French movie musicals: our top picks

  • 21, May 2020
  • All things Paris
  • Aysha Ferullo

The world of musical theatre is certainly something dear to our hearts, and it’s a true blessing that musicals don’t begin and end with the stage. In fact, during this period of quarantine, we’ve grown increasingly fond of the musical movie, particularly those in French. The French movie musical scene is rich and vast - one of the best ones out there. There’s truly nothing like watching a musical to lift your spirits on a spring day indoors. We’ve rounded up some of our favourite French movie musicals of all time. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Three Seats for the 26th (Trois places pour le 26)  

France’s very own Jacques Demy’s Three Seats for the 26th is one of the most beloved French movie musicals of all time. Detailing the protagonist Yves Montand’s return to his hometown of Marseille, this tale is a look into the theatre itself, as he is to prepare to perform a production of a show based on his own life. It’s the perfect way to feel the spirit of the theatre again, with Michel Legrand’s enchanting score being sure to grip you from the start. For any Marilyn Monroe or Édith Piaf fans out there, there may also be some familiar references!

Check out the film trailer here!

 

Love Songs (Les Chansons d’Amour) 2007 

Christophe Honoré’s Love Songs is also high on our list of top French movie musicals (it was even in the official selection for Cannes in 2007). This heart-warming motion picture is set in none other than our favourite city, Paris, giving it the perfect backdrop for music and romance. With Louis Garrel, Clotilde Hesme, Ludivine Sagnier and Chiara Mastroianni on the cast list, it’s bound to entertain. Join the four youngsters navigating the romantic scene of the city of love, all while intertwining charming musical interludes with their experiences. You’ll thank us later. 

Check out the film trailer here!

Beloved (Les Bien-aimés) 

Another of Christophe Honoré’s works we’d like to honour is Beloved, once more starring Chiara Mastroianni, Louis Garrel and Ludivine Sagnier, as well as Catherine Deneuve. The tale takes you from the 1960s to the 21st century, following the life and love story of Véra, portrayed by Chiara Mastroianni. If you enjoyed Love Songs, you’re bound to find enjoyment in this, as Honoré uses similarly charming musical narration throughout, as the spectator experiences a glance at life in Paris, Reims, Montreal, Prague and London. 

Check out the film trailer here!

 

French Cancan 

Taking it back to the 1950s, Jean Renoir’s French Cancan is an absolute must-see movie musical. Yet another picture set in Paris, it follows the tale of Henri Danglard (Jean Gabin) and his mistress Lola (María Félix). As Henri begins to lose money, he aims to restart the can-can dance, after having been inspired in Montmartre, seeing it being performed. In 1956, French Cancan even received the Grand Prix de l’Academie du Cinéma! A film evocative of the popular Parisian café-concert of the 19th century due to its contemporary singers and dancers, it’s certainly a unique viewing experience that we would recommend to any and all.

Check out the film trailer here

Not of the Lips (Pas sur la bouche) 

Alain Resnais’ Not of the Lips is also one of our all-time favourites, a film that may be of particular interest to any opera fans out there. This work is actually an adaptation of Pas Sur la Bouche, an operetta by Maurice Yvain and André Barde. Set in 1920s Paris (the period and location in which it was originally performed), it tells the tale of Gilberte’s sticky romantic past, an uplifting watch full of laughter and love, it may even inspire you to watch the original show!

Check out the film trailer here

Demy’s Romantic Trilogy

Lola

Lola is the first feature in Jacques Demy’s unofficial ‘romantic trilogy,’ while also being his feature debut. While not technically a musical, it has been described by Max Ophüls as being a ‘musical without music’, while also paving the way for two of our favourite musical movies to come. Lola is evocative of both classic French cinema and the French new wave, rendering it an intricately produced and unique viewing experience. Agnès Varda herself wrote the song Lola from the film, while also restoring and re-releasing it. What could be better a better combination than Varda/Demy?

Check out the film trailer here

The Umbrella of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) 

Yet another success amongst the critics, The Umbrella of Cherbourg took the Palme d’Or at the 17th Cannes Film Festival in 1964, as well as being nominated for five Academy Awards. One again directed and written by Jacques Demy and starring Nino Castelnuovo and Catherine Deneuve as star-crossed lovers Geneviève and Guy, this was a true cultural staple and continues to be in France today. The Umbrella of Cherbourg is a romance you’re unlikely to forget, particularly if you enjoyed Lola

Check out the film trailer here! 

The Young Girls of Rochefort (Les Demoiselles de Rochefort) 

We’ve saved the best for last, and this Demy masterpiece certainly takes the cake. The Young Girls of Rochefort is our favourite French movie musical of all time, while also marking the third and final part of Demy’s unofficial romantic trilogy. It follows the lives of twin sisters Delphine and Solange (portrayed by Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac respectively) and their journeys at navigating life and love in the seaside town of Rochefort. What could be better than whimsical dances and upbeat tracks to get us through our quarantine blues! You won’t regret watching this stellar piece. 

Check out the film trailer here! 

We hope this has left you feeling inspired to immerse yourself in the wonderful world of the French musical motion picture to help the days go by smoothly. If this has inspired you to see some musicals for yourself in the flesh, there are plenty playing in Paris for all to enjoy starting next season. Why not have a browse on the Theatre in Paris box office?

See a musical in Paris!

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