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Your Favourite Foreign Language Films


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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).

The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003) is the only pure Mongolian film that I have seen.

But from what you have described it may be a Chinese film.  Not Yellow Earth, I don't think.  Probably A Mongolian Tale (1999) by Xei Fei.  Have a look at that one on the imdb and see if it rings a bell.

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1 hour ago, Bogie56 said:

The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003) is the only pure Mongolian film that I have seen.

But from what you have described it may be a Chinese film.  Not Yellow Earth, I don't think.  Probably A Mongolian Tale (1999) by Xei Fei.  Have a look at that one on the imdb and see if it rings a bell.

Since it was sort of connected with a social event, I can try to pinpoint the approximate year after a bit of research.  But I'm pretty sure it was in the 1980s.  The little horses are typical of Mongolia.

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2 hours ago, Sukhov said:

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

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

I'm pretty sure it was a Mongolian film. The way it came about was, every year I was in an Oscar context with a few friends. The winner got a movie and restaurant dinner of one's choice. I picked the Mongolian film one of the years I won. So I just have to see if I can remember, looking at old calendars, at which year I may have won. Also, I doubt I would have selected a Chinese film, as I was never much of a fan of Chinese movies.

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31 minutes ago, Swithin said:

I'm pretty sure it was a Mongolian film. The way it came about was, every year I was in an Oscar context with a few friends. The winner got a movie and restaurant dinner of one's choice. I picked the Mongolian film one of the years I won. So I just have to see if I can remember, looking at old calendars, at which year I may have won. Also, I doubt I would have selected a Chinese film, as I was never much of a fan of Chinese movies.

Here is a list of Mongolian films from wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Mongolian_films

But A Mongolian Tale (1995) features a story with the little horses and is probably the most famous one to arrive in North America.  And of course, it is in Mongolian.

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9 minutes ago, Bogie56 said:

Here is a list of Mongolian films from wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Mongolian_films

But A Mongolian Tale (1995) features a story with the little horses and is probably the most famous one to arrive in North America.  And of course, it is in Mongolian.

That may be a possibility.  I'm going to check to see if I won the Oscar contest around that time. The Film Forum's mission is to show revivals of classic films as well as unusual new films, many foreign. Here's their current schedule:

https://filmforum.org

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On 8/20/2021 at 2:26 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

If you get the chance please check out "The Seventh Bullet." A neat red western from Uzbekistan about revenge. The only memorable movie I recall seeing from that country.

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2 minutes ago, Sukhov said:

If you get the chance please check out "The Seventh Bullet." A neat red western from Uzbekistan about revenge. The only memorable movie I recall seeing from that country.

Thanks! I see that it's on YT, so I saved it to my Watch Later queue.

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5 hours ago, Bogie56 said:

Here is a list of Mongolian films from wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Mongolian_films

But A Mongolian Tale (1995) features a story with the little horses and is probably the most famous one to arrive in North America.  And of course, it is in Mongolian.

I have solved the mystery. I did not see a Mongolian film. (Btw  A Mongolian Tale played in New York at the Lincoln Plaza.) The film I saw was actually an Icelandic film called When the Raven Flies (1984), which did play at the Film Forum. I now recall that we had dinner at the Middle of the Road Restaurant, which was a Mongolian restaurant.  There are indeed little horses in the Icelandic film, as there would be in Mongolian films, which helped lead to my confusion. With the Mongolian restaurant and the Icelandic movie, I guess I had a "little horse" evening!

From The New York Times review:

"'When the Raven Flies,'' which opens today at the Film Forum I, is more than just a curiosity (though it certainly is that, since Icelandic films are so rare here). Mr. Gunnlaugsson is a skillful storyteller, and he gives the film a slow, brooding style and an irreversible momentum." 

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Dos Monjes/Two Monks  (1934) Mexico/Dir: Juan Bustillo Oro  -  After a violent altercation in a monastery, the two monks involved each explain their motivations, vis flashback. With Victor Urruchua, Carlos Villatoro, and Magda Heller.

I see this film listed as "horror" but I wouldn't agree with that categorization. It's a psychological drama that explores madness and guilt. It also uses a Rashomon-style story technique, with conflicting memories that complicate the tale, although the "truth" seems to be settled by the end. The film has a lot of silent movie touches, like German Expressionist production designs and camera set-ups, and the performances have an exaggerated, pantomime quality. This was recently restored as part of Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Project.   (6/10)

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Yeah, I inquired about the horror listing when I mentioned this movie. I think the reason it is listed as horror on IMDB is the very brief mention of demon possession at the very beginning of the film. 

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The Phantom of the Convent  (1934)  Mexico/Dir: Fernando de Fuentes  -  A trio of travelers seek refuge in a forbidding old monastery, where the monks regale them with a scary tale that seems to influence the trio's own behavior. With Enrique del Campo, Marta Roel, and Carlos Villatoro.

I enjoyed this one, regarded as the second Mexican horror film. If aspects sound similar to the later Dos Monjes, they were made by the same company, feature a shared writer (Juan Bustillo Oro), and some of the same cast, along with the setting. There were also parts that reminded me of Charles Beaumont's 1959 story "The Howling Man", later adapted memorably on The Twilight Zone. I can't help but think Beaumont was at least partly inspired by this movie. The Criterion Channel lists this movie as The Phantom of the Monastery, but all other sources use ...Convent instead. (7/10)

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Night Train Murders  (1975)  Italy/Dir: Aldo Lado  -  A pair of young women (Irene Miracle & Laura D'Angelo) are terrorized by two sleazy thugs and a perverse fellow train passenger. Also featuring Flavio Bucci, Macha Meril, Gianfranco De Grassi, Enrico Maria Salerno, and Marina Berti.

This sadistic thriller rips off 1972's Last House on the Left quite a bit. It's notorious primarily thanks to a grisly moment of torture that I won't repeat here. I wasn't that impressed with any of it, although an aspect of the ending was mildly surprising. Night Train Murders is the title I've always seen used, in books and on the video releases, but IMDb lists it as Last Stop on the Night Train, and Letterboxd lists it as Late Night Trains. It's also known as Torture Train and Christmas Massacre.   (5/10)

 

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Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees  (1975)  Japan/Dir: Masahiro Shinoda  - Set during the feudal era, a mountain bandit (Tomisaburo Wakayama) kidnaps a beautiful woman (Shima Iwashita) and takes her to his secluded hideout. She begins to make increasingly outlandish demands of the bandit, which he reluctantly agrees to in order to win her favor.

This blackly-comic tale is outrageous at times, with some unexpected developments and grisly details. The acting is good, especially by the two leads, and the production values are high.   (7/10)

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Hitch-Hike  (1977)  Italy/Dir: Pasquale Festa Campanile  -  Franco Nero and Corinne Clery star as a bickering Italian couple on vacation in California. They pick up hitchhiker David Hess (from Last House on the Left), who ends up being a murderous crook on the run after a robbery. 

It's unusual to see a film set in the U.S. where every character speaks Italian. Of course it wasn't actually filmed in the States, but some of the set design intended to make it look American made me chuckle, like a life-size cardboard standee of Col. Sanders in a roadside diner. Nero gets to play a rather unpleasant character, which makes it a bit tough rooting for him to defeat the over-the-top Hess. Clery, best known for The Story of O, spends a lot of time in various stages of undress. The music by Ennio Morricone is pretty good.   (6/10)

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Cure  (1997)  Japan/Dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa  -  A troubled police detective (Koji Yakusho) investigates a series of gruesome murders, each committed by seemingly normal, non-violent person.  Things are further complicated when a strange amnesiac (Masato Hagiwara) arrives on the scene.

This is a generally well thought of thriller, but I found it a tad disappointing, more than a little dull and drawn out. The acting is good, and there is some unsettling atmosphere, but it all added up to not much.   (6/10)

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2008

and I’ve also seen ….

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Night and Day (2008) Sang-soo Hong, South Korea

A young man has left his wife in South Korea to flee to Paris from the police.  The set up may sound interesting but the film is not.  It could easily have had an hour cut from its running time.  The protagonist is dull and he is more interested in cheating on his wife with another Korean ex-pats than doing anything else.

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Deerskin  (2019)  France/Dir: Quentin Dupieux  -  Oddball black comedy with Jean Dujardin as an amiable drifter who arrives in a small town after purchasing a vintage fringe leather jacket and a video camera. He presents himself as a filmmaker, and recruits an ambitious waitress (Adele Haenel) to help him make his movie.

This short (77 minutes) feature is strange, low-key and a slow burn, but I found it humorous and engaging. Dujardin and Haenel are both good, and I was never quite sure where things were headed.   (7/10)

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Clan of the White Lotus  (1980)  Hong Kong/Dir: Lo Lieh  -  Martial arts film that's the third part in a trilogy, following Executioners from Shaolin (1978) and A Slice of Death (1979). The brutal priest known as White Lotus (director Lo Lieh) seeks revenge on Shaolin monk Hung Wen-Ting (Gordon Liu) for killing his brother in the previous film. Hung must practice his techniques in order to defeat the more powerful White Lotus, and he receives some aid from widow Mei-Hsiao (Kara Wai).

The overly-choreographed fight scenes become a sort of performance art, heavily laden with humor. Liu and Lieh are both old pros at this sort of thing, and they make for an enjoyable time, although some of the silly sub-plot stuff threatens to bog things down. Also known as Fists of the White Lotus.  (7/10)

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The Kid with the Golden Arm  (1979)  Hong Kong/Dir: Cheh Chang  -  Ridiculous yet entertaining martial arts flick from the makers of Five Deadly Venoms. The emperor assigns Iron Feet (Sun Chien) and his men to escort a shipment of gold to a famine-stricken area. The evil Chia Shia gang, which includes Golden Arm (Lo Mang), Silver Spear (Lu Feng), Iron Robe (Wang Lung Wei), and Brass Head (Yang Hsiung), plots to steal it.

The character names should clue you in to what kind of affair you're in for here. It's very silly but never boring, and the fights are a bit bloodier than the norm.  (7/10)

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The Seventh Curse  (1986)  Hong Kong/Dir: Ngai Choi Lam  -  Fantasy/action/horror hybrid starring Chin Siu-Ho as the dashing Dr. Yuan, a medical doctor, martial artist, and playboy. He's also afflicted with a curse that could prove deadly unless he returns to Thailand, where he received the malady, and defeats the evil High Priest of the Worm Cult (Elvis Tsui). Dr. Yuan gets assistance from a plucky young reporter (Maggie Cheung), and his mentor (Chow Yun-Fat).

This is one of the craziest Hong Kong films that I've ever seen. Opening with a police-vs-terrorists hostage stand-off that would be the centerpiece of other movies, it awkwardly segues into supernatural weirdness including monsters, magic spells, and ancient temples. It's bloody, there's nudity and all sorts of fisticuffs, vehicle stunts, and shootouts. Chin is a suitable hero, while Chow Yun-Fat seems to be having fun as the smirking, pipe-smoking mentor. Cheung is very young looking, while Elvis Tsui hams it up as the evil High Priest, with a dubbed, high-pitched voice for no discernible reason other than more strangeness. This won't be for everyone, but for fans of out-there 80's genre cinema, this is a must-see. Recommended.   (8/10)

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Mr. Vampire  (1985)  Hong Kong/Dir: Ricky Lau  -  The venerable Master Gau (Lam Ching-Ying), assisted by two young goofballs ( Ricky Hui & Chin Siu-Ho), tries to thwart a Chinese "hopping vampire" (Yuen Wah). With Moon Lee, Wong Siu-Fung, and Billy Lau.

This was a massive hit, and kickstarted a huge wave of horror-comedy hybrid films all over Asia. This film in particular had a half-dozen or more sequels in the following few years. That being said, I wasn't a huge fan, as this sort of Chinese comedy doesn't really work for me. The action scenes are well choreographed, and the production values decent considering the norm at the time.   (6/10) 

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2011

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9.  Dark Blue World (2011) Jan Sverak, Czech.

The story of Czechoslovakian pilots in WWII who make it to Britain to fly for the RAF.  It’s quite well done but not exactly thrilling.  I was more interested in trying to determine where the aerial photography of real vintage planes meets modern day CGI and that was very well done.

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