*This article contains spoilers*
I enjoy watching films from different parts of the world. In this article, I attempt to analyse three of my favourite French films. This may be an appropriate inauguration of French film, since many historians credit the French with having come up with the concept of cinema (1).
One of the first movies that comes to mind is The Man on the Train (French: L’homme du train). It is a story of two people with extremely different perspectives who come into contact for a few days and share their views of the world. One of the people is a literature professor, with a week to go until major surgery from which he has a very low chance of recovery. The other is a robber, who arrives in the town on a train (the man on the train) and takes refuge at the professor’s house because all the hotels are closed and he needs a place to stay to pull off a heist at the village bank. As they get to know each other, the aged and intellectual professor finds the thief’s life thrilling and exciting. The thief even lets the professor shoot his gun. The thief, on the other hand, is mesmerised by the quiet, peaceful, settled lifestyle the professor lives. At the end of the week, they both prepare for their fate. The operation is unsuccessful and the heist is busted and the thief shot. In their last moments, each man imagines himself as the other, thinking how his life could have been dramatically different. The film considers the human tendency to always want something we don’t have. No matter how things evolve, we always think of how things could have gone better and how the result could have been different.
The Intouchables (French: Intouchables) is another of my all-time favourite films, though not to be confused with The Untouchables, a film about Al Capone and tax evasion. The Intouchables, similarly to The Man on the Train, is about two men from distinct backgrounds and the friendship they form. Philippe is an aristocratic, intellectual, quadriplegic widower. He hires a young, good-humored, Black ex-con named Driss as his caretaker. Driss discovers a completely different world and has no difficulty in highlighting the pretentiousness that’s often involved in over-analysing modern art, long operas and classical music. Philippe, on the other hand, learns to enjoy life a little bit more, which reflects in the opening scene of the film; when the two men get caught for speeding, Driss explains to the officer that he needs to rush to the hospital for Philippe's quadriplegia and Philippe acts as if he’s having a seizure. The best part of the film is how beautifully it expresses the love and friendship that exists between Philippe and Driss in spite of their different socio-economic backgrounds.
Another film that I would recommend is I Lost My Body (French: J’ai perdu mon corps), which I watched over the summer. Released this year, this one is a bit different from the other two films as it is silent and animated. The film turns a horror movie trope, a severed roaming hand, into a surrealist, dream-like sequence. There are two parallel storylines. One narrative observes the hand’s journey through the city and the various adversities it faces, while the other follows the boy who lost his hand, through his childhood and teenage years up to the point of his accident. The hand, when it tracks down its body, finds the owner has moved on from the incident and can cope without the dominant hand. This reflects the ambition and passion that the boy harboured in his childhood but had to let go of and cope without due to the hardships he faced. He had to allow life to take him in a completely different direction. What makes this film so interesting is its illustration of and examination of human tendencies through simple metaphors.