13 Favorite French Films of Jewelry Designer and Cinephile, Valérie Messika

by Charles Manning

Jewelry designer Valérie Messika loves movies. Growing up in France, she was enthralled by the work of iconic talents like Jean Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Jacques Demy, Luc Besson, Agnes Varda, and Francois Ozon. From 2016 to 2018, she even sponsored France’s Agoulême Film Festival. “It was a fantastic opportunity for me to develop my passion for cinema,” she said of the experience, “and it continues to prove a source of inspiration in work and in life.”

While she is loath to call herself an “expert” in French cinema, she’s got the passion and deep knowledge to make some truly excellent recommendations. So if you’ve already seen all of Tiger King on Netflix and you’re looking for something new to fill your days in isolation, has she got a list for you!

Valérie Messika (Courtesy)

1. “Les Demoiselles de Rochefort” (The Young Girls of Rochefort), Jacques Demy, 1967 — Available on Amazon Prime
Released in 1967, this was the first “American style” French musical. I love this film because it’s colourful and playful. There’s a number in the film called “Nous Sommes des Sœurs Jumelles” (“We Are Twin Sisters”)  sung by Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac. Many people don’t realize that Françoise Dorléac not only plays the role of Catherine’s sister in the film, but was also her true biological sister. That particular duet gets stuck on loop in my head for hours.

2. “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg” (The Umbrellas of Cherbroug), Jacques Demy, 1964 — Available on Amazon Prime
For those who have not yet seen this classic French film, NOW is the time. Shot in Cherbourg in 1963, this film by Jacques Demy is the very first fully sung feature film of French cinema. It received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes festival and the Louis Delluc prize in 1964. Jacques Demy relates a simple love story with an original and daring staging.

The colors of the set combined with the costuming are magnificent, the decor is splendid, and the casing is  irresistible with the beautiful Catherine Deneuve and Anne Vernon. This was also Catherine Deneuve’s very first film which shot her to stardom.

3. “L’Arnacoeur” (Heartbreaker), Pascal Chaumeil, 2010 — Available on Netflix
This is the perfect film for a French comedic diversion with the iconic actress, model, and singer, Vanessa Paradis. I also adore Romain Duris and his method of acting. The film takes place at the Monte Carlo Bay & Resort. How could one not want to be taken on a journey there? Plus, there is a dance scene that is almost as good as the one in the iconic American film “Dirty Dancing.”

4. “Jalouse” (Jealous), Stéphane Foenkinos and David Foenkinos, 2017 — Available on Amazon Prime
This is actually a perfect film for mothers and daughters to watch together. This movie is about the development of a mother/daughter relationship. I thought it was really funny and remind me of moments with my own mother. Without giving too much away, I suspect this film illustrates I will face one day myself, as a mother of two young girls.

5. La Belle Epoque, Nicolas Bedos, 2019 — Available on Amazon Prime
This French film received the prestigious Cesar Award last year for Best Original Screenplay. The pitch is this: If you had the chance to relive a moment in your life what would it be? Intriguing, no?

6. “A la Gloire de Mon Père” (To the Glory of my Father), Yves Robert, 1990
This film is a classic that everyone should have heard about once in their lives. Marcel Pagnol shares childhood memories, which we all, more or less, have in common. It’s also a beautiful story about the admiration between a father and his son. The book it is based on is also brilliant. I remember reading it in school and thoroughly enjoying it.

7. “Belle de Jour,” Luis Buñuel, 1967 — Available on Amazon Prime
Everyone, especially people working in fashion, should know this film, and it’s always a good one to revisit! It was considered very provocative when it was made. Catherine Deneuve is more beautiful than ever and she is dressed by Yves Saint Laurent! This film is about a bored middle-class woman and wife who has fantasies of something else. It was this particular film that changed Catherine Deneuve’s career, making her one of France’s National Treasures.

8. “Un Homme et Une Femme” (A Man and a Woman), Claude Lelouch, 1966 – Available on Amazon Prime
It is one of my all-time favourite films. With ‘Un Homme et une Femme’, Claude Lelouch has captured a timeless, universal story with a very personal and poetic tone. Some might say this is a simple story, but the best. This particular film won Claude Lelouch the Palme d’Or at the 1966 Cannes Film Festival as well as two Oscars.

When I take weekend trips to Deauville, I always think of this film and the mythic places used for the shoot locations.

This is a very special film as well because it’s very classic and very relevant as it looks like it could have been made recently. The styling, the score, and the narrative are all very modern.

There is also a sequel called “50 Years Later,” in which Lelouch reunites Anouk Aimée and Jean-Louis Trintignant.

9. “Une Femme Est une Femme” (A Woman Is a Woman), Jean-Luc Godard, 1961 — Available on Amazon Prime
I think Godard (for his century) was a visionary, as all his films announced a time to come a few years in advance. One might even suggest that he is partially responsible in creating a part of French culture as it is known today. ‘Une Femme Est une Femme’ speaks on women’s status in the French society — of their emancipation, which, at the time, wasn’t expected. These very serious topics are treated through a very light humor. Above all else, Anna Karina is irresistible!

10. “La Piscine” (The Swimming Pool), Jacques Deray, 1969 – Available on Amazon Prime
Romy Schneider was more sublime than ever in this movie. This movie represents the famous couple Schneider/Delon, living an “intense” relationship around this famous swimming pool.

The film was also remade many years later in 2003 by director, Francois Ozon, with Ludivine Sagnier and Charlotte Rampling. Both versions are fantastic!

11. “Intouchables” (The Untouchables) , Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano, 2011 — Available on Amazon Prime
I could watch this film on repeat. It has a very strong human dimension which makes one forget about serious clichés! The story takes on the appearance of a fairy tale and this beautiful friendship played out between two actors. It’s admittedly remarkable to see a handicapped aristocrat man form a friendship with his caretaker. You will pass through a myriad of emotions when watching this film — from laughter to tears. It’s also great to see Omar Sy in this kind of genre.

12. Les Petits Mouchoirs (Little White Lies), Guillaume Canet, 2010 — Available on Netflix
This is one of my favorite films which Guillaume Canet produced. This is a great film about friendship! I thought that François Cluzet was fantastic in this film as well. Seven years after this first film, the French producer wanted to reunite the full cast around the laughter and range of emotions expressed through the film once again.

13. “Les Choristes” (The Chorus), Christophe Barratier, 2004 — Available on Amazon Prime
This film is one of the essential French films of the 2000s. The casting is incredible; especially with Gerard Jugno, who plays a very moving role. This particular story is unique and very touching; and the score of the film is beautiful, and should live in everyone’s music library. My girls are a bit young to watch this film, but when older, I’ll be sure to have them watch this film.

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