french movies/music
February 21, 2005 9:19 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to improve my French comprehension and pronounciation and retain what I know of the language, so I'm looking for quality French films and music.

I like what I've heard of Carla Bruni's music and films like Amèlie, Chocolat, and Krzysztof Kieslowski's Trois Couleurs trilogy, and I'm looking for more of the same. I'd like to stick to more France-French than Québecois, and my musical tastes are eclectic (basically anything but country). Recommendations?
posted by heatherann to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I asked a very similar question. And am currently listening to Les Nubians as a result, with Cuisine Non Stop next in the CD pile, as a direct result. There are shedloads of great recommendations in the earlier thread.
posted by handee at 9:22 AM on February 21, 2005

Children of Paradise is available on DVD now. I like it a lot.
posted by anapestic at 9:25 AM on February 21, 2005

If you don't mind a structured video tutorial for beginners, there's French in Action. You can get the books from your nearest public/uni library.
posted by Gyan at 9:49 AM on February 21, 2005

Jacques DuTronc is a personal favorite of mine, as far as music goes. Lots of hipster argot in his songs, however. Serge Gainsbourg, Johnny Halliday and Jacques Brel are notables, but not my cup of tea. Cinema-wise, I also recommend anything by Francois Truffaut, particularly Jules et Jim, Breathless and Les quatres cents coups.
posted by psmealey at 9:58 AM on February 21, 2005

Excellent range of stuff in the thread linked by handee.
posted by psmealey at 10:00 AM on February 21, 2005

I was going to refer to the thread cited by handee as well; a search also reveals this and this thread.
posted by matildaben at 10:05 AM on February 21, 2005

I just saw this amazing French slasher film called "Haute Tension."

So friggin' scary - but very high quality (for a slasher).
posted by Quartermass at 10:27 AM on February 21, 2005

If you have a DVD player, I'd also recommend a little trick that I used before travelling to brush up my French: Turn on French subtitles for US films, particularly for films that you have already seen.
posted by desuetude at 10:29 AM on February 21, 2005

I was absolutely blown away by Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles ("A Very Long Engagement") recently. If you liked Amèlie than this is a shoo-in (same director, same lead actress, same style, same utter belivablity). Cannot understate the intensity of this film. There is a novel as well, originally published in French, if you are looking for things to read. I've just started it (in English) so can't review it yet. Just see the film, wow.

With less enthusiasm, but still reccomended - I watched the following in high school french class, with some retention:

Au Revoir, les Enfants - Set in WWII, a Jewish boy is hidden in a Catholic boarding school

La Gloire de Mon Père - A very "nice" movie, basically a biography/growing up story.

And of course, Les Misérables, this version is from 1982, not sure how available it will be where you are. It was decent, speaking as someone who adores the musical.
posted by nelleish at 11:24 AM on February 21, 2005

8 femmes (some talking, some singing), and notre dame de paris (all singing) are entertaining musicals, and I've found that music really helps me in pronunciation sometimes.
posted by nile_red at 11:55 AM on February 21, 2005

Response by poster: Handee's thread is great, surprised I missed that one. More movies, then, I guess, since music has already been covered so well. Are there major French directors that I should be looking for? It's hard to know what's good when I'm flipping through a stack of French films and don't recognize any of the actors or directors.
posted by heatherann at 11:59 AM on February 21, 2005

I've been enjoying the music of Paris Combo lately.
posted by Wendy at 12:03 PM on February 21, 2005

As far as I'm concerned, Jean Renoir's La Règle du jeu is the greatest movie ever made, and La Grande illusion isn't far behind, and they're both in French, so there you go. Also Marcel Pagnol's wonderful Marseille trilogy: Marius, Fanny, and César.
posted by languagehat at 12:06 PM on February 21, 2005

"Indochine" and "Girl on the Bridge" are a couple of other movies not mentioned here. Sometimes you can see foreign films on International Film Channel or on the different channels of Showtime. I saw "Girl on the Bridge" on Showtime Showcase. It was in French with English subtitles.
posted by cass at 12:07 PM on February 21, 2005

Second the recommendations for "Indochine" and "Au Revoir, Les Enfants."

In high school French class, we watched "Camille Claudel", "Jean de Florette", and "Manon des Sources".

(I think my high school French teacher had a thing for Gerard Depardieu.)

I also like the Depardieu "Cyrano de Bergerac."

And the French New Wave is lots of fun. Try "Band of Outsiders", "The 400 Blows", or a caper movie like "Rififi." Maybe also "Belle de Jour." "Amelie" is fluffy but fun.
posted by Vidiot at 2:05 PM on February 21, 2005

posted by invisible ink at 2:29 PM on February 21, 2005

I'm very attached to Tous les Matins du Monde. Also Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources (on which last, note that you have to watch both of them, and in that order).
posted by Polonius at 3:37 PM on February 21, 2005

I would go with The Umbrellas of Cherbourg with Catherine Deneuve. Every line in the film is sung so in addition to being much fun, many songs stay with you after viewing.
posted by nimmpau at 3:43 PM on February 21, 2005

I just watched "Le Placard". Light and enjoyable. The best French film I've seen recently though was "Etre et Avoir". Also of note recently are "Confidences trop intimes" and "Beau Travail" (the latter was quite remarkable).

In music, check out "Sanseverino" for some fun lyrics.

But most of all, slightly off your request, I would recommend listening to Radio France. France Info is good for one's ear in that it repeats a lot, France Culture is great for, well, culture and FIP is great for listening with a little talk thrown into the mix. J'aime les dames de FIP!

Speaking of Catherine Deneuve, she was at the same showing with us once for "Days of Heaven" which has no French but waves of wheat.
posted by Dick Paris at 4:08 PM on February 21, 2005

Funny, I'm in the same boat, and I was watching "Hiroshima, Mon Amour" last night, and was able to turn off the subtitles halfway through. Either I was having a good night with the comprehension, or it's not a bad place to start. Excellent movie in any case.
posted by .kobayashi. at 4:49 PM on February 21, 2005

While it may sound terribly silly, I quite enjoy watching dubbed animated films (like Shrek or Finding Nemo, example). Not only is it fun, but there isn't the same sort of annoyance that stems from watcing dubbed live-action films (the lips and the words don't match up!). Same goes for television shows like the Simpsons, Futurama, Family Guy - they all have extra language tracks. I know they aren't specifically French films but they are immensely helpful in retaining language ability.

(French language tracks are widely available in Canada but not quite as widely in the US - and, as you are in Canada, you should have no problem finding them!)

Specifically Canadian advice: your basic freeview/antennae television service should have at least one free French television channel. Cable will have more (including Canal 5, and the French news channel). Watch it or even just leave it on in the background while you are reading mefi, making dinner, or just doing whatever. I find that just hearing the rhythms and sounds of a language immensely helpful. The CBC also streams French programming [link to radio feed on left-hand sidebar] and you should have a French radio station or two in Toronto (a bonus of official bilingualism!)

If you're still a student, you can take part in the French Summer Language Bursary Program which is specifically designed to teach anglophones French. The deadline has been extended to 28 February. There are programs across the country, you can use the five-week course for a year's worth of language credits, and the government pays for everything (except transportation and spending money). They also attract a very interesting crowd and are lots of fun. If I recall correctly, York runs a five-week session meaning that disruptions to your summer would be minimized (although I strongly recommend going to Quebec).
posted by lumiere at 5:20 PM on February 21, 2005

I watched a French movie last weekend where everyone had exquisitely understandable enunciation. It was called something like "The Fall/Decline/End of Modern/Western/American Civilization." I wish I could remember the exact title. It's out on DVD. I've rarely seen a French film where people enunciate so clearly. I was limited only by my vocabulary. Sorry about the title... anyone know what film I mean? It's a "Big Chill" style film about a bunch of horny French academics up in Canada.

Jean De Florette and the sequel Manaon Du Source are good French-class fare.
posted by scarabic at 5:41 PM on February 21, 2005

Ma vie en rose
posted by keep the aspidistra flying at 5:46 PM on February 21, 2005

I also asked a similar question about films (though not just french films.) Here's the link - there are about 20 recommendations for french movies. You may find some that you like.
posted by sophie at 7:26 PM on February 21, 2005

I chortled my way through Touchez pas au Grisbi last year. You might too.
posted by mwhybark at 7:34 PM on February 21, 2005

Also, une tasse de van rouge peut aidez le comprehension, je crois.

It may not help the grammar or the spelling, tho.'
posted by mwhybark at 7:36 PM on February 21, 2005

argh, "vin," vay-ee-enne, "vin."
posted by mwhybark at 7:36 PM on February 21, 2005

If you can take early-flower-power music, I learned a lot from Francoise Hardy records. I think in the US there's still one available on CD as "the yeah-yeah girl from paris"
posted by anadem at 8:03 PM on February 21, 2005

scarabic: I think you mean Denys Arcand's The Decline of the American Empire. Which is Canadian, but I've heard it's pretty good.
posted by SoftRain at 10:25 PM on February 21, 2005

Everytime I listen to Jeanne Cherhal's "Les Photos De Mariage" (from her great album "Douze fois par an"), I keep thinking that if a foreign speaker can listen to it and understand it all, well he pretty much mastered the language :)

As for movies... Here a few favs while browsing the Web...
Jean-Paul Rappeneau's "Cyrano de Bergerac"
Patrice Leconte's "Ridicule"
Francis Veber's "Le Diner de Cons"
Pagnol's "Marius/Fanny/César" (the original, b&w version, of course, not the TV remake), and "La Gloire de Mon Père"
Cédric Klapisch's "L'Auberge Espagnole"

oh well, there are too many to list :)
posted by XiBe at 2:12 AM on February 22, 2005

I heartily recommend The Battle of Algiers, just recently rereleased for The Criterion Collection.
posted by deafmute at 1:07 PM on February 22, 2005

« Older Temporary housing in Oxford, England   |   Affordable DIY Window Insulation Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.