Top 6 Films by Claude Miller

Top 6 Films by Claude Miller

One of France’s most beloved filmmakers, Claude Miller, died in April, a month before his latest film was set to close the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Thérèse Desqueyroux, based on François Mauriac’s famous novel and starring Audrey Tautou, will be released in France this fall. An unassuming director who shunned the limelight, Miller directed 17 gripping and entertaining feature films that often provide dark insights into the human psyche.


La Meilleure Façon de Marcher (The Best Way to Walk) 1976

After working for a decade as an assistant to major French filmmakers—Jean-Luc Godard, Marcel Carné, Jacques Demy, François Truffaut—and making several short films, Claude Miller directed his first feature under the guidance of his mentor Truffaut. This coming-of-age drama stars Patrick Dewaere, brilliant as a young counselor in a summer camp for boys, who forms a sadistic relationship with another counselor (Patrick Bouchitey) after discovering him dressed as a woman. The film received six César nominations and launched Miller’s career.


Garde à Vue 1981

After the commercial failure of his second film, Dites-Lui que Je l’Aime (This Sweet Sickness, 1977), Miller offered veteran comic actor Michel Serrault one of his few dramatic roles when he cast him in the claustrophobic thriller Garde à Vue, and a Best Actor César ensued. One of the most successful French films of 1981, it takes place almost entirely in a police station where two inspectors (Lino Ventura and Guy Marchand) relentlessly interrogate an influential lawyer suspected of rape and murder. It is now regarded by many as Miller’s best film. An American remake, Under Suspicion (2000), was directed by Stephen Hopkins.


La Petite Voleuse (The Little Thief) 1988

When François Truffaut died in 1984 he was working on this film about a confused teenage girl. Miller took over and completed the project in 1988. La Petite Voleuse, starring the young Charlotte Gainsbourg, is a dramatic comedy set in the 1950s that became an explicit tribute to Truffaut. It follows 16-year-old orphan and kleptomaniac Janine as she takes her first troubled steps into the adult world.


La Classe de Neige (Class Trip) 1998

Based on the novel by Emmanuel Carrère, La Classe de Neige is another of the bleak psychological thrillers that Miller favored. Hypersensitive and well-behaved Nicolas, age 12, is on a school ski trip. He doesn’t get along with his classmates and suffers distressing nightmares. The film depicts with disturbing intensity the way children sense real-world horrors and transform them into fantasy, and the reality turns out to be worse than Nicolas’s most horrible fears.


Un Secret (A Secret) 2007

Psychoanalyst Philippe Grimbert’s remarkable autobiographical novel is the foundation for this deeply moving historical drama, my personal favorite of all Miller’s films. François is a sickly child who doesn’t fit in at school or at home. Lonely, he plays with an imaginary brother and dreams up an idealized past for his secretive parents (Patrick Bruel and Cécile de France). When he reaches his teens, an old friend of his parents reveals to him the family’s deep and tragic secrets, which date to the World War II German occupation of France. This surprising story of passion and guilt in troubled times won praise from French critics and audiences alike.


Je Suis Heureux que Ma Mère Soit Vivante (I’m Glad My Mother Is Alive) 2009, co-directed with Nathan Miller

Miller’s son, Nathan, worked in various capacities on most of his father’s films since beginning as a trainee director for L’Effrontée (1985). Eventually they co-directed this one, inspired by a real-life story and another exploration of childhood trauma, secrets and their disastrous consequences. Troubled 18-year-old Thomas (brilliant newcomer Vincent Rottiers) finally finds the mother who abandoned him and his brother when they were very young. After years of longing for her, he embarks on an ambiguous relationship with her that slowly drives him to an act of madness. The film also marks the second collaboration between Claude Miller and novelist-screenwriter Emmanuel Carrère (See Rencontre: Emmanuel Carrère, France Today, May 2012).


Mortelle Randonnée (Deadly Circuit) 1983. Thriller.

L’Effrontée 1985. Dramatic comedy.

Betty Fisher et Autres Histoires (Alias Betty) 2001. Thriller.

La Petite Lili (Little Lili) 2003. Drama.

Marching Band 2009. Documentary.

Trailers of most of these films are on

Find French films in our France Today Bookstore. Other possible sources:,,, When you order DVDs from France, you’ll need a multiformat DVD player that can read Zone 2 DVDs.

Originally published in the July/August issue of France Today


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