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Your Favourite Foreign Language Films


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1975

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Daguerreotypes (1975) Agnes Varda, France

Varda’s film about the shops and old people who live on her street named after the photographic pioneer Louis Daguerre.  For me this was probablys even more interesting today than it would have been when the film was originally released as these type of shops and people are now long gone.  But it runs out of steam toward the end and the sequences about the magician seem to belong in another short film.

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I've seen enough new films from 2019 since our last poll of that year to change my top ten significantly.   The top two films are new.

2019

My top FF films of 2019 of the 20 that I have seen are ….

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1.  The Rifleman (2019) Dzintars Dreibergs, Latvia

The true story of a Latvian teenager who enlists to fight the Germans in WWI.  I thought this was one of the best new films about that war.

 

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2.  Les Miserables (2019) Ladj Ly, France

Multi-award winning thriller about a police unit that, through fault of their own becomes embroiled with ethnic gangs.  Really well done.

3.  The Cave (2019) Feras Fayyad, Syria

4.  Parasite (2019) Joon-ho Bong, South Korea

5.  Bacurau (2019) Kleber Mendonca Filho, Juliano Dornelles, Brazil

 

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6.  The Endless Trench (2019) Altor Arregi, Jon Garano, Jose Mari Goenaga

It is 1936, Spain and the fascists are shooting villagers suspected of being Republicans.  One escapes and his wife hides him in a small compartment behind a wall.  As we know the fascists won the civil war and it was a very long time before Franco left power.  Antonio de la Torre and Belen Cuesta are excellent as the couple.  Recommended.

 

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7.  The Traitor (2019) Marco Bellocchio, Italy

This film won the Best Picture, Actor and Supporting Actor awards in Italy.  It is the story of Tommaso Buscetta who turned state’s evidence against the Costa Nostra in Siciily.  It is appropriately brutal and very well done.  My only complaint was it was difficult to keep track of the many characters because more often than not, they had very little set-up.  The music score is fabulous.

 

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8.  Collective (2019) Alexander Nanau, Romania

A documentary that unwinds the deep systemic corruption in the entire Romanian health system.  Recommended

9.  The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019) Chiwetel Eijofor, UK [the majority of this is in Malawian with subtitles]

10. So Long, My Son (2019) Xiaoshuai Wang, China

 

Pain and Glory (2019) Pedro Almodovar, Spain

 

Song Without a Name (2019) Melina Leon, Peru

A young native Peruvian gives birth at a clinic then when she recovers her baby and the entire clinic have disappeared.

 

La Llorona (2019) Jayro Bustamante, Guatemala

Decent film about an aged war criminal and his family as they endure house arrest.  I won’t give away any more.  There are a couple of really well done set pieces including one where the General is being transported in an ambulance.

 

The Farewell (2019) Lulu Wang, USA

 

The Best Years of a Life (2019) Claude Lelouch, France

 

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) Celine Sciamma, France

 

System Crasher (2019) Nora Fingscheidt, Germany

There is nothing wrong with this film but it is a difficult watch.  It is about a young girl who is prone to severe tantrums and bouts of mean violence.  Her mother cannot handle her and she is too young to be segregated and committed.  It practically swept the German Film Awards.

 

I’m No Longer Here (2019) Fernando Frias, Mexico

 

and I’ve also seen …

About Endlessness (2019) Roy Anderson, Sweden

Though I didn’t care for it much I did find it very interesting and enjoyed the art direction and the bits of humour.  And it wasn’t endless running at just an hour and a quarter.

I Lost My Body (2019) Jeremy Clapin, France

Family Romance, LLC (2019) Werner Herzog, Japan

Ishii Yuichi runs a company where its employees can be hired to impersonate other people.  He begins to question its morality when he is hired to impersonate the missing father of a young girl and she becomes attached to him.  Sounds Interesting.  Believe me, it is not.  The way that it is all handled makes it seem too preposterous and IMO this takes the cake as Werner Herzog’s worst film.

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My top FF films of the 2010’s has also changed ….

 

1.  Wild Tales (2014) Damian Szifron, Argentina

2.  The Salesman (2016) Asghar Farhadi, Iran

3.  Everybody Knows (2018) Asghar Farhadi, Spain

4.  The Rifleman (2019) Dzintars Dreibergs, Latvia

5.  Capernaum (2018) Nadine Labaki, Lebanon

6.  13 Assassins (2010) Takashi Miike, Japan

7.  The Hunt (2012) Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark

8.  The Handmaiden (2016) Chan-wook Park, South Korea

9.  Les Miserables (2019) Ladj Ly, France

10.  Amour (2012) Michael Haneke, France

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I've now seen all of the shortlisted foreign films for this year's BAFTA awards many of which were actually released in 2019 so they are not included in my 2020 list.  I have to say that of the 9 films that I have seen from 2020 I have not been blown away by any.

 

My top FF films of 2020 of the 9 that I have seen are ….

 

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1.  The Life Ahead (2020) Edoardo Ponti, Italy

2.  Dear Comrades (2020) Andrey Konchalovskiy, Russia

3.  Minari (2020) Lee Isaac Chung, South Korea

4.  The Mole Agent (2020) Maite Alberdi, Chile

5.  Another Round (2020) Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark

6.  Quo Vadis, Aida? (2020) Jasmila Zbanic, Bosnia and Herzegovina

7.  New Order (2020) Michel Franco, Mexico

 

and I’ve also seen …

The Truffle Hunters (2020) Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw, Italy

Beginning (2020) Dea Kutumbegashvili, Georgia

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The winner of the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival Best Foreign Film Award was …

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Suicide Room: Hater (2020) Jan Komasa, Poland

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2019

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Pinocchio (2019) Matteo Garrone, Italy

Nominated for Best Make Up in this year’s Oscar and BAFTA Awards.  Not bad at all.  Robert Benigni, who can often give a cloying performance was good as Geppetto.  The two who played Cat and Fox were very good.  But Pinocchio was wooden.

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1977

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Mimino (1977) Georgiy Daneliya, Russia

Mild comedy about two sad sacks; one a helicopter pilot from rural Georgia visiting Moscow hoping to become an airline pilot and another, a truck driver.  Russian comedies can be quite broad which is not my cup of tea but this one was rather dry and more to my taste.  Winner of the Moscow International Film Festival.

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From 1985:

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La Vaquilla (The Heifer). 1985. Luis García Berlanga. Spain.  Comedy. With Alfredo Landa, José Sacristán, Santiago Ramos, Guillermo Montesinos.

A small town on the Nationalist side is about to organize a religious festival that includes a bull run and a bullfight; a nearby Republican platoon decides to steal the heifer for food and to ruin the festivities. Hilarious comedy set during the Spanish Civil War that skewers the Spanish conservatives of the time and takes a few funny jabs at the Republican side, too.  García Berlanga directs with his usual skill blending farce with social commentary --the absurdity of war no matter on which side we are. Some scenes border on Surrealism, yet Berlanga keeps the movie on track and never lets go.  Guillermo Montesinos gives my favorite performance as the impatient soldier whose ex-girlfriend is now conveniently dating a Nationalist Officer.

La Vaquilla is not as highly regarded as Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall or La Escopeta Nacional, but it is among my favorites of his movies.

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1979

and I’ve also seen …

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Le Navire Night (1979) Marguerite Duras, France

This is rock bottom of my also seen list.  Another cerebral effort from Duras.  This one makes India Song (1975) look like Die Hard With a Vengeance.  A collection of shots of streets, parks and cemeteries with a man and a woman reading bits of nonsense overtop without any emotion.  Occasionally we get to see three actors who sit like zombies while the voice over continues.  It was too deep (or shallow) for me and having Dominique Sanda in it still did not make it worth seeing.

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1981

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The Aviator’s Wife (1981) Eric Rohmer, France

A pleasant enough way to spend 90 minutes but I’m not the super fan of Rohmer that some are.  I thought Anne-Laure Meury who plays the teenage girl the protagonist meets in the park was very good.

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