5 Brilliant French Filmmakers You Might Not Know Yet

Since the beginning of Cinema, France has been a pioneering country in the art form. Not only was it the birthplace of cinema with the Lumière Brothers, the inventors of science fiction films with George Mélies but also innovators of storytelling as a whole with the French New Wave. Great directors such as, Godard, Truffaut and Chabrol (just to name a few), have been forefathers to many main stream filmmakers that we know and love.

“The French New Wave has influenced all filmmakers who have worked since, whether they saw the films or not.”

Martin Scorsese

Since then however only a few French films have had success in making it across the pond, notably Amélie, The Artist and The Intouchables. However French cinema is far from dying down, and these 5 filmmakers are living proof of that.

Jacques Audiard

Photo Credit: Borde-Moreau / Bestimage

Arguably the most influential and admired director in France at the moment , he has won numerous prizes at Cannes, BAFTAs and at the Golden Globes. His movies are intense like no other and follow the storyline of flawed main characters trying to cope with the violence that surrounds them. Contrarily to many other French movies that are focused on heavy dialogue, Audiard uses silence to advance the plot. It’s only a matter of time for him to be recognized as one of the best directors in the world. Perhaps his next film The Sisters Brothers starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Joaquin Phoenix will do the trick.

Notable films: A prophet, Rust and Bone.

A prophet - Audiard
Tahar Rahim in A Prophet by Jacques Audiard

Abdellatif Kechiche

Abdellatif Kechiche2
Photo Credit: Alexandre Isard

Abdellatif Kechiche’s latest film Blue Is the Warmest Color has had international success. Even though you might not have seen the film, you might have heard about it. He’s an extremely talented director who tries to capture everyday life, sometimes even showing the characters doing the most mundane tasks. He is notorious for his harsh working methods where he will manipulate the actors into giving him the best performance possible. These methods are questionable to say the least but it is undeniable that he manages to recreate reality in his films like no other director in France.

Notable films: Blue is the Warmest Colour, The secret of the Grain.

La-vie-d-Adele - Kechiche
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux in Blue Is the Warmest Colour by Abdellatif Kechiche


Photo Credit: Jacques Bourguet

A lot less known than the previous two directors, Maïwenn is a up and coming director who started off as an actress. She’s viewed as an agitator in French Cinema as her films are not afraid to tackle very sensitive subjects (Pedophilia , rape, suicide). She wants to portray her stories as truthful as possible. For example, for her film Polisse she joined a child protection squad to research for the film and afterwards forced the actors to work there as well. Her desire to make her films ride the fine line between reality and fiction makes her one of the most ruthless and hard hitting directors in France.

Notable films: Polisse, Mon Roi.

Polisse - Maïwenn
Maïwenn, Jérémie Elkaïm and Joey Starr in Polisse by Maïwenn

Joann Sfar

Photo Credit: Jérôme Bonnet / Next

Joann Sfar is, first and foremost, a comic book artist. He has written and created artwork for over 20 years before starting to direct. His films are extremely stylistic as he creates them like a comic book. His movie Gainsbourg (Vie Héroique), is a biopic unlike any other, a poetic reimagination of Serge Gainsbourg’s tumultuous life. In the film he blends reality and fantasy, incorporating puppetry and animation to illustrate emotions and the internal struggle of the main character. In only 2 feature films and 2 animation films he has proven himself to be a unique voice in the landscape of French cinema.

Notable films: Gainsbourg, Le Chat du Rabbin.

Gainsbourg Vie héroique - Joann Sfar
Anna Mouglalis and Éric Elmosnino in Gainsbourg (Vie heroïque) by Joann Sfar

Quentin Dupieux

Photo Credit: Jo Henker

Describing Dupieux’s film style is even more complicated than trying to make sense of his films. Whether it’s a tire killing people with psychic powers or a director looking for the greatest groan of pain, his films are surreal and unlike anything else you have ever seen. He is a niche filmmaker, creating his own rules and pushing storytelling to new boundaries. The absurd is on the forefront of his work but there’s something strangely rational and realistic about it all. For Dupieux, cinema tends to simplify life, act as if things need to be harmonized or happen for a reason. However, life isn’t simple, it isn’t logical and there is no control on what happens. His films reflect this idea, so if you happen to watch one of his films, expect the unexpected.

Notable films: Rubber, Reality.

Rubber - Quentin Dupieux
Rubber by Quentin Dupieux.

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