I’ve been watching a lot of French comedies lately and have put together a list of some that I have found particularly entertaining. I hesitate to call any list that I or anyone else have made “the best” because judgments of that sort are so subjective. There used to be a sandwich shop in Burnaby that claimed to have the best sandwiches in the world and always rubbed me the wrong way when I saw their signs through a car window. I mean, really? Have you done a scientific analysis of the excellent-ness of your sandwiches throughout the whole world? There are many, many places that make excellent sandwiches.
But I digress. I’ve made a list of comedies in the French language that I would recommend watching. All of them are popular enough to be available in English (or at least have a version with subtitles) and are well worth your time whether you want to practice listening to the language or just sit back and be entertained during a summer evening. Then again, who says you cannot do both???
Le dîner de cons (The Dinner Game):
I first watched this movie in a French class in 2009 and have been rewatching it once a year ever since. The general premise is simple enough if you pay attention: a rich but bitter tax evader has monthly dinner meetings where he and his friends compete in their search for the stupidest person in Paris by inviting different people for dinner and ridiculing them throughout the night. What Pierre doesn’t expect is to have his bad intentions turned on him when he’s trapped in an apartment with a particularly artless invitee. There is also a significantly less funny American remake of the movie called Dinner for Schmucks.
Les bronzés font du ski (French Fried Vacation 2):
This is one of those rare instances where I found the sequel to be better than the original (Les bronzés). A group of friends who had met at an island resort a year ago meet again during a ski vacation. Slapstick misadventures, over-the-top personalities and scenery of the Alps abound. The film satirizes the behaviour of the average tourist and strikes the modern viewer with the realization of how little has changed in tourist culture since the 1970s. (Although über-tight snowsuits for men have, in fact, taken the long-awaited retirement…)
Bienvenue chez les ch’tis (Welcome to the Sticks):
Get ready for a healthy dose of cultural misunderstandings and self-deprecating humour from the director. Another unlikable main character here: a postal service worker from the south of France is transferred to the north instead of his much longed-for Côte d’Azur and goes there with an expectation of being surrounded by backward people and the constant cold. As time goes by, he starts to let go of those deeply-seated stereotypes and actually finds himself liking the place all while continuing to complain about it to his wife. While some of the humour (the plays on the accents, in particular) does not translate well, the double-mockery of life in the north and snobbery is entertaining. This film retains the title of the most succesful movie of all time in France and while mass appeal cannot speak for quality in all cases, this is one time when it points you to a movie that you’ll want to see.