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Your Favourite Foreign Language Films

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The 2017 National Board of Review Best Foreign Language Film …

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Foxtrot (2017) Samuel Moaz, Israel ****

 

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A Fantastic Woman (2017) Sebastian Lelio, Chile

 

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The Square (2017) Ruben Ostlund, Sweden

 

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Loveless (2017) Andrey Zvyaginstev, Russia

 

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Summer 1993 (2017) Carlia Simon, Spain

 

Nominated for the 2018 National Board of Review Best Foreign Language Film Award …

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Custody (2017) Xavier Legrand, France

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Nominated for the 2017 National Society of Film Critics Foreign Film Award …

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BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017) Robin Campillo, France

 

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Faces Places (2017) Agnes Varda, J.R., France

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Thelma is an unusual Norwegian drama about a sheltered young woman (Eili Harboe) who goes off to college, much to the concern of her parents. The stress of a new, alien environment and the obstacles of social interaction which Thelma is poorly equipped to deal with lead her to begin experiencing strange sensations and visions. Is she losing her mind or is something more sinister going on? 

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This kind of story has been done a lot, but this film utilizes a quiet, slow-burn tension that is very successful. Harboe is perfectly cast, and the "supernatural" elements are handled mostly with subtly, without the typical flash and noise one would find in a Hollywood tale on the same material. A few of the regional critics groups (Denver, Houston) names this as the best Foreign Language Film of the year. Before I watched several more 2017 films last week, Thelma had been my choice for favorite foreign language film of the year. I still recommend it.

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The winners of the 2017 Prix Louis Delluc Best Picture included …

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Barbara (2017) Mathieu Amalric, France

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The winner of the 2017 Prix Jean Vigo was …

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Barbara (2017) Mathieu Amalric, France

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The Unknown Soldier - In 1941, WWII has begun and Socialist Russia is invaded by Germany and her ally, Finland. The 4th Company is a Finish regiment of eager young recruits not yet accustomed to war. Soon they began to experience the slaughter and the looting first hand. In captured Petrozavodsk, they interact and fall in love with the locals and begin to rethink whether they are on the side of righteousness or not. This film has many battle scenes, some are very fake CGI (mostly the stuff with the cannons) but some seem more realistic. Thematically this film is very moving and does not hold back or try to deny Finland's history (the footage of Hitler and Mannerheim meeting and cooperating is shown). The cheerful Russian song "Kalinka" is a used as a frequent motif, usually as a backdrop against the slaughter depicted on the screen. Eero Aho (known in Finland for playing villains) stands out here as a pacifist farmer (think Sgt. York) who must bring himself to fight and survive among the mayhem. This was a decent war film and is recommended. 

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November was my choice not only for the best foreign language film of 2017, but for the best movie of 2017 period.  This movie comes from Estonia and it takes place sometime in the 19th century countryside.  It's not easy for small countries to have film industries.  It's even harder when the country in question was occupied by the Soviet Union for 51 years.  Early on in the movie we see a strange mechanical object running around the countryside:

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You might find this an odd thing to have running around in the 19th century Baltic countryside, but apparently this is part of local folklore, not something director Rainer Samet made up on his own.  Nor is it simply a mechanical tinkertoy.  Apparently it is a servant, called a kratt, provided by the devil in return for someone's soul. 

 

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This black and white movie, with striking and disconcerting cinematography, stars Rea Lest, above, as Liina.  She's a country girl, actually a peasant, with two problems.  Her father has drunkenly betrothed her to a much older man, and the man who she is in love with has become besotted with the new German aristocrat who has come to the area.  (Estonia, though ruled by the Russians at the time, had many German aristocrats among its ruling class.)  She attempts to win him, while in a dark, strange brooding countryside,with wolves, ghosts,the aforementioned kratt and drowning.  Perhaps the trailer can explain it better: 

Or maybe not.

 

And then there's this explanation from the website 366weirdmovies.com:  "The dreamlike monochrome camera and a doom-laden musical score nurture the magical atmosphere, while the griminess of the characters’ hygiene and the baseness of their morals adds a contrasting level of realism that makes this alternate Estonia strangely believable. November rightfully won multiple awards for its cinematography. Passages of ineffable beauty arise like wispy winter blossoms growing out of the dung of the farm village. A parade of dead souls glows in formal white robes as the walk out of the black forest. The Baron’s daughter sleepwalks on the roof, her diaphanous nightgown lit by the full moon. Pasty Venetian lovers with jewels embedded in their eyebrows kiss on an overexposed boat ride. And of course, there’s the magical fascination of the lurking kratts, monstrosities cobbled together from coils, blades, leather, and bones, always clanking and creaking (are the peasants too cheap to oil their mechanical slaves?) The peasant’s lives are hard and brutish, and their society is a confederation of backstabbers and thieves, but there is beauty to be found by those who can appreciate it."

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The winner of the 2017 Lumiere Best Picture Award was …

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BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017) Robin Campillo, France

 

The winner of the 2017 Lumiere Best Foreign Film Award was …

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In Syria (2017) Philippe Van Leeuw, Lebanon

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The 2017 Belgium Film Critics Association Best Picture Award went to …

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Loveless (2017) Andrey Zvyaginstev, Russia

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The 2017 Toronto Film Critics Association Best Foreign Film Award …

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The Square (2017) Ruben Ostlund, Sweden

 

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Faces Places (2017) Agnes Varda, J.R., France

 

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Loveless (2017) Andrey Zvyaginstev, Russia

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The 2017 Washington DC Film Critics Association Best Foreign Film …

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BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017) Robin Campillo, France ****

 

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First They Killed My Father (2017) Angelina Jolie, Cambodia

 

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In the Fade (2017) Faith Akin, Germany

 

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The Square (2017) Ruben Ostlund, Sweden

 

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Thelma (2017) Joachim Trier, Norway

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The 2017 Broadcast Critics Foreign Film ….

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In the Fade (2017) Faith Akin, Germany ****

 

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A Fantastic Woman (2017) Sebastian Lelio, Chile

 

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BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017) Robin Campillo, France

 

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The Square (2017) Ruben Ostlund, Sweden

 

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First They Killed My Father (2017) Angelina Jolie, Cambodia

 

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Thelma (2017) Joachim Trier, Norway

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The 2017 Argentinian Film Critics Association Best Picture Award went to …

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Zama (2017) Lucrecia Martel, Argentina

 

The 2017 Argentinian Film Critics Association Best Foreign Film Award winners included …

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The Other Side of Hope (2017) Aki Kaurismaki, Finland

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The 2017 Danish Bodil Award for Best Picture went to …

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Winter Brothers (2017) Hlynur Palmason, Denmark

 

The 2017 Danish Bodil Award for Best Non-American Picture went to …

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The Square (2017) Ruben Ostlund, Sweden

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The 2018 winner of the Japan Blue Ribbon Award was …

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One Cut of the Dead (2017) Shin’ichiro Ueda, Japan

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The Winner of the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival was this foreign film …

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On Body and Soul (2017) Ildiko Envedi, Hungary

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The 2017 Chicago International Film Festival’s Best Picture Award went to this foreign language film …

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A Sort of Family (2017) Diego Lerman, Argentina

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The winner of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival was this foreign language film …

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The Square (2017) Ruben Ostlund, Sweden

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Toc Toc. Spain. Directed by Vicente Villanueva. With Alexandra Jiménez, Paco León, Rossy De Palma.

Very funny movie, based on a French play of the same name, about six patients with OCD who meet at the doctor's office. Vicente Villanueva directs with funny insight, and the cast gives fine performances.

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24 Frames - Could also be called "24 Screen Savers." Random (mostly dialogue-less) scenes of everyday life are recreated. 24 of them and 5 minutes each. Horses playing in a field, seagulls flying over the sea, etc. This was visually beautiful but very boring. A nice film to put on before bed if you can't sleep. 

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The 2017 Locarno International Film Festival foreign film winner was …

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Mrs. Fang (2017) Bing Wang, China

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This film won the Grand Prize at the 2017 Montreal World Film Festival …

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And Suddenly the Dawn (2017) Silvio Caiozzi, Chile

 

This film won the Most Popular Film Prize at the 2017 Montreal World Film Festival …

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Octav (2017) Serge Ioan Celebidachi, Romania

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This film won the Best Canadian Film Award at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival …

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The Ravenous (2017) Robin Aubert, Canada

 

This film won the International Critics Prize at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival …

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Ava (2017) Vahid Aghapoor, Iran

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The winner of the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival Best Picture Award was …

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Son of Sofia (2017) Elina Psykou, Greece

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The 2018 winner of Norway’s Amanda Award for Best Picture went to ….

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What Will People Say (2017) Iram Haq, Norway

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