Non-depressing French films I can stream?
July 24, 2012 12:17 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend great French films, ideally critically acclaimed, that I can watch on Netflix or Amazon Instant Video. Difficulty: should not be depressing.
posted by Dragonness to Media & Arts (47 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
Delicatessen. For a movie about cannibalism it's amazingly funny and touching. No, seriously!
posted by Decani at 12:23 PM on July 24, 2012 [7 favorites]

Potiche got very good reviews within the last 2 years. The director's other films worth watching include 8 Women (a musical/farce) and 5x2 (Memento style story of a failing marriage told in 5 parts from the divorce backwards, I really enjoyed this).

Point Blank is a French action film from 2010ish which moves along very rapidly and twists well, its the best action film I have seen this year, so good I got my father a copy and he really liked it too, and he is pretty foreign language phobic.

Avoid 'Little White Lies', an appallingly misjudged and lachrymose final 15 minutes destroys anything that went before.

Le Havre is supposed to be excellent but hasn't made it to my corner of the UK as yet so I can't vouch personally.
posted by biffa at 12:27 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Obligatory: Amelie
posted by widdershins at 12:34 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I liked Pepermint Soda. A very sweet little movie. Also by the same director, Diane Kurys, Entre Nous. But that one is more of a downer.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:41 PM on July 24, 2012

Response by poster: I loved Delicatessen and Amelie was great fun too!
posted by Dragonness at 12:41 PM on July 24, 2012

These may not be all critically acclaimed by French critics but these are some non-depressing choices from Netflix Instant:
District B13
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
The Women on the 6th Floor
La Chèvre
La Cage aux Folles (orig. french version)
posted by acheekymonkey at 12:42 PM on July 24, 2012

Elevator to the Gallows, 1957 - influenced by early French New Wave and American Noir genres. Starring a bewitching Jeanne Moreau.
posted by Captain Chesapeake at 12:42 PM on July 24, 2012

Anything by Jacques Tati. Seriously funny, and critically adored.
posted by scruss at 12:44 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Triplets of Belleville
posted by rhizome at 12:49 PM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

Some of the older French classics, on everyone's list of greatest films:

Grand Illusion (Renoir)
Rules of the Game (Renoir)
L'Atalante (Vigo)
The Baker's Wife (Pagnol)
The Wages of Fear (Clouzot)

Not a classic, but a comic favorite of mine: Alexander (1968, Yves Robert). Hell, pretty much anything by Yves Robert.
posted by ubiquity at 12:51 PM on July 24, 2012

Triplets of Belleville

Isn't that Canadian?

Are we looking for French language, or from France?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:52 PM on July 24, 2012

IMDB appears to indicate that it's French.
posted by rhizome at 12:54 PM on July 24, 2012

Oh! Intimate Strangers.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:54 PM on July 24, 2012

Les Vacances de M. Hulot
posted by JayNolan at 12:56 PM on July 24, 2012

L'auberge espagnol
posted by jacalata at 1:03 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm on the Canadian Netflix, so I can't check if this is on anything you'd have access to, but if it is, Le dîner de cons is pretty hilarious and it was nominated for a César Award for Best Picture the year it came out (1998).
posted by urbanlenny at 1:05 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Aw, crap. Triplets isn't on Netflix. Missed that requirement.
posted by rhizome at 1:09 PM on July 24, 2012

Response by poster: > Are we looking for French language, or from France

French language is good, thanks.
posted by Dragonness at 1:10 PM on July 24, 2012

The Intouchables
posted by cazoo at 1:13 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Came here to recommend Peppermint Soda. It's quasi-sequel, "Cocktail Molotov," is depressing as hell.

Also recommend "Small Change" (L'Argent de Poche, I think).

Three Men and a Cradle is funny, if you like that kind of guys-are-dumb-with-babies humor.
posted by Melismata at 1:15 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's an oldie, and don't know if it's available for streaming, but Diva is wonderful
posted by Mchelly at 1:16 PM on July 24, 2012

Oh, and Diva.

On preview... Mchelly beat me by seconds, so... seconded!
posted by Decani at 1:18 PM on July 24, 2012

Entre les murs (The Class)
Le delicatesse (Delicacy)
posted by bluefly at 1:19 PM on July 24, 2012

Jacques Demy! Les parapluies de Cherbourg is a bit of a downer, but the followup Les demoiselles de Rochefort is a love letter to the American musical and is full of great songs and smokin' 60s babes. It's called "The Young Girls of Rochefort" on Netflix.

Une femme est une femme is a classic, and as lighthearted as Godard gets. It's on Netflix Instant as "A Woman Is a Woman."
posted by theodolite at 1:23 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Heartbeats / Les amours imaginaires (on Amazon & Netflix)

The Hedgehog / Le hérisson (Amazon) - sad at times, but not depressing
posted by crepesofwrath at 1:23 PM on July 24, 2012

La fille sur la pont (Netflix) -- this is a riot.
posted by Cash4Lead at 1:27 PM on July 24, 2012

Another vote for Intouchables - excellent film.
Also Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis - it has a few in-jokes for French people - so not as universal as other movies - but still great fun.
These two sit at the top of all time box office sales in France by the way - that list might also give you some other ideas.

One of my personal all time French-non depressing films: Fugatives
posted by rongorongo at 1:40 PM on July 24, 2012

To Be and To Have is a documentary, but it is so wonderful and charming. For me, it's the mac and cheese of movies.
posted by feste at 1:42 PM on July 24, 2012

Romantics Anonymous is on Netflix, and very charming. Potiche is also great.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:43 PM on July 24, 2012

Sorry, it's not streaming anymore--stupid Netflix!
posted by feste at 1:44 PM on July 24, 2012

Another:- 3 hommes et un couffin - original for "3 men and a baby".
posted by rongorongo at 1:48 PM on July 24, 2012

Ooh, watch Truffaut's L'Argent de poche (Pocket Money) at the next opportunity, it's utterly charming.
posted by theodolite at 1:52 PM on July 24, 2012

It depends on what depresses you whether Éric Rohmer's films will fit the bill or not. Personally I don't find them so.

Also, speaking of Tati, I just watched La Fée (Netflix streaming in the U.S.), which was a decidedly non-depressing film that had a lot of the visual style and sight gags of Tati's best.
posted by bricoleur at 2:04 PM on July 24, 2012

Le bonheur est dans le pré
Hilarious, racy, exquisite.
posted by bru at 3:07 PM on July 24, 2012

The visitors, with Chistian Clavier and Jean Reno. Enjoyably silly.
posted by sevenstars at 3:14 PM on July 24, 2012

A Town Called Panic was funny and weird, haven't seen that mentioned yet!
posted by PaulaSchultz at 3:49 PM on July 24, 2012

Cage aux Folles still stands up. Sequel, not so much

Le Chevre is very funny.

If they ever get Diner aux Cons, watch it.

(On preview- what cheeky monkey said
posted by BWA at 3:58 PM on July 24, 2012

I don;t have Netflix but I did like Apres Vous a lot - a very funny film about a failed suicide and the man who helps him.

I've heard Heartbreaker is excellent.
posted by mippy at 4:08 PM on July 24, 2012

Agnes Vardas work.
posted by brujita at 4:16 PM on July 24, 2012

"La Placard" is a great little comedy. Its star, Daniel Auteuille (spelling) is usually in comedies (another is La Valet), and is also in the suspense movie "Cache," which was widely acclaimed.

My absolute favorite thriller in any language is "Ne Dit A Personne," "Tell No One."

"Le Scaphandre et le Papillion," "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," has a slightly downer ending but it's an uplifting true story of a Vogue Magazine editor who has a stroke and, despite his very limited movement re-learns to communicate with the world thanks to some patient nurses. The movie's ending isn't depressing, it's just melancholy.

"Les Resources Humaine" "Human Resources." is about a young college-educated man's first encounter with the real would of business, filmed at a Renault factory and featuring its actual workers. This movie allegedly captures the zeitgeist of French labor relations at the time of the change to the 35-hour work-week.

For a more modern workers-vs-management film, try "Les tribulations d'une caissière,' -"A Checkout Girl's Big Adventure," is more of a "The Help" for labor relations instead of race relations.

I haven't seen "Papillion," the story of the prisoner who escaped a numerous french prisons including a penal colony in Cayenne, French Guyana. Everyone says it's great.

The only Truffaut film I've seen was "Fahrenheit 451," which is English-language (and quite good), but his canon is worth exploring, I"d imagine.

And recently, "L'Art D'Aimer," "The Art of Love," was a very entertaining episodic sex/love comedy.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:03 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Le goût des autres, Agnès Jaoui
Merci pour le chocolat, Chabrol
Conte de printemps, Eric Rohmer
posted by citron at 10:06 PM on July 24, 2012

Le Havre's sense of humor is very dry, though, so just be prepared for that. The very first scene sets the tone pretty well. It is fantastic.

Seconding Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis!
posted by yaymukund at 4:01 AM on July 25, 2012

Response by poster: Such a fantastic list, thank you so much. I know virtually none of them, so won't mark best answers but I really appreciate everyone's suggestions.
posted by Dragonness at 6:27 AM on July 25, 2012

It's been a while, but I enjoyed L'homme du train and don't remember it being depressing.
posted by cnc at 11:51 AM on July 25, 2012

Sorry - missed the streaming part. It is available on DVD.
posted by cnc at 11:52 AM on July 25, 2012

Just finished watching Romantics Anonymous - it's streaming on Netflix. It's a very sweet French film about a couple of introverts who fall in love. It has a 100% Tomatometer rating by top critics (only 5 top critics chiming in, but still). There are a couple heartbreaking scenes, but overall it's happy, funny, and most of all, sweet.
posted by kbar1 at 11:41 PM on July 25, 2012

Triplets of Belleville

Isn't that Canadian?

A French-Canadian co-production, with the French as the lead partner and a French director.
posted by biffa at 7:40 AM on June 5, 2013

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