French films for A level students: 1: Where to start


In a new series of blogs, an Oxford Open Learning tutor and course writer gives guidance to students on watching French films at A Level. In blog 1 we look at the AS module Popular Culture and at films relevant to A2 set texts.

French films for A level students: 1: Where to start

Many A level French students are attracted to the syllabus by the opportunity it offers to study French culture. At AS the majority of students choose the module Popular Culture as their special oral topic. At A2 many find the study of the set texts, Le Misanthrope by Molière and the novel Kiffe Kiffe Demain by Faïza Guène, very rewarding.

French films offer an opportunity for students not only to enjoy a pleasant evening, but to complement their A level French studies. They are readily available on DVD rental sites such as Lovefilm and Amazon for a small monthly subscription, and if you are lucky enough to live near an ‘arthouse’ cinema you can see new French films when they come out.

AS students who like the Music and Fashion subtopics might enjoy a couple of recent films, both highlighting the rags-to-riches stories of prominent French women. La Vie en Rose (2007) is the Oscar-winning biographical film of the life of singer Edith Piaf, starring Marion Cotillard. Coco avant Chanel (2009) is a portrayal of Chanel’s early life and her tragic love affair with English businessman Boy Capel. It stars Audrey Tautou (Amélie, Un long dimanche de fiançailles).

A2 students should not miss Molière (2007), starring Romain Duris, which chronicles the rise of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (Molière’s real name) from actor to playwright, in particular his development of comedy as a way of commenting on serious matters. Films of his classic comedy Le Misanthrope are not available to rent in the UK, but you can buy the latest DVD (2009) performed by the Comédie Française on www.amazon.fr for a small sum.

Our popular set author Faïza Guène explores the tensions of multicultural France through the eyes of Doria, the young heroine of Kiffe Kiffe Demain. Films with a multicultural background include La Haine (1995) an angry, anti-authoritarian (and violent) film about three young men (a Jew, an Arab and a black) who decide to take on the police after a friend is brutally beaten. Couscous (2008), beautifully shot in Sète in Southern France, explores the life and loves of Slimane, an elderly Algerian man, who tries to realise his dream of opening a restaurant in an old boat. La Classe (2008), gives a realistic depiction of the life of a schoolteacher (played by François Bégaudeau) in a tough racially mixed Paris suburb. Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes film festival, it is heartwarming and funny.

All the films described here have been passed for screening for the over 15s.

Alison Fisher

Tutor and course-writer (French A level)

To find out more about studying French at A Level or at IGCSE visit the Oxford Open Learning website for more details, or the Oxford Home Schooling website for under 18s.

Or you can contact a student adviser to discuss your home study options.

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