French Film & Cinema 

Our class in French cinema and film offers a diverse mix of classic and contemporary French language films.  The instructor, Manon Bellet, is a French cinephile who has a real passion for movies. 

In this course, after watching French language films, we will examine their directors and actors, analyze the themes and language, and learn vocabulary and expressions related to a specific film and to cinema in general.  Each class includes an open discussion in French and English. 

This course provides a deeper understanding and analysis of French films in a relaxed environment on Zoom.  Because the class is virtual, the students are asked to watch the film (in French with English subtitles) before the lesson.

Class meets Wednesday night (see dates below) at 6:45 p.m. online on Zoom.

Fee: $70 for the full summer semester.

Please find below the list of dates and films for this semester. For more information, please contact Manon Bellet at

Mercredi le 22 septembre – Wednesday, September 22

Cléo de 5 à 7, Agnès Varda, 1962

Agnès Varda eloquently captures Paris in the sixties with this real-time portrait of a singer (Corinne Marchand) set adrift in the city as she awaits test results of a biopsy. A chronicle of the minutes of one woman’s life, CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 is a spirited mix of vivid verité and melodrama, featuring a score by Michel Legrand (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and cameos by Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina.

Mercredi le 6 octobre – Wednesday, October 6

Le temps retrouvé, Paul Ruiz, 1999

Raul Ruiz’s most ambitious literary adaptation and considered his greatest cinematic achievement, TIME REGAINED distills all of Marcel Proust’s iconic “In Search of Lost Time” into a single epic feature. The film opens in 1922, as Proust is on his deathbed pouring through old photographs that summon the events of his life. Gradually, we watch as his own experiences merge with his own literary creations.

In Ruiz’s deft cinematic hands the film becomes a phantasmagorical comedy of manners as well as a powerful reflection on cinema’s ability to seize and preserve moments of time. The result is a montage of moving snapshots and feverish dreams that makes the film the ultimate in Proustian cinema.

Nominated for a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Nominated for Best Costume Design at the Cesar Awards.

Mercredi le 20 octobre – Wednesday, October 20

Diary of a Chambermaid/Journal d’une femme de chambre, Benoît Jacquot, 2015

Lea Seydoux plays Celestine, a resentful young Parisian chambermaid who finds herself exiled to a position in the provinces where she immediately chafes against the noxious iron rules and pettiness of her high-handed bourgeois mistress, must rebuff the groping advances of Monsieur, and reckon with her fascination with the earthy, brooding gardener Joseph.

Backtracking past the fetishism of Bunuel’s version to Octave Mirbeau’s original 1900 novel, Benoit Jacquot has one eye on contemporary France: the sense of social stiflement, Celestine’s humiliating submission to Madame’s onerous terms of employment, Joseph’s virulent anti-Semitism. But the turn-of-the-century setting saw the rise of Freud ideas about the human unconscious and so Jacquot takes care to look past the characters’ outward behavior and appearance to the repression and compulsions that lie behind.

Nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. Nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Cesar Awards.

Mercredi le 3 novembre – Wednesday, November 3

Une vie/A Woman’s Life, Stéphane Brizé, 2016

Adapted from the novel Une vie by Guy de Maupassant, A WOMAN’S LIFE is a tale of tormented love embedded in the restrictive social and moral codes of marriage and family in 19th century Normandy.

Upon finishing her schooling in a convent, young aristocrat Jeanne marries local Viscount Julien de Lamare, who soon reveals himself to be a miserly and unfaithful husband. As she navigates his chronic infidelity, pressure from her family and community, and the alternating joys and burdens of motherhood, Jeanne’s rosy illusions about her privileged world are slowly stripped away.

French filmmaker Stephane Brize shot the film in constricted 4:3 Academy ratio, creating a tightly composed work that perfectly translates de Maupassant’s portrayal of life’s indifferences.

Mercredi le 17 novembre – Wednesday, November 17

Violette, Martin Provost, 2013

A finely nuanced portrait of Violette LeDuc, one of the foremost French writers of the 20th century. VIOLETTE depicts LeDuc’s extraordinary life, from her low beginnings as the illegitimate daughter of a servant girl to becoming ensconced in France’s literary elite.

In spite of her wretched years as an unwanted child, followed by tense years as a black marketeer during WWII, Violette LeDuc is determined to make something of her life. Writing is her ticket out of misery, and with the encouragement and mentorship of legendary intellectual Simone de Beauvoir, Violette achieves admiration, renown and controversy for her emotionally raw novels and memoirs.

Official selection of the BFI London Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival.

Mercredi le 1 décembre – Wednesday, December 1

La vie devant soi/Madame Rosa, Moshi Mizrahi, 1977

MADAME ROSA, an ex-prostitute of Jewish origin, lives in a dilapidated old building in Belleville. Tired and worn out by life, she looks after young children, placed in her care by the social welfare people. One of the children, Mohamed, decides to pay back the love she gives them by looking after her.  Based on the novel by Romain Gary which won the Prix Goncourt.