Fantastic French Films to Feast on Over the Holidays

I’m perpetually on the hunt for film and book recommendations, even though I have a long list of both that I’ll probably never get through. At the end of each year, however, I usually pick up the pace of my media consumption. The weather in Michigan keeps me away from the garden and my natural instincts tell me to remain on the couch under a blanket, at least until the days are longer. So, I’ve been watching more French films and thought I’d recommend some of my favorites from 2021.

Based on a True Story



Over the years, I’ve read a few books by the French Nobel Prize winner Albert Camus, but haven’t read much regarding his life. After my post last month, Camus’ Letters to a German Friend, I wanted to learn more about the famous author. Released in 2010, the film Camus is based upon a biography by Olivier Todd, Camus – A Life. It’s impossible to sum up a man’s existence, especially one as intricate and nuanced as Camus’, in 2 hours. However, I enjoyed watching this movie which focuses on the many women in his life, including his mother. It’s beautifully filmed and the acting is top-notch. The English subtitles are a bit hacked, but not mangled enough to ruin the story. Available on Amazon Prime.

The Ideal Palace

The Ideal Palace

The Ideal Palace, released in 2018, is one of my favorite films watched in 2021. It is based on the life of an uneducated French mail carrier, named Ferdinand Cheval. With no training in engineering or architecture, Cheval spent decades of his life constructing a palace in his backyard. The edifice, now preserved as a French national monument, exists to this day. This is a beautiful film that transports the viewer to a different time, place, and rhythm of life.

Unfortunately, you may have to order it from your library if you require English subtitles. The original French version, l’Incroyable palais du facteur Cheval, is available on YouTube. The pace of the dialogue is quite slow so you may not need the subtitles. Don’t forget that YouTube lets you back up and replay and even slow down the film speed. Below is a subtitled trailer.


Lords of Scam

Lords of Scam

I enjoy true crime documentaries, especially those filled with colorful characters and singular circumstances. Lords of Scam (French title Les Rois de l’arnaque) tells the story of a couple of low-life con-men that teamed up with an over-privileged jet-setter to pull off Europe’s biggest heist of the 21st century.

Like some U.S. states, Europe puts a cap on how much carbon certain companies (mainly those in the energy sector) can emit into the atmosphere each year. Companies are given a carbon allowance which they cannot exceed without penalty. This has given rise to a marketplace where companies buy and sell carbon quotas. The con-men in this story found a loophole in the system and managed to skim off hundreds of millions of euros into their own pockets. Their downfall? They were incapable of keeping a low profile and the infighting between them eventually led to a series of assassinations. Available on Netflix.

The Women and the Murderer

The Women and the Murderer

The Women and the Murderer outlines the hunt for and eventual trial of one France’s most notorious serial killers. You might be thinking that if you’ve seen one serial murderer story, you’ve seen them all. As is often the case, the victims in this story were young women, brutally slain inside or near their Paris apartments between 1991 and 1997.

However, this film has some unique characteristics. The product of two female directors, the entire documentary is told by women who were connected to the case: relatives of the victims, a journalist, two trial lawyers, and the first woman to head France’s Crime Brigade, an elite investigatory unit. The first half of the film covers the manhunt but the second half, which focuses on the trial, is even better, offering some dramatic turns unlike anything I’ve seen from U.S. cases. Available on Netflix.

Abert Camus: The Madness of Sincerity

The Madness of Sincerity

After watching the movie Camus, by director Laurant Jaoui, I felt a need to find a biographical film that would be less artsy and more factual. Albert Camus: The Madness of Sincerity fit the bill. This film is a much drier piece of cinema but provides significantly more information about Camus’ personal life, writing, insecurities, and political activities. Now, having watched this documentary, I can say that Jaoui’s dramatic telling of Camus’ life rings true. Available on Amazon.

Not My Thing



Movie critics have been raving about Titane, which came out earlier this year. Based on the reviews, I won’t be surprised to see it on this year’s list of Oscar nominees. So, when a local theater brought it to town, my husband Andy and I decided to go.

The central character is a woman named Alexia who seems to have a sexual preference for automobiles and becomes impregnated by one. Alexia has difficulty forming meaningful human relationships, which she typically ends with bloodshed. With detectives zeroing in on her trail, she poses as a trans-woman and claims to be the missing son of a dope-addicted firefighter who takes her under his wing. If viewing the painful gestation of a car-baby, as well as plentiful scenes of blood-spraying violence, erotic grinding, and rot-ridden smack-shooting sounds intriguing, this might be the show for you. Available on Amazon.

Delightful Fun

Call My Agent

Call My Agent

I’m a big fan of the popular French TV series, Call My Agent (French title Dix pour cent.) Even Andy, who is harder to please when it comes to French films, gives it a solid thumbs up. The series revolves around a Parisian talent agency, its eccentric partners, and their clients—finicky French film stars that are impossibly demanding. Each episode features an actual French celebrity, willing to put up with a script that mercilessly mocks their real life peccadillos. Last month, Call My Agent won the prize for Best Comedy at the International Emmy Awards. Available on Netflix.

The Parisian Agency

The Parisian Agency

This French reality show follows a family-run real estate agency that caters to the very rich. This kind of show doesn’t usually catch my interest, but after one episode of The Parisian Agency, I was hooked. It’s a voyeuristic dive into homes of the mega-rich. Imagine doing a walk-through of a Parisian penthouse with views of the Arc de Triomphe, the Tour Eiffel, and Sacre Cœur from various rooms of the home. Or, meeting your real estate agent at a 15th-century castle that’s been impeccably updated. The 5-episode series also highlights the geographic richness of France, visiting properties far outside of Paris, near the ocean, mountains, or gently rolling countryside. Available on Netflix.

Your Recommendations

Have you seen any of these shows? What did you think? Are there any French films that you particularly loved or hated in 2021? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

About Carol A. Seidl

Serial software entrepreneur, writer, translator, and mother of 3. Avid follower of French media, culture, history, and language. Lover of books, travel, history, art, cooking, fitness, and nature. Cultivating connections with francophiles and francophones.


  1. I haven’t seen any of these — with theaters too forbidding due to covid-19, my movie-watching has been confined to DVDs at home. The Ideal Palace looks well-made, although I generally find a character with an inexplicable obsession hard to sympathize with. It would be interesting to know more about Camus and these films sound like a fairly easy way of doing so.

    Titane just sounds absurd (insert predictable “auto-eroticism” joke here), but maybe there’s more to it than it seems.

    The Women and the Murderer sounds like it at least takes a fresh approach to its subject, and trial dramas can be riveting. I may look into that one as well.

    There have been several French films I’ve liked over the years, but all considerably older than these. One was The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe, about an ordinary man who is exhaustively investigated by a whole passel of intelligence agents because they mistakenly believe he’s an enemy super-spy, with increasingly ludicrous results.

    • I’d not heard of the Tall Blond Man, thanks for the recommendation. One of the things I appreciated about the Ideal Palace was a look at life during a much simpler time. Cheval walked many miles every day on mountainous rural paths, delivering his mail. He educated himself by reading the postcards and magazines that he had to carry. He filled his palace with plaques containing words of wisdom. I assumed that he’d collected these sayings from various philosophers but they were his own. I found that just reflecting on the amount of time that Cheval spent reflecting was calming, especially given today’s rhythm of life and barrage of information. He was obsessive but also a very gentle and sympathetic character.

      If you haven’t seen What’s in a Name? (Le Prénom), which I didn’t include here, I highly recommend. It’s an excellent film. Fantastic writing.

      • It’s true that quite a good education can come from general reading, and some people in mundane jobs are a lot smarter than the people around them realize. I’ll probably give that one a shot since it’s available on YouTube.

        Found a trailer for “Le Prénom” — looks pretty good, thanks for the further suggestion.

        Another older film I really liked was “Amélie”. One of the rare foreign-language movies to become fairly well known in the US. Jen-Pierre Jeunet is a director with, shall we say, unique visions.

    • >>Titane… maybe there’s more to it than it seems.<<
      Maybe. But maybe not. Here's my review from when Carol and I saw it in a theater a couple months ago:

      • Thanks! Unfortunately Facebook won’t allow me to view that post unless I log in, and I don’t have a Facebook account. Is the review posted elsewhere?

        • Here’s the post (minus the movie poster graphic):

          Just watched “Titane”. What the hell was that?

          Spoiler: It’s about a muscle car that raped a serial-killer woman who masquerades as a firefighter’s son and gives birth to a titanium monster baby after several failed, but gruesome, attempts to abort it but in the end, was adopted by the firefighter after the serial killer dies during monsterbirth in a pool of motor oil. But maybe I’m reading too much into it.

  2. These all look interesting. I’ll see what I can find on the rather limited service I use.

    • Good luck. I didn’t put it in the review because it’s not a French film, but the documentary that just came out on Julia Child is also excellent. I didn’t know much about her and only went because a friend wanted to see it and Julia had strong ties to France. But, I truly loved it.

  3. Haven’t seen any. french cinema of late doesn’t reach me at all. The Camus biography sounds interesting even though I also stay away from biopics. They seem to always fall short. But since the author of the book is OLivier Todd, who was a very respectable journalist and author… I might.
    My travel plans for December have been cut short so I might go back to the “telly”. Donc… c’et une excellente liste. Je vais voir. Bon Noël Carole (if we don’t get back in touch… ) Biz. (If I may…)

  4. Thanks for these reviews, Carol. I’ll look for the Camus films, Lords of Scam, and The Parisian Agency. I hope I can find The Ideal Palace; the trailer gave me chills.

    Neither my husband nor I could get interested in Call My Agent, which we found formulaic. I know that’s a minority view. Perhaps we quit too soon.

    In the fun dept, we enjoyed “A Very Secret Service,” about bumbling, corrupt French intelligence agents during the Cold War. I think it’s still on Netflix.

    From what I’ve read here, Titane’s rave critical reviews increase my worries about the world.

    Re: previous cas offerings, I thought you’d be interested in this New Yorker article about Josephine Baker and the Pantheon.

    And in a recent post about Amazon’s struggling book enterprise, I mentioned Likert and you and your delightful blog,

    • Thanks for the boost Annie. Amazon has a struggling book enterprise? That’s news to me! I look forward to reading your post.

      I will look up “A Very Secret Service”. This one had escaped me. Glad to know of it!

      And thanks for the link to the NYer article. I appreciate learning that we illuminated the Empire State Building in Blue White and Red to honor Baker and that Baker’s son has written a book about her. See you soon at

  5. And not to forget Des Hommes et Des Dieux

  6. Did I tell you that I watched this after your recommendation? It was very good. I remembered reading about the missing jesuits. I thought the filmmaker did a great job of recreating a portrait of their lives and philosophy. What they underwent was so unnecessary and sad for all involved. I’m glad that life in Algeria has become much more stable since.

  7. Thank you everyone for the titles. I’m always on the look for French films in French. I grew up in Romania, a francophone country. In the 60’s and 70’s all kids were given French lessons and that’s how I ended up being in love with French culture. I just watched “Sincerite” ( Sincerity) and Rendez-vous in Paris. Both on Amazon Prime.

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