Oscar season is almost here and two French films have been the subject of much debate recently. Amour and Intouchables recently went head to head for Oscar nomination. Intouchables missed out, while Amour has been nominated five times. Both films address cultural taboos and offer a fascinating look into contemporary French culture. Here’s what you need to know about the two movies currently taking France by storm.
If you’re looking for a feel-good French film to rent after a hard day’s sightseeing in Paris, Intouchables (Untouchable) is your best bet. The comedy drama, directed by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano, soared to international success when it hit cinemas in November 2011, and it quickly became the most popular French film since the cult hit Amélie. France was appalled when it wasn’t nominated for best foreign film for this year’s Oscars.
Intouchables tells the story of the unlikely friendship that develops between quadriplegic millionaire Philippe (François Cluzet) and his new caregiver, Driss (Omar Sy), an intelligent and engaging character who has recently spent time in prison for petty crimes. The two characters find themselves bonding over a shared sense of social exclusion. Omar Sy’s excellent performance earned him the best male performance award at the Césars, despite his being up against Jean Dujardin of The Artist. His character brings life to Philippe’s stuffy Parisian mansion, inspires a room full of classical music lovers to dance to Earth, Wind and Fire and, most important, treats Philippe with respect and without pity. Perhaps the “bromance” formula is nothing new, but you will laugh out loud at this witty comedy drama.
Michael Haneke’s Amour (Love) is the film to see in France at the moment. Unlike Intouchables, it features heavily in the 2013 Oscars nominations list and is up for best picture, best actress (Emmanuelle Riva), best director (Michael Haneke), best original screenplay and best foreign language film. It has already won the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes, so hopes for an Oscar success are high. Its French DVD release date is not until February 23, the eve of the Oscars, but Francophones can see it in cinemas now.
A warning: if you are looking for a passion-fueled French film, this is not it. Where Intouchables is light, Amour is dark and gritty. It tells the story of Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a pair of retired music teachers living together in their Parisian apartment. When Anne suffers a mild stroke, their lives change, and the film ruthlessly documents her mental and physical deterioration. As viewers, we are trapped in their apartment with them as Ann’s condition gradually worsens. We watch the devoted Georges care for her, having promised her that she will never have to go to a hospital again. Will Georges’s love last?
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