Now streaming: French films for all niches

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While various European film industries have been decimated over the decades, France is still strong, producing dozens of films a year in every genre imaginable.

Now, streaming allows us to taste that diversity, bringing not only the arthouse pricing that has nurtured generations of American moviegoers, but also the box office hits and left-field quirks that weren’t there. not so frequently exported. As you can see with the following (mostly) lesser-known selections, there is a recent French film for each niche.

Love story

Celine Sciamma’s 18th-century romance is heated by a slow but fiery flame. The way Sciamma films the relationship between the titular lady (Adèle Haenel) and the painter (Noémie Merlant) who has come to capture her likeness is simply extraordinary: unhurried but with a sense of urgency, tightly corseted yet sensual. The final shot is pure wonder.

Stream on Hulu.

Fans of “Idiocracy”, “1984” and, uh, “Cinderella” should check out this satire set in a bizarre world where men are submissive to women. Written and directed by Franco-Syrian cartoonist Riad Sattouf (“The Arab of the Future”), the film imagines a military kingdom where polygamous women monopolize power and literacy, while their companions, kept on a leash, curl up under long dresses. It is systematically, of a provocative humor, until a breathtaking end.

Rent or buy from Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, or YouTube.

Quirky post-war extravagance

Set just after the First World War, Albert Dupontel’s disproportionate tale pits a disfigured veterinarian (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) not only with his commander (Laurent Lafitte) but also with the establishment that honors the same soldiers he sent to the massacre. Closer to the fantastical connotations of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Tim Burton than your average war drama, “See You Up There” also has the epic scale of 19th century novels.

Rent or buy from Apple, FandangoNow, or YouTube.

Pauline Duhez (Émilie Dequenne) is a nurse who makes home visits in an economically depressed town in northern France. Encouraged by a local doctor (veteran actor André Dussollier), she decides to stand for election on a far-right list (on the model of the true National Front). Belgian director Lucas Belvaux calmly shows how a political party cleans up its image to peddle extremist views by exploiting financial distress and fear of “the other”. The film creates an uneasiness that will be familiar to many American viewers.

Stream on Amazon Prime Video.

Fake musical documentary

Guy Jamet has had a long career as a popular but hopelessly uncool singer. Now he’s back on tour, followed by a young videographer (Tom Dingler). Alex Lutz, who directed “Guy” and plays the title role, uses familiar tropes from mock documentaries like sidelong glances at the camera and “vintage” footage. But the key strength of this comedy is how it doubles up as a slyly thoughtful and tender reflection on aging and fatherhood.

Stream on Amazon Prime Video.

Gritty social drama

We discover the underprivileged Parisian suburb of Montfermeil through the bewildered eyes of Stéphane (Damien Bonnard), a transferred cop who teams up with a couple of colleagues who like to play hard and fast with the rules and with people. By now it should be obvious that “Miserable” is not the musical.

After the firing of a flare, the delicate balance between Montfermeil and his police is upset, and director Ladj Ly raises the tension until a final worthy of a breathtaking thriller. Ly skillfully positions “Les Misérables” at the intersection of the tradition of “suburban” cinema, French riots that regularly pit young people against cops, and American grain at “Boyz N the Hood”.

Stream on Amazon Prime Video.

French film noir directors have long learned to turn limited budgets into assets – their films tend to be skinny and mean. Frédéric Schoendoerffer’s “Fast Convoy” is neatly simple: a procession of four cars must transport 3,000 pounds of hashish from southern Spain to Paris; naturally things get out of whack, and then it’s the pedal to the metal. Benoît Magimel (“The Piano Teacher”) plays the obligatory taciturn strongman, but it is the joke of the driving teams that drives the action forward.

Rent or buy from Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, and YouTube.

What the doctor ordered

Thomas Lilti’s hit-drama follows a pair of internists through their first few weeks in hospital. Lilti, a former doctor, is clear on the impossible positions in which caregivers can find themselves, but also on the reproduction of a certain social order. This last element is even more evident in his film “The Freshmen” (2018), about two first-year medical students who pile up for a brutal exam. Complement the director’s excellent de facto trilogy with “The Country Doctor” (2016), which shows how juggling relationships and diagnoses is especially important for rural practitioners.

Rent or buy from Apple, Google Play, and Vudu.

What the hell?

The universe of director Lucile Hadzihalilovic is primitive but sophisticated, and certainly not for everyone. In his second feature film, “Evolution”, pre-teens are raised by women in nurse’s outfits who feed them despicable, deworming porridge. Cryptic stuff is happening, very slowly, and you can’t stop watching. As in her first album, “Innocence” (2004), which takes place in a girls’ boarding school, the filmmaker is obsessed with bodily horror, particularly linked to puberty. We have met the stranger, and he is in us.

Stream on Hulu.


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