Before you say you didn’t do much of anything over the summer, do the next best thing by watching these iconic French films guaranteed to match every summer mood under the sun.
- Five movies that show what France is really like
- How foreigners learn to romanticise Paris through film
1. Paris au mois d'août (Paris In August) – 1966
If you're in Paris right now you might have noticed that it's strangely empty (I mean you'll often even get a seat on the Metro) as thousands of people take the month off and head for the hills or the beach. The semi-deserted capital is the setting for this classic 1966 movie, starring iconic French actor and singer Charles Aznavour. He plays Henri Plantin, a married man who is left alone in Paris as his family leave town.
At first he wonders how he will pass the time until a fortunate meeting with an English model.
Watch when you’re in the mood to be changed by a chance encounter.
2. Conte d'Eté (A Summer's Tale) – 1996
A new job, a seaside resort, and three beautiful women, what more could one boy want?
In one of Eric Rohmer’s most delightful films, Conte d’Ete follows Gaspard as he tries to juggle different relationships while on vacation. Trouble ensues along with insights on young love.
Watch when you’re in the mood to fall in love, but not commit (which is the very definition of a summer romance, no?)
3. La fille du 14 juillet (The Rendez-Vous of Déjà-Vu) – 2013
Now you might think that a month of holidays is long enough – but not if you're trying to win round your true love. The premise of this comedy is that, due to an economic crisis, the government has reduced the holiday period. That means that Louvre guard Hector has just weeks to win the affections of Truquette before the holidays end and they both have to return to work.
Heavily influenced by the classics of the French New Wave, watch this when you want a visual feast.
4. L'Inconnu du lac (Stranger by the Lake) – 2013
Set on a nudist beach, this is terrifying but not for the reasons you would expect.
Young holidaymaker Franck passes his sunbathing and observing the – often promiscuous – comings and goings on the stretch of beach. But with the arrival of the mysterious and handsome stranger Michel things take a much darker turn.
A reinvention of the summer scare flick, watch when you’re in the mood for a sleeper hit that will make you look over your shoulder.
5. 37°2 le matin (Betty Blue) – 1986
With the action moving between a sweltering Paris and the beaches of southern France, this tells the story of the tumultuous relationship of Betty and Zorg.
The tensely-wound melodrama was nominated for a Bafta and an Oscar in 1986 for Best Foreign Language Film and, like all the best French films, has both sex and death.
Watch when you’re in the mood for some controlled chaos.
6. Naissance des pieuvres (Water Lilies) – 2007
Summer is the time for heightened emotions and (if you're a teenager) angst-filled crushes, perfectly captured here by the great cinematic duo of Céline Sciamma and Adèle Haenel.
Sciamma masterfully captures the feeling of teen angst that only becomes more enhanced and urgent as the temperature rises. Pauline Acquart plays Marie, who becomes obsessed with joining the synchronized swimming team for Floriane, a rebel played by Haenel.
Watch when you’re in the mood for remembering all of the embarrassing things you did for your teenage crushes.
7. Ce Sentiment de l'été (This Summer Feeling) – 2016
Summer and death are perhaps not a classic pairing, but this is why the French film industry is not like Hollywood.
Lives are forever changed when Sasha, a young French woman dies and her fiance, Lawrence, and her sister Zoe, must come to terms with her death.
As the title suggests, the duo must find again what it means to have that summer feeling of having everything seem possible even when everything is going wrong.
Watch for the beautiful, melancholic shots of summer in Paris, Annecy, and New York.
Yeeseon Chae works for Lost in Frenchlation, a Paris-based cinema club that shows French film with English subtitles. For details of the programme of screenings, click here.