French Cinema

By | February 2, 2022

According to, contemporary French cinema is characterized by an eye to the past and another to the future, as on the one hand it has maintained an authorial identity, but on the other it has never lost its contact with the public. In a period in which cinema has experienced a crisis on an industrial level in many European countries, film has in fact gone against the trend. 2011 was an exemplary year: 272 films were produced and 215 million tickets sold. And there have been box-office comedies like Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis (2008; Down in the North), by Dany Boon, and Intouchables (2011; Almost Friends) by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano: the story of the relationship between a rich quadriplegic and his young caregiver has been seen by 51 million people worldwide.

Even today, French cinema seems to offer the only model that can compete, in some respects, with that of American cinema. This was demonstrated, for example, by the success in the United States of some of his actors who became stars such as Marion Cotillard, or directors such as Michel Gondry (Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, 2004, If you let me cancel you ; L’écume des jours, 2013, Mood IndigoThe foam of the days), which alternated French and American productions, or even a film like The artist (2011, by Michel Hazanavicius) who won five Oscars, and Luc Besson’s work as a producer for EuropaCorp and as a director of spectacular genre films, including live-action (the trilogy inaugurated with Arthur et les Minimoys, 2006, Arthur and the Minimoys) and sci-fi thriller (Lucy, 2014).

Furthermore, the French one seems to be an ageless cinema. With some New Wave filmmakers who have continued to make films in which creative freedom and experimentation have continued to go hand in hand. Jean-Luc Godard continued on his path of breaking up traditional narrative and linguistic codes through a reading of the history of cinema that is intertwined with that of the other arts and which has been called into question with digital and 3D (Film socialisme, 2010 ; Adieu au langage, 2014, Farewell to language). Chance, theater, the show between life and representation have crossed the work of Alain Resnais in different forms (Les herbes folles, 2009, The crazy loves) and Jacques Rivette (36 vues du Pic Saint-Loup, 2009, A question of points of view), while Claude Chabrol continued to create works in which he analyzes the bourgeois class and everything that is hidden behind an apparent normality with its never dormant passion for noir (La fille coupée en deux, 2007, The innocence of sin). The discovery of new universes also marked the last part of Eric Rohmer’s career, where the literary adaptation becomes the starting point for other time journeys such as in his latest film, the Arcadian fable Les amours d’Astrée et de Céladon (2007 ; The loves of Astrea and Celadon). Cinema has also become an opportunity for Agnès Varda to take stock of her first 80 years between reconstructed moments of existence, film clips, returning to the places of her own life in Les plages d’Agnès (2008).

Samba scene

Among the directors who have come to the fore in recent years we must remember Jacques Audiard, with his dramatically exasperated physicality (Un prophète, 2009, Il profeta ; Dheepan, Palme d’Or in Cannes in 2015), Abdellatif Kechiche, with his impulsive cinema always suspended between desire and anger ( La vie d’Adèle , 2013, La vita di Adele), and Laurent Cantet who has definitively shattered the threshold between documentary and fiction (Entre les murs, 2008, La classe); both Kechiche and Cantet won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013 and 2008. In 2012, Léos Carax returned to feature films with Holy motors, played by his favorite actor Denis Lavant.

Even in the younger directors of French cinema there is a need to connect and confront themselves with the cinema of their fathers, seen not as a model, but just as a stimulus to get involved and film. So much so that the autobiographical component has been inseparable from Olivier Assayas’ cinema (Après mai, 2012, Something in the air ; Clouds of Sils Maria, 2014), for which cinema becomes the only illusion to make up for lost time. The continuous link with the New Wave, its questioning, the need to tell about oneself in the first person have also characterized the work of Christophe Honoré (Dans Paris, 2006) and Mia Hansen-Løve (Le père de mes enfants, 2009, The father of my children). In some cases, cinema and life come together as when the personal experience of the child’s illness becomes the starting point for a film of movements and actions such as in La guerre est déclarée (2011; La guerra è Decata), by Valérie Donzelli. With Hansen-Løve and Donzelli, a generation of female directors has established itself in French cinema who stage their conflicts through comedy (Au bout du conte, 2013, When you least expect it, by Agnès Jaoui; Un château en Italie, 2013, A castle in Italy, by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), or dramatic films such as Tomboy (2011) by Céline Sciamma, or 17 filles (2011; 17 girls) by sisters Delphine and Muriel Coulin.

A coherent line in the authorial path has continued to distinguish the filmography of André Téchiné (Les témoins, 2007, The witnesses), Bertrand Tavernier (La princesse deMontpensier, 2010), François Ozon (Jeune & jolie, 2013, Young and beautiful), Paul Vecchiali (Nuits blanches sur la jetée, 2014), Robert Guédiguian (Les neiges du Kilimandjaro, 2011, The snows of Kilimanjaro), Xavier Beauvois (Des hommes et des dieux, 2010, Men of God), Arnaud Des plechin (Un conte de Noël, 2008, A Christmas Tale), Bertrand Bonello (Saint Laurent, 2014), Chantal Akerman (La folie Almayer, 2011), Catherine Breillat (Abus de faiblesse, 2013), Costa-Gavras (Capital, 2012) and Claire Denis (35 rhums, 2008). Some actors then embarked on a parallel career as directors: among them Mathieu Amalric (Tournée, 2010), Guillaume Canet (Les petits mouchoirs, 2010, Little lies among friends), Maïwenn (Polisse, 2011) and Sandrine Bonnaire (J’enrage de son absence, 2012).

Many genres have their leading names: from documentary (Chris Marker, Nicholas Philibert, Raymond Depardon), to horror (Alexandre Aja), from the reinterpretation of polar (Olivier Marchal, Fred Cavayé) to animated cinema (Michel Ocelot and, above all, Sylvain Chomet who with L’illusionniste, 2010, L’illusionista, brought back to the screen a project never realized by Jacques Tati; see also animation: France).

French Cinema