The Eurocinema channel has arrived in the UK and is showing quite a few French comedies this month.
So if you’ve never watched a movie produced the other side of the English Channel, this could be your chance to sample the humour.
But what should us anglophones expect from a French comedy that’s subtitled? 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 just need to expand our horizons and simply give them a chance. So here’s a list of four things 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 which Eurocinema is showing at 1am on Wednesday, 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 which is being screened on Thursday at 9pm is much more theatrical in its 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. On Thursday night at 11.30pm on Eurocinema, he appears in Frank Etienne Towards Grace where he plays Frank Etienne, a door-to-door salesman selling empty boxes. But a woman takes advantage of his kindness – and things go horribly wrong.
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.
Both of Sunday night’s romantic comedies on Eurocinema follow the love lives of two French men. In ‘Love Vertigo’, on Sunday at 9pm, the main character Vincent is facing some pre-wedding jitters before the big day. Afterwards, in A Night in Versaille, at 11pm Arnaud is desperate to impress a new lady – but it feels like everyone he knows, including his brother, is keen to interfere with the date night.
The overview of French comedies may seem heavy going and serious – but the humour is actually light-hearted
For example, take the first that’s being aired on March 24 at 1am – All Fired Up 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.
Watch the very best in award-winning films on Eurocinema every evening from 9pm on Sky TV channel 212. Updates are available through the Eurocinema UK Facebook page.