Catherine Breillat, Claire Denis, Agnès Varda — past and present, there is no shortage of visionary French filmmakers. Indeed, just the sight of English subtitles over a French domestic scene can lead one to believe they are watching a cinematic masterpiece, but it’s possible you’re being misled. If you worry you may be falling for this trap, take this quiz to determine if the movie you’re watching is actually good or just made in France.
How’s the dialogue?
a) Superb. Naturalistic, understated, restrained but cutting.
b) Absolutely in French.
Is the acting good?
a) Yes! These characters feel so lived in. I’m moved to witness such artistry.
b) I think so! I mean, they’re speaking in French so I can’t really judge if it’s good or bad, right?
Are you enjoying the cinematography?
a) There’s not a shot in this film I couldn’t spend minutes analyzing.
b) So many views of France!
What’s the best thing about this movie?
a) The direction. Every choice feels intentional and effective.
b) There’s just a certain je ne sais quoi.
Mostly A’s: Wow, it sounds like you really love this movie! What is it? Is it Portrait of a Lady on Fire? It’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, isn’t it?
Mostly B’s: This movie is simply French. You could probably be happy watching any movie just dubbed into French, actually. Your taste may not be refined, but at least you’re having fun! Au revoir, petit fou!