French Culture Through Film (In-Person Only)

OSH 769 / Non Credit
Course taught in: English

Course Description: This film course proposes to look at France and its culture through its various authors: Molière, Emile Zola and Victor Hugo. We’ll watch three films based on these authors’ works from the 17th to the 19th centuries, all of which detail French life, thought, and customs. Discussion conducted in English. All films are watched in class in French with English subtitles; there is no outside homework or film viewing. As always, we’ll go out for an optional apéritif or perhaps even a French dinner at the end of the course. 




Week 1

We’ll start our course in the 17th century by watching the first half of the film “Bicycling with Molière,” a fascinating film based on a play within a play. In modern-day Paris, an actor from the famed Comédie Française desperately attempts to recreate on one of Moliere’s most famous plays, L’Avare (The Miser) with one of his fellow actors who has since left acting and retired, alone, to the island of Ré, renouncing his past and his previous acting successes. The Parisian actor travels to the Ile de Ré to convince his reluctant friend to join him in his new endeavor, but the two actors jockey in a hilarious but poignant duel for the lead role in this play. A wonderful recreation of Molière’s own quandry about his relationship to humanity.

Week 2

Watch the second half of "Bicycling with Molière."

Week 3

Emile Zola’s most powerful novel, Germinal, was brought to the screen by Claude Berri in 1992 with Gérard Depardieu playing the lead role in this 19th century drama of mine workers in the north of France. A gripping story about poverty and the dreadful conditions in which the miners lived, which had been meticulously researched by Zola, the film exposes the inhuman conditions under which the minors worked and dramatically portrays their struggle for social justice. Zola’s concerns were heard through France and “Germinal” entered the French vocabulary as a cri de coeur.

Week 4

Watch the second half of "Germinal."

Week 5

Victor Hugo wrote the brilliant drama "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" in 1832 initially as a plea for saving the beloved church from decrepitude, but its haunting story lines have reached across the ages. In 1998, this compelling story was brought to the stage in a riveting musical portrayed beautifully by outstanding actors. The tale of a hoard of gypsies who flood Paris in the 15th century to request asylum from persecution at Notre Dame de Paris is both visually and emotionally powerful and resonates today. One of the gypsies is a charming young girl who entertains the crowd for money and food with her song and dance. She thereby enchants the archdeacon of the church, the captain of the king’s Archers, and the Hunchback himself, unknowingly ensnaring the three in a mortal battle for her love.  

Week 6

Watch the second half of the musical, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."


Instructor: Ms. Valerie Sutter


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This course is available as part of the following:

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Courses
These courses are available either in-person only, via Zoom only or hybrid (either in-person or via Zoom). Please note the modality of each class. Membership is required.

OLLI 2023-2024 Membership is required to take this course and will be added to your cart upon enrollment. If you already have purchased a membership, you will not be charged for this membership.
OLLI 2023-2024 Membership Added to cart upon enrollment.
Starts: 8/1/2023 Ends: 7/31/2024