Film blog: 10 quirky and charming French films

French arthouse cinema. Labouring under a reputation as 'pretentious' and 'niche', it has actually produced some quirky gems, writes Yeeseon Chae.

Film blog: 10 quirky and charming French films
Non Fiction, from French director Olivier Assayas

Arthouse cinema is a protected cultural and national institution of France as much as blockbusters are to Hollywood in the US.


The film director is highly regarded in France – much more than in the US. Arthouse cinema is also publicly protected in France mostly by the CNC, or the National Center for Cinema.

Significant aid is awarded by the CNC for film production, distribution, and the operation of screening. In fact, each French movie-goer contributes to the CNC and possible future features through a ticket sale tax.

The TSA tax (taxe sur le prix des entrées aux séances organisées par les exploitants d’établissements de spectacles cinématographiques), takes about 10.72 percent of each ticket sale price to help directly fund the CNC and CNC approved projects.

Other national associations also include the AFCAE (French Association of Cinema and Critique), that work to increase the education and public awareness of French auteur cinema. All of this goes to give the director the most power in their creative endeavors, in comparison to the American model where most of the say goes to the film studio or producer.

To provide you with a better idea of what French arthouse cinema is really like, here are the top 10 recent films certified by the AFCAE as “Art et Essai” brought to you by Lost In Frenchlation.

1. 120 BPM (120 battements par minute) – 2017

Set in the height of the AIDS epidemic in 1990s France, this winner of the Cannes Grand Prix follows a group of Parisian ACT UP activists as they fight and celebrate in a world that actively works against them.

2. Bloody Milk (Petit Paysan) – 2017

One part farm thriller and two parts social drama bring you Bloody Milk. Filmed on the director’s family farm, Bloody Milk is the story of a young farmer who becomes obsessed with saving his cows from a deadly infection.

3. Barbara – 2017

Nominated for several Cesar awards as well as the Un Certain Regard award for Cannes, this meta film is about an actor and a director’s feverish fixation as they attempt to create a biopic about the famous French singer.

4. The Workshop (L’Atelier) – 2017

This study of modern French life is about a young writers’ workshop, led by famous writer Olivia, as they attempt to create a story about their small town in the South of France. Ensuing drama follows as one such member strays away from the group by falling deep into a right-wing group, creating tension and confrontation that must be addressed.

5. Montparnasse Bienvenüe / Jeune Femme – 2017

A hilarious profile of a young woman who seems to be fumbling at it all, Laetitia Dosch stars in this comedy as a woman after a break-up as she learns to live for herself.Memoir of War

6.  Memoir of War (La Douleur) – 2017

Based on the semi-autobiographical work by Marguerite Duras, Memoir of War follows Marguerite as she struggles to keep her faith in humanity after her husband is taken away during the Nazi occupation of France.

7. Custody (Jusqu'à la Garde) – 2017

Like a thriller remake of Kramer vs. Kramer, Custody investigates the divorce of the Besson couple as the mother struggles to get sole custody of the child against a father she accuses of being abusive.

8. Our Struggles (Nos Batailles) – 2018

After his wife leaves him, Olivier must juggle the injustices of his job as he begins to create a new home and family for his children.

9. Real Love (C’est ca l’Amour) – 2018

A lovingly unflinching portrait of a family, Real Love follows the Messina family in the aftermath of their mother’s sudden departure. The family must come to terms with the truth as they grapple with trauma and feelings hidden beneath them as they learn to find a way to be whole again.

10. Guy – 2018

Awarded Best Film by the French equivalent of the Oscars, the Cesar, this comedy takes a pseudo-documentary style as it shares the story of a journalist who learns that his biological father is Guy Jamet, a once-famous now forgotten pop singer.

Yeeseon Chae helps to run the Lost in Frenchlation cinema club, which offers screenings of French films with English subtitles. To learn more, and see their schedule of upcoming films, click here.

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Everything you need to know about France’s 2022 summer sales

In France, you can only shop the best deals twice a year - during the soldes. Here is everything you need to know about this year's summer sales.

Everything you need to know about France's 2022 summer sales

They happen twice a year – Each year, France has two soldes periods: one in the winter, usually starting January, and another in the summer, usually starting in June.

This summer, the soldes will start on Wednesday, June 22nd in most parts of France and run for four weeks, so even though you might be tempted to go on the first day, keep in mind they’ll be going on for a while.

They are progressive, so items will be continuously marked down as the soldes wear on. If you wait, you are risking that your favourite t-shirt might sell out quickly, but if you’re lucky it might end up marked down even further.

During 2020 and 2021 the government altered sales dates and time periods to help shops cope with closures and lockdowns, but now we’re back to the usual timetable.

This is the only time stores can have “sales” – Technically, the soldes are the only time that stores are allowed to have sales, but the definition of ‘sale’ is important.

Basically, the French government qualifies a ‘solde‘ as the store selling an item for less than they purchased it for.

During the rest of the year discounting is allowed in certain circumstances, so you might see promotions or vente privée (private sales, usually short-term events aimed at regular customers or loyalty-card holders) throughout the year.

In these situations the stores might be selling items for less than their original price, but they are not permitted to sell the item for less than they bought it for. 

Shops are also permitted to have closing-down sales if they are shutting down, or closing temporarily for refurbishment.

They are strictly regulated by the French government – Everything from how long the soldes go for to the consumer protection rules that apply to the very definition of ‘solde’ is regulated by the French government, and the main purpose of this is to protect small independent businesses which might not be able to offer the same level of discounts as the big chains and multi-national companies.

Whether you shop in person or online, the same rules apply.

As a consumer, you still have the same rights as non-sales times regarding broken or malfunctioning items – meaning you ought to be entitled to a refund if the item has not been expressly indicated as faulty. The French term is vice caché, referring to discovering a defect after purchase.

On top of that, stores must be clear about which items are reduced and which are not – and must display the original price on the label as well as the sale price and percentage discount. 

READ MORE: Your consumer rights for French sales

They started in the 19th century – France’s soldes started in the 19th century, alongside the growth of department stores who had the need to regularly renew their stock – and get rid of leftover items.

Simon Mannoury, who founded the first Parisian department store “Petit Saint-Thomas” in 1830, came up with the idea.

Funnily enough, this department store actually is the ancestor for the famous department store Le Bon Marché. His goal was to sell off the previous season’s unsold stock in order to replace it with new products.

In order to do this, Mannoury offered heavy discounts to sell as much merchandise as possible in a limited time.

The soldes start at different times depending on where you live – The sales start at the same time across most of mainland France, but there are exceptions for overseas France and certain départements, usually those along the border.

France’s finance ministry allows for the sales to start at different times based on local economies and tourist seasons. 

For the summer 2022 sales only two parts of metropolitan France have different dates; Alpes-Maritimes sales run from July 6th to August 2nd, while on the island of Corsica they run from July 13th to August 9th.

In France’s overseas territories the sales are held later in the year.

You might qualify for a tax rebate – If you are resident outside the EU, you might be eligible for a tax rebate on your sales purchases.

If you spend at least €100 in one store, then you qualify. You should hold onto your receipt and tell the cashier you plan to use a tax rebate so they can give you the necessary documentation (a duty-free slip).

Then when you are leaving you can find the kiosk at the station or airport dedicated to tax rebates (détaxe) and file prior to leaving France. For more information read HERE