Much to the frustration and bemusement of various partners and friends, I have a fondness for films in which nothing happens, particularly if they are erotic, esoteric and existential (on other words, French). Once someone knows this about me, they become suspicious and wary about seeing any new film I recommend, especially if it features a brunette (see my twenty favourite actresses list), blood (Anatomie de l’enfer) or a swimming pool (many films starring Juliette Binoche and Valeria Golino feature moody but gratuitous swimsuit scenes). I try to tell them that accidently acquiring a lycra fetish is a small price to pay for art, but I digress.

The following are five of my favourite films. Each is about love, honesty and living in the moment. I recommend them to you at your peril (if you can find them).

yvonne existentialism for beginners, or how French films changed my life


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLe1n8QwJDw

Le parfum d’Yvonne (Yvonne’s perfume, 1994). Set in the late 1950s, the charming Victor is slouching around Switzerland, pretending to be a Russian aristocrat while avoiding the draft for the Algerian war. He meets the beautiful young aspiring actress Yvonne and the absurd older Dr. Rene Meinthe and they hang out for a while. Nothing happens. The costuming is good.

savage existentialism for beginners, or how French films changed my life

Les nuits fauves (Savage nights, 1992). The conflicted Cyril, bisexual and HIV+, has various relationships including an intense connection with the histrionic and impressionable Laura. Cyril drives around fast listening to loud music. Laura (Romane Bohringer) goes swimming and screams a lot.

ladiscrete existentialism for beginners, or how French films changed my life

La discrète (1990). Antoine, a struggling author, wants to take revenge on women after being unexpectedly dumped by his girlfriend. He accepts a commission to write a diary documenting his planned seduction and deliberate abandonment of a seemingly ordinary women, not realising his publisher has set him up, as the woman he is to seduce has been given the same task in relation to him…

monde existentialism for beginners, or how French films changed my life

Un monde sans pitié (A world without pity, 1989). Bohemian slacker Hippo (Hippolyte Girardot, who is also the lead in Yvonne’s Perfume) lives with his drug dealing brother and pursues women, including the comparatively conventional Nathalie, without trying too hard. Hippo is effortlessly effortless.

la-vie-revee-des-anges existentialism for beginners, or how French films changed my life

La vie rêvée des anges (The dreamlife of angels, 1998). Isabelle and Marie are two young friends drifting through life, struggling to find purpose and meaning. They share a flat but grow apart as their lives diverge.

existentialism for beginners, or how French films changed my life

One thought on “existentialism for beginners, or how French films changed my life

  • 15 December 2009 at 10:32 pm
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    I like “Le Rayon Vert” (The Green Ray), directed by Eric Rohmer wherein our heroine wanders around a fair bit and then at the end of the film reckons she sees a bit of a green flash when the sun goes down.

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