Best French Movies of 2012

(KTSF by Sean Au)

Most French movies are either funded by the French government or made with the support of government-linked media companies. Filmmakers face little market pressure in the creative process. This artistic cultural landscape has produced movies with a distinct flair, which distinguish themselves from those made in Hollywood or in Asia. Here are five outstanding French features of the year.

“The Lady”

This tells the story of Nobel Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who grew up in Oxford, United Kingdom. She returns to Myanmar when her mother fell ill. In her trip, Suu Kyi witnessed the atrocities committed by the military government and decided to stay and lead the democracy movement. This prompted the government to place her under house arrest. Suu Kyi was not able to leave the country when her husband was dying in Britain.

French auteur Luc Besson tones down in this sincere production. With Michelle Yeoh’s realistic and low key portrayal, this French film has a welcomed international feel. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

“Farewell, My Queen”

Versailles plunges into turmoil when the French Revolution began, witnessed from the point of view of courtesan Sidonie. She remain loyal to Queen Marie-Antoinette and even agreed to disguise herself to help the queen’s favorite Duchess Gabrielle de Polignac to escape the royal palace.

The three female leads bring the story to life while audience members are immersed in the nervous historic chapter. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.


A reporter shadows officers of a Parisian Children Protection Unit. We are shown how these daily heroes seek to protect the innocence of children while navigating the underbelly of society. The interaction between the officers feels real and raw. This is likely the most typically “French” movie. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

“The Intouchables”

This year’s San Francisco International Film Festival showcased an outstanding French feature which was snapped up by The Weinstein Company for distribution in the American market. Multi-millionaire Philippe who is disabled from the neck down hires ex-convict Driss to be his caretaker, finding himself a best friend and a role model for his daughter as well. Adapted from true events, the film produces laughs when two cultures clash, while inspiring the audience to find the good in people around us. The movie treats the touchy subject with a certain comfortable humor.

“The Intouchables” was the top grossing movie in France last year and a successful marketing campaign in the United States has made it the most successful French film here since “Amelie.” “The Intouchables will represent France in the Oscar race for Best Foreign Picture. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

All these four movies have been released on DVD. Now, let’s take a look at “Rust And Bone” which will open in the U.S. mid-December.

A Belgian man, Ali, takes his son to Antibes in the south of France to live with his sister, a supermarket cashier. With her help, Ali finds work in a night club, where he meets Stephanie, an orca trainer. In an accident at work, Stephanie loses both her legs and calls on Ali to help her. Along the way, Stephanie also becomes Ali’s manager in underground fights. The two find themselves in a mutually supportive relationship.

Under master Jacques Audiard, this alternative love story shows how complex the emotions between people could be. Filmed with a tell-it-like-it-is manner, the film focuses on the two main characters and have us bear witness to the excellent work of Oscar winner Marion Cotillard, proving that her work in “La Vie En Rose” was not a fluke and that she is one of the most outstanding actresses of this generation. “Rust And Bone” is a masterclass in filmmaking and acting, perfect in almost every detail of the human emotion. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Video courtesy of Cohen Media, Sundance Selects, The Weinstein Company and Sony Pictures Classics.

(Copyright 2012 KTSF. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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