Worth a Watch: France

Part one of a (hopefully) multi-part Worth a Watch series.

Each segment will feature a few movies (some popular, others not) from a specific
country/region that I have seen and enjoyed.


Nikita (1990) & Léon (1994)

1990’s awesomeness, style over substance, and teeming with violence; Luc Besson at his finest. Both are must watches for action fans and for those who think French cinema is all about art and surrealism (& cheese). Nikita spawned a forgettable Hollywood remake starring Bridget Fonda (Point of No Return). Léon features strong performances from Jean Reno, a young Natalie Portman, and a over-the-top (typical) Gary Oldman. Also reaffirms Jean Reno’s status as France’s resident BAMF.
*I still consider Léon a French production; even though it is in English, filmed in the US, and it’s cast is mostly non-French.

Banlieue 13 [District 13] (2004)

Starring parkour(free-running) originator David Belle, it features non-stop action and unbelievable stunts but not much else. The acting is horrible and the plot is dumb-as-shit. Basically it is a modern version of the early ’90s Jackie Chan movies; except with more violence, (almost) no humor, and a less charismatic lead.

Le Pacte des Loups [Brotherhood of the Wolf] (2001)

This period film has a little bit of everything; action, nudity, mystery, horror, romance, nudity, and Mark Dacascos (The chairman from Iron Chef: America). While not perfect, the middle is drawn-out and there are far too many subplots, some aspects are dealt with superbly. Specifically, the handling of the beast’s appearances (think Jaws) and the wonderfully choreographed fight scenes are impressive. Casting Monica Bellucci as an oft-naked, mysterious prostitute doesn’t hurt either. However, what sets it apart from other comparable films is its stunning cinematography. The early fight scene in the rain and the later attempt to capture the beast are particularly notable.

Les Rivières Pourpres [The Crimson Rivers] (2003)

A confusing story paired with a batshit crazy ending usually don’t combine to make a great film. However, The Crimson Rivers has one redeeming quality, atmosphere (two if you count Jean Reno in full badass mode). Everything from the choice of locations, camera angles, and lighting combine brilliantly to create a gloomy ambiance which oozes tension. Director Mathieu Kassovitz has a special gift to elevate movies with flawed screenplays and make them watchable (see Gothika). I would love to see him get his hands on a strong horror/mystery screenplay in which he has full creative control. Instead, sadly, he got mixed into the studio shitstorm that resulted in Babylon AD.

Delicatessen (1991) & La Cité des Enfants Perdus [The City of Lost Children] (1995)

Two surrealist pictures that are as odd as they are good. In the early ’90s, directors Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro combined to create these otherworldly masterpieces. While a tad too quirky and artsy for most, both films are visually breathtaking and excel at developing their own unique worlds. The storytelling is almost fairytale like and appears so, but the subject matter is in fact rather dark (child kidnapping & cannibalism). This blend of contrasting subject matter is handled similarly in the more recent Pan’s Labyrinth. Jeunet would later go on to direct the much acclaimed Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain [Amélie] (2001).

Three Colors Trilogy: Blue, White, & Red

THE greatest film trilogy ever made (sorry Godfather & LOTR fans). Also I consider the trilogy to be French, even though it is actually a French/Polish/Swiss production. The films explore the French Revolutionary Ideals using the three colors of the French flag; blue for liberty, white for equality, and red represents fraternity.

Krzystof Kieślowski, originally from Poland, co-wrote and directed all three films. No filmmaker, prior to or since, has ever been able to express more in a single shot than Kieślowski. The acting, cinematography, and musical composition in each film are of the highest caliber. Also, unlike most trilogies, there is no drop in quality from one film to the next.

About sebastianhaff
I'm Steve. 24 year old recent college grad. My love of films (and sheer boredom) lead me to begin this blog. My taste in movies is eclectic, although I tend to lean toward foreign and non-mainstream cinema. Feel free to contact me at: sebastianhaff@ymail.com

5 Responses to Worth a Watch: France

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