French Cinema’s Rite of Passage

What do you think about when you hear the words “French Cinema”?


Perhaps you become preoccupied by the word “French”.  Or if you are me, you are wondering how much of the film will actually be spent watching the motion picture instead of reading the subtitles below, or if the subtitles are accurate translations, or if watching a movie in a foreign language will give you a headache, or…


The list could be endless.


Recently French Cinema has been making a name for itself, and not just on a domestic level, but also on international soil.  But what about all of those concerns that I mentioned earlier?  Who wants to spend their movie watching experience reading words at the bottom of a screen?  French cinema has introduced a movie that will quell such concerns, and a mighty fine one at that.  The Artist, by Parisian director, Michel Hazanavicius, takes place in 1920’s Hollywood.  Hazanavicius whisks us back in time in his black and white French film about the era between silent films and talking pictures.  Oh yeah, and the film, itself, is silent…so prepare.


Okay, so I will be the first to admit that I have yet to see the movie, although it is on the top of my list of “films-to-see”.  But whether or not I have seen it, this film’s accolades are a testament to how great it actually is.  Winning five out of ten nominated Oscars earlier this year at the Academy Awards, the film rises beyond any other French film by earning France it’s first Best Picture and Best Actor.  Perhaps the best aspect of the entire film and its recent awards is best summarized by a blogger named Raquelle, who was happy to see the film win Best Picture: “What The Artist demonstrated is that a contemporary film doesn’t have to be American, doesn’t have to be in color and doesn’t have to be a talkie.”


Okay, so you may be wondering why this all matters.  I certainly was until I came across a string of sites excited to proclaim that France has produced yet another great film that has gained even greater international attention.  The Intouchables came out and sold over 40 million tickets worldwide.  According to the Periscope Post, which comments on The Artist’s recent success, The Intouchables is to be France’s submission to the upcoming Academy Awards.


This past Saturday, French director, François Ozon won the top honor at the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain for his film Dans la maison.  The psychological thriller of a film is about a sixteen-year-old wunderkind who obsesses over one of his teachers.  Ronald Bergan of Slant Magazine compares Ozon’s film with recent works from Woody Allen and writes, “In many ways, this is exactly the sort of film Woody Allen has been trying to make lately, but has come up short.”


So why are these films popping up on the international scene?  It’s hard to say but perhaps France has been pushing the boundaries for its film industry; producing films that not only have a magnetic plot but also play with our emotions in a way different from the norm.  The Artist certainly pushes those boundaries and introduces a film that has no equivalent in today’s time.  Whatever France is doing, it should keep doing it because it appears to be working.