The BF and I have gone through a spate of movie watching of late. Not too long ago, we settled into our seats to watch Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, starring Gary Oldman. As the opening credits rolled, the logo for StudioCanal popped up, which got me thinking about foreign films.
I love foreign films. I’ve noticed I’ve rarely seen one I didn’t like, unlike a number English language movies, especially those directed by Michael Bay. Some people are scared off by subtitles, which is a shame, because they’re missing some truly incredible movies.
Here’s a couple of my favorites (I must confess, almost all of these were made after 2000):
The Lives of Others (Germany) – This Oscar winning film was so good, I saw twice in the theatres. TWICE. The story of a Stasi agent tasked with surveilling a play-write and his actress girlfriend in 1980’s East Germany, it was made that much more poignant by the revelation that the lead actor was under surveillance by the Stasi himself. He died not long after the Oscars of stomach cancer.
Au Revoir, Les Enfants (France) – Directed by the late Louis Malle, this was my very first foreign film. For some reason, foreign language teachers like to show movies as a way of teaching, instead of, you know, actually teaching. Not that I mind. This film combined two of my favorite things: French and World War II. At a Catholic boarding school in the French countryside, a young boy becomes friends with a new student who, as it turns out, is harboring a secret: He’s Jewish, and he’s hiding from the SS.
The Hedgehog (France) – More French! Can’t get enough French! Based on the best-selling novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog, young Paloma has decided that her destiny has already been determined and life after twelve is not worth living. Set to kill herself on her 13th birthday, she goes about filming her family, her neighbors, and the concierge downstairs, discovering no one’s path is determined by anyone other than themselves.
Frostbite (Sweden) – SIFF has a series called “Midnight Adrenalin” that runs through the festival, showing horror films at late night screenings. I saw this film in a packed theatre, making the viewing experience that much more awesome. A teenage girl and her mother move to a small town just inside the Arctic Circle, and some of the town’s residents are a bit…peculiar. It’s a funny, fresh take on vampires, and it’s got some great lines (“Stop throwing gnomes at me!”)
Waltz with Bashir (Israel) – A nominee for Best Foreign Film, Bashir is the true story of an Israeli soldier turned documentarian determined to recover his missing memories of the time Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. In a number of ways it reminded me of Art Spiegelman’s Maus. Animated so he could distance himself from what he uncovers, it made me think that some things are better left buried.
Mongol (Kazakhstan) – The cinematography in this film is incredible, turning it into a true work of art. The beginnings of Genghis Khan unfold as we follow him from boyhood into the man who would unite Mongolia, drawn from the history the Mongolian people believe to be the truth: a man who went to war over a woman, when such a thing was unheard of.
City of God (Brazil) – This movie made me want to visit the slum, and I’m not the only one (a friend of mine really wants to tour this favela). Two friends follow different paths within the City: one yearns to become a photographer, the other falls into the lure of drug dealing as a way to make easy money. Gritty and often violent, it’s not for everyone, but it’s one of the most real and gut-wrenching films I’ve seen in quite some time.
Confession of Pain (Hong Kong) – In addition to French, I adore Asian films. The BF and I enjoyed this one immensely when we saw it at SIFF several years ago. Starring the delicious Takeshi Kaneshiro, Bong is a detective drowning himself in alcohol after the suicide death of his girlfriend. When he’s hired as a private investigator to look into a murder, he discovers the killer may have been another cop. From the people who brought to the screen Infernal Affairs (the basis for the amazing film The Departed), there’s a rumor it’s being remade. If it doesn’t star Takeshi Kaneshiro, I won’t see it.
*image via grandlearning.org