Whether they are the creators of the moving image or first picture, French cinema has always been held in the highest regard. From hosting elite festivals to film movements, their films inspire the community. Here are the 10 best French films of the 2010s.
10. The Intouchables (2011) – Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano
Starting off the decade with this feel-good film about friendship and new chances amidst social commentary, Omar Sy and Francois Cluzet star as the odd couple: Sy’s non-qualified caregiver’s new occupation of taking of Cluzet’s quadriplegic down-on-life millionaire. Nakache and Toledano set out to make a film that captures the warmth and sunshine of the human spirit and they succeeded.
With numerous accolades, the world recognized this French film that showed how contemporary French films could be received for a larger context. Take the scenes where Sy contemplates going back to a life on the streets dealing drugs, or Cluzet simply wanting to end all things – these two characters, based off real life people, showed how two different sides of life can come together for an internal change, thus proving they need one another.
With a great soundtrack, performances, and story, it’s hard not to root for this film and is a nice departure from what non-French audiences perceive to be a French film today.
9. Two Days, One Night (2014) – Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne
Belgian filmmakers have always had their shoes in the French film world and here they tagged one of their greatest actors, Marion Cotillard on a desperate journey to convince her fellow employees to disregard a bonus at the expense of losing her job.
Playing out in a social realist style with a bomb about to explode in the distance, it’s truly stunning how Cotillard can deliver a performance composing of urgency, fragility, and tenderness. As she goes from one employee to the next and receiving comfort from her Dardenne regular husband, Fabrizio Rongione, we truly witness the pain, present and from the past, she is feeling.
Cotillard managed to give several amazing performances over the decade, but here, she is the spine of the film. The Dardenne brothers do not shed their aesthetic and compromise for a more glorious fight or ending; instead, the film and character of Sandra drive the film for what it truly is and should be. An exploration of a woman fighting for her livelihood, battling her own past health problems, and the human will to do what she needs to do.
8. My Golden Days (2015) – Arnaud Desplechin
With the revisiting of his world and characters from “My Sex Life … or How I Got Into an Argument” and crafting a prequel and semi-sequel, Desplechin does what he does best, in which he creates a film and a narrative that changes so frequently in mood and temperament in accordance with the characters but never the awe and wonder from the audience.
His muse Mathieu Amalric returns as Paul Dedalus, now living a traveling reporting lifestyle as he finds himself in a diplomatic bind. This forces him to tell and reflect on his adolescent years, particularly with his one great love, Esther. With Quentin Dolmaire forming his own Delalus in the younger days, we see how he shaped into a young man. But the plot is not important; it’s the spirit and choices through parties, sex, and simply hanging out that form his quest for life and love.
Desplechin gently directs the characters as they seem free to roam or decide their own fates, but never without his elegance and filmic style. He created a film filled with longing for the past, accepting one’s present fate, and pondering of the what the future holds.
7. My King (2015) – Maiwenn
Equally deserving for her 2011 film “Polisse,” Maiwenn gets to the root of what the French do best – an all-out full throttle examination of love between Emmanuelle Bercot and Vincent Cassel. Told from Bercot’s Marie’s perspective as she rests in a rehabilitation clinic, we see the story of Marie and Georgio.
From the screaming in the Parisian rainy streets, heated arguments through mutual friends, the hardships of letting past loves go, and of course, a child in the mix, these two characters leave everything on the floor and we see them do just that. Cassel is wildly unpredictable as Bercot is enthralled and skeptical; yet, she falls in love anyway, as does Cassel.
Maiwenn leaves very little breathing room as the two are constantly sorting through one of their problems, as we can clearly see. It makes us love and hate each character throughout various points of the film. We never side with one, but rather watch their relationship experience turmoil through the high ups and low downs.
It’s a film that reminds oneself of the true nature of not just love, but the will and strength to go through a relationship and eventually raise a child together. Both actors have never been better as they go all out and leave their emotions unrendered, for better or worse, much like the closing of the film.
6. Rust and Bone (2012) – Jacques Audiard
Regardless of his Palme d’Or winning “Dheepan,” Audiard reached new heights with his film about a reckless unemployed man caring for a whale trainer after a serious accident. Audiard has always tapped into raw, visceral performances in whatever world or genre he operates in, but here, with Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts as a consuming, brutal pair, it transcends off the screen.
From its handheld documentary approach, we feel alongside the characters throughout the film; Audiard and DP Stephane Fontaine never shy away from beautiful overlapping imagery and images of its two leads giving some of the best work from their careers. The film is violent, shocking, and unpredictable but never manages to diverge from the characters and their story. Therefore, with all the mistakes, tragedy, and humane moments, Audiard makes us care no matter the circumstance or fault, and as a French filmmaker he excels at it.
The film has continued to maintain its gut-wrenching emotion from its premiere and even after every watch, you feel the intensity of this world, story, and characters as you did on your first viewing.