Our annual roundup of the best French films of the year.
Pascal Chaumeil, 2010
This action-packed romantic comedy was a hit with French moviegoers and film critics alike. Alex (Romain Duris) is a professional Don Juan who makes his living by breaking up unhappy couples. His latest assignment seems simple: He has one week to prevent Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) from marrying the man she’s madly in love with, a rich but dull Englishman. The mission gets hazardous for Alex when he starts to fall for the self-assured Juliette himself.
Jacques Perrin & Jacques Cluzaud, 2010
After flying high with Winged Migration, Perrin and Cluzaud venture to the depths of the oceans with their latest documentary. Poetic, beautiful and highly enjoyable, Océans also delivers a strong environmental message, unfortunately watered down in the US version—distributed by Disney—in which, for example, the entire sequence on extinct species was cut. Conversely, the US version added some much-needed explanatory narrative.
Fabien Onteniente, 2010
In this sequel to Camping, a huge success in 2006, the same working-class vacationers reunite at the Camping des Flots Bleus on the Atlantic coast. Once again the humor involves culture shock for an outsider, this time an insurance broker (Richard Anconina). With its festive atmosphere and hilarious dialogue, Camping 2 was one of the most successful French films of 2010 for Speedo-wearing Patrick Chirac (Franck Dubosc) and his friends.
Des Hommes et des Dieux (Of Gods and Men)
Xavier Beauvois, 2010
The unanimously acclaimed winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes this year was also the surprise sensation of the fall box office. Des Hommes et des Dieux is inspired by the 1996 ordeal of eight French Cistercian monks abducted from their monastery at Tibhirine, Algeria, by a band of Islamic extremists and ultimately killed. The film (with a talented ensemble cast including Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale) follows the devoted monks during the last three years of their lives, as violence and terror slowly take hold of the region.
Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec
Luc Besson, 2010
Based on Jacques Tardi’s celebrated comic book series, Adèle Blanc-Sec takes place in Paris in 1912. In her quest to find a doctor who can cure her younger sister’s strange illness, investigative journalist Adèle (Louise Bourgoin) encounters crazed scientists, mummies and a 136-million-year-old pterodactyl awakened by an ancient curse. Full of humor and special effects, the film, if not totally faithful to the books, is highly entertaining.
BURLESQUE ROAD MOVIE
Tournée (On Tour)
Mathieu Almaric, 2010
Formerly a big-time TV producer, Joachim (Mathieu Amalric) has left France to start a new life in the United States. He returns a few years later with a troupe of New Burlesque striptease artists. The tour travels the boondocks, with the girls performing to enthusiastic audiences in small theaters while Joachim desperately tries to book a venue in Paris. Director-actor Amalric took Best Director at Cannes for this touching film, full of tongue-in-cheek humor and nostalgia.
Le Bruit des Glaçons (The Clink of Ice)
Bertrand Blier, 2010
One day Charles, an alcoholic middle-aged writer (Jean Dujardin), gets a visit from a stranger (Albert Dupontel) who announces, “I am your cancer. Let’s get acquainted.” Full of dark humor and surprisingly stimulating despite its bleak subject, Blier’s first film in more than four years is one of his best and most inspired. Dupontel and Ducastel’s on-screen chemistry will remind Blier’s fans of Gérard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere in the director’s early masterpieces Going Places and Get Out Your Handkerchiefs. One of France’s most provocative filmmakers is back at the top of his game.
POIGNANT TRIBUTE TO JACQUES TATI
L’Illusionniste (The Illusionist)
Sylvain Chomet, 2010
After the success of Les Triplettes de Belleville, animator Sylvain Chomet treats audiences to this tender, melancholic study of the decline of the music hall. Based on a never-produced script written by filmmaker Jacques Tati, this beautiful animated film doubles as a celebration of Tati’s life and oeuvre. Tatischeff, a magician unable to find work in Paris, crosses the channel to try his luck in London, then Scotland, where he meets Alice, a naïve young woman who believes in magic.
Tied for 9th:
Les Petits Mouchoirs (Little White Lies) Guillaume Canet. Dramatic comedy.
La Rafle (The Round Up) Roselyne Bosch. Historical drama.
Arthur 3: La Guerre des Deux Mondes (Arthur and the Two Worlds War) Luc Besson. Animation.
Tout Ce Qui Brille Géraldine Nakache, Hervé Mimran. Comedy.
Le Mac Pascal Bourdiaux. Comedy.
Mammuth Gustave Kervern, Benoît Delépine. Comedy.
Carlos Olivier Assayas. Biopic.
Copacabana Marc Fitoussi. Dramatic comedy.
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Originally published in the December 2010 issue of France Today