12 Top Modern French Movies
For Lovers Of France and Film
Over the course of 200 minutes, Bertrand Tavernier’s “My Journey Through French Cinema” (2016) pays tribute to all the many films that formed and influenced this accomplished director, now in his seventies.
For me it was catnip. To begin with, it’s a literate, incisive documentary on my favorite subject: film history. Add to that my lifelong affinity for all things French since living in Paris as a young boy. I was transported.
Yet much as I treasure the classics that Tavernier covers so lovingly, I also recognize that many of today’s viewers may crave something more contemporary.
Worry not — French cinema is alive and well in the 21st century, as evidenced by the twelve titles below, all made since the millennium.
They are all…magnifique!
Safe Conduct (2001)
Bertrand Tavernier’s riveting thriller portrays the myriad challenges faced by one French filmmaker trying to make movies during the Nazi occupation. Meanwhile, in his free time, he's busy aiding the resistance.
To Be and To Have (2002)
This affecting documentary focuses on Georges Lopez, a gifted teacher of young children in rural France. Lopez is set to retire after 35 years of service, which injects a powerful feeling of impending loss. He seems quite irreplaceable.
A Very Long Engagement (2004)
Vivid, evocative period piece set during World War I stars Audrey Tautou as a woman who goes on a quest to find her husband — or claim his body — when she learns he’s missing in action and presumed dead.
District B-13 (2004)
This kinetic, futuristic cop movie concerns a master criminal who steals a nasty bomb and the undercover agent who’s sent to retrieve it. The action scenes are jaw-dropping; who says the French can’t make action movies?
This tingling suspenser focuses on a young man struggling to survive with his girlfriend in Belgium. He rashly puts their baby up for adoption on the black market, then lands in hot water when he changes his mind.
Tell No One (2006)
In this twisty Hitchcock homage, a man finds himself on the run eight years after his wife’s brutal murder when new evidence is uncovered that seems to implicate him. He has no choice but to clear himself, or die trying!
A Secret (2007)
Via flashback, a man re-examines his relationship to his parents as a young boy, and explores the mystery behind their courtship during the Second World War. Eventually, the startling secret that bound them together is revealed.
The Secret of the Grain (2009)
In a coastal town, an older man of Arab descent decides to open a couscous restaurant on a boat. As the new venture progresses, he must deal with his family and assorted other characters, who all have an opinion. Flavorful indeed!
Tales of the Night (2011)
Ingenious film brings to life six fairy tales that take place all over the world, using silhouette images set against a variety of colorful imagery. A welcome respite from all the computer-generated animation on offer these days.
A rugged ship captain whose sister has been victimized goes after the oily fat cat responsible. Along the way, he meets and falls for the man’s sexy mistress, played by Chiara Mastroianni. It may sound contrived, but it works. Only in France!
Far From Men (2014)
Daru (Viggo Mortensen), a veteran in turbulent postwar Algeria, is forced to accompany an accused murderer to a nearby town to stand trial. It’s an eventful trip, and Daru’s prior combat experience sure comes in handy!
In this creepy outing, a woman (Isabelle Huppert) is raped in her home by a man in a ski mask, but doesn’t report it. Soon she starts getting text messages from the perpetrator. Suddenly all the men in her life are suspect.