In a traditional sense, les beaux arts describe architecture, painting, and sculpture. Other art forms, however, like music, dance, and poetry, are also ascribed to this category. Above all, les beaux arts are concerned with the aesthetic quality of a work, that which is beautiful for beauty’s sake.
In honor of this theme, we decided to share some film recommendations here on our blog! From painting and sculpture to song and dance, these films have just as much to say about art as they do about French culture from the past and present.
To make things simple, we chose to review only three genres: comedy, drama, documentary—all of which are available in our médiathèque. But there are, of course, many others to choose from! For more recommendations, stop by and speak to one of our helpful librarians.
The year is 1936, and Pigoil’s life has turned upside-down. The music hall where he worked has closed its doors, his wife has left him and, not long after, his son is taken away. In order to find stable work, he decides to join the occupants of the music hall, who labor day and night to reopen it. When the talented singer Douce arrives, they just might have a chance to succeed, but at what cost?
This film takes us into the world of the Front Populaire in 1930s France, a time of important reforms for workers’ rights. Directed by Christophe Barratier and released in 2008, the film is a testament to the power of the arts to enrich our daily lives. The characters, while oftentimes stereotypical, are captivating and fun to watch. But it’s really the music that makes the film special: Douce’s melodies that she sings on stage, or the accordion harmonies that link Pigoil with his son Jo-Jo.
If you love movies like Amélie or Les choristes, another one of Barratier’s films, then you will also love Faubourg 36.
Based on the life of the painter Séraphine de Senlis, this film won the César for Best Picture in 2009. Wilhelm Uhde is an art collector who finds refuge from Parisian life in Senlis, a village in the countryside. There, he meets Séraphine, his housekeeper, and quickly discovers that she’s a gifted painter. He takes an interest in her work and helps her develop her talents.
Once World War I breaks out, Wilhelm must flee France, but he returns several years later hoping to find Séraphine and her paintings. The film focuses on the unlikely friendship between these two characters, both social outcasts. While there are scenes that can be heartbreaking to watch, there are many tender and comical moments as well.
If you enjoy films about the lives of artists, like Renoir or La vie en rose, this film directed by Martin Provost about a little known genius is a must-watch.
Reset : histoire d’une creation
For our last pick, let’s return to the present! Benjamin Millepied, dancer and choreographer, is named Director of the Paris Opera Ballet in 2014. He is tasked with creating a new ballet, entitled Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward. Young, dynamic, and focused on the future, Benjamin Millepied represents a new direction for this prestigious dance company.
Directed by Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai, the documentary retraces the creation of the ballet, from conception to performance. The filming allows us to see what’s behind the scenes, especially the relationship between the dancers and their director. The result is an energetic, reflective, and aesthetically pleasing film to watch.
If you appreciate performance documentaries, or even Black Swan, in which Millepied is the choreographer and his wife, Natalie Portman, stars, you will love this beautiful film.
Finally, don’t forget to check out this month’s new, members-only, thematic events: a painting workshop on January 8 (view the final artwork in our gallery!), a special art-themed language workshop January 28, and our monthly conversation group Alors… on January 29.
Youth Programs Supervisor
Sarah grew up in the greater Washington D.C. area and has lived in Dakar, Paris and Toulouse. Prior to joining the Center, she earned a degree at L'École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) and managed educational and cultural programs at the Paris Museum of Language. She is excited to be part of the FCC team here in Boston!