List: Movies about France

Continuing our summer vacation in the movies, we’re going to a different European country each Thursday in August. This week it’s France. This list is not my picks for the best movies that happen to be set in France but the best portrayals of the country or part of the country that I’ve seen in the movies.

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10. The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)

The seaside community of Rochefort gives us beautiful scenery and a delightful musical comedy from masterful director Jacque Demy (the first of three films he has on this list).

 

9. The Triplets of Belleville (2003)

The only movie I know of that takes place at the Tour de France, Sylvain Chomet’s wildly drawn animated film introduces us to some crazy old women (the triplets), a bizarre kidnapping, and a hero dog all centered around France’s great sporting event.

 

8. Lili (1953)

Leslie Caron plays Lili, a 17-year old trying to find a way to live after the death of her father. She does so through working at one of the great carnivals so common in provincial France locations in the first half of the 20th century.

 

7. The Rules of the Game (1939)

A harsh indictment on the urban upper class France of his time, Jean Renoir’s comedy both pokes of the rampant immorality and oppression against servants in his society in what is probably the angriest and most incendiary comedy of all times that still manages to stay hilarious every second.

 

6. Ratatouille (2007)

What would a trip to France be without the food? Master chef Remy the Rat introduced not just his co-workers and friends, but the entire world to what was once was known as a peasant dish but has become a staple at fine-dining restaurants worldwide only in the last 10 years thanks to Remy and Disney/Pixar.

 

5. Lola (1961)

The second Jacque Demy film on the list, this tale of the joys and heartbreak of first love and its effect on entire life spans is set in Nantes. The coastal views are beautiful, and the film ends at one of the carnivals I mentioned with Lili a few movies earlier.

 

4. Hugo (2011)

Martin Scorsese’s family movie about film preservation is one of the strangest phrases I’ve ever said. The strangest thing about Hugo is how wonderfully it works. And it works so well in part because of the extravagantly beautiful sets that are equal parts 1931 France and a fantasy world created by Scorsese for a spectacular 3-D interpretation of Brian Selznick’s novel. French literature, French architecture, French music, and especially French film (and even more especially Georges Méliès’ 1902 A Trip to the Moon) are beautifully presented in Martin Scorsese’s family movie about film preservation.

 

3. Les Misérables (2012)

This masterful adaptation of the Broadway musical that itself adapted the Victor Hugo novel of the same name takes us to a very ugly France during the French Revolution. But the hope, the faith, and the willingness to fight for what is right in its characters bring the beauties of France to light even within the ugliest of situations.

 

2. Charade (1963)

Stanley Donen’s comedic espionage thriller finds Audrey Hepburn running for her life with the assistance of many people though she never knows (and neither do we) if they’re actually out to help her or to kill her. All the chasing is done throughout Paris, and we see many sites of the city as we watch her frantically run, hide and fight for her life however she can.

 

1. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

The best portrait of France that I know of in the movies is Jacque Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Set in the town of Cherbourg, the title refers to the umbrella shop that the main character helps run with her mother who owns it. The 1960s pastel colors bring the streets to life even in the rainiest of scenes, and with a title like this, you can expect that it’s raining most of the time but that never dampens the color and the beauty of this magical, romantic trip to France.

And the Oscar Should Have Gone to…1965

Two weeks ago I posted a list of how I think the 1975 Academy Awards should have worked. The next year I got at random was 1965. My only major criteria is a U.S. release in the year of 1965 for every category, which do not always align perfectly with the Oscar’s own eligibility rules. Like the last time, I list the actual Oscar nominations first with the winner in bold print and a note for any nominated films I haven’t seen, and then my own picks. The picture that comes at the beginning of each category corresponds with my choice for the year’s winner in that category.

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Oscar nominees:

Darling

Doctor Zhivago

Ship of Fools

The Sound of Music

A Thousand Clowns

My picks:

6. Ship of Fools

5. A Thousand Clowns

4. A Rage to Live

3. Cat Ballou

2. A Patch of Blue

1. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

 

BEST DIRECTOR

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Oscar nominees:

David Lean, Doctor Zhivago

John Schlesinger, Darling

Hiroshi Teshigahara, Woman in the Dunes (N/A, 1964 U.S. theatrical release)

Robert Wise, The Sound of Music

William Wyler, The Collector (Unseen)

My picks:

5. Fred Coe, A Thousand Clowns

4. Guy Green, A Patch of Blue

3. Stanley Kramer, Ship of Fools

2. Elliot Silverstein, Cat Ballou

1. Jacque Demy, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

 

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

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Oscar nominees:

Julie Andrews, The Sound of Music

Julie Christie, Darling

Samantha Egggar, The Collector (Unseen)

Elizabeth Hartman, A Patch of Blue

Simone Signoret, Ship of Fools

My picks:

5. Jane Fonda, Cat Ballou

4. Catherine Deneuve, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

3. Suzanne Plechette, A Rage to Live

2. Vivian Leigh, Ship of Fools

1. Elizabeth Hartman, A Patch of Blue

 

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

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Oscar nominees:

Richard Burton, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (Unseen)

Lee Marvin, Cat Ballou

Laurence Olivier, Othello (Unseen)

Rod Steiger, The Pawnbroker (Unseen)

Oskar Werner, Ship of Fools

My picks:

5. Nino Castelnuovo, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

4. Barry Gordon, A Thousand Clowns

3. Jason Robards, A Thousand Clowns

2. Sidney Poitier, A Patch of Blue

1. Lee Marvin, Cat Ballou

 

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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Oscar nominees:

Ruth Gordon, Inside Daisy Clover (Unseen)

Joyce Redman, Othello (Unseen)

Maggie Smith, Othello (Unseen)

Shelly Winters, A Patch of Blue

Peggy Wood, The Sound of Music

My picks:

5.  Anne Vernon, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

4. Barbara Harris, A Thousand Clowns

3. Bethel Leslie, A Rage to Live

2. Carmen Matthew, A Rage to Live

1. Shelly Winters, A Patch of Blue

 

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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Oscar nominees:

Martin Balsam, A Thousand Clowns

Ian Bannen, The Flight of the Phoenix

Tom Courtney, Doctor Zhivago

Michael Dunn, Ship of Fools

Frank Finlay, Othello (Unseen)

My picks:

5. Tom Courtney, Doctor Zhivago

4. Wallace Ford, A Patch of Blue

3. Bradford Dillman, A Rage to Live

2. Ben Gazzara, A Rage to Live

1. Michael Dunn, Ship of Fools

 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

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Oscar nominees:

Cat Ballou

The Collector (Unseen)

Doctor Zhivago

Ship of Fools

A Thousand Clowns

My picks:

5. A Rage to Live

4. A Thousand Clowns

3. Ship of Fools

2. Cat Ballou

1. A Patch of Blue

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

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Oscar nominees:

Cassanova 70 (Unseen)

Darling

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours, 11 Minutes (Unseen)

The Train (Unseen)

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

My picks:

3. Darling

2. What’s New Pussycat?

1. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

 

BEST ORIGINAL SONG (Music categories are based on songs & scores I have heard whether or not I have seen the movie):

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Oscar nominees:

“The Ballad of Cat Ballou” Cat Ballou

“I Will Wait for You” The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

“The Sweetheart Tree” The Great Race (Unseen)

“The Shadow of Your Smile” The Sandpiper (Unseen)

“What’s New Pussycat?” What’s New Pussycat?

My picks:

5. “The Shadow of Your Smile” The Sandpiper

4. “What’s New Pussycat?” What’s New Pussycat?

3. “Watch What Happens” The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

2. “The Ballad of Cat Ballou” Cat Ballou

1. “I Will Wait for You” The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

 

BEST ORIGINAL FILM SCORE

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Oscar nominees:

Jerry Goldsmith, A Patch of Blue

Maurice Jarre, Doctor Zhivago

Michel Legrand & Jacque Demy, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Alfred Newman, The Greatest Story Ever Told

Alex North, The Agony and the Ecstasy

My picks:

5. Andre Previn, Inside Daisy Clover

4. Ernst Gold, Ship of Fools

3. Jerry Goldsmith, A Patch of Blue

2. Henry Mancini, The Great Race

1. Maurice Jarre, Doctor Zhivago

 

BEST ADAPTED OR SONG SCORE

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Frank DeVol, Cat Ballou

Michel Legrand, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Irwin Kostal, The Sound of Music

Lionel Newman & Alexander Courage, The Pleasure Seekers

Don Walker, A Thousand Clowns

My picks:

5. Don Walker, A Thousand Clowns

4. Frank Skinner, Shenandoah

3. Frank DeVol, Cat Ballou

2. Irwin Kostal, The Sound of Music

1. Michel Legrand, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

 

BEST FILM EDITING

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Oscar nominees:

Cat Ballou

Doctor Zhivago

The Flight of the Phoenix

The Great Race (Unseen)

The Sound of Music

My picks:

5. What’s New Pussycat?

4. A Patch of Blue

3. Cat Ballou

2. Ship of Fools

1. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY (Oscars separated between B&W and Color; I’ll combine both)

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Oscar nominees (B&W):

In Harm’s Way (Unseen)

King Rat (Unseen)

A Patch of Blue

Morituri (Unseen)

Ship of Fools

Oscar nominees (Color)

The Agony and the Ecstasy (Unseen)

Doctor Zhivago

The Great Race (Unseen)

The Greatest Show on Earth (Unseen)

The Sound of Music

My picks

5. The Flight of the Phoenix

4. Ship of Fools

3. The Sound of Music

2. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

1. Doctor Zhivago

 

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

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Oscar nominees (B&W):

King Rat (Unseen)

A Patch of Blue

Ship of Fools

The Slender Thread (Unseen)

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (Unseen)

Oscar nominees (Color):

The Agony and the Ecstasy (Unseen)

Doctor Zhivago

The Greatest Story Ever Told (Unseen)

Inside Daisy Clover (Unseen)

The Sound of Music

My picks:

5. What’s New Pussycat?

4. Ship of Fools

3. The Sound of Music

2. Doctor Zhivago

1. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

 

BEST SOUND

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Oscar nominees:

The Agony and the Ecstasy (Unseen)

Doctor Zhivago

The Great Race (Unseen)

Shenandoah (Unseen)

The Sound of Music

My picks

5. A Patch of Blue

4. The Sound of Music

3. Cat Ballou

2. The Flight of the Phoenix

1. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

 

BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS

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Oscar for Sound Effects

The Great Race (Unseen)

Von Ryan’s Express (Unseen)

Oscar for Visual Effects

The Greatest Story Ever Told (Unseen)

Thunderbolt (Unseen)

My picks for Best Special Effects (Visual or Sound)

2. Doctor Zhivago

1. The Flight of the Phoenix

 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

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Oscar nominees (B&W):

Darling

Morituri (Unseen)

A Rage to Live (Unseen)

Ship of Fools

The Slender Thread (Unseen)

Oscar nominees (Color):

The Agony and the Ecstasy (Unseen)

Doctor Zhivago

The Greatest Story Ever Told (Unseen)

Inside Daisy Clover (Unseen)

The Sound of Music

My picks:

5. The Sound of Music

4. Ship of Fools

3. Darling

2. Doctor Zhivago

1. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

 

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING (Not an Oscar category in 1965)

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3. Doctor Zhivago

2. Cat Ballou

1. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

 

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FEATURE

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Oscar nominees:

Blood on the Land (Greece)(N/A, 1966 US theatrical release)

Dear John (Sweden)(N/A, 1966 US theatrical release)

Kwaidon (Japan)(Unseen)

The Shop on Main Street (Czechoslovakia)(N/A, 1966 US theatrical release)

Marriage Italian Style (Italy)(N/A, 1964 US theatrical release)

My pick:The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (France)

 

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST (Never an Oscar category, but I would like it to be)

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My picks:

5. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

4. Cat Ballou

3. A Patch of Blue

2. Ship of Fools

1. A Rage to Live

 

I have not seen any eligible documentaries for 1965, so this will end what should have won the Oscar in 1965.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

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Jaque Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and the music of Michel Legrand that fills every second of it is probably more influential in the careers of director Damien Chazelle and jazz composer Jutstin Hurwitz (who worked together on La La Land, which just became the most nominated film in Oscar history this week, tied with 1959’s Ben-Hur and 1997’s Titanic) than any other film. Every word of dialogue is sung, but this should not put off people who don’t normally like musicals, just as La La Land is appealing especially well to the same type of people. It begins with hilarious self-parody that eases viewers into what could otherwise be a shock of telling a story through wall-to-wall singing. The opening scene is set in a mechanic’s garage and one of the mechanics sings about how he hates going to the opera because all the singing gives him a pain, saying that he likes movies better.

Umbrellas‘ singing is so gently placed in the film that it doesn’t take long before it feels natural and we don’t have to worry about getting a pain from all the singing like the character who doesn’t like opera. The story is about the power that promises made and broken can have to effect the future. Genevieve (Catherine Deneuve) is in love with Guy (Nino Castelnuovo) and after seeing a few short glimpses into their romance and their family backgrounds, they sing the film’s most famous song, “I Will Wait for You.” Guy just told Genevieve the news that he’s being sent to the war in Algeria without any knowledge of when he will be back home to Cherbourg. The song includes their promise to wait for each other until he returns, whenever that may be.

Many moments in Umbrellas are familiar of most Hollywood romances, despite being made in France. But the familiarity is always met with originality in how the story is told so that there is never a cliched moment but every second sparks with intelligence, passion, and beauty. The majority of the films follows the two characters separately after Guy’s departure, showing one partner’s faithfulness to the promise and the other’s infidelity to it. As the film unfolds it works as both a comedy and tragedy (according to the definitions of those terms in ancient Greek drama). The story of the partner who is faithful to the promise is a comedy—meaning that it has a happy ending—while the story of the unfaithful partner is a tragedy, including regret over past decisions that have shaped the character’s life in very negative ways.

Every second of Umbrellas is built around the promise of waiting. Before they make the promise, we see a typical young love that looks easy but once they are faced with the need to make the promise, the grief and insecurity of their separation takes hold. In such situations, what people promise one another often seems sincere but that doesn’t mean they’re really able or willing to carry it out since they simply don’t know what the fulfillment of that promise holds for them yet. Keeping promises may involve even more grief and despair and it does for the character faithful to the promise but it ultimately means a life free of regret because of that fidelity to promises made. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg tells its story about this reality of life in as entertaining and as romantic a way as could be possible.

List: The Best Original Movie Musicals

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Last weekend, La La Land made history being the most winning movie ever at the Golden Globe Awards with seven wins, sweeping every category it was nominated for. I haven’t seen La La Land yet, but I love musicals and have already made a list of the best film adaptations of Broadway musicalsLa La Land looks to be more inspired by the classic original musicals, both from Hollywood and France. In saying original musicals, I mean that they did not originate on stage, yet the songs do not have to be original to the movie. So, here’s my list of the best original movie musicals.

 

10. The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)

Best songs: “Chansons des Delphine” & “Daphne a Lancien

 

9.  Stormy Weather (1943)

Best songs: “Ain’t Misbehavin'” & “Stormy Weather”

 

8. Once (2007)

Best songs: “Falling Slowly” & “If You Want Me”

 

7. Moulin Rouge (2001)

Best songs: “Like a Virgin” & “Roxanne”

 

6. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Best songs: “The Boy Next Door” & “The Trolley Song”

 

5. The Lion King (1994)

Best songs: “Hakuna Matata” & “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”

 

4. Mary Poppins (1964)

Best songs: “A Spoonful of Sugar” & “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”

 

3. A Star Is Born (1954)

Best songs: “I Was Born in a Trunk” & “The Man that Got Away”

 

2. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

Best songs: “Je ne pourrai jamais vivre sans toi” & “Recit de Cassard

 

1. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Best songs: “Make ’em Laugh,” “Moses Supposes,” & “Singin’ in the Rain”