On French Film Culture

Foreign films have a tendency to pass under the radar in english-speaking countries. Why? Because we already have the original versions of the Hollywood blockbusters. Why would we need anything else than what Hollywood gives us?

Well, as a French student, I will let you know what I have observed. People cannot be bothered with subtitles. It appears sitting in a room with images and text going on at the same time is difficult. Your point is invalid. If you are watching Games of Thrones, The Hundred, etc, then you can do both. Granted, it is an effort. But you are passing by some really amazing stories that have nothing to do with saving the world, or BDSM. Foreign movies often have less budget to create some epic scenes, which means they actually have to find content to entertain us with. Many movies that have never made it past the English Channel (aka La Manche) can be recommended. Just this Christmas, La Famille Bélier hit the screens with a touching story about a teenage girl discovering she has a gift for singing… problem is, her entire family is deaf, owns a farm in the middle of nowhere and cannot comprehend her newfound passion. A few months ago, Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au bon Dieu? made the entire audience burst into laughter, not unlike Avis de Mistral or Eyjafjallajökull, with Dany Boon (our famous comedian you all saw in Bienvenu chez les Ch’tis?).

Foreign films have a lot to give, and though we do not always share the same humor, there are plenty of choices to please everyone.

Another observation I made concerns the openness of a country to foreign movies. In France, we get about half of our movies from Hollywood. The other half consists of both french and foreign movies from all over the world. Since coming to Exeter, a year and a half ago, I have barely seen any posters for foreign movies. It’s just not in your culture it seems. The question is, did the theaters used to offer diversity and had to stop because the screens were always empty, or did it just never happen?

You would think all movies that do not come from Hollywood can be swiped under the rug because they don’t matter, but it isn’t true. Foreign movies have as much to offer as Hollywood, if not more, because they truly have to fight to get screen time. Money being an issue, only the best of them get out (I will admit, some are not worth it. But you should make up your own mind). And, when they do get out, and the box office explodes with Euros, then sometimes America and the United Kingdom will screen it (Amélie Poulain for instance). But you are missing so many other fantastic movies that should be in your repertoire. Internet is your oyster, and you can find all those movies online. I highly recommed all the titles I mentionned, but I also encourage you to look up more titles from all over the place (Wadja from Saudia Arabia is poignant) to discover that all countries have some great films to show the world. They just don’t have the means to.

So for this World Cinema Week, jump on the occasion and visit the cinema. Chances are, you won’t regret it.