As recently brought back to our memories by the wonderful film Blue is the warmest colour by Abdellatif Kechiche, French films have the particularity of penetrating the viewers soul in an almost invasive way. Where Hollywood softens the edges, France sharpens them, confronts us with the harsh imperfection of people. They allow us a deep look into the characters, making us forget they aren’t real, and after seeing such a film we feel like we somehow know the characters personally, and feel voyeuristic about having such a deep insight in their personal lives, whilst still being unable to exactly pinpoint what is off about them. Whilst Hollywood celebrates glamour and unattainable beauty, France forces us to understand the beauty of raw humanity, whilst always keeping a small bit of mystery. Léa Seydoux has the ability to simultaneously give full disclosure of her character and to tease the audience with her “Je ne sais quoi”, reminiscent of the original stars of French cinema like Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve and Anna Karina.
The intense and sometimes overly philosophical French way of movie-making was born with the Nouvelle Vague in the second half of the 1960’s, and its icon, Jean-Luc Godard. He revolutionised French cinema and perfected the technique of emotional voyeurism coupled with perfect opacity. Things like slow, plot-irrelevant dialogues about life’s details, close-ups of character’s faces smoking for almost uncomfortably long sequences, making them seem aware of the viewers eye, as well as almost unnatural honesty about their feelings, were invented by Godard, who managed to make films so brilliant, their plots became irrelevant.
Rather than to purely entertain and to create a media-viewer relationship, French Cinema aims at creating a dialogue, at giving insight into simultaneously extremely fictional and oddly raw and real lives, extending an invisible hand to the viewer, inviting him to join. By refusing to appeal to basic emotions and bombastic settings, it appeals to each individual’s complexity, narrating an apology of endearing imperfection, indulging a certain form of pettiness everyone has within them, not only transmitting him “ You are okay” but saying “ You are special because you’re not”.
French film has made it its credo to appreciate unfiltered human nature, creating its interest through a particular attention to detail, showcasing a tenderness for its characters, applying the same meticulous involvement as given from a painter to his subject, making the act of creation as – if not more – important as the final product.
Art is a study of humanity, of the beauty in human nature, a depiction of the human condition, and it is no wonder the French call Cinema the 7th Art. While not every film born out of a French production studio is brilliant or responds to these criteria, the art of French film making is truly and essentially, an art.