June 30, 2008

French Film? In need of help from bi-lingual monkeys. The BF of almost 2 years has a birthday coming up, and I have thought of an almost perfect gift.

He was fluent in French up until HS thanks to a language-immersion program as a tot, but now can only read. He'd like to regain the old speaking/listening skills, so I thought a few French-language books or movies for his birthday would be great... However, I don't speak French and I have no knowledge of French films or books. I wondered if any monkeys could suggest some good ones? He's got a pretty wide taste, no chick stuff would be about the only qualification. I place my trust in you monkeys...

  • a couple of movies by Jean-Jacques Beineix: Diva or Betty Blue (37°2 le matin) would be a great place to start. they're over 10 years old, tho.
  • sorry, 20 years. woof. i remember the day i saw Betty Blue and Blue Velvet one after the other with my sister, all them years ago... jeez.
  • Offhand, I’d highly recommend the Petit Nicolas books. Not terribly hard French, but has a few literary or linguistic tricks, and each one is utterly charming. And each story is a quick read. (He might be a little insulted if you brought home Le Petit Prince, thinking that’s a children’s book.) Also available in translation (finally), if he wants to cheat see how well he did. If you’d want something a bit more serious, Amélie Nothomb. Not too difficult a level of French, and some fairly interesting stuff. The kids all love her.
  • I get regular mailings from the French Institute Alliance Française, and they've proven to be an immense wealth of info on French films and French language studies. You might be able to find some good ones from their website...
  • As for movies, that may be a bit tougher. A movie with 'easy' French would be the oft-derided Parapluies de Cherbourg, which is cheese, yes, but it's sung-French, i.e. slower and clearer. And there's the attraction of watching a teenaged Catherine Deneuve for a couple of hours. Cheap melodrama aside, the production values of the movie itself are incredible. Other than that, I'd highly, highly recommend A Very Long Engagement, which is the same sort of thing as Amelie, but heavier. So very much heavier. And a finer film, ultimately. Language may be a little quick, though. Huit Femmes is a lot of fun, but if it's too chicky, you could make it a Ludivine Sagnier night with Swimming Pool. O la la!
  • There's always this.
  • But if you want the Holy-Fuck-What-The-Fuck-Was-That kind of movie, then go for Caché. It'll have you thinking for days. Mainly because you'll be afraid to sleep.
  • Nikita Taxi and pretty much every other Luc Besson movie. La Haine also rocks. If you want a softer cultural view then Claude Berri's Jean de Florette and Manon des Source. Doesn't every DVD come with french dubbing now?
  • Not recent but excellent: La Cité des enfants perdus. Amazing visuals.
  • Some of my favorite oldies-but-goodies: Paul Grimault's animated classic Le Roi et l'Oiseau. It's based on a story by Hans Christian Anderson, but there's plenty for adults to enjoy, like the beautiful, surreal visuals and social commentary. There isn't a ton of dialog, either. Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête is another visual feast based on a fairy tale, but it's not really a kids' movie. Also not overly chatty, and since everybody knows the basic story you won't get lost if all the words aren't clear. Le Dernier Métro, directed by François Truffaut has a sexy mature Catherine Deneuve and a sexy young Gererd Depardieu. 'Nuff said. It's set in a theater during the Nazi occupation of Paris. See if you can find DVD's with subtitles you can turn off or on.
  • Oh, and I can't really remember how advanced the dialogue is, but La Reine Margot and Camille Claudel are astoundingly beautiful period pieces with gut-wrenching performances by the exquisite Isabelle Adjani.
  • Oh, and everybody peobably knows I'm going to say this, but I HIGHLY recommend a few Jacques Brel CD's. You can get used ones pretty cheap on Amazon or ebay. Besides the fact that both his music and poetry verges on the sublime, his diction is so clear and precise that you never miss a word.
  • Les Amants du Pont-Neuf is a beautiful film with romance, drama and Juliette Binoche, can't go wrong with it. If he's interested in animation of the classic kind, La Planète sauvage is an old one that still amazes due its' imaginative design.
  • Ah, bad link: Les Amants du Pont-Neuf
  • Wow! You're all amazing, thank you so much! the big day is not until the end of July, so I should be able to investigate each and every one. Thank you thank you thank you!
  • Delicatessen should hold up pretty well, and as I recall the language was mostly pretty simple. Oh god that's 17 years old now....
  • All the French I know I learned from phonetically memorizing phrases from Alphaville. For a time I was maybe a bit obsessed.
  • Lots of very good recommendations here. Some that haven't been mentioned: Le Diner des cons (harsh but funny comedy) The three colours trilogy, Krzystof Kieslowski was just hitting his stride when we lost him L'auberge espagnole and other movies by Cedric Klapisch. Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie and others by Bunuel. Toto le héros - a fun comedy. Les Triplettes de Belleville (animated) Ridicule - more harsh comedy. Le Goût des autres - very French comedy. Le Divorce mixes English and French quite stylishly. For books, I'd recommend the French translations of the Harry Potter series.