When life lacks the sparkle of glamour, classic French cinema is here to transport you. Here’s our selection of films currently available online which place the most dazzling women of French cinema in their most stunning roles. And if you’d like to join them, make sure to sign up for our French classes, starting in September.
The Earrings of Madame De… (Madame de…)
Max Ophüls (1952, France), Amazon
If the title of this film reminds you of the famous short story “The Necklace,” by Guy de Maupassant, you’re not wrong. While this movie is based on a novel published in 1951, it’s 1800s setting, glimpse into French high society, and bitter irony are reminiscent of “The Necklace.” The wife of a French general sells a precious pair of earrings to cover her gambling debts, and a chain reaction ensues which connects a cast of dazzling Belle Époque Parisians. Starring the fabulous Dannielle Darrieux, one of French cinema’s first big stars.
Hiroshima Mon Amour
Alain Resnais (1959, France), Amazon
With a screenplay by the brilliant, tragic Marguerite Duras, author of the timeless novella The Lover, this movie is breathtaking from it’s first disjointed montage. A French actress played by the stunning and equally tragic Emmanuelle Riva arrives in Japan to shoot a movie and is instantly surrounded by memories of the war that devastated Hiroshima. Slowly, she reveals her own wartime calamity to a local man who becomes her lover. A heart-breaking classic of New Wave cinema.
The Soft Skin (La Peau Douce)
François Truffaut (1963, France), Amazon
The authentic tension running through this film is enough to make you wonder whether writer/director François Truffaut knew about the splendors and miseries of adultery from personal experience. A hapless French professor is the nominal protagonist of this film, but he practically disappears between the radiant performances of the two women he is torn between: his sultry Italian wife, played by Nelly Benedetti, and his nubile mistress, Françoise Dorléac.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les parapluies de Cherbourg)
Jacques Demy (1964, France), Amazon
The classic film that introduced a grateful world to the many charms of Catherine Deneuve, one year after her sister Françoise Dorléac starred in La Peau Douce. A kaleidoscopic musical which draws both from golden age Hollywood and the French avant garde. An innocent young woman’s lover goes to war leaving her pregnant, but all is somehow charming and light from beginning to end.