciamma is a master in potraying the growing pains of young girls. Naissance de Pieuvres dealt with a fourteen year old girl falling in love with another girl at a swimming pool during a hot long summer and Tomboy told the story of a ten year old cross dresser. Her latest effort is without a doubt her strongest; yet again a beautifully photographed film about a teenage girl from the outskirts of Paris dealing with love, friendship and gender issues. Please make sure to check out our LGBT list to read more on Sciamma’s films.
2. Stranger by the Lake (2013)
Directed by Alain Guiraudie
Featuring Pierre Deladonchamps, Patrick d’Assumçao, and Christophe Paou
In the current influx of gay-themed films L’inconnu du Lac is the top of the bill. It is magnificently subtle and spectacularly in-your-face at the same time. Placed in a Eric Rohmer kind of setting at a picturesque French lake where men come to spend their summer days, and occasionally have intercourse in the nearby woods. One of the sun and sex worshippers is Franck who falls in love with the attractive and manly Michel, one of the other guests, although he knows full well that Michel cannot be trusted and is highly dangerous. The film gives the viewer a great sense of the local gay-scene, and despite that the film is largely a very light story, it at one point slowly transforms into a dark yet subtle thriller. A modern French film by Alain Guiraudie (Le roi de l’évasion, 2009) that could truly become a cult classic.
1. Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013)
Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche
Featuring Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos
While the editors of Cahier du Cinema felt that L’inconnu du Lac topped La Vie d’Adele, I personally prefer the intimate, (lets just say it) voyeuristic portrait of a young French girl who is unsure of her sexual orientation in La Vie d’Adele. It is without a doubt the best French film of 2013 (for the US and UK 2014). In this coming of age story we follow Adele, a high schooler, who starts her first lesbian relationship with an enigmatic older bohemian artist played by Lea Seydoux. The film was immediately recognized for what it is, a masterpiece. It was honored with the Palme d’Or prize at Cannes Filmfestival, and the two female leads got special mentions. Besides much critical acclaim, there were non-sense objections made against the 10 minute love scene which was described as pornographic. The film got extra juicy when later on Seydoux and Exarchopoulos accused the French-Tunisian director of not making them feel comfortable and because of the harsh working conditions made them feel like prostitutes. In sum, more than enough reason to go see it.
Please do discuss which French 2013 releases should be named on this best French films of 2013/2014 list.
– Also check out our Top 5 French tv shows you need to watch in 2014!