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Your Favourite Foreign Language Films


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JEUX INTERDITS (Forbidden Games 1952)

OSSESSIONE (Obsession 1943) 

DEATH IN VENICE (1971)

LA DOLCE VITA (The Sweet Life 1960 - a beloved by many film that I think is often misunderstood) 

CINEMA PARADISO (1988)

MITT LIV SOM HUND (My Life As A Dog 1985)

GERMANIA ANNO ZERO (Germany Year Zero 1948 - probably the most powerful film I can think of that is not some Horror movie)

IVAN THE TERRIBLE (Parts I & II 1944 & 1958?)  

GOJIRA (1954 - not the RAYMOND BURR chopped salad Godzilla, King Of The Monsters 1956) 

FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE (1993)

 

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2016

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6.  May God Save Us (2016) Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Spain

I thought this was a very well done police vs. serial killer film with standout performances by Antonio de la Torre and Roberto Alamo as the mis-matched cops.  Recommended.

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The 2019 winner of Sweden’s Guldbagge Award was …

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And Then We Danced (2019) Levan Akin, Sweden

 

The 2019 winner of Sweden’s Guldbagge Foreign Film Award was …

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Parasite (2019) Joon-ho Bong, South Korea

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1935

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4.  L’Equipage (1935, Anatole Litvak, France

A Pretty decent love triangle film with WWI Flyers.  A very young Jean-Pierre Aumont discovers that the woman he is in love with and is having an affair with is the wife of his Squadron Leader, Charles Vanel.  Vanel who is so great as a hard nosed villain makes this character completely sympathetic which gives Aumont a crisis of guilt.

Litvak would remake this in Hollywood in 1937 as The Woman I Love.  And like the Algiers (1938) Hollywood remake of Pepe Le Moko (1937), The Woman I Love is remade virtually shot for shot.  The battle and stock footage is lifted straight from the original.  So, not only did these films purchase the literary rights but the film rights too.  Paul Muni does a credible job in the Charles Vanel part but my goodness, Louis Hayward is no Jean-Pierre Aumont.  Miriam Hopkins seems bored playing the love interest.

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Denmark’s 2019 Robert Best Picture Award went to …

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Queen of Hearts (2019) May el-Toukhy, Denmark

 

Denmark’s 2019 Robert Best Foreign Picture Award went to …

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Parasite (2019) Joon-ho Bong, South Korea

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1942

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A Pilot Returns (1942) Roberto Rossellini, Italy.

I expected a bit more from this film about a downed pilot who escapes captivity but it was a bit of a bore.  IMO this was mainly due to Massimo Girotti’s impression of a chiseled wooden statue.  There are some nice crowd sequences with refugees but the music is very repetitious.  I did enjoy the chance to see an Italian bomber which is very narrow and has the co-pilot seated behind the pilot.  A curiosity.

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Italy’s David di Donatello 2019/20 Best Picture winner …

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The Traitor (2019) Marco Bellocchio, Italy

 

Italy’s David di Donatello 2019/20 Best Foreign Film winner …

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Parasite (2019) Joon-ho Bong, South Korea

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1944

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3.  Colonel Kato’s Flying Squadron (1944)  Kajiro Yamamoto, Japan

It was interesting to see this Japanese “propoganda” in contrast to those done by America during WWII.  This film concentrates on the congenial camaraderie of Kato’s squadron and it doesn’t demonize the enemy at all.  In fact the enemy is hardly identified.  Kato is idolized by his men.  Just before a mission he sends a man on leave who has a cold.  It is missing an extra dramatic angle that you see in a lot of American films such as the second lead blaming the lead for the death of a friend or a brother that we have seen in The Dawn Patrol (1938) or Dive Bomber (1941).  Or the over-authoritarian commander who is disliked by his men until they finally come around which we have seen in Flying Leathernecks (1951), Twelve O’clock High (1950) and A Gathering of Eagles (1963).  Though it doesn’t utilize these extra dramatic angles, Colonel Kato is no less a film because of it.  It is just different.

The film’s structure is that of a diary and it practically covers Japan’s entire Asian campaign to 1944.  The budget is obviously modest but the filmmaker had access to a number of aircraft and some pretty elaborate models were also made.

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The 2019 winner of Spain’s Goya Award for Best Picture was …

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Pain and Glory (2019) Pedro Almodovar, Spain

 

The 2019 winner of the Goya Award for Best European Film was …

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Les Miserables (2019) Ladj Ly, France

 

The 2019 winner of the Goya Award for Best Spanish language Foreign Film was …

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Heroic Losers (2019) Sebastian Borensztein, Argentina

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1948

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and I’ve also seen …

Los Que Volvieron (1948) Alejandro Galindo, Mexico

This is a word for word, shot for shot remake of Five Came Back (1939) by John Farrow.  I started by watching the Farrow film and then followed it with the Mexican version.  The Galindo film credits the original story that inspired Five Came Back but not the screenplay from that film which is a shame because all of the dialogue and sequences are virtually the same.  The Mexican film even borrowed the exact same master shots of the airport in Guatemala and the model plane shots from the Farrow film.  What it lacks is any charisma that the original offered with a fine cast that included Chester Morris, Lucille Ball, C. Aubrey Smith, Allen Jenkns and an outstanding Joseph Calliea.  This version was as flat as a tortilla and about as dull as a read through.  I then followed this by watching the John Farrow remake of his own film from 1956, Back From Eternity.  Though it had some good actors such as Robert Ryan, Rod Steiger and Beulah Bondi it didn’t hold a candle to the original either.  Here and there they gave some of the characters more of a back story but it was rather a lifeless affair.

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I've watched a few foreign-language films over the past few weeks.

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Space Amoeba (1970) Japan, Dir: Ishiro Honda - A space probe returns to Earth after being invaded with alien particles that cause giant monsters to emerge on a remote island. A group scientists and reporters team up with the natives to try and stop the strange invaders. Featuring a giant octopus monster, a giant crab monster, and a giant turtle monster. Director Honda lends some his Godzilla expertise to this sub-par example of the kaiju genre, released in the US as Yog: Monster from Space.  (5/10)

 

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The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971) Italy, Dir: Sergio Marino - Giallo thriller with the lovely Edwige Fenech as a lonely wife of a wealthy businessman (Alberto de Mendoza) who finds herself the target of a mysterious killer targeting beautiful women. With George Hilton, Conchita Airoldi, Manuel Gil, and Ivan Rassimov. This movie is a bit more interested in nudity than horror, and the ending is a bit more prosaic than usual for this sort of thing. However, this movie has its fanbase, mainly due to the heavily edited English-dubbed version entitled Blade of the Ripper. This was a big success in Europe, and a follow-up with many of the same stars followed in 1972 - Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key.  (6/10)

 

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Night of the Devils (1972) Italy, Dir: Giorgio Ferroni - Gothic horror with Gianni Garko as a traveler in rural Russia who encounters a family beset by a curse that renders their patriarch into a bloodthirsty monster. Based loosely on Tolstoy's "The Wurdulak", which was more effectively adapted as in 1963's Black Sabbath.  (6/10)

 

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The Black Cat (1981) Italy, Dir: Lucio Fulci - Bearing little resemblance to anything Poe wrote, this strange but slow thriller follows a psychic professor (Patrick Magee) as he seeks revenge on those who've wronged him, often utilizing his pet cat. With Mimsy Farmer, David Warbeck, Al Cliver, and Dagmar Lassander. This is set in England and features English-speaking stars, yet the version I saw was in Italian. This is very tame compared to much of Fulci's work of the era, such as ZombieNew York Ripper, and The Beyond, but fans of Euro-sleaze weirdness may find something to enjoy. (4/10)

 

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Angst (1983) Austria, Dir: Gerald Kargl - A paroled would-be killer (Erwin Leder) goes on a violent spree. The very simple plot doesn't offer much narrative or character depth, but the cinematography is impressive. The wild-eyed lunatic is more inept than menacing, adding much black humor, although I'm not sure how much was intended. European directors such as Gaspar Noe and Lars Van Trier have cited this movie as an influence. (6/10)

 

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Amsterdamned (1988) Netherlands, Dir: Dick Maas - A mysterious killer wearing scuba gear stalks his prey from the canals of Amsterdam. A veteran cop (Huub Stapel) is on the case. With Monique van de Ven. This plays like a Dutch version of an Italian giallo thriller. There's some awkward humor and character drama, but the action scenes are very well done, including an impressive boat chase.  (6/10)

 

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Terrified (2017) Argentina, Dir: Demian Rugna - A neighborhood is subjected to tragedy and horror when ghostly menaces begin attacking adjacent homes. The police team up with some paranormal investigators to try and get to the bottom of things. Some very effective moments are a bit undercut somewhat by a fractured, non-linear narrative. However, there's enough good stuff here to recommend to fans of the genre. (6/10)

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Tanks of El Alamein (1957) G.uido Malatesta, Italy (dubbed) - 3/10-  At the battle of El Alamein during WWII, Italian soldiers go toe to toe with the British. Their brilliant plan is to hide in foxholes and then run up onto the tanks in the middle of battle while the tanks are driving around and firing and then to plant bombs on them. Yeah, I don't think that actually happened. The dubbing in this is also atrocious. Oddly enough, the British characters are dubbed even more poorly than the Italian ones. Also this is one of those war films where the soldiers just spray their machine guns blindly at the enemy without even aiming. Of note is that nowhere is Fascism mentioned in this or any political stance really. It is just a dumb B movie about Italians during WWII but I don't think other former Axis countries like Germany could have made similar movies so soon after the war, even if they were just as dumb or cheap.

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