Top French Films of 2011
January 30, 2012
As the year draws to a close, it’s time to look back at the most talked-about French films of 2011.
ODE TO LIFE
La Guerre Est Déclarée (Declaration of War) Valérie Donzelli
When their newborn son Adam is diagnosed with cancer, Juliette and Romeo choose to declare war against the illness, against pessimism, against the odds… This courageous, touching and surprisingly uplifting film is inspired by the true story of director-actress Donzelli, her former husband, screenwriter-actor Jérémie Elkaïm, and their son. One of the most critically acclaimed French films of the year, it is France’s entry for the Academy Awards.
Rien à Déclarer (Nothing to Declare) Dany Boon
Director and star of the record-breaking Bienvenue Chez les Ch’tis in 2008, Dany Boon does it again in the gag-filled Rien à Déclarer,the biggest French hit of 2011. Two customs officers, a Francophobe Belgian (the always hilarious Benoît Poelvoorde) and his French archenemy (Boon), must team up against drug smugglers after the disbanding of all border control posts within the European Union in 1993. Not always in good taste, but irresistibly funny!
REALIST POLICE DRAMA
Polisse (Poliss) Maïwenn Le Besco
One of the most popular French films of the year, winner of the Jury Prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and destined to become a classic, Polisse describes the everyday life of a police brigade charged with the protection of minors, and how its dedicated men and women cope with the horrors they see on the job. The all-star cast includes rapper Joey Starr, from the band NTM, as the sensitive hunk.
Les Femmes du 6ème Etage (The Women on the 6th Floor) Philippe Le Guay
Midlife crisis meets culture clash in this charming comedy about an uptight 1960s stockbroker (Fabrice Luchini) who is won over by a cheerful group of Spanish maids living in the chambres de bonne on the top floor of his building. This highly enjoyable comedy also provides a thoughtful commentary on how different cultures can learn to live together. It was a huge critical and commercial hit.
La Guerre des Boutons,Yann Samuell, and La Nouvelle Guerre des Boutons, Christophe Barratier (both released with the English title War of the Buttons)
Directed in 1962 by Yves Robert, the first adaptation of Louis Pergaud’s 1912 bestseller La Guerre des Boutons (a French Lord of the Flies) is one of French cinema’s most beloved classics. In 2010 the rights for the novel entered the public domain, and last September two unexciting remakes were released in France only a week apart. Barratier’s version seems to have won the “War of the Box Office”.
SILENT FILM TRIBUTE
The Artist Michel Hazanavicius
The team from the spy-spoof comedy OSS 117 (director Hazanavicius, actor Jean Dujardin and actress Bérénice Bejo) reunited for an original film about the rise and fall of two movie stars from the silent era. Dujardin won Best Actor at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival for this funny, melancholy and beautiful film. Released in France this fall, it is already one of the most successful French films of the year.
La Conquête (The Conquest) Xavier Durringer
This hilarious movie tells the tale of Nicolas Sarkozy’s rise to power, leading up to his victory in the 2007 French presidential elections. The talented Denis Podalydès plays Sarkozy with comic brilliance and accuracy, supported by an all-star cast portraying major French political figures. La Conquête is the first film ever made about a French president who is still in office.
Intouchables Olivier Nakache & Eric Toledano
Based on a true story, Intouchables recounts with humor the story of an unlikely friendship between Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, a rich aristocrat who becomes a quadriplegic after a paragliding accident (François Cluzet), and his domestic aide, a young black man from the suburbs who has just come out of jail (Omar Sy). In tune with the charged political times, this social comedy released in November has resonated with audiences and is already the surprise success of the year. There is talk of a US remake.
TIED FOR TENTH
BOX OFFICE HITS
Case Départ Lionel Steketee. Historical comedy.
La Fille du Puisatier (The Well Digger’s Daughter) Daniel Auteuil. Remake/drama/romance.
Largo Winch II (The Burma Conspiracy) Jérôme Salle. Sequel/Action.
Les Émotifs Anonymes (Romantics Anonymous) Jean-Pierre Améris. Romantic comedy.
Les Tuche Olivier Baroux. Comedy.
Titeuf, Le Film Zep. Animation.
Un Monstre à Paris (A Monster in Paris) Bibo Bergeron. Animation.
Le Chat du Rabbin (The Rabbi’s Cat) Antoine Delesvaux & Joann Sfar. Animation.
Le Gamin au Vélo (The Kid with a Bike) Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne. Social drama.
Les Contes de la Nuit (Tales of the Night) Michel Ocelot. Animation.
Omar m’a Tuer (Omar Killed Me) Roschdy Zem. Drama.
Pater Alain Cavalier. Comedy/drama.
Trailers of most of these films are on www.youtube.com.
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Originally published in the December 2011 issue of France Today.
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