Best French Films - Cinéma Saturday's Choice of the Week
Last week, we delved into the stunningly beautiful The Diving Bell and the Butterfly starring Mathieu Amalric in an extraordinary tale brought to the cinema screen with beauty and visual poetry. Have you added it to your watch list?
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This week, we're exploring a popular film and its sequel - they're too good to separate. So, it's a 2 for 1 special today, a double bill of films that will take you away to the glorious west coast of France. Now that they are both available in many places, these 2010 and 2018 films can be watched as a double bill whenever you like!
Did you love it when cinemas did special double-bill screenings? It always felt so special, and I loved it. When I look back, I think I might have spent half my life in cinemas watching everything from The Lord of the Rings trilogy to Dances with Wolves (director's cut) or Lucas Belvaux's Trilogy. Even the epic lengthy films like Andrei Rublev aren't as long as those! Anyway, I digress...
Let's find out more about Little White Lies & Little White Lies 2 / Les Petits Mouchoirs & Nous finirons ensemble.
Little White Lies (2010) was the Guillaume Canet directorial follow-up to the worldwide smash hit, Tell No One / Ne le dis à personne, which won Guillaume Canet the César for Best Director.
Following the success of Little White Lies, I was very excited to learn about the sequel. It was made in 2018 and its release into anglophone markets seems to have been hampered by the global pandemic in 2020, as many dates for release were across 2019 and summer 2020.
Fortunately for anglophones, it's available to stream with English subtitles and for francophones, it has a world-wide release on streaming and DVD/Bluray. I've done my best to find the links to all of these and they're at the foot of this post for both films and their great soundtracks.
Little White Lies 2 / Nous finirons ensemble (2019)
During these difficult times, I have found great pleasure in the escapism of film. Watching the sequel this year was like meeting old friends back on Cap Ferret on the beautiful west coast of France. That's why I wanted to share both films this week.
If you've never seen Little White Lies, then this gives you a good reason to check it out. If it's been a while since you saw it, then watching the sequel this year can be like a journey back to Arcachon Bay and the holiday home of friends. What could be more delightful, when we can't go?
Separated from friends and family for so long, I suppose it felt extra special to me watch the 'coming back' to a familiar place on holiday. Sometimes nostalgia for "how life used to be" is quite strong!
The original title is 'Les petits mouchoirs' which I take to mean that they're the things we hide underneath the surface, like keeping it hidden in your pocket beneath your handkerchief / tissue. It's a little like the English phrase 'sweeping things under the carpet'. The little, seemingly innocuous lies we tell ourselves and each other about who we are, what we love, who we love, what life's all about all come under scrutiny. The superficiality we can all hide beneath in being "acceptable" to society, to our family and our friends too can be stifling. Sometimes it takes tragedy or drama to make us confront these little white lies.
Cast & Crew - Les Petits Mouchoirs / Little White Lies
Director: Guillaume Canet
Cast: François Cluzet, Marion Cotillard, Benoît Magimel, Gilles Lellouche, Laurent Lafitte, Jean Dujardin, Valérie Bonneton, Pascale Arbillot, Anne Marivin, Louise Monot, Joël Dupuch and Hocine Merabet
Screenplay: Guillaume Canet
Director of Photography: Christophe Offenstein
Producer: Alain Attal and Hugo Sélignac
Genre: Comedy Drama
Awards & Accolades: EFA Feature Film Selection 2011.Audience Award (Orange) for video on demand and home viewing. 2 César nominations in 2011; Valérie Bonneton received the Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role & Gilles Lellouche was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
Cast & Crew - Nous finirons ensemble / Little White Lies 2
Director: Guillaume Canet
Cast: François Cluzet, Marion Cotillard, Benoît Magimel, Gilles Lellouche, Laurent Lafitte, Jean Dujardin, Valérie Bonneton, Pascale Arbillot, Clémentine Baert, José Garcia, Mikaël Wattincourt, Tatiana Gousseff, Joël Dupuch and Hocine Merabet.
Screenplay: Guillaume Canet and Rodolphe Lauga
Director of Photography: Christophe Offenstein
Producer: Alain Attal and Hugo Sélignac
Genre: Comedy Drama
Awards & Accolades: César Audience Award 2020.
Les petits mouchoirs:
Despite a traumatic event, a group of friends decide to go ahead with their annual beach vacation. Their relationships, convictions, sense of guilt and friendship are sorely tested. They are finally forced to own up to the little white lies they have been telling each other.
Nous finirons ensemble:
With lots on his mind, Max takes off for a long weekend alone in his beach house. Three years after they all fell out, his buddies rock up to spring a surprise birthday party on him there. The surprise is total and Max's welcome nothing less than reserved. He insists on presenting a happy front that rings hollow and lands the whole group in unexpected situations.
Children have grown, babies have been born, priorities have changed. Separations and the ups-and-downs of life... When everybody decides to stop telling their little white lies, what remains of friendship?
What I liked about these films
In these films, we see a little of Paris and a lot of the coast around Cap Ferret in Arcachon Bay, a beautiful part of the west coast of France. This is the place where you go to relax, let off steam, enjoy the sea air, the fresh oysters, all the joys of being away from the city life and on the beach or boat instead. This makes for an interesting backdrop to a story essentially about 8 friends who all get together over the summer and in exploring their own stories, we have an ensemble film of wonderful storytelling. It's a universal tale and the added benefit if you love France is that it's beautiful to watch the scenery too.
Hosted by two of the group, like caring parents who provide everything you need, the friends have the same kind of holiday each year together. The summer holiday provides a fertile ground for uncovering the little white lies everyone tells themselves and each other. Sometimes dramatically, sometimes slowly and with subtlety. The first film was entirely written by Guillaume Canet with a great deal of personal experiences and dialogue brought together into a fiction of deft storytelling.
Every single cast member from the children to the adults is completely believable and absolutely superb. You can see the dynamics between every gesture, background scene and moment - perfectly performed. Shot using two cameras, it means that the action always feels very natural as people move around the house or outdoors in a natural way. It's not a still film, it's truly moving around with everyone and their stories, intertwined.
The cast spent 5 days in Cap Ferret in the house the May before they filmed over the summer so they could create real connection, friendships and the stories they were bringing to the screen while also knowing where everything was in the kitchen, down to the teaspoons. That immersive time seems to have grounded the whole cast in a film that often meanders through the stories and lies of each person to great effect. Sometimes there are scenes where it is hard to know if you should laugh or cry.
This film brings to life a tragedy along with all the combustibility of a holiday spent in close proximity at a stage in life when we begin to question, to understand that perhaps life isn't quite what we thought when we were 20.
A mixed group of friends, living in Paris we think, each successful in telling themselves and each other certain lies about what they want and who they are. More than a "Parisian snob on holiday" stereotype, there is nuance to the city-dweller who wants to be part of the coast for the summer but not quite belonging. Not everyone understands tides or how to leave behind the mobile phone!
Max has been the centre of the group, with his house by the sea, for many years. Hosting, like the patriarch of the group, generously sharing his good fortune and life with his closest friends and his family. He leads a high-powered, busy life in Paris and this is where he comes to unwind, except that he can't! There's also a second-rate actor, an ethnologist who would rather study people thousands of miles away than look at her own life, children with unhappy parents, parents unhappy and denying their own frustrations or identities. What do you want out of life? What's truly important? Eternal questions, perhaps, which makes this film feel so universal and yet very French all at the same time.
It takes the figure of (real-life oyster fisherman) Jean-Louis to be the conscience and truth-teller of the group. With his local knowledge, his big heart and the connected history with the visitors, he loves them all but he won't let them continue to keep lying to themselves and each other.
The revelations and events certainly bring drama, with a lot of comedy underpinned often by a bittersweet edge. As we see the characters coming to terms with the tragedy within their group, a lot changes for everyone. It's a gentle rather than ponderous film and it really carries us along with everyone, as we can quietly observe their stories unfolding on their annual holiday. No one wants to spoil their holiday! As one of the producers of the film said, we might finish the film wanting to call everyone we love just to let them know.
With that in mind, you don't have to leave it too long before you can meet everyone again by watching the second film. Little White Lies stands on its own as a very enjoyable film. It has insight, truth and an emotional resonance in the "growing up" through life.
Watching the second film is like coming back again to your favourite holiday home on different terms, with more history, life experience and perhaps a little uncertainty.
Ultimately the second film brings us more comedy drama with the well-observed characters coming back (same fabulous cast with a few superb additions) to put right where things have gone awry in the intervening years. Can they do it? Can they all still be friends after all this time? Must they remain friends just because of how long they've known each other?
In Little White Lies 2 / Nous finirons ensemble we have the sense from the start that this won't be a simple 'let's get back together for a holiday'. We start the film with a completely different autumnal feeling to the light and the setting. Summer is over and three years have passed since the first film's tragedy.
The parameters of being back in Cap Ferret have changed, with Max coming to the house to prepare it for sale as he and his wife, Véro, are finalising their divorce. He seemingly has some depression and panic attacks and hasn't spoken to his old friends in quite some time. And some of them want to surprise him for his birthday. Hmm, how's that going to work out?
How will the group of friends survive together at all and how will they work out if they're still telling little white lies to themselves and each other? Is everyone still spending their time putting off the really important things and being 'busy'?
It's a beautifully shot sequel, with all the majesty of this area shown in the fabulous opening sequence. Again, Canet uses a back catalogue of music classics to heighten emotion and counterpoint to the action, the feel of which is a continuation of the first film. This was a conscious decision on Canet's part and makes it all the more effective when you watch the films together.
Sequels can so often be disappointing, but not so this one! I found the return to Cap Ferret completely mesmerising, nostalgic, touching and a lot like life. You've spent your time working out who you really are and who and what you love. Now it's time to act on it and finally do what you must!
It's a film with brilliant cast performances, inspired additional cast members who join the ensemble on a beautiful and very moving film. The new characters add additional relationship tension and context to the characters, especially Véro and Max who are the divorcing couple at the centre of the group. Even the house seems like a cast member as it becomes a magnificent holder of memories.
In the sequel, we find everyone essentially the same people but some have changed more than others. Can they adapt to speaking the truth to each other and themselves? No one is perfect, including your oldest friends but we're all ending up together, accepting each other the way we are. Aren't we?
Where to Find It
I find all Guillaume Canet films have a great soundtrack and these two films are no exception - full of classics across genres. If you liked 'Tell No One', then I think you'll really enjoy the soundtracks here too - used with great emotional effect.
Stream a playlist or buy the CD:
Little White Lies 2 on Spotify and on CD:
US Amazon for North America* and the UK (the links should take you to your region)
Amazon Prime video streaming
DVD & Bluray at Amazon.fr*
Streaming available in many regions via Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.
Have you seen these films? Let me know what you thought by email: hello at francewhereyouare dot com or over on social media.
I love to talk cinema!
And when they're closed, I love to talk home cinema. 😉
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