Six Must-See French Films in Honor of Bastille Day
The French National Day, or Bastille Day as it is known to English speakers, is July 14. The holiday commemorates the 1789 storming of the Bastille, which started the French Revolution. In France, this holiday is celebrated with a large military parade, but in the United States, Francophiles celebrate by eating French cuisine and appreciating French culture. One way to pay tribute to France is by watching a great French film. Here are five must-see titles to get you started, plus one honorable mention which was directed by an American but tells a relevant French story.
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (1953)
If you’re a fan of classic physical comedians like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, then you’re likely to enjoy this charming comedy from the celebrated French director Jacques Tati. The film follows the madcap antics of a man named Monsieur Hulot (played by Tati) while he vacations at the beach. There is little dialogue, which means very few subtitles are used and the humor is expressed through visual gags.
The French New Wave is one of the most famous and renowned periods in French film history. The movement featured artistic films which experimented with visual style and storytelling. One of the most famous films of the New Wave is “Breathless,” by the legendary filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard. The film tells the story of a French criminal hiding out with his American girlfriend in Paris while she decides whether to turn him in. It’s full of interesting techniques and stylish fashion.
Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962)
The only female director of the New Wave was the brilliant Agnès Varda. Her film “Cleo from 5 to 7″ deals with issues of feminism and identity. It follows a French singer as she awaits the results of a cancer test. The film has plenty of symbolism and striking visuals.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet created one of the most feel-good movies of all time when he directed this film. If you ask the typical American to name any French films he or she has seen, most of them will probably list this movie. The enchanting Audrey Tautou plays a shy young French woman who devotes her life to bringing happiness to others, while struggling to achieve true love for herself. Colorful visuals and a heartwarming story make this a must-see.
La Vie en Rose (2007)
The lovely Marion Cotillard gives a powerful, Oscar-winning performance as troubled French singer Édith Piaf in this biopic. Cotillard’s emotional, heartbreaking portrayal of the French icon, along with her extreme physical transformation, makes this film worthwhile.
Honorable Mention: Marie Antoinette (2006)
American filmmaker Sofia Coppola directed this offbeat tribute to the controversial French queen who reigned during the Revolution. This film depicts the young Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) as a contemporary teen, even though the story is still set in 18th century France. A fun pop soundtrack completes the creative tone.
Whip up some crêpes and turn on one of these fantastic French films this Bastille Day.