J’accuse – Canal Plus
Perfectly timed, with the new Dreyfus museum opening this week in the Maison Zola in Yvelines, Canal Plus has added this rich César-winning drama – known as An Officer and a Spy in English – recounting the story of one of France’s most humiliating political scandals.
Directed and adapted from Robert Harris’s book by Roman Polanski, and starring Jean Dujardin, it tells the true story of the appalling treatment of a promising young officer who is wrongly accused of spying, publicly stripped of his rank, transported to Devil’s Island.
The scandal that followed, which led to writer Emile Zola’s famous 1898 J’accuse open letter, is still a point of contention among certain French people.
Available now on the paid-for TV channel Canal Plus.
8 Rue de l’Humanité – Netflix
Another topical one is Netflix France’s latest addition, a comedy about lockdown life, set in the ancient history of March and April 2020 when the majority of France was confined to their homes.
Seen through the eyes of beloved French star Dany Boon, who also directed and wrote the screenplay alongside co-star Laurence Arné, it follows the inhabitants of an apartment block in Paris as they deal (or fail to deal) with the harsh realities of lockdown life.
As well as bringing chills to anyone who was in the capital during lockdown, it also has lots of laughs and is quite heartwarming (by the standards of French cinema).
Available now on Netflix.
Le Meilleur Pâtissier – M6
If you prefer to ignore the world outside and stick to more comforting fare, then the 10th series of France’s version of the international Bake Off franchise – complete with internationally recognisable theme tune, perky new host, gently terrifying celeb chef and older-generation baking guru – is for you.
While the British version, for example, rattles through its challenges in about an hour, LMP, as it’s sometimes known, is a whacking two hours-plus an episode. But it’s genuinely worth the effort. Some of the cakes are simply astonishing, and the gentle baking drama goes off the scale.
Plus, it will teach you some excellent French swearing when cakes fail to raise, biscuit sculptures crumble and hot caramel goes awry.
"Tu vas mettre des cèpes ?" 😵🍄🍰
Nicolas prend un risque dans la revisite de la tarte Bourdaloue en ajoutant un ingrédient atypique dans sa ganache !
📺 #LMP en replay sur @6play ➡️ https://t.co/rezcIN8JJH pic.twitter.com/aa6TX05Uz9
— M6 (@M6) October 29, 2021
Broadcast every Thursday at 9pm (ish) on free TV channel M6, or catch-up on Replay or online at www.6play.fr (available outside France too).
Les Rois de l’Arnaque – Netflix
Another timely piece – anyone would think that schedulers planned these things.
This documentary, which coincides with COP26 in Glasgow, reveals how three French men conned the EU carbon quota system and pocketed millions before turning on one another.
Available from Wednesday, November 3rd on Netflix
Au Service de la France (A Very Secret Service)
This one isn’t new, it was on French TV channel Arte in 2015 and was added to Netflix last year but it’s very funny and very French, which is why we’re recommending it.
It follows new recruit André into the French secret service in 1960. The world is facing big changes, including the independence of former French colonies and the heating up of the Cold War, but André’s new colleagues are more interested in whether they will get their bonuses, whether the paperwork has been filled out and rubber stamped and how the pot (post-work drinks) will be organised.
One for anyone who has ever struggled with French administration.
Available now on Netflix.
Paris police 1900
Another Canal Plus creation, this is now available on the BBC, the latest in a series of hook-ups between Canal Plus and BBC Four.
Set in 1899 this is a combination of a crime drama and a political thriller, inspired by some real events and set against the backdrop of the Dreyfus Affair. It’s won much praise for its sexy, stylish and pacy episodes which show the darker side of the Belle Epoque.
Available now, free for those with access to the BBC or BBC iPlayer or via subscription to Canal Plus.