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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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I Vampiri  (1957) Italy, Dir: Riccardo Freda - Hugely influential Gothic horror about a series of blood-draining murders that lead to an undead culprit. With Gianna Maria Canale, Carlo D'Angelo, and Paul Muller. This was the first Italian horror film of the sound era, and was a big hit, leading to a string of Italian Gothic horror films over the next decade. Mario Bava was the cinematographer, as well as writing and directing some scenes. Also released as Lust of the Vampire, and The Devil's Commandment.   (7/10)

 

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Cave of the Living Dead (1964) West Germany, Dir: Akos Rathonyi - A government agent (Adrian Hoven) is sent to a remote village to investigate some murders. It's part of a vampiric plot by a mad scientist (Wolfgang Preiss). Also with Erika Remberg, John Kitzmiller, and Karin Field. There's a lot of awkward humor in this B&W pseudo-Gothic horror tale, as well as old-fashioned racist-stereotype "scared servant" character played by Kitzmiller (Dr. No). It's all pretty dopey. Also released as Night of the Vampires and The Curse of the Green Eyes.  (5/10)

 

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The Blood Rose (1970) France, Dir: Claude Mulot - Another Eyes Without a Face rip-off, with Philippe Lamaire as an obsessed artist determined to heal his scarred wife. With Anny Duperey, Elizabeth Teissier, and Howard Vernon. There's not much to recommend here, although the pair of mute dwarf servants in the artist's mansion are unusual.  (5/10)

 

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The Dead Are Alive  (1972) Italy, Dir: Armando Crispino - An American archaeologist (Alex Cord) unearths an ancient Etruscan tomb. Soon after, a series of brutal murders occurs. Is there a connection? Also with Samantha Eggar, John Marley, and Horst Frank. What promises to be a supernatural horror tale with historical flourishes instead becomes a turgid melodrama and subpar giallo.   (3/10)

 

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Death Smiles on a Murderer  (1973) Italy, Dir: Joe D'Amato - Atmospheric Gothic horror with Ewa Aulin as a wealthy widow who may be harboring a sinister secret. With Klaus Kinski as a strange doctor, Luciano Rossi, and Angela Bo. Director D'Amato is usually reliably terrible, but this was a rather competent, if still lurid, effort.  (5/10)

 

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The Devil's Wedding Night (1973) Italy, Dir: Joe D'Amato & Luigi Batzella - A 19th-century scholar (Mark Damon) travels to Castle Dracula to search for the mythical Ring of the Nibelungen (!!!). Once there, he falls under the spell of a mysterious Countess (Rosalba Neri). This confused mixed of Gothic horror and exploitation trash is marginally entertaining, though for the wrong reasons. The sight of a nude Rosalba Neri splattered in blood and posing provocatively is certainly memorable,  (5/10)

 

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Crocodile (1979) Thailand/Hong Kong, Dir: Sompote Sands - A tsunami awakens a giant killer crocodile that wreaks havoc on the Thai countryside. This was made to be a croc-style Jaws rip-off, but was released in the US in 1981 after Alligator (1980) was a modest hit. It's dumb, cheap and laughable. The version I saw was dubbed in Italian! (3/10)

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1960

and I’ve also seen …

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The Avenger (1960) Karl Anton, Germany

Another German Edgar Wallace crime film.  A low budget effort marred by a character straight out of a cheesy Bela Lugosi horror film, an African man servant who is half black man and half beast.  Klaus Kinski has a small part.

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Fools in the Mountains (1957) Edith Carlmar, Norway- 7/10 - Funny Norwegian comedy akin to the scenario in L&H's Our Relations (1936) with a famous actor and a geeky professor who look exactly alike checking into the same hotel and getting involved in various shenanigans. Also the hotel company's daughter hides as a bellhop in order to learn experience in the hotel business (she does nothing to hide her breasts and everyone treats her as a boy though which I found odd. She clearly looked like a girl the whole time). Leif Jester is funny as the Mr. Bean type hotel man who is constantly fed up with all the weird characters around him. I thought this little known Norwegian film was very enjoyable.

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The Australian Academy Awards began in 2012.  In 2018 they awarded a Best Asian Film ….

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Dying to Survive (2018) Muye Wen, China

 

The Australian Academy’s Best Asian Film ….

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Parasite (2019) Joon-ho Bong, South Korea

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1961

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5.  Clear Skies (1961) Grigoriy Chukhray, Russia

I really liked this film.  It’s pure romantic melodrama in a Douglas Sirk vein.  Nina Drobysheva plays a young girl who is smitten by a dashing WWII pilot.  Several years later they meet by chance again when she is now a factory worker and thus begins a deep love affair.  Drobysheva is amazing.  My favourite scene was a simple snowball fight between the lovers.  Director Chukhray captures its essence by shooting onlookers who are spellbound by the sheer joy of it.  Clear Skies is very stylish.  It has a river ice breaking sequence that is a nod to The Mother (1926).  The music is pure Liberace, but hey.

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le Dernier Tournant  1939 by Pierre Chenal with Fernand Gravey Michel Simon Corinne Luchaire Robert Le Vigan and the beautiful Florence Marly.First filmed version of The Postman Always RingsTwice is very good with great acting.A Film Noir,filmed before the Nazi Occupation.Robert Le Vigan had a good career in France but was a Nazi collaborator,He was arrested , sentenced to 10 years of hard labor,he escaped to Argentina where he died in poverty in 1972.Sultry Corinne Luchaire had her share of problems too:her father was a French tycoon a collaborator who was executed after the war,She is quite alluring in the film,she had a baby with a Nazi officer,lost all her civic rights and could not get work,she died very young in 1951 of TB in extreme poverty.Restored version a very good film.8/10

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LA POISON 1951 By Sacha Guitry  with Michel Simon

I'm a huge fan of Sacha Guitry,he was one of the greatest wits of the 20th century -he died in 1957.He was also an innovator in the movie world.In this film he does not act in it-a rarity but he is shown presenting the actors and the whole crew for several minutes at the beginning of the film with his usual hilarious comments.Story line is simple: an unhappy husband wants to murder his wife before she kills him.A great ending and sketches of young kids through the film showing some situations.Great acting by everybody.The Master's best film after the war. 8.5/10 

 

Restored version.

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LE RIDEAU ROUGE 1952 by André Barsacq with Michel Simon Pierre Brasseur

A murder happens just before the opening of the Macbeth play.Unusual film with 2 great acting talents : Brasseur and Simon.Restored version.

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1962

and I’ve also seen …

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Love on a Pillow (1962) Roger Vadim, France

Going by the American title I had expected a silly Bardot comedy but instead got a vey dark tale of a beautiful woman who is inexorably attracted to a nihilistic self-destructive and rather horrible man played by Robert Hossein.  It was like a bad heroin trip without any mention of drugs.  The French title, Le Repos du Guerrier or Warrior’s Rest is more appropriate.  Despite Bardot stretching her range I would still rate this a miss.

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