What should non-French speakers expect from a subtitled French comedy? Will we ‘get’ the jokes and humour? Will we follow the plot and the narrative? Will we warm to the characters? Instead of wondering whether or not we’ll enjoy these films, maybe we should expand our horizons and simply give them a chance. So here’s a quick guide about what to expect from French comedies.
As well as humour, French comedies also tend to have an artistic feel
A lot of thought and care always goes into shooting French movies, regardless of their genre. From the stunning locations to the framing of each shot, the final picture is often a very beautiful film that elegantly combines serious art with popular entertainment. Another example, ‘Proper Attire Required’ shown on Eurocinema next week, may have been low-budget. But even this, combined with its well-written script, makes the overall feel and offering of the film still very charming. ‘Let There Be Light’ also being screened next week has a much more theatrical approach. In this comedy, God writes a screenplay before coming to Earth to find a director to bring his movie to life.
You will recognise actors and actresses who’ve made it in Hollywood
One of the interesting aspects of watching international films is that you do come across actors and actresses who have appeared in Hollywood blockbusters. Some have even graced the red carpet at various well-known awards ceremonies. For example, Marion Cotillard, Isabelle Huppert, and Alicia Vikander have either won or been nominated for Oscars in their careers. Gérard Depardieu is another incredibly well-known actor who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1990.
Some of the humour may be ‘lost in translation’ – but that’s all part of the charm
You may need to keep an open mind when it comes to some of the humour. Some of the comedy may involve puns or be cultural, in that only those who were brought up in France, or have lived there for most of their lives will find amusing. The French are great teases and tend to direct their humour towards others rather than laugh at themselves.
Interestingly, they also aren’t afraid to push boundaries on subjects that the British wouldn’t dare bring up in conversation. They’re also much more open-minded and willing to embrace multiculturalism in their work – and world film fans actually find this very refreshing.
The overview of French comedies may seem heavy going and serious – but the humour is actually light-hearted
For example, take ‘All Fired Up’ being aired on March 24 on Eurocinema which was released in 1982. It’s about an absent father who works in shady casino operations overseas. When he returns to Paris broke and in need of money, he finds out that his eldest daughter works at the Ministry of Finance. Meanwhile, she becomes very sceptical about him returning home to the family he abandoned a long time ago.
The synopsis may not give the impression of a comedy classic, but Jean-Paul Rappenau is considered one of the finest comedy directors in modern French cinema. In his films, he cleverly manages to substantially lift the narrative by adding light and humourous scenes. Interestingly, eight years after the release of ‘All Fired Up’, Rappenau went on to make ‘Cyrano De Bergerac’ which is one of France’s most expensive and successful productions to date.
And while French comedies are very different to Hollywood blockbusters, the humour is simply an alternative perspective. As well as laughing and smiling, there’s a chance these movies will also make you think and experience the world from a different viewpoint – and much more culturally enriching.
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