five french film directors that seize the senses

Last year, at prestigious Festival de Cannes, only three female directors appeared in the nominees, Jane Campion is the only woman who won the Palme d’Or in the whole of the festival history and that happened in… 1993.

Inequalities are legion in the kingdom of cinema but thankfully some women still fight and make their way through, giving journalists and critics something to chew on. Because women directors like Alice Winocour, Julie Delpy, Uda Benyamina, Céline Sciamma and Noémie Lvovsky, don't play by the rules nor do they restrict themselves to the simple schemes of Nouvelle Vague – a French heritage that the cinema world would like to limit them to. Their movies blur the lines between genres and traditions – may it be blockbuster films like Disorder, comedy with Two Days in New York, gangster or teen-movies with Divines and Girlhood or the remake format with Camille Rewinds. With the medium of film a perfect place to express their ideas, shake boundaries and rattle perceptions, we look at five wonderful French films made by women where sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch prevail.

Two Days in New York by Julie Delpy

Julie Delpy is the female director everybody want to count among their friends. After her epic film Two Days in Paris in which she interprets the role of Marion, a  photographer, as she returns to Paris to introduce her American boyfriend to meet her  slightly crazy parents, she comes back, even funnier, with a second comedy, this time taking place in New York. Landing in the airport at New York, they are faced with a common dilemma: her saucissons and fromages get confiscated by the US customs. Clichéd? Perhaps. But Delpy’s analyses into French manners has humor and self-derision but without being too...cheesy.

Divines by Uda Benyamina

French director and Camera d’Or Price winner Uda Benyamina has a lot to say about youth, teenagers' dreams, fears and taste for freedom. But Uda Benyamina also knows how to awaken our senses. In Divines, Dounia, a French teen interpreted by wonderful actress Oulaya Amamra, meets Rebecca, a local drug dealer from her neighbourhood in Paris and looses ground. But her love for Djigui, a passionate dancer, will challenge her definition of happiness and success. Benyamina films the beauty of bodies in love like no one: dancing, sweating and free from the look of others. In Divines, dance and movements are more than simple gestures. They become the language of indignation.

Girlhood by Céline Sciamma

A new vision of the Paris suburbs is depicted in Girlhood, Céline Sciamma’s beautiful coming of age film, starring young actress Karidja Touré. While challenging political and social issues like determinism and economical inequalities in 21th century France, Céline Sciamma depicts an alternative portrait of femininity. In a particularly touching scene, the four main characters – Lady, Fily Adiatou and Merieme – prepare themselves before going out for the night, on a backdrop of Rihanna’s, Diamond. From this tiny room where the four teenagers put on their make-up, brush their hair and dress up, the viewer is invited to smell perfumes, powder and make-up scents. It’s not just this scene that Sciamma poetically shows beauty rituals and celebrates modern vision of femininity – it’s her whole movie.

Disorder, by Alice Winocour

Alice Winocour is one of her kind. Through the eyes and ears of a bodyguard who has just returned from Afghanistan (played by the talented Matthias Schoenaerts), the viewer delves into a violent and aggressive world. Each sound Vincent hears (a car driving through, a door slamming or even the serenity of silence) takes him back to Afghanistan and throws him into fear and anguish. Through this amazing use of sound, the director reveals post-traumatic effects of violence to denounce war – and of course, the way it affects people’s lives.

Camille Redouble  by Noémie Lvovsky 

After consulting a clockmaker to fix her watch, a present she got for her 16th birthday, Camille wakes up the next morning in the body of her teenage self, realizing she unwillingly travelled back to 1985. Stuck in the past, she has no choice but to re-watch and re-live all the scenes, emotional storms and shitty love stories she went through when she was a young teenager. She can’t stop thinking she could start all over again without making the same mistakes. Interpreted by Noémie Lvovsky herself, Camille sees everything with an ecstatic eye, slowly becoming the spectator of her own life.

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