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”

What to Watch After You’ve Finished ‘Lupin’

If you want to go deeper, and darker, into what la belle France has to offer, here are some shows you’ll want to stream next.

Caroline Proust as Laure Berthaud in France's Spiral.

French TV is having a bit of a moment. That’s mostly thanks to Netflix’s Lupin, the soigné gentleman-caper series starring Omar Sy that debuted on the service earlier this month and promptly swept The Queen’s Gambit crowd off its feet. (And not just them: Lupin attracted the attention of some 70 million subscribers in January, according to Netflix, more than have watched BridgertonEmily in Paris, even—mon dieu—Tiger King.) And no wonder: Lupin is zippy, light, irresistible, the kir royale of TV. (Call My Agent is also seducing the Champagne-streaming set with its Parisian blend of urbane workplace comedy and atomized sex appeal.)

I’m a French TV partisan. I love this. But I have to say, especially when it comes to Lupin, I feel a bit left out. The French do crime better than anyone (except maybe the Scandis), and Sy is incredibly appealing, but Lupin has too much romanticism and frictionlessness to satisfy proper crime fans like me. It’s escapism—nothing wrong with that. But if you want to go deeper, and a bit darker, into what la belle France has to offer, here are some shows you’ll want to stream next.

The Bureau

Image may contain Clothing Apparel Coat Suit Overcoat Human Person Blazer Jacket Mathieu Kassovitz and Man

France’s hit spy series is more John le Carré than Homeland—and thank goodness. Realism and humanity prevail in this complex but absorbing drama, which has been helmed by Éric Rochant through five seasons. (The recent season finale was turned over to celebrated filmmaker Jacques Audiard.) It’s part workplace drama, part character study, part globe-hopping suspense series as DGSE agents infiltrate jihadist groups and tangle with the CIA. The lead, Mathieu Kassovitz, who plays a superspy code-named Malotru, is a fascinating study in French masculine ideals—handsome, wounded, lovelorn, stubbornly brilliant, kind of short. Hugely recommend.

How to Watch: Stream on Sundance Now

Spiral

pProust in emSpiralem season eightp

Another long-running classique of French TV, Spiral takes the cop-and-justice beats of Law & Order and the subtlety and knottiness of The Wire and combines them in a deeply satisfying police procedural. Lupin makes the French capital look glossy and alluring; Spiral takes off the filters and shows Paris’s grimy side. The crime scenes can be gruesome and macabre, but this is not a sensationalist show, and its leads, particularly Caroline Proust as the police captain Laure Berthaud, are ruggedly human and flawed in all the right ways. Spiral has been around since 2005 and is now in its eighth and final season, but don’t be deterred. Start at the beginning, and you will be drawn right in.

The Chalet

Image may contain Human Person Transportation Car Vehicle Automobile Adventure Leisure Activities and Outdoors
Netflix’s The Chalet

If the above options seem a bit sober minded, try the ludicrously fun suspense thriller The Chalet, in which a group of (attractive, Gallic) friends arrives at an Alpine hotel near a small, curiously abandoned French village. There is a hooded killer in the woods who begins to take the wedding group down one by one. The proceedings are more Agatha Christie than gruesome slasher, and a double-timeline structure keeps the storytelling complex, with long-simmering secrets gradually revealed. Pulpy and propulsive, this is one to save for a Saturday binge.

How to Watch: Stream on Netflix
Continue reading “What to Watch After You’ve Finished ‘Lupin’”

Call My Agent: the French TV hit that viewers and actors adore

The comedy, whose fourth series hits Netflix this week, shows France’s TV can match its film

Fast approaching 50 and fed up after two exhausting decades at Artmedia, the top talent agency in Paris, Dominique Besnehard decided, one day in 2005, that he would quite like to turn his hand to producing something of his own.

“At the time,” Besnehard told Le Monde, “Desperate Housewives was all over the telly, a huge success. I just thought, with a couple of colleagues, we could maybe make a series a bit like that, but about the job we do for a living.”

Call My Agent, whose fourth series starts on Netflix this week, is now a huge hit – and has, along with Spiral and The Bureau, two other acclaimed series, fully and perhaps finally disproved the dictum that France is as bad at TV drama as it is good at cinema.

“France is really benefiting from a global trend in TV series towards strong, original, local stories, anchored in their territory and free of American and British norms,” said Laurence Herszberg, director of the international Series Mania festival.

The show, she said, was so big because it was “set in a milieu we don’t know well but would like to; because the agents are sympathetic and passionate and people like them even more than the guest stars; because it’s very French – it’s in Paris, it has office love affairs … And because it’s on Netflix.”

Call My Agent, whose French title is Dix pour Cent (for the 10% fee French agents charge actors), draws between 3 and 4 million viewers on public broadcaster France 2 and is available around the world on the streaming service.

Continue reading “Call My Agent: the French TV hit that viewers and actors adore”

In conversation: A French and American take on Emily in Paris

Emily in Paris is everywhere: causing people to rage on social media, making us dream of booking tix to Paris again (someday!) and paused on TV screens, as people WhatsApp their friends to moan about how unrealistic Emily’s (Lily Collins’) stratospheric social media success is – who gets 200 new followers after posting a photo of baked goods? – and then swooning over how gorgeous Frenchie Lucas Bravo (Emily’s neighbour, Gabriel), is.

Critics – in the US, UK and France – have complained that it’s clichéd, ridiculous, lacks diversity and is deeply culturally offensive. However, it’s also totally addictive, even if people are hate-watching it, with a viewership that includes teens, their parents, and every Sex and the City fan who was excited about the premise of sex – and Pat Field styling – in another city.

For those who haven’t seen it, Emily in Paris centres around Chicagoan Emily, who gets sent to Paris to work for a top French marketing agency when her boss falls pregnant. Clueless about the language and culture, she makes a series of faux pas that sees her branded a plouc (a hick) and ringarde (basic). But Paris is soooo beautiful and Emily’s boss, Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu) and friend, Camille (Camille Razat), are soooo stylish, and the men are soooo dreamy…

One reason that Emily’s got everyone talking is that it touches on the big cultural divide between France and America. Who better to discuss the show then a Frenchwoman (CW founder Eleonore Dresch) and an American, kids’ editor, Jennifer Barton.
Continue reading “In conversation: A French and American take on Emily in Paris”

‘Cuties’ review: Despite Netflix bungling, it’s worth seeing

Film Cuties

Maïmouna Doucouré’s prize-winning directorial debut is a smart, empathetic coming-of-age drama.

Early on in “Cuties,” Amy (Fathia Youssouf), an 11-year-old Senegalese immigrant living in Paris, hides under a bed and eavesdrops while her mother, Mariam (Maïmouna Gueye), makes a few difficult phone calls. Her husband has decided to marry a second wife, she tells her friends; yes, isn’t that wonderful news? Amy, from her partially obscured vantage, can’t see her mom’s tears, though she can hear the barely disguised anguish in her voice. At the same time, she has perhaps never seen Mariam more clearly, a woman whose long-suffering heart and tough exterior are finally on the verge of breaking. Continue reading “‘Cuties’ review: Despite Netflix bungling, it’s worth seeing”

Films on the Green Festival Available Online!

With its theme “A Summer in Paris,” the Films on the Green offered a striking portrait of the City of Lights, its urban landscape, and its cultural diversity. A selection of classic, New Wave, and contemporary films by directors such as Agnès Varda, Céline Sciamma and Luc Besson, showcased the city’s aesthetic, cultural, and cinematic history from dramatically unconventional angles. Discover stories of love, adolescence, female identity, and urban life in Paris and its surrounding suburbs!

Below you will find the curated film descriptions as well as links to watch them on U.S. streaming platforms!

#AtHome #FilmsOnTheGreenRewind
Follow Films on the Green on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Girlhood (Bande de filles)
Directed by Céline Sciamma, 2014, 1h52

Girlhood, which opened the Directors’ Fortnight section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, is Céline Sciamma’s third feature film (Water LiliesTomboy) to deal with female adolescence and identity.

Fed up with her abusive family situation, lack of school prospects and the “boys’ law” in the neighborhood, Marieme (Karidja Touré) starts a new life after meeting a group of three free-spirited girls. She changes her name, her style, drops out of school and starts stealing to be accepted into the gang. When her home situation becomes unbearable, Marieme seeks solace in an older man who promises her money and protection. Realizing this sort of lifestyle will never result in the freedom and independence she truly desires; she finally decides to take matters into her own hands.

Available on Hoopla | The Criterion Collection | Kanopy | YouTube | GooglePlay | Vudu | iTunes | Amazon Video

Subway
Directed by Luc Besson, R, 1985, 1h44

Subway is Luc Besson’s (LucyThe Fifth Element) ultra-cool and stylized romantic adventure which won French Award César in 1986 for Best Actor (Christophe Lambert), Best Production Design (Alexandre Trauner) and Best Sound.

Fred (Christophe Lambert) is a hipster thief who falls in love with the bored and beautiful wife of the millionaire (Isabelle Adjani) he just robbed. She wants her stolen papers back and he wants her heart. With gangsters and Metro police on their tail, the two seek refuge in the wild labyrinth beneath the subway and team up with the strange characters who inhabit the subterranean world.

Available on Vudu | Amazon Video | iTunes

The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe (Le grand blond avec une chaussure noire)
Directed by Yves Robert, PG, 1972, 1h30

A frothy French farce, The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe is a classic madcap comedy about espionage, surveillance, and mistaken identity. When Francois (Pierre Richard), an unsuspecting violinist, is misidentified as a superspy by national intelligence, outrageous antics ensue. As everyone (including Mireille Darc, playing a knock-out henchwoman) falls over each other in their misguided attempts to discover the tall blond man’s secrets, his best friend complicates matters even further when he overhears a salacious recording of Francois with his wife. The whole merry-go-round comes crashing to a halt in one final showdown, pitting spy versus supposed spy with hilarious results. Elegantly filmed and accompanied by a memorable score, The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe is one of the most seminal comedies of the 1970s.

Available on Hoopla | TubiKanopy | GooglePlay | YouTube | FandangoNow | Amazon Video | iTunes | FlixFling

 

Cléo from 5 to 7 (Cléo de 5 à 7)
Directed by Agnès Varda, 1962, 1h30

Agnès Varda eloquently captures Paris in the sixties with this real-time portrait of a singer (Corinne Marchand) set adrift in the city as she awaits test results of a biopsy. A chronicle of the minutes of one woman’s life, Cleo from 5 to 7 is a spirited mix of vivid vérité and melodrama, featuring a score by Michel Legrand (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and cameos by Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina.

Available on HBO Max | The Criterion Channel | Kanopy

Continue reading “Films on the Green Festival Available Online!”