A Voyage Through Cinema: France

Are you ready to travel the world through the lens of cinema? Welcome to our new series A Voyage Through Cinema where we will embark on a voyage to discover cinematic masterpieces from all around the world.

This series aims to capture the unique elements of each region and to showcase that despite the differences in language or traditions, cinema can transcend all boundaries and evoke a feeling that is universal to all of us.  

For our first installment of this series, we will be reviewing films from France. From romance to war and everything in between, this list of films will catch at least one of your fancy’s. Sit tight and enjoy the ride; keep on reading to see which French films we enjoyed!

Romance: Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001)

The romance that exists within her is only a piece to the puzzle of her life.

Tired of watching the cliché ‘boy meets girl’ rom-com? Well, Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001), better known just as Amélie, is a whimsical and wonderlust romantic comedy. It revolves around the life of Amélie Poulain, an adorable, cheeky woman who works in a café in Paris. Her life suddenly changes when she finds a box of toys belonging to a previous male tenant, who is now a lonely grandfather. From then on, she makes a commitment to improve the lives of the people around her (even if it’s in the most peculiar ways). 

Perhaps to categorise this film only as a rom-com is incomplete. Considering the immersive look that the audience gets from Amélie’s life, from her sheltered childhood to innocent adult-life, it renders the romance that exists within her is only a piece to the puzzle of her life.

In my opinion, this is what sets the film apart from the rest. Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain has that essential aspect that makes the audience sit at the edge of their seat, waiting to know not only the destiny of her love, but also the very essence of her own life. For a light-hearted comedy full of mind-boggling adventures and a charming romance, try Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain. 

War: Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987)

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Source: AlloCiné

The children in this film are just, well, children; aware of the conflict yet unable to comprehend why the differences in people should set them apart.

Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987) — meaning Goodbye Children in English — is a war film set in occupied France during the Second World war.

It follows the eye of Julien Quentin and his growing friendship with a Jewish boy, Jean Bonnet (Kippelstein), in a time where Jewish people were being captured by German Nazi’s. 

Unlike the common gruesome and gory war films, Au Revoir Les Enfants is filled with light-hearted banter and mischievous shenanigans that spark when these boys are put together in boarding school. Trading jams for stamps or cheese for cigarettes, the children in this film are just, well, children; aware of the conflict yet unable to comprehend why the differences in people should set them apart. 

The audience realises the burden of childhood innocence in scenes where Julien questions, “What’s wrong with Jews?” when to him, Jean Bonnet is just another friend who plays piano with him, who competes with him in essay-writing, and with whom he shares his favourite book.

From laughter and smiles to devastating heartbreak, the film captures just what painful emotions the war brought through a child’s eye.  

Family: Demain Tout Commence (2016)

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/L5VKP0vlqytkQLbanMT_ISpWWXHV5DSkdvVq7B7IjH4Y9-KTK6h93n4Iw52y0RhMVWrom_kbUEq7-D60n4FhqsH78C1TJ9cOpRct04XQ0vGN_5f5Ii4YsDdap_f2oPO0ru04znWu
Source: IMDb

If you are looking for an emotional family comedy French film, Demain Tout Commence (2016) will be just the perfect choice. The title Demain Tout CommenceTwo is a Family — very much speaks for the storyline itself.

It is about the life of a man named Samuel whose life turned upside down when he receives an unexpected child from a woman he has an affair with. He then moves to London with his child for a fresh start.

I find this movie absolutely heartwarming, emotional and funny. It is intriguing to see the transformation of a man who’s not ready to have a child but willing to sacrifice his previous life to start and build a better life for his child. 

Friendship: The Intouchables (2011)

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/dHdqubsAM0qGR4Jln6bQFSP0dCmGjUxMek5ipem3oSemF8-Yrbl2PW0UaNaQAIeqPXhG4A3My4SzG5atPYBuj0OTj6SUj8Xyk3rn-Sp7YwGbiQ_fxldYC8ywsaLP7Bl45SftaNib
Source: IMDb (with edits from Heng Eileen)

The Intouchables (2011) is a buddy-comedy drama film which has won several award, such as Satellite Awards for Best Motion Picture and Grande Prêmio de Cinema Brasileiro. What is interesting about The Intouchables (2011) is that this movie is based on a real life story. 

The movie tells the friendship of two people, Philippe and Driss, who bond together despite the differences in race and social class. Philippe is a white millionaire who’s paralysed from the neck down his body due to a paragliding accident. Driss is a young black man who lives in a harsh condition and is trying to provide for his family. Hence, Driss applies for a job as Philippe’s caregiver. 

Watch how these two men form friendship, trust and love through humour, funky music, joy of marijuana, words from a wise black man and late night speed drive. 

Animation: Ma Vie de Courgette (2016)

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/y_seZ86kPFGrqQd8QFP-hpfD2iFQtNjS6Ws0R3G3T_E7CWvBiQA1nExc-cti0_L60hjkWa5ysIIZx72fK96WWMDsznB3EKpm1sGTbi-LyEjV02a73fflUddcgBoTQ5HyaVlJGaA0
Source: Heng Eileen
https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/JszTmNmt8wBOWMQU3ZESxW0k-f_dGdzKrRGDMzbSRqskohel7qRm3Zhggcq7HP6Hli--gJFhESvMIyYVPA6XDi0a-H7QLRoWyY6Kc0hkdvaWg1cHmW_W7eFHeMmNQLvae9EoaWRh
Source: Heng Eileen

We’re all the same, there’s nobody to love us.

You know we keep the best for the last. Ma Vie de Courgette (2016) is an animated stop-motion film that will pull the strings of your heart. In English, this animation’s title is “My Life as a Courgette”. The film recounts the life of a 9 year-old boy named Icare (who prefers to be called Courgette) who once lived under the same roof with his alcoholic mother and was then sent to a children’s home after his mother’s unfortunate death. 

Each child from the children’s home have their own unique and heartbreaking story of how they end up there. Quote-on-quote said by one of the children there: “We’re all the same, there’s nobody to love us.”

I could feel the pain in this quote deeply. Although it is a simple animation movie, it manages to successfully portray the ugly truth that inevitably exists in our life.

We hope that these films have captured your interest enough to give it a watch. In the meantime, we’re slowly departing from France for another journey, so stay tuned for more films from other countries! (Who knows, maybe our next stop will be a visit to your country!)

Bon voyage! 

Written by Heng Eileen and Raihanah Binti Kamarul Azman

Cover photo credits: Heng Eileen and Raihanah K. A.

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