French film blog: France’s love for divorce films shows Paris really isn’t the ‘City of Love’

Have you noticed that so many French films seem to be about couples going through divorce? There's a reason for it, writes Manon Kerjean from Lost in Frenchlation, and it shows that Paris really shouldn't be called the City of Love.

French film blog: France's love for divorce films shows Paris really isn't the 'City of Love'
Paris might have worked out for Bergman and Bogart, but these days the French love divorce films better. Photo: Casablanca

French dramas and comedies alike often focus on a certain unexpected circumstance of life: divorce.

In France, 55 per cent of marriages end in divorce. Essentially, chances are you are more likely to separate than stay together if you get married here. It is no wonder that the number of marriages performed in France each year is the lowest per capita in all of Europe.

You’re not much better off in the US or U.K, where divorce rates are 46 per cent and 42 per cent respectively, but at least the odds are in your favour. In India only 1 per cent of couples get divorced.

Based on these statistics, it’s no surprise that divorce is a more common theme in French films than those produced by Hollywood and Bollywood.

Hollywood divorce films often have serious and emotional undertones, (Eat, Pray, Love, Kramer vs. Kramer, etc.), leading to the conclusion that French films such as Papa ou Maman (Daddy or Mummy), would not do well with an American audience.

Papa ou Maman is a comedy about two parents who fight over NOT getting custody of their children in order to have the freedom to pursue career opportunities.

This works with a French sense of humor, but Americans would be turned off by the idea of parents actively pushing their kids away and would not appreciate the humour. Americans are much more sensitive when it comes to what they will laugh about, while comedy in France has less restrictions. This leads Americans to believe that the French have a darker and twisted sense of humor.

However, France also does have its fair share of divorce dramas also, such as Les Papas du Dimanche, and more recently, Jusqu’à la Garde.

Their divorce movies cover a wide range of situations, through films that focus on men and women of varying ages, and through the perspectives of both parents and children. Divorce films are a hit in France, with films such as Le Passé and L’amour Flou being nominated at The César Awards and the Cannes Film Festival.

L’Amour Flou (see trailer below) is a particularly interesting divorce film, because it is based on a real life divorced couples’ unique solution to their common problem: maintaining a life together for their children while being separated.

After a real estate agent shows them two separate apartments joined by a common space Philippe Rebbot and Romane Bohringer, who play themselves in this film, realise that it is the perfect way to raise their children in an undisruptive manner. They call this special living situation a “sépartement”, a pun based on the French words for “seperate” and “apartment”. The personal touch of Rebbot and Bohringer being the creators and stars of the film, and the relatability of the issues that arise in the story makes L’amour Flou the perfect French film.

Another noteworthy French divorce film is L’economie du Couple.

This tells the story of a couple who is divorced, but continue to live together due to financial issues.

This particular story is less concerned about the love lost and more focused on the economic troubles faced. It’s not even clear what it was that tore their marriage apart, only that now they must continue to cohabit their house because one half of the couple can’t afford to live on their own, which only leads to further resentment. It’s a look into the reality that many divorced couples in France face due to the rising costs of living.

It is ironic that Paris is so romanticised in American cinema and television, and depicted as the perfect place for a couple to be in love. When thinking about classic Hollywood, it is only natural to imagine Humphrey Bogart looking at Ingrid Bergman and uttering one of the most well known lines in cinema, “we’ll always have Paris”. This reinforces the stereotype that regardless of the state of a couple’s relationship in any other part of the world, all will be right in Paris.

French films destroy the stereotype created by American films that everyone in France is happily in love. They represent a more accurate picture of what married life is like, which appeals to their audience by giving them a story they can relate to. Paris may be the city of love, but as statistics and French films show, the love doesn’t necessarily last.

Lost in Frenchlation screen new French films at cinemas in Paris with English subtitles. To see their upcoming events you can visit their website HERE.




French films with English subtitles to watch in November

As days get shorter and temperatures drop, November is a great month to enjoy a warm and comforting moment at the cinema. Here’s a round up of the French movies with English subtitles to see in Paris this month.

Cinema in France
Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

The cinema group Lost in Frenchlation runs regular screenings of French films in the capital, with English subtitles to help non-native speakers follow the action. The club kicks off every screening with drinks at the cinema’s bar one hour before the movie, so it’s also a fun way to meet people if you’re new to Paris.

These are the events they have coming up in November.

Friday, November 5th

Boîte Noire – What happened on board the Dubai-Paris flight before it crashed in the Alps? In this thriller Matthieu, a young and talented black box analyst played by Pierre Niney (star of Yves Saint-Laurent among other movies) is determined to solve the reason behind this deadly crash, no matter the costs. 

The screening will take place at the Club de l’étoile cinema at 8pm. But you can arrive early for drinks at the bar from 7pm. 

Tickets are €10 full price, €8 for students and all other concessions, and can be reserved here.

Sunday, November 14th

Tralala – In the mood for music? This new delightful French musical brings you into the life of Tralala (played by Mathieu Amalric), a 48 years old, homeless and worn-out street singer, who one day gets mistaken for someone else. Tralala sees an opportunity to get a better life by taking on a new personality. He now has a brother, nephews, ex-girlfriends, and maybe even a daughter. But where is the lie? Where is the truth? And who is he, deep down?

The night will start with drinks from 6pm followed by the screening at 7pm at the Luminor Hôtel de Ville cinema. There is also a two-hour cinema-themed walk where you’ll be taken on a “musicals movie tour” in the heart of Paris, which begins at 4pm.

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here. Tickets for the walking tour cost €20 and must be reserved online here.

Thursday, November 18th

Illusions Perdues – Based on the great novel series by Honoré de Balzac between 1837 and 1843, this historical drama captures the writer Lucien’s life and dilemmas who dreams about a great career of writing and moves to the city to get a job at a newspaper. As a young poet entering the field of journalism, he is constantly challenged by his desire to write dramatic and eye-catching stories for the press. But are they all true?

The evening will kick off with drinks at L’Entrepôt cinema bar at 7pm, followed by the movie screening at 8pm. Tickets are available online here, and cost €8.50 full price; €7 for students and all other concessions.

Sunday, November 21st

Eiffel – Having just finished working on the Statue of Liberty, Gustave Eiffel (played by Romain Duris) is tasked with creating a spectacular monument for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris. It’s ultimately his love story with Adrienne Bourgès (Emma Mackey) that will inspire him to come up with the idea for the Eiffel Tower.

After a first screening last month, Lost in Frenchlation is organising a new one at the Luminor Hôtel de Ville cinema, with pre-screening drinks at the cinema bar. 

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here

Thursday, November 25th

Les Héroïques – Michel is a former junkie and overgrown child who only dreams of motorbikes and of hanging out with his 17-year-old son Léo and his friends. But at 50 years old, he now has to handle the baby he just had with his ex, and try not to make the same mistakes he has done in the past. 

The film will be followed by a Q&A with the director Maxime Roy who will discuss his very first feature. 

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here.

Full details of Lost in Frenchlation’s events can be found on their website or Facebook page. In France, a health pass is required in order to go to the cinema.