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Your Favourite Foreign Language Films


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2006

and I’ve also seen …

 

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Inside Paris (2006) Christophe Honore, France

Two brothers live with their divorced father in a Paris apartment.  One is manically depressed and contemplates suicide.  There is more to the film but it was hardly worth the journey IMO.  A miss.

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Den 12. Mann (The 12th Man). 2017. Norway. Directed by Harald Zwart. With Thomas Gullestad, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Mads Sjøgård Pettersen, Marie Blokhus.

After the sabotage mission fails, one man (Jan Baalsrud) escapes the Germans and must cross the country to reach Sweden. 

The movie shows not only the hardships and near-escapes that Baalsrud faced during his journey, but also all the people who risked their lives in order to help him reach the border.

Uneven movie about a Norwegian hero. The movie is tense and gripping most of the time, and is beautifully photographed. Zwart and his cinematographer capture the beauty of Norway during winter, and block the scenes in order to enhance the sense of isolation of all the characters, and perhaps, of the whole country during the war. And the film  pays just homage to all those who helped him along the way. But Zwart also overstates how much Baalsrud suffered when battling the elements and physical ailments. The scene where he is in a cabin by himself and hallucinates goes on forever.

Thomas Gullestad, Mads Pettersen, and Marie Blokus do their best to flesh out underwritten characters, but Jonathan Rhys Meyers, as a Gestapo officer, is stuck with a stock character.

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The White Sheik (1952) Italy/Dir: Federico Fellini - A young newlywed sneaks away from her husband during their honeymoon in Rome in hopes of meeting her movie star idol (Alberto Sordi).

Fellini's first solo feature directing job is enjoyably fun, with many humorous set-pieces and good performances. It's a lot more mainstream than his later films. I don't have much more to say, as I'm sure everyone else has seen this one, but I just got around to it this past weekend after re-subscribing to the Criterion Channel.   (7/10)

 

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A Classic Horror Story  (2021) Italy/Dir: Roberto De Feo & Paolo Strippoli - A group of strangers carpool in an RV for a trip through the Calabrian countryside, only to fall prey to a mysterious cult.

This starts out as another currently-in-vogue entry in the Folk Horror subgenre, and shamelessly parades its cinematic inspirations (The Wicker ManMidsommarThe Texas Chain Saw Massacre), before changing into something else in the final third. I won't go into detail, but I will say that I wasn't a fan, and it undercut some good moments from earlier in the proceedings.   (4/10)

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The Swarm  (2020) France/Dir: Just Philippot - Uneven blend of family drama and nature-gone-wrong horror, with a widow (Suliane Brahim) struggling to support her two children by running a farm breeding locusts to be used for food. As she begins to give up hope of ever making a profit, she discovers that the locusts thrive when fed blood, and the more the better, setting in motion an escalating series of horrific events.

The performances by Brahim as the mother and Marie Narbonne as her rebellious teenage daughter are good, and the film is well shot. However, the story seems reluctant to go full-tilt horror or embrace the absurdities of its premise, so the end result is a bit underwhelming.   (6/10)

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The Case of the Bloody Iris  (1972) Italy/Dir: Giuliano Carnimeo - Standard giallo murder mystery/thriller about a mysterious masked killer stalking beautiful models in a high-rise apartment building. Starring Edwige Fenech (queen of the 70's Italian genre film), and George Hilton as a photographer. 

There's some enjoyable period atmosphere, but the script is a mess, and none of the performances stand out. Fenech is in various states of undress, as usual. For giallo die-hards only. The original Italian title directly translates to Why Are Those Strange Drops of Blood on Jennifer's Body?!  (6/10)

 

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Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41  (1972) Japan/Dir: Shunya Ito - Second entry in the Female Prisoner Scorpion series. Meiko Kaji returns as Matsu, aka "Scorpion", after completing her revenge quest in the previous film. She's back in prison, and the warden swears to break her. However, she escapes with 6 other prisoners, leading the warden and local police on a blood-soaked chase.

Highly stylized and light on plot, this won't be for everyone, but I liked it. Meiko has a charismatic presence without having to do much to earn it. It's easy to see why she became a cult favorite to 70's Japanese exploitation cinema fans. Followed by the equally recommended Grudge Song and Beast Stable entries in 1973, as well as various spin-offs, remakes and reboots in the decades after.    (7/10)

 

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What Have You Done to Solange?  (1972) Italy/Dir: Massimo Dallamano - Giallo mystery set at an English girls' school. When students begin being murdered in gruesome ways, a philandering professor (Fabio Testi) becomes a suspect. He decides to look into the case to clear his name. Also with Karen Baal, Joachim Fuchsberger, Cristina Galbo, and Camille Keaton.

The murders are exceptionally grisly, and the mystery a bit trickier than in the usual giallo, with a bit of social messaging in the solution. The cast is good, and the cinematography by Aristide Massaccesi looks nice. Massaccesi was also a noted director of many schlock films under the name Joe D'amato. The score by Ennio Morricone is excellent. Camille Keaton, who wordlessly plays the title character of Solange, later went on to star in the notorious I Spit on Your Grave.   (7/10)

 

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The Queen of Black Magic  (1981) Indonesia/Dir: Liliek Sudjio - Supernatural revenge tale about a spurned woman (Suzzanna) who is accused of witchcraft by her fellow villagers. After being rescued by a mysterious stranger, she learns actual black magic spells in order to get vengeance against everyone. 

This was a major hit in its home country, and star Suzzanna achieved cult status. To a western viewer's eyes, the glimpses of Indonesian folk culture are fascinating, while the filmmaking is rather limited in technique and budget. It's entertaining, but also very goofy. It was remade in 2019.   (6/10)

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2 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

51UZmMEV6hL._SY445_.jpg

The Queen of Black Magic  (1981) Indonesia/Dir: Liliek Sudjio - Supernatural revenge tale about a spurned woman (Suzzanna) who is accused of witchcraft by her fellow villagers. After being rescued by a mysterious stranger, she learns actual black magic spells in order to get vengeance against everyone. 

This was a major hit in its home country, and star Suzzanna achieved cult status. To a western viewer's eyes, the glimpses of Indonesian folk culture are fascinating, while the filmmaking is rather limited in technique and budget. It's entertaining, but also very goofy. It was remade in 2019.   (6/10)

Is the dialog in English?  

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On 8/10/2021 at 1:15 AM, LawrenceA said:

Sceicbia.jpg

The White Sheik (1952) Italy/Dir: Federico Fellini - A young newlywed sneaks away from her husband during their honeymoon in Rome in hopes of meeting her movie star idol (Alberto Sordi).

Fellini's first solo feature directing job is enjoyably fun, with many humorous set-pieces and good performances. It's a lot more mainstream than his later films. I don't have much more to say, as I'm sure everyone else has seen this one, but I just got around to it this past weekend after re-subscribing to the Criterion Channel.   (7/10)

 

I love this film. It may be my favorite Fellini film. I particularly like the scene in which the characters come down the staircase, to Rota's great music, as Brunello Bova watches in wonder.

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19 minutes ago, Swithin said:

I love this film. It may be my favorite Fellini film. I particularly like the scene in which the characters come down the staircase, to Rota's great music, as Brunello Bova watches in wonder.

I watched Lady Chatterley's Lover (1955) with Danielle Darrieux the other night.  I was looking up the bio on the Italian actor, Erno Crisa who plays the gamekeeper lover.  It mentioned that he appeared in many "European photo novels" which I guess was the subject of The White Sheik.  I don't think I knew anything about them before seeing the film in the early 70's.  It all seemed really bizarre and peculiarly Italian.

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20 minutes ago, Bogie56 said:

I watched Lady Chatterley's Lover (1955) with Danielle Darrieux the other night.  I was looking up the bio on the Italian actor, Erno Crisa who plays the gamekeeper lover.  It mentioned that he appeared in many "European photo novels" which I guess was the subject of The White Sheik.  I don't think I knew anything about them before seeing the film in the early 70's.  It all seemed really bizarre and peculiarly Italian.

I hadn't heard of the fumetti until I saw The White Sheik either.

I haven't seen that version of Lady Chatterley's Lover, only a 1993 British miniseries, with Sean Bean as Mellors. I'm a huge D.H. Lawrence fan. His first novel, The White Peacock, is my favorite novel. It would make a great miniseries, in the right hands. There is a minor character, Annable, who is an prototype of Mellors. (As you probably know, there is an earlier version of Lady Chatterley's Lover, titled John Thomas and Lady Jane.)

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2007

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Captain Abu Raed (2007) Amin Matalqa, Jordan

This is probably the only Jordanian film that I have seen.  It’s slick but a tad twee.  An airport janitor finds a discarded pilot’s hat and wears it home.  He soon becomes the hero of neighbourhood kids, regaling them with stories of far off places he has flown to.  That’s the part I thought a bit unbelievable.  I think kids are a bit more sophisticated these days.  Thankfully the entire film doesn’t rest on this as a subplot of domestic abuse comes to the fore.  A bit of a mixed bag but well shot and acted with a big score.

and I’ve also seen …

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The Duchess of Langeais (2007) Jacques Rivette, France

Another stinker from Rivette.  This should have been much better.  Guillaume Depardieu, looking and sounding much like his father plays a French General who searches for the woman he had loved only to find that she has become a nun.   But whatever attracted these two to each other was beyond me.

 

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Flight of the Red Balloon (2007) Hsiao-Hsien Hou, France

I really detested this film.  It is in part a homage to the Oscar winning, and highly overrated IMO 1956 short, The Red Balloon.

For me the film has too many incongruous parts.  It’s as if Hou wanted to fit in everything that interested him even if it didn’t really belong or make much sense.  Juliette Binoche does her best as a forever flustered mother but that too becomes boring and banal quite quickly.

 

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The Last Mistress (2007) Catherine Breillat, France

French Costume drama with some bed hopping.  I gave this a pass as I didn’t like any of the characters, or alternatively the absence of any ‘love to hate’ characters.

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27 minutes ago, Bogie56 said:

Captain Abu Raed (2007) Amin Matalqa, Jordan

This is probably the only Jordanian film that I have seen. 

On the Letterboxd website ( letterboxd.com ), if you sign up for a "Pro" membership, you get access to a "Stats" page that includes a world map. If you've logged all the movies you've seen, it will show you what films from each country you've seen. You can also toggle the options to show you all of the movies from each country that you haven't seen. It's not 100% concise, as they include films that were just funded by certain nations, or provided some production facilities (locations, in-country studio, etc.).

For example, for Jordan, it says that I've seen 4 films, but they are Under the Shadow (2016), Wadjda (2012), the American film Gerry (2002), and the TV mini-series Arabian Nights (2000). It also lists 66 movies that I have not seen.

Anyway, it's an amusing resource for those interested.

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1 hour ago, LawrenceA said:

On the Letterboxd website ( letterboxd.com ), if you sign up for a "Pro" membership, you get access to a "Stats" page that includes a world map. If you've logged all the movies you've seen, it will show you what films from each country you've seen. You can also toggle the options to show you all of the movies from each country that you haven't seen. It's not 100% concise, as they include films that were just funded by certain nations, or provided some production facilities (locations, in-country studio, etc.).

For example, for Jordan, it says that I've seen 4 films, but they are Under the Shadow (2016), Wadjda (2012), the American film Gerry (2002), and the TV mini-series Arabian Nights (2000). It also lists 66 movies that I have not seen.

Anyway, it's an amusing resource for those interested.

One of the resources that I use is a filemaker program for inputting data and I do list the country of origin which can be quite difficult to determine if you are only including one nation per film as I do.

In this age of multi-national productions it is even more difficult so I try to use a few different metrics such as shooting location, nationality of the director and where the sound crew is from.  Why the sound crew?   The film usually ends up in its predominate country for post production work.

I have Iran for Under the Shadow and Saudi Arabia for Wadjda .

Also, if the film is an official entry by country for the Academy Awards that is a dead give away.

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14 minutes ago, Bogie56 said:

One of the resources that I use is a filemaker program for inputting data and I do list the country of origin which can be quite difficult to determine if you are only including one nation per film as I do.

In this age of multi-national productions it is even more difficult so I try to use a few different metrics such as shooting location, nationality of the director and where the sound crew is from.  Why the sound crew?   The film usually ends up in its predominate country for post production work.

I have Iran for Under the Shadow and Saudi Arabia for Wadjda .

Also, if the film is an official entry by country for the Academy Awards that is a dead give away.

Yeah, Letterboxd lists multiple countries for each film, if applicable. For instance, besides Jordan, Wadjda is also listed for Saudi Arabia (one of only two from there I've seen, the other being The Message), as well as listed under Germany, Netherlands, UAE, and USA.

I'd naturally prefer a single nation of origin, but alas. 

Also, here's a list of countries from which I've not seen any films:

  • Greenland
  • Haiti
  • Belize
  • Guatemala
  • El Salvador
  • Honduras
  • Costa Rica
  • Guyana
  • French Guiana
  • Suriname
  • Bolivia
  • Madagascar
  • most of the Central African countries
  • most of the West African coastal nations
  • Yemen
  • Oman
  • Iraq
  • Syria
  • Albania
  • Montenegro
  • Kosovo
  • Moldova
  • Belarus
  • Estonia
  • Turkmen-, Uzbeki-, Kyrgyz-, and Tajikistans
  • Mongolia
  • North Korea
  • Bhutan
  • Bangladesh
  • Myanmar
  • Cambodia
  • Laos
  • Papua New Guinea

as well as several Pacific and Caribbean island nations

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Deadly Games  (1989) France/Dir: Rene Manzour - Holiday horror as a crazed killer (Patrick Floersheim) dressed as Santa Claus terrorizes an action movie-obsessed boy (Alain Lalanne) and his infirm grandfather (Louis Decreux) in the latter's huge mansion estate. Also starring Brigitte Fossey as the boy's mother.

This is an odd movie. The filmmaking is slick, even if the cinematography gets a bit too gauzy, in that particular late 1980's/early 1990's way. The boy dresses up like a miniature Rambo, and he staves off the killer Santa using Home Alone-style tactics. In fact the writer-director threatened to sue over the similarities between that later film and this one.  I'm not generally a fan of yuletide terror films, and this one is no exception, but it's strangeness makes it worth a look if nothing else is available. Also released as Dial Code Santa ClausGame Over, and Hide & Freak!  (6/10)

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Shutter  (2004) Thailand/Dir: Banjong Pisanthanakun & Parkpoom Wongpoom - Supernatural horror concerning a photographer and his girlfriend being haunted by a vengeful ghost after a hit-and-run accident. 

This was pretty good, but I wasn't as thrilled with it as many seem to be. Maybe the style is too overdone at this point, as this resembles many of the other "J-horror" type ghost stories of the 2000's. The film was a big hit, and went on to become one of the most widely seen Thai films ever released. It was remade in the US, with poor results, in 2008.    (6/10)

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Them  (2006) France & Romania/Dir: David Moreau & Xavier Palud  -  Thriller about a young French couple (Olivia Bonamy & Michael Cohen) living in a rural area outside Bucharest. One night they are terrorized by mysterious strangers.

This pre-dates, by a couple of years, the "home invasion" horror boom that began with the release of The Strangers in the U.S. There's very little plot, only an escalating series of encounters and chase taking place over the course of a few hours. Some of worked, some of it didn't. A lot of the film was too dark to tell what exactly I was looking at, and later use of strobing light grew tiresome.   (6/10)

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Impetigore  (2019) Indonesia/Dir: Joko Anwar -  Supernatural horror tale about a young woman (Tara Basro) and her best friend (Marissa Anita) who travel to a remote village in hopes of claiming an inheritance, only to discover a sinister curse. Also with Ario Bayu, Asmara Abigail, and Christine Hakim.

I thought this was excellent, well-crated with evocative cinematography, fascinating locations, and good performances. I was surprised to learn that this was the official Indonesian submission for Best International Film at the Oscars that year. It was nominated for 17 Citra Awards, the Indonesian equivalent of the Oscar, and won 6, including best picture, best director, best sound, best cinematography, best editing, and best supporting actress for Hakim.   (7/10)

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On 8/20/2021 at 3:26 PM, LawrenceA said:

Yeah, Letterboxd lists multiple countries for each film, if applicable. For instance, besides Jordan, Wadjda is also listed for Saudi Arabia (one of only two from there I've seen, the other being The Message), as well as listed under Germany, Netherlands, UAE, and USA.

I'd naturally prefer a single nation of origin, but alas. 

Also, here's a list of countries from which I've not seen any films:

  • Greenland
  • Haiti
  • Belize
  • Guatemala
  • El Salvador
  • Honduras
  • Costa Rica
  • Guyana
  • French Guiana
  • Suriname
  • Bolivia
  • Madagascar
  • most of the Central African countries
  • most of the West African coastal nations
  • Yemen
  • Oman
  • Iraq
  • Syria
  • Albania
  • Montenegro
  • Kosovo
  • Moldova
  • Belarus
  • Estonia
  • Turkmen-, Uzbeki-, Kyrgyz-, and Tajikistans
  • Mongolia
  • North Korea
  • Bhutan
  • Bangladesh
  • Myanmar
  • Cambodia
  • Laos
  • Papua New Guinea

as well as several Pacific and Caribbean island nations

I saw a very enjoyable film many years ago at the Film Forum in New York. It was either Cambodian or Mongolian. There were men on little horses. I've been trying to remember the name for decades! (Actually, I think it was Mongolian).

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8 hours ago, Swithin said:

I saw a very enjoyable film many years ago at the Film Forum in New York. It was either Cambodian or Mongolian. There were men on little horses. I've been trying to remember the name for decades! (Actually, I think it was Mongolian).

It couldn't have been Yellow Earth (1984)? 

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087433/

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