One of the most popular French films of the century so far, the whimsical Amélie did much to raise the profile of French cinema internationally. It tells the story of the shy, naïve Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou), who determines to improve the lives of friends and strangers through secret and complicated acts of kindness. The movie enfolds, of course, Amélie’s experience of sweet and awkward first love, but its broad examination of ordinary, down-to-earth human relationships is unusually touching.
Love Me If You Dare (2003)
Starring Marion Cotillard and Guillaume Canet in their breakthrough roles, Love Me If You Dare tells a surreal story about the cruel innocence of childhood – and beyond. Sophie (Cotillard) and Julien (Canet) are childhood friends who take turns challenging each other with outrageous dares. As they grow older and fall in love, they find themselves unable to leave old habits behind and put their happiness at risk for the sake of the game.
The Artist (2011)
Set in 1920s Hollywood, The Artist depicts the relationship between George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a famous silent actor struggling to adjust to the coming of the talkies, and Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), an aspiring actress-dancer whose star rises as Valentin’s falls. Given that it’s a silent film, Dujardin and Bejo’s chemistry depends not on charming speeches but an intense yet restrained physicality that heightens the romantic tension. Their flirtatious smiles, stolen glances, and habit of standing dangerously close too each recalls the dalliances of classic Hollywood romances of the past.
Michael Haneke’s Amour is a devastating exploration of the realities of love beyond typical Hollywood ideas of romance. Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) are an elderly married whose lives become suddenly complicated after Anne suffers a sudden stroke. Amour won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
Blue Is the Warmest Color tracks the relationship between two women, Adèle (Adèle Exarchopolous) and Emma (Lés Seydoux) – from the passionate and sensual to the abrasive and heartbreaking. Writer-director Abdellatif Kechiche explores the intersection between love and a myriad of contemporary social issues, including class, gender politics, ambition, and freedom. It was the first film to have the Palme d’Or presented to both director and lead actors at Cannes.