Sacré bleu! When did the French get better than us at TV?

There once seemed to be an unspoken agreement that telly was one of Britain’s great cultural exports, writes Ed Cumming. Yet the likes of ‘Call My Agent!’, ‘Lupin’ and ‘Le Bureau’ have put that old chestnut to bed. What happened?

By Ed Cumming

The most upsetting development in TV this year has not been the BBC’s Olympic coverage, hard as it has been to be deprived of 24-hour kayaking. Nor was it the ending of Line of Duty, with its ominous implication that the series might run forever without ever finding the last of the bent coppers. Or Emily in Paris being nominated for the “Best Comedy” Emmy.

No, the only truly blood-curdling realisation has been that the French are making better TV than us. Probably the best comedy of the past few years is Call My Agent, which stars Camille Cottin as a talent agent forced to dig her stars, played by real-life actors, out of increasingly ridiculous scrapes while managing their own chaotic personal lives. It is French.

Definitely the best thriller of the past few years is The Bureau – in its home nation Le Bureau des Legendes – a gripping spy drama in which characters roam around the world protecting national interests while managing their own chaotic personal lives. In its depiction of technology, double-crossing and harsh realpolitik of modern espionage, it is closer to the spirit of Le Carré than anything we have managed lately, including adaptations of Le Carré. It is also French.

Camille Cottin Comes To Cannes With ‘Stillwater’ and ‘Our Men’

‘Call My Agent’ Star Camille Cottin Comes To Cannes With Two High-Profile Films – ‘Stillwater’ and ‘Our Men’

Camille Cottin is having quite a year. As more and more folks locked at home tuned into Call My Agent! (Dix pour cent), the Netflix series in which she stars, her profile has risen internationally. The comedy-drama about the trials and tribulations of a Parisian talent agency already had helped her score jobs in Hollywood films pre-pandemic, and now she’s definitely someone to keep an eye on as she continues to build an enviable cross-border résumé.

The Paris native, who spent ages 12 to 17 living in London when her family moved for her stepdad’s job, is appearing in two films in Cannes this year including Directors’ Fortnight closing title Our Men (Mon légionnaire) by Rachel Lang, and Tom McCarthy’s out-of competition drama Stillwater.

Both of those films tackle serious subject matter (more on that later), which may seem out of character for an actress who broke out locally in the Canal+ hidden-camera sketch series Connasse (literally translated: Bitch) in which she inserted herself into daily life situations and turned the tables on unsuspecting Parisians (one notorious episode featured her making penis shaped balloon animals at a children’s birthday party). Connasse spawned a feature film in 2015, The Parisian BitchPrincess of Hearts, also a hidden-camera comedy, which saw her travel to London in an attempt to marry Prince Harry.

Cottin got her initial start in the theater, while also studying English, and did everything from the comedies of Feydeau to Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. Though she also played the antagonist in Season 3 of BBC drama Killing Eve, many of her French film roles have been in comedies. Unsurprisingly, Cottin prefers not to be defined by genre. “I think comedy, like drama, can elicit emotion,” she says. “That’s what I’m looking for. For me, it’s about rhythm. I see comedy like accelerated drama. Chaplin is dramatic, but it goes so fast that we laugh at it.”

Call My Agent! straddles both worlds, just as Cottin is doing in her career. Her character, the tightly-wound Andrea, she says, “is not a funny person; it’s super rare that she laughs. She’s always concentrated, always stressed. She spends her life trying to solve problems. It’s really the situations that are funny and she’s always getting tripped up. I try to keep a small distance where we know we are playing, that’s also part of comedy, so it’s a miniscule bit of complicity with the audience. We fully embrace the situations which are sometimes dramatic, but it’s also the way they are treated that makes comedy.”

Continue reading “Camille Cottin Comes To Cannes With ‘Stillwater’ and ‘Our Men’”

‘Madame Claude’: gritty Netflix take on Paris sex icon

She was a salacious icon of 20th century Paris — the brothel-keeper to the stars — and Netflix hopes the basis for another hit in the recent run of French successes.

In the 1960s and 1970s, “Madame Claude”, real name Fernande Grudet, had a client book that read like the guest list to a royal wedding: captains of industry, President John F Kennedy, Marlon Brando, the Shah of Iran…

There were enough secrets being divulged on her pillows to ensure protection from the authorities, as well as considerable interest from the secret services.

But in the latest telling, released on Netflix on April 2, the glamour in which her story was often shrouded is stripped away to show a darker reality.

“There is the image of Madame Claude: of Paris, beautiful dresses and big hotels, power… What interested me was what was happening behind the scenes,” director Sylvie Verheyde, 54, told AFP.

Behind the scenes were ties to organised crime, a life of emotional misery and a near-pathological lack of scruples: Madame Claude, it emphasises, always made sure to get her 30 percent, even when the girls returned bruised and bloodied from an encounter gone wrong.

“Madame Claude built her mythology. She was a great liar, a fraud who said she wanted to ‘beautify vice’, which meant brushing all the ugliness under the carpet,” said Verheyde.

– ‘This isn’t love’ –

The director knows this world well: a grandmother and cousin both worked as prostitutes, and she tackled the subject already in her 2016 film “Sex Doll”.

Continue reading “‘Madame Claude’: gritty Netflix take on Paris sex icon”

Call My Agent! celeb cameos: All the stars in the French Netflix show

 

Call My Agent, was a hit on French television, and ran for four seasons. The quirky French comedy-drama has also been a surprise hit in the U.S.

Now available on Netflix, new viewers are taking note of the many celeb cameos featured in the series.

Juliette Binoche

juliette binoche
Hollywood stars like Juliette Binoche feature in this French show (Credit: Netflix)

Juliette Binoche appears in series two, episode six.

This big-name French actress has starred in the likes of Chocolat, The English Patient, Dan in Real Life and Cosmopolis.

Monica Bellucci

Monica Bellucci appears in series three episode.

She is best known for starring in Spectre, The Apartment, Matrix Reloaded and Tears of the Sun.

monica bellucci in call my agent
Monica Bellucci in Call My Agent (Credit: Netflix)

Sigourney Weaver

Sigourney Weaver appears in series four episode five.

This major Hollywood star is perhaps most famous for starring in the Alien movies.

And also for her movie roles in Avatar, Galaxy Quest and the Ghostbusters films.

sigourney weaver
Sigourney Weaver is one of the many celebrity cameos in Call My Agent! (Credit: Netflix)

Jean Reno

Jean Reno appears in the final episode of the show – series four episode six.

He is a French-Moroccan actor who is particularly well-known for starring in Leon: The Professional. As well as for his roles in the likes of Godzilla, The Da Vinci Code and Mission: Impossible.

call my agent cameos
Actor Jean Reno is a huge Hollywood star (Credit: Netflix)

Jean Dujardin

Jean Dujardin appears in series three episode one and also episode six of this series.

He is perhaps best known for starring in the the silent movie The Artist. This won him the Oscar for Best Actor – a first for any French actor.

Isabelle Huppert

Isabelle Huppert appears in series three episode four.

This French actress has starred in films such as The Piano Teacher, Greta, I Heart Huckabees and The Bedroom Window.

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Source: Call My Agent! celeb cameos: All the stars in the French Netflix show

Falling Back in Love With French via Netflix

French Netflix

How shows like “Lupin” and “Call My Agent!” have inspired me to pursue French fluency.

Growing up with a francophile mother, French has always been part of my life. My special stuffed animal was Babar the elephant, and weekends were spent singing the translated version of “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” with a group of children who were far more multilingual than me. In college, I spent a year studying in Paris, living with a host family and their three-legged dog, Colonel Moutard. Still, like many adults who spent their school years learning a foreign language, my opportunities to speak it dwindled after graduation, and so did my confidence. Continue reading “Falling Back in Love With French via Netflix”

Best French Shows on Netflix — ‘Lupin’ & ‘Call My Agent!’ Review

Francophilia finally comes to Netflix.

By Leena Kim

Until very recently, French content on Netflix left un petit peu to be desired. It hasn’t been a barren landscape, exactly, but the genre hadn’t quite reached the level of American success as shows and films from some other foreign nations (see: Korean dramas and the Spanish hit Money Heist). And no, Emily in Paris does not count.

Now, the Breton tides have turned. Take the critical and commercial successes of Lupin and Call My Agent! The former, which premiered on Netflix earlier this month, is projected to hit 70 million views in its first 28 days, surpassing The Queen’s Gambit, and the latter, whose fourth and final season dropped on the streaming platform last week, has been around since 2015 but is finally getting the international attention it deserves.

The acclaim is warranted; these two shows are excellent. But there’s also the perpetual American obsession with all things French and especially anything with Paris as a backdrop, which is even more wanderlust-inducing during this era of quarantine and border lockdowns. This truth undoubtedly explains Emily in Paris‘s outsize, if polarizing, popularity last fall. Refreshingly, these shows are free of tired clichés about Parisian life, and hopefully indicative of what’s to come. Netflix has made a clear commitment to investing in France: last year the streaming behemoth opened sprawling new headquarters in Paris and pledged to double its investment in French productions and partnerships.

But until then, put these two gems in your queue ASAP.

Arsène Lupin is as indelible to the cultural canon of France as Sherlock and Bond are to England. For those unfamiliar with this gentleman chief and master of disguise, created by novelist Maurice Leblanc in 1905, think of him as an early 20th-century Danny Ocean, except that Lupin works alone and only robs those who really deserve it—usually severely ethically challenged one percenters. There have been countless adaptations of the character, in TV, film, theatre, video games, literature, even a Japanese manga series.

Continue reading “Best French Shows on Netflix — ‘Lupin’ & ‘Call My Agent!’ Review”