Arthouse cinema is a protected cultural and national institution of France as much as blockbusters are to Hollywood in the US.
- Why French people don't eat at the cinema
- Cannes film festival: The things we don't talk about
- What we learned at the 2019 Cannes film festival
The film director is highly regarded in France – much more than in the US. Arthouse cinema is also publicly protected in France mostly by the CNC, or the National Center for Cinema.
Significant aid is awarded by the CNC for film production, distribution, and the operation of screening. In fact, each French movie-goer contributes to the CNC and possible future features through a ticket sale tax.
The TSA tax (taxe sur le prix des entrées aux séances organisées par les exploitants d’établissements de spectacles cinématographiques), takes about 10.72 percent of each ticket sale price to help directly fund the CNC and CNC approved projects.
Other national associations also include the AFCAE (French Association of Cinema and Critique), that work to increase the education and public awareness of French auteur cinema. All of this goes to give the director the most power in their creative endeavors, in comparison to the American model where most of the say goes to the film studio or producer.
To provide you with a better idea of what French arthouse cinema is really like, here are the top 10 recent films certified by the AFCAE as “Art et Essai” brought to you by Lost In Frenchlation.
1. 120 BPM (120 battements par minute) – 2017
Set in the height of the AIDS epidemic in 1990s France, this winner of the Cannes Grand Prix follows a group of Parisian ACT UP activists as they fight and celebrate in a world that actively works against them.
2. Bloody Milk (Petit Paysan) – 2017
One part farm thriller and two parts social drama bring you Bloody Milk. Filmed on the director’s family farm, Bloody Milk is the story of a young farmer who becomes obsessed with saving his cows from a deadly infection.
3. Barbara – 2017
Nominated for several Cesar awards as well as the Un Certain Regard award for Cannes, this meta film is about an actor and a director’s feverish fixation as they attempt to create a biopic about the famous French singer.
4. The Workshop (L’Atelier) – 2017
This study of modern French life is about a young writers’ workshop, led by famous writer Olivia, as they attempt to create a story about their small town in the South of France. Ensuing drama follows as one such member strays away from the group by falling deep into a right-wing group, creating tension and confrontation that must be addressed.
5. Montparnasse Bienvenüe / Jeune Femme – 2017
A hilarious profile of a young woman who seems to be fumbling at it all, Laetitia Dosch stars in this comedy as a woman after a break-up as she learns to live for herself.Memoir of War
6. Memoir of War (La Douleur) – 2017
Based on the semi-autobiographical work by Marguerite Duras, Memoir of War follows Marguerite as she struggles to keep her faith in humanity after her husband is taken away during the Nazi occupation of France.
7. Custody (Jusqu'à la Garde) – 2017
Like a thriller remake of Kramer vs. Kramer, Custody investigates the divorce of the Besson couple as the mother struggles to get sole custody of the child against a father she accuses of being abusive.
8. Our Struggles (Nos Batailles) – 2018
After his wife leaves him, Olivier must juggle the injustices of his job as he begins to create a new home and family for his children.
9. Real Love (C’est ca l’Amour) – 2018
A lovingly unflinching portrait of a family, Real Love follows the Messina family in the aftermath of their mother’s sudden departure. The family must come to terms with the truth as they grapple with trauma and feelings hidden beneath them as they learn to find a way to be whole again.
10. Guy – 2018
Awarded Best Film by the French equivalent of the Oscars, the Cesar, this comedy takes a pseudo-documentary style as it shares the story of a journalist who learns that his biological father is Guy Jamet, a once-famous now forgotten pop singer.