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The world’s first female film director was a French woman called Alice Guy, who directed her debut film in 1896. She would go on to direct over six hundred films for Charlie Chaplin as well as also working for Warner Brothers. Alice Guy is perhaps the original best French female comedy director.
This is my top five best French female comedy directors in no particular order.
“There’s something new I did in this film, and that was showing Paris in a way that I don’t see it shown very often. Not as a museum city, where everything is fossilized, but as a place where spectacular things do happen…” – Justine Triet
Justine Triet graduated from the Paris National School of Fine Arts. While she has only directed a couple of movies, and documentaries, she is one to watch, part of the latest generation of rising directors. Her films focus upon the place of the individual within a group.
She is a screenwriter, an actress and a director. Her first feature movie, Age of Panic, or La bataille de Solferino, was presented at the Cannes 2013 festival. She has won the EFA Award for Best European Film in 2012 and the Grand Prize at the Festival Premiers Plans Angers.
Her Best Movies
Age of Panic (2013) is her debut and is an excellent crafting of a documentary recording the second ballot of the French elections live from Paris, with fiction. It plays out over the duration of Election Day 2012, when Nicolas Sarkozy was ousted by Francois Hollande, the first socialist president since Mitterrand. Filmed in the midst of the action, the streets heaved with onlookers. Critics received it with praise hailing it as one of the best works of this new generation of French directors.
Other movies include Two Ships (2012), a short drama and Sur Place (2007). For more information on Justine’s debut, see this review.
Justine has directed comedies and dramas.
“That’s what I want to do. Or if not comedy, then feel-good movies, because if I give two years of my life to a project, I want to have people laugh in a room…” – Audrey Dana, on comedies
Audrey Dana, born in France in 1977, is an actress, screenwriter and a director. She studied drama in Orleans and Paris and then following two years in New York, she returned to France and to acting. She recently worked on two short films to promote breast cancer screening whilst her directorial debut film, Sous les Jupes des Filles was released on 4th June 2014.
Sous les Jupes des Filles (Under the Skirts of Girls, 2014) is Dana’s comedy about eleven girls living in Paris. They all have individual problems such as love lives, career and children. They are well presented and try to hide their inner most thoughts.
Other directorial credits include 5 a 7 (2009) a short movie also co-written by Dana. Second Hand (2008) and Of Beetroot Christmas (2011).
Audrey directs comedies.
For more information on Audrey see this link.
Isabelle Mergault was born in 1958 in Aubervilliers, near Paris. She is a French director, writer and actress, well known for Aujourd’hui Peut-etre… (1991) and Most Promising Young Actress (2000). As a successful woman, she never wished for children, but recently became the adoptive mother of a little girl, Maya. Thrilled, she states, “She is beautiful, as beautiful as a heart, as strong as a little chick, weak as a rock.”
Isabelle has been nominated for Time magazine’s Person of the Year. She is a powerful and influential woman and has been named Paris Citizen of The Year by the readers of a local gazette in the city. Isabelle is also a savvy businesswoman with several restaurants, a Football Team, her own brand of Vodka and a fashion line.
Her debut movie, You Are So Beautiful or Je Vous Trouve Tres Beau (2005) is a comedy romance. It features a recently bereaved farmer, Ayme (Michel Blanc) whose grief is quickly eclipsed by the amount of work he has. He becomes eager to find a new wife to help with the running of his farm. In desperation he seeks the help of a local matchmaker who suggests he should travel to Romania in search of a wife. He does this and meets Elena (Medeea Marinescu).
The movie premiered at the Sariat Film Festival in November 2005 and at the Marrakech International Film Festival a week later. In June 2006 it featured at the Seattle International Film Festival. It won a Cesar Award for best first feature film and has been hailed as the best film of all time.
Other directorial credits include The Merry Widow (2008) and Donnant, Donnant (2010).
Isabelle has directed comedy and comedy romance.
“Making a film involving lesbianism was a difficult challenge since all I had as references on the subject were movies made mostly by men about men; male homosexuality has been shown on the screen thoroughly, unlike lesbianism, which has been kept silent and taboo…”
Josiane Balasko was born in 1950 in Paris and is a director and a writer. She has worked as an actress in films directed by Roman Polanski and other directors. She is also the winner of two Cesar Awards and made her screen debut as an actress aged twenty three.
French Twist (Gazon Maudit; 1995) is Dana’s comedy debut movie which she also wrote. It features Laurent (Alain Chabat) and Loli (Victoria Abril), a married couple in their thirties living in southern France with their young children. Laurent is an estate agent and an unfaithful husband! When Loli begins an affair after a chance encounter with Marijo (Josiane Balasko). Things spiral out of control when the three characters live together. It’s almost a comedy-fantasy and yet it’s truly believable and possible for such relationships and complexities to occur in real life.
Other movies she has directed includes My Life is Hell (1991), Un Grand cri D’amour (1998), L’Ex-femme de ma Vie (2005), Cliente (2008) and Demi-soeur (2013).
Josiane has directed a range of genre movies, including comedy, comedy romance, drama, comedy/fantasy.
Valerie Lemercier was born in 1964 in Dieppe, France. She is an actress, screenwriter, singer and a director. She studied at the Rouen Conservatoire – a dance, music and drama school. Making her screen debut in 1988, she won two Cesar Awards for her supporting role in Les Visiteurs (1993) and Fauteuils d’orchestre (2007). She also released her first album in 1996 and has recorded songs with other artists.
The Ultimate Accessory (2013) is a comedy also starring Lemercier. A successful and trendy couple seem to have it all except a child. Everything changes when Aleksei, a Russian seven-year old boy comes into their lives.
Palais Royal (2005) is a comedy starring Catherine Deneuve, Valerie Lemercier and Lambert Wilson. Eugenia is the queen of a fictional European country. When her husband dies, the country needs a new king but there’s a problem. The king has to be married so that rules out their eldest son. Her youngest son, Prince Arnaud is married to Armelle (Lemercier) and they become the future rulers. Lemercier directs and stars in this comedy, portraying the Royal family in all their flaws, highlighting their vices beneath all the pomp and ceremony.
Other directorial credits include Les Visiteurs (1993), Avenue Montaigne (2006), Little Nicholas (2009) and The Ultimate Accessory (2013).
Valerie directs has directed only comedies in her directing career to date.
This select group of French women directors are firmly established, taking comedy seriously and dramatically to entertaining new heights. They are leaders in their industry, proving that this genre can be used with great effect to portray real life, important events and stories, after all, humour is a part of life.
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