The Draw: A love letter to Montmartre, Paris’ art/bohemian district, as told through the eyes of one of cinema’s most bewitching ingénues.
The Fact: Yes, the views from the top of Sacré-Coeur really are that spectacular — even without Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s ambitious color correction.
The Fiction: The new owners of Café des Deux Moulins have done some remodeling. So you can still dig into crème brûlée, but don’t plan on buying a packet of smokes on the way out.
The Draw: Alex (Romain Duris) is a nice guy with a dirty job — breaking up unhappy relationships. His mission: Accompany Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) to Monaco and prevent her from marrying her English boyfriend.
The Fact: Here’s hoping Alex is paid well for his work. A noted tax haven, the cost of living in Monaco is not for the faint of heart.
The Fiction: In one of the world’s most beautiful principalities, who takes that long to fall in love with Romain Duris?
3. Romantics Anonymous
The Draw: Two pathologically shy chocolate makers fall in love. Can they keep it together and launch a new product line?
The Fact: France is a chocoholic mecca. (Names of note: Abanico, Valrhona, Richart.)
The Fiction: Belgium would dispute the superiority of French chocolate.
The Draw: It’s 1958. A suave older man (Romain Duris) takes a younger village girl (Déborah François) under his wing with the hopes of turning her into the world’s fastest typist. It’s basically My Fair Lady en français.
The Fact: A fairly accurate representation of fashion and life in 1950s France. Who wouldn’t want to live in a time when typing competitions were en vogue?
The Fiction: None. We’re choosing to live in the world, kitsch be damned. Bye-bye, 2014.
5. I Do
The Draw: A fussy middle-aged bachelor gives into pressure from his overbearing mother and sisters to marry. He hires Charlotte Gainsbourg to be the ultimate fiancée from hell. You can probably guess where this one is going, but it’s fun watching them get there.
The Fact: In France, marriages are only legally recognized if they’re performed at city hall.
The Fiction: The capital of the Paris perfume industry isn’t Paris, but rather Grasse, a small town northwest of Nice.
6. Two Days in Paris
The Draw: Marion and Jack visit Paris after a disastrous trip to Italy. They may not be soulmates, but their long breakup over the course of two days features enough post-Woody Allen bon mots that you kinda wish they were.
The Fact: Jim Morrison’s grave in Père Lachaise really does draw that many crazy fans. The French hate it and often threaten to posthumously deport the musician.
The Fiction: No cabbie in Paris is that talkative.
7. L’Auberge Espagnole
The Draw: A student from France travels to Spain to have the ultimate semester abroad. (And, oh yeah, learn the language too.)
The Fact: Only 10% of American students study abroad. (Really, guys? Look what you’re missing out on!)
The Fiction: None. The film about sums up the exchange-student experience. (Sorry Mom, Dad.)
8. Ne Quittez Pas!
The Draw: Félix Mandel is a spacey astrophysicist prone to flights of fantasy. But even he is shocked when he gets a call (collect) from his late father with one final request.
The Fact: 39% of France claims to have no belief in life after death.
The Fiction: We always imagined the dearly departed were more likely to send a text message.
9. The Fairy
The Draw: A treasure trove of sight gags, The Fairy is the story of, well, a real-life fairy that drops into a lonely hotel clerk’s life, grants him three wishes, and disappears. And that’s just act one.
The Fact: Like near-silent comedy? This film has the DNA of Mon Oncle running in its veins.
The Fiction: Don’t believe anyone who says magic isn’t real — the French have a strong tradition of fairy tales.
10. A Woman Is a Woman
The Draw: When a stripper’s boyfriend vetoes the idea of having a child, she turns to the next best thing — her man’s best friend.
The Fact: Director Jean-Luc Godard had his romantic priorities in the right place, once famously remarking, “I don’t think you should FEEL about a movie. You should feel about a woman. You can’t kiss a movie.”
The Fiction: Anna Karina plays a striptease artist, but evidence suggests that she wasn’t comfortable with nudity. She turned down a bit part in Breathless, another of Godard’s films, because she’d have to take her clothes off.
11. OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
The Draw: When the fate of the Middle East is at stake, who are you gonna call? France’s answer to James Bond, OSS 117.
The Fact: Recognize the two stars? Yup, that’s The Artist’s Bérénice Bejo and Jean Dujardin in their first on-screen meeting. (Here’s to many more.)
The Fiction: As pointed out by IMDB: The film is set in 1955, but many of the cars we see are from the 1960s. Of course, it’s a farce — so take inaccuracies with a grain of salt.
12. The Intouchables
The Draw: A young man with a criminal record strikes up an unlikely friendship with his quadriplegic employer. Dare you not to cry.
The Fact: 5% of the profits from the film were donated to the Association Simon of Cyrene, an organization that creates shared living spaces for disabled adults and friends.
The Fiction: It’s hard to fault a film so heartwarming, and François Cluzet’s performance was certainly above reproach. But we would love to see more actors with disabilities.
13. A Cat in Paris
The Draw: A plucky cat living a double life comes to the rescue of his little girl owner when she’s kidnapped by a gangster. Toss this one on next time you’re babysitting your precocious niece. The Academy Award–nominated animated film features both beautiful depictions of Paris and a truly charming story.
The Fact: Last year Paris opened its first “Cat Café.”
The Fiction: Paris is more of a dog city.
14. Kings of Pastry
The Draw: A documentary about French pastry chefs. Do we really need to spell out the appeal?
The Fact: France is the birthplace of the dessert. The word “dessert” is derived from the French word “desservir,” meaning “to clear the table.”
The Fiction: French women do get fat. The obesity rates in the country doubled between 1995 and 2004.
15. The Women on the 6th Floor
The Draw: A French boss takes an interest in his Spanish maids. Who knew the breakdown of the social class system could be so fun?
The Fact: According to a 2010 census, 11% of France’s population are immigrants.
The Fiction: Berets, not as popular in France as you’d think.
16. My Piece of the Pie
The Draw: A French businessman is forced to endure the fallout of his decisions when he hires a woman from a factory he closed to be his housekeeper/nanny/personal advisor.
The Fact: Factories in France are closing. But every year Paris hosts a “Made in France” expo to promote industry in the country.
The Fiction: We get it, it’s symbolism. But one has to wonder how popular the name “France” is in France.
17. The Taste of Others
The Draw: A love triangle? Child’s play. Try tracking six star-crossed lovers.
The Fact: Google “Why is France so romantic” and you’ll find 85 million hits. Clearly the country has a certain “je ne sais quoi” that can’t be denied.
The Fiction: English is taught in French schools beginning at about age 6.
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