By Derek Green

    There’s something about French cinema that just appeals in a way that being stuck in isolation really doesn’t. What they lack in special effects and star power they make up for with warm, quirky scripts, topical humour, sexual tension, and of course a bit of tasteful nudity. (Oh stop trying to pretend you’re shocked – you love it).

    So while trying to keep your spirits up, you could do worse than preparing a charcuterie with a selection of fromage and spicy saucisse, grabbing a fresh baguette, and pairing it all with a lovely Côtes du Rhône on a cold night in front of the fabulous SBS On Demand, which has a decent selection of cinéma Français, as do some of the paid streaming services. Whether you’re hard-core and want to practice your language skills, or are happy enough just trying to keep up with the subtitles, here are 11 movies to make you “Rire et Sourire” – laugh and smile.

    Heartbreaker (L’arnacoeur)

    How do you ‘help’ your daughter break up with her deadbeat fiance? Hire a professional of course! Enter the fabulous Romain Duris as Alex, the equally successful and confident home wrecker. The only problem? An ethical dilemma, as Alex discovers that Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) is in love and the couple, for all the beau’s faults, seem perfect for each other. Things go from bad to funny as Alex’s charms fail him and set up the ultimate victory for love. (iTunes)

    Crossed Tracks (Roman de Gare)

    Judith, Fanny Ardant’s pulp-fiction writer/femme fatale drives this classic dark comedy with a running “who done it” narrative all the way from Paris to the Cote D’Azur, with a few stops along the way. The question is, will her ghost writer Pierre (Dominique Pinon) become merely a ‘ghost’? A colourful tale with a perfect “killer” twist. (Youtube Movies)

    Le Chef (Comme un chef)

    Ratatouille meets Big Night in this heart and belly warming farcical comedy starring Michaël Youn as ‘Chef’ Jackie, and the timeless Jean Reno as the fading star of the Michelin set Alexandre Lagarde. With a corporate takeover and some baffling molecular cuisine looming, it will take more than love, a pinch of ingenuity and a dash of white lies to save the day! (SBS On Demand)

    Up for Love (Un homme à la hauteur)

    A chance phone conversation leads to a promising courtship… with a difference. Diane and the diminutive Alexandre seem made for each other, but will she be able to see past her own prejudices as easily as she can see over his head? Jean Dujardin is fast becoming a comic genius, his ability to seamlessly flip from arrogant braggart to humble and loveable – as he presents in this role – sees his cinematic legend grow. (SBS On Demand)

    Return of the Hero (Le retour du héros)

    Jean Dujardin and Mélanie Laurent team up in this historical comedy that takes several twists and turns after Elisabeth (Laurent) spins some wonderful yarns to appease (and sedate) her spoiled sister, apparently pining the absence of her betrothed – the boorish and opportunistic Capitaine Charles-Grégoire Neuville (Dujardin) An unlikely reappearance several years later throws all her plans – and the local society – into fitful chaos. (SBS On Demand)

    Lost in Paris (Paris pieds nus)

    Husband and wife team Australian-born Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel pay homage to the lost art of physical comedy rarely seen since the days of the legendary Jacques Tati. The couple’s famous love of the circus also shines through in this neatly strung series of chance meetings, missed opportunities and ultimately, tender moments. (iTunes)

    Rust and Bone (De rouille et d’os)

    Alain, (Matthias Schoenaerts) arrives in the Mediterranean town of Antibes to care for his son, possessing few vocational skills that extend beyond his knuckles. He meets and makes an unlikely pairing with Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), a young woman dealing with her own unique sense of loss. Both tragic and triumphant, this one will keep you glued until “La Fin”. (SBS On Demand)

    Conversations with my Gardener (Dialogue avec mon jardinier)

    Featuring Daniel Auteuil as Dupinceau, a Parisian artist who returns to his back-water rural roots for some peace and quiet, but ultimately finds much more. He learns that life can be as simple as tending to the sunflowers, wandering along country lanes, and chatting to his old school friend Dujardin (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) who happens to be the gardener at his country maison. Watching Dupinceau shed a layer of his city defences and open himself to the possibilities of friendship and fate isn’t all joyous, but it’s certainly compelling viewing. (SBS On Demand)

    My Summer in Provence (Avis de mistral)

    A family rift is put aside when the sudden need for a place to go for the summer arises, as teenagers Adrian and Lea, with young Theo in tow, must navigate a minefield of unspoken grudges, persistent flies and poor mobile phone reception. Jean Reno is perfect in the role of the gruff grandfather, and the children explore relationships, family history and their new surroundings with a combination of innocence and dare. (SBS On Demand)


    A colourful kaleidoscope of intersecting stories featuring a who’s who of French cinema, including Juliette Binoche, Romain Duris, François Cluzet, and Mélanie Laurent. As their stories unfold, the connection between them tightens, using many modern issues that affect us all as mechanisms to draw out the characters; sickness, health, immigration, relationships, regret and of course, love. Not all of the parts have happy endings, but for the viewer, the sum of the whole is greater. (Youtube Movies)

    Editor’s choice: The Closet (Le Placard)

    When unobtrusive accountant Francois Pignon (Daniel Auteuil) inadvertently finds he’s about to lose the one steady part of his boring, fractured life (his job), panic sets in. The situation escalates when a misunderstanding leaves colleagues believing he is not only soon to be unemployed, but also gay. A plan is hatched, and rather than declare his heterosexuality, Pignon works his own form of laissez faire, frightening his employer into a corner from which his imminent sacking now looks like a gross case of discrimination – but even well intentional lies complicate things and eventually unravel. Auteuil plays the wonderful fool who’s life spirals out of control better than anyone outside Ben Stiller, and when matters are compounded by the suddenly sickly-sweet reformed homophobic Félix Santini (Gérard Depardieu), we are left with a hilarious film that speaks volumes about the challenges faced by the marginalised, no matter your native language. Will Francois come out of “Le Placard”? (Youtube Movies)

    Derek Green
    Derek Green
    I'd rather die wandering than die wondering. Read more of my travel escapades at:

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