According to Hyperrestaurant, the Eighties began with the return of the left to the government, forty-five years after the Popular Front, but this time without that desire to change the criteria of film making that had characterized the utopian project of the movement at the end of the thirties. The decade saw a gradual decline in production, up to 130-140 films per year in the 1986-1989 period, and in the share of national cinema in French cinemas, in favor of US cinema. After the detective story of the previous twenty years (which in the seventies had often established itself in mixed Italian-French productions), the highest takings of the early eighties went to the works of two directors of the goliardic comedy and popular satire of costume such as Claude Zidi (Les ripoux, 1984, Il commissadro) and Francis Veber (La chèvre, 1981, La capra), followed in 1986 by the rural setting melodrama in two parts (Jean de Florette and Manon des sources, Manon delle sources), with touches of black humor, by the director Claude Berri inspired by the work of M. Pagnol, in which cast appear Daniel Auteuil and (for the second film) Emmanuelle Béart, two vedettes of the following decade. The no longer young authors of the Nouvelle Vague continued to gain critical acclaim and in some cases, such as that of E. Rohmer, even from the public (the series of Comédies et proverbes, including Le rayon vert, 1986, The green ray); Godard, after the slowdown of the previous decade, resumed his metacinematographic operations, orienting them towards links with figurative art or music (Passion, 1982; Prénom Carmen, 1983); C. Chabrol remained tied to his insights into crime and history (Violette Nozière, 1978) and crime and society (Une affaire de femmes, 1988, An affair of women); A. Varda with Sans toit ni loi (1985; Without roof or law) and J. Rivette with La belle noiseuse (1991; La bella scontrosa) finally managed to enter the foreign distribution circuit. Also authors who had made their debut immediately after the latter reached the international market, including Maurice Pialat (À nos amours, 1983, Ai nostra amori; Sous le soleil de Satan, 1987, Under the sun of Satan), a rough, difficult and often opposed, proponent of a cinema based on emotional improvisation that sometimes risks naivety, and the minimalist Alain Cavalier (Thérèse, 1986), while Paul Vecchiali (Encore. Once more, 1988, Once more. Still) remained anchored to less commercial circuits. Among the young authors, Jean-Jacques Beineix (Diva, 1981) and Leos Carax (Mauvais sang, 1986, Blood Red) had particular but ephemeral successes in those years. Among those with a more experimental tendency, the Polish Andrzej Zulawski, director of Possession (1981), with Isabelle Adjani, the new diva of the Eighties, and Raúl Ruiz, a cultured and conceptual Chilean playwright and novelist (Les trois couronnes du matelot, 1983, The three crowns of the sailor), which would have achieved greater notoriety in the following years (Le temps retrouvé, 1999, The rediscovered time, taken from M. Proust).
In the mid-1980s, a good level of commercial French cinema (Alain Corneau, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Luc Besson and others) consolidated on the international market, and was unique in Europe to compete with major Hollywood productions.. A versatile author, Annaud was able to create successful films in the ecological-naturalistic vein (L’ours, 1988, L’orso) as well as in the historical-fantastic one (Der Name der Rose, 1986, Il nome della rosa, from the novel by U. Eco) and in warfare (Enemy at the gate, 2001, The enemy at the gates). Besson combined the language of comics with Hollywood action films (Nikita, 1990; Léon, 1994, Leon), science fiction (Le cinquième élément, 1997, The fifth element) and historical reenactment (Jeanne d’Arc, 1999, Giovanna D’Arco); in this’ The last trend also includes La reine Margot (1994; La regina Margot) by Patrice Chéreau, Fort Saganne (1983) and Tous les matins du monde (1991; Every morning in the world), both by Corneau. More recently, Jean-Pierre Jeunet (former author of Delicatessen, 1991, in collaboration with Marc Caro) has entered big-budget cinema, who has understood the new needs of the contemporary public, between fantasy and gothic, recycling of modernity and poetry of poverty. (Alien: resurrection, 1997, Alien. Cloning; Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain, 2001, The fabulous world of Amelie).
Thanks also to the success of these authors, production has been steadily increasing since 1990 (up to around 200 films in 2001), as has the share of total receipts from national cinemas. The leading French producer, the television channel Canal +, appears to be the largest subsidiary of production, which consists largely of comedies. The advent of networks in the financing and distribution circuits has created a situation different from the past, characterized by a television-like taste and low-risk investments, which have penalized new and more original expressive possibilities. It is no coincidence that auteur cinema of the nineties remained in the hands of the generation of fifties, if not even that of the seventies of the Nouvelle vague, while younger directors failed to create a homogeneous movement, capable of extending their notoriety beyond borders, so names like Arnaud Desplechin, author of Comment je me suis disputé… (ma vie sexuelle), made in 1996, remain little known abroad, or, as in the case of Cyril Collard (Les nuits fauves, 1992, Notti selvagge), who died of AIDS, they find an international distributor for reasons unrelated to cinema. In addition to the comedy of intertwining and analysis of sentimental and family relationships (such as Le gôut des autres, 1999, The taste of others, by Agnès Jaoui), an interesting cinema is more attentive to class relationships, between sociological and existential investigation: Robert Guédiguian (La ville est tranquille, 2000, The city is quiet), Laurent Cantet (L’emploi du temps, 2001, Full-time). Other directors have analyzed aspects of youthful dissatisfaction, such as Erick Zonca (La vie rêvée des anges, 1998, The dreamed life of the angels) or Bruno Dumont (L’humanité, 1999). Among the previously successful authors are Philippe Garrel (J’entends plus la guitare, 1991), Jacques Doillon (Du fond du cœur: Germaine et Benjamin, 1994; Ponette, 1996), proponents of a minimalist cinema with risks of excessive verbosity, Patrice Leconte (Monsieur Hire, 1989, The unusual case of Mr Hire; L’homme du train, 2002, The man on the train), who however showed a notable discontinuity, Olivier Assayas (Irma Vep, 1996; Les destinées sentimentales, 2000), of critical and cinephile training and Jean-Claude Brisseau, author of anarchic and dreamlike films such as De bruit et de fureur (1988; Furore e grida). Among the elders, they have found the right balance between inspiration and the market Sautet (Un cœur en hiver, 1992, A heart in winter) and Resnais (Smoking – No smoking, 1993, and On connaît la chanson, 1997, Parole, parole, parole…). Finally, we should not forget the French productions that involved foreign directors, from the Portuguese Manoel de Oliveira (A carta, 1999, La Lettera) to the Polish Krzysztof Kieślowski (the series Trois cou-leurs: Bleu, Blanc, Rouge, 1993-94, Three colors – Blue film, White film, Red film), from the Egyptian Youssef Chahine (al-Maṣīr, 1997, The destiny) to the Georgian Otar Ioseliani (Les favoris de la lune, 1984, The favorites of the moon; Lundi matin, 2002, Monday morning).