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Your Favourite Foreign Language Films


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I've been on a silent movie kick for a while now, and several of them have been foreign. Pardon the length of this post!

 

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The Woman Always Pays  (1910)  Denmark/Dir: Urban Gad  -  A bored society woman (Asta Nielsen) impulsively runs off and joins the circus. This meager plot enables Nielsen to do a "scandalous" dance that was so outrageous at the time that it made the film a smash hit and established her as one of the first international movie stars. It's understandably quaint by today's standards, but still interesting to see.  (7/20)

 

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Homer's Odyssey  (1911)  Italy/Dir: Francesco Bertolini & Giuseppe de Liguoro & Adolfo Padovan  -  Large-scale adaptation of the epic, with impressive sets, costumes and special effects for the time. Co-director Liguoro also stars as Odysseus.   (6/10)

 

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The Springtime of Life  (1912)  Sweden/Dir: Paul Garbagni - Melodrama following the life of a young girl from childhood through adulthood, and the men who vie for her hand in marriage. Among those are Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller. The film is fairly standard stuff for the period, but seeing the much-revered directors in their acting youth was a treat.  (6/10)

 

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Fantomas: In the Shadow of the Guillotine  (1913)  France/Dir: Louis Feuillade  -  First installment in the first chapter-serial, following the exploits of the gentleman criminal Fantomas. Clever scenarios and a quick pace highlight this groundbreaking work.   (7/10)

 

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Sealed Orders aka The Mysterious X  (1914)  Denmark/Dir: Benjamin Christensen  -  Military intrigue and melodrama as a decorated officer (director Christensen) is accused of treason. The art of cinema advances ever so incrementally, but Christensen's best work is ahead of him.   (6/10)

 

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The Tunnel  (1915)  Germany/Dir: William Wauer  -  Pseudo-science fiction about a bold, visionary engineer (Friedrich Kaybler) who sets out to construct an undersea tunnel connecting Europe to North America. This was passable, although the sound remake in 1933 was better.  (6/10)

 

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Shoe Palace Pinkus  (1916)  Germany/Dir: Ernst Lubitsch  -  The director also stars as comical character Sally Pinkus, a young goofball who gets into various scrapes. After running into trouble at school, he sets up shop as a shoe seller. The Pinkus character had been played by Lubitsch for several years, both on stage and in film, before hitting it big with this release.   (6/10)

 

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A Man There Was  (1917)  Sweden/Dir: Victor Sjostrom  -  Sjostrom stars as a grizzled hermit whose sad tale is told in flashback, detailing how he came to be in his unenviable position. The high melodrama is helped by excellent scenic photography and operatic situations.  (7/10)

 

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The Torture of Silence  (1917)  France/Dir: Abel Gance  -  Standard melodrama scenario with a bored wife considering an affair with her husband's brother. The filmmaking is good, even if the story is weak. Gance remade it in sound in 1933.   (6/10)

 

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I Don't Want to Be a Man  (1918)  Germany/Dir: Ernst Lubitsch  -  Comedy starring Ossi Oswalda as a troublemaking young woman who dresses as a man in order to put one over on the man assigned by her father to make her more ladylike. Oswaldo was vaulted to stardom with this role, and she's very entertaining, although the material is more a little slight.   (7/10)

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The Queen of Spades  (1916)  Russia/Dir: Yakov Protazanov  -  Adaptation of the Pushkin story. After an all-night card-playing session, an army officer tells his comrades the story of a countess who made an unholy pact in order to always win while gambling. Learning her secrets becomes an obsession for one man, who is driven to extreme lengths. There have been several filmed versions of this story, and in fact I watched the 1910 short version of this just last week. This one was an improvement over that, with good acting for the time, and excellent production design.   (7/10)

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Fear  (1917)  Germany/Dir: Robert Wiene  -  A wealthy nobleman (Bruno Decarli) goes on a world-wide quest to collect rare works or art, and decides to steal a sacred Indian statue along the way. He's informed that he has consequently been cursed, and only has 7 years to live. How will he spend his remaining time? Writer-director Wiene would shortly go on to make the seminal The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari a few years later. That film's co-star Conrad Veidt appears briefly here as an Indian priest. The lead actor gesticulates a lot in the silent film fashion, undercutting much of the drama.   (6/10)

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Hilde Warren and Death  (1917)  Germany/Dir: Joe May  -  After becoming pregnant following a tryst with a murderer, a famous actress (Mia May) begins having visions of Death (Georg John). This fragmentary supernatural melodrama is mainly of note now for being the first produced script by Fritz Lang. There's not much here to recommend, although the look of Death is said to have influenced Victor Sjostrom's The Phantom Carriage and, later, Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal.  (5/10)

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Malombra  (1917)  Italy/Dir: Carmine Gallone  -  A woman (Lyda Borelli) moves into a large castle and soon becomes convinced that she's the reincarnation of one of the previous occupants, returned to settle unfinished business. This is very much like the gothic horror melodramas that Italy excelled in producing in the 1960's, and it was fun to see one of the antecedents of the genre. I also appreciated the slightly more modern filmmaking on display, such as a greater emphasis on close-ups, rather than the mid-field static shots of the earliest cinema productions. The story was adapted several more times, including in 1942 and 1974.

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Satan's Rhapsody  (1917)  Italy/Dir: Nino Oxilia  -  An old woman (Lyda Borelli) makes a deal with Mephisto (Ugo Bazzini) for renewed youth and beauty, but in exchange she must avoid love. This dark romantic fantasy has very interesting lighting work, as well as excellent production design. The devil is of the pointy-goatee variety, so that's a bit corny/silly/fun. I would have been curious to see where this director's career went after this, but unfortunately he died at the age of 28 fighting in WWI shortly after finishing this movie.   (7/10)

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The Ancestress  (1919)  Austria/Dir: Jacob Fleck & Louise Fleck  -  The ghost of a woman haunts her ancestral castle estate, watching over her last two remaining descendants, unable to rest until the family line is extinguished. With Liane Haid in a dual role as the ghost and her descendant Berthe. The film has large sets and lavish costumes, and some of the wind-blown gossamer ghost shots are nice, but I found the story dull and drawn out.   (5/10)

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2018

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5.  Return of the Hero (2018) Laurent Tirard, France

Jean Dujardin is a Captain in the Hussars in 1812 France.  He is only just been engaged to a young lady from a wealthy family when he is called away to the Napoleonic wars.  I won’t give away anything else but will say that the film had me laughing out loud in several places which is somewhat of a rarity.  Dujardin and Melanie Laurent are both excellent.  Laurent is apparently well known in France for being a voice in The Simpsons.  Like most comedies Return of the Hero falls off here and there but it is well worth a look.

 

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9.  Lady J (2018) Emmanuel Mouret, France

I’ve only seen 9 FF’s from 2018 so this is no great shakes.  Lady J is basically a poor man’s Dangerous Liaisons but handled in the most dull way.  It picks up a little toward the end if you can make it that far.  Average.

 

and I’ve also seen …

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When Lambs Become Lions (2018) Jon Kasbe, United States

This was billed as a documentary about Elephant poachers in Kenya.  I just didn’t buy that.  To me this had to be a docudrama as there was little to no interaction between the camera crew and the poachers as one might expect when the poachers were under threat of death if identified.  However the topic is a sincere one and it is well shot but I would rather have seen a “real” undercover expose.

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1 hour ago, Bogie56 said:

2018

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5.  Return of the Hero (2018) Laurent Tirard, France

Jean Dujardin is a Captain in the Hussars in 1812 France.  He is only just been engaged to a young lady from a wealthy family when he is called away to the Napoleonic wars.  I won’t give away anything else but will say that the film had me laughing out loud in several places which is somewhat of a rarity.  Dujardin and Melanie Laurent are both excellent.  Laurent is apparently well known in France for being a voice in The Simpsons.  Like most comedies Return of the Hero falls off here and there but it is well worth a look.

 

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9.  Lady J (2018) Emmanuel Mouret, France

I’ve only seen 9 FF’s from 2018 so this is no great shakes.  Lady J is basically a poor man’s Dangerous Liaisons but handled in the most dull way.  It picks up a little toward the end if you can make it that far.  Average.

 

 

I liked them both .LadyJ  is ok as you say it.I watched it for Cecile De France. Le Retour du Hero I liked a lot more,I liked the ending,It has many  funny moments. DuJardin is good in anything it seems..

 

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Eerie Tales  (1919)  Germany/Dir: Richard Oswald  -  Horror anthology. In the framing device, characters on posters come to life after hours at a book store. They take turns reading stories. In the first ("The Apparition"), a man and his female companion check into a hotel. When she goes missing, the hotel staff claim that there was never a woman at all. In the second ("The Hand"), a man is haunted by guilt and a ghostly hand after committing a murder. In the third ("The Black Cat"), a man hopes to commit the perfect crime, although the title creature may have something to say about it. In the fourth ("The Suicide Club"), a man joins an exclusive gambling club that has lethal consequences if one loses. And in the fifth ("The Specter"), a bored wife considers an affair with a visitor.

Some have called this the first horror anthology, but I can't verify if that's true. The stories are based on written works by Anselma Heine, Robert Liebmenn, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, and director Richard Oswald. The cast is primarily comprised of Anita Berber, Reinhold Schunzel, and Conrad Veidt, who appear as the trio in the framing device, as well as the lead characters in each story. This provides an opportunity for them all to show off some acting range. Overall, this was mildly enjoyable, although a bit too facile and primitive.  (6/10)

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The Plague in Florence  (1919)  Germany/Dir: Otto Rippert  -  Adaptation of Poe's Masque of the Red Death, with a script by Fritz Lang. A woman (Marga von Kierska) arrives in Florence, causing a rift between the city's ruler (Otto Mannstaedt) and his son (Anders Wikman), just as the plague ravages the population. There are gorgeous sets and costumes, and some interesting camera work here and there, but the pacing is slow, and things go on a bit too long.   (6/10)

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Genuine: The Tragedy of a Vampire  (1920)  Germany/Dir: Robert Wiene  -  The director's follow-up to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was this bizarre fantasy concerning a priestess named Genuine (Fern Andra) who is sold into slavery and then causes chaos by seducing a number of men. Much of the crew from Caligari returned, and a lot of the film has the same stylized look, with strange flourishes here and there, such as a skeleton with a clock for a head. It looks interesting, but the script by Carl Mayer is weak, and none of the performers are as memorable as those in Caligari.  (6/10)

Note: There is a 45-minute condensed version of this movie widely available, but the full, 88-minute version is up on YouTube at the moment. It was this latter version that I watched.

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The Arrival from the Darkness  (1921)  Czechoslovakia/Dir: Jan S. Kolar  -  Romantic fantasy about a history-obsessed nobleman (Theodor Pistek) who learns of a strange Black Tower from a book he receives. After traveling there, he discovers the body of an ancestor (Karel Lamac), who is soon revived, and who relates a tale of a love triangle many years ago, one with eerie parallels to the present. Also featuring Anny Ondra, Vladimir Majer, and Josef Svab-Malostransky. This was nice opportunity to see early filmmaking from a culture that I haven't seen much of from this era. The acting is about on par with other films of the time, while the settings are well achieved.   (6/10)

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The Bear's Wedding  (1925)  USSR/Dir: Konstantin Eggert  -  One of the best bear-scares-a-pregnant-woman-so-her-baby-later-develops-a-penchant-for-dressing-up-as-a-bear-and-attacking-people movies made in Russia during the 1920's.   (5/10)

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Alraune: A Daughter of Destiny  (1928)  Germany/Dir: Henrik Galeen  -  Based on the book by Hanns Heinz Ewers, the story concerns a scientist (Paul Wegener) creating an "artificial woman" that he names Alraune (Brigitte Helm). Since she was created by man, she has no soul, and sets out into the world causing chaos. The story had already been adapted in 1919 by Michael Curtiz, and later versions were released in 1930 and 1952. Unfortunately, there's a good chunk of footage of this 1928 version that seems to be lost, and much of it centers on the creation of the Alraune character. Not only does this leave out what promised to be an interesting scene, but it also undermines the narrative in a way that it never quite recovers from. If the full version ever gets restored, I may rate this one more highly.   (6/10)

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The Strange Case of Captain Ramper  (1928)  Germany/Dir: Max Reichmann  -  Famous daredevil pilot and explore Captain Ramper (Paul Wegener) attempts a dangerous flight over the arctic circle, only to disappear into the icy wilderness. Many years later, a group of sailors whose ship is trapped in the winter ice, encounter a savage ape-like beast-man, which they capture and bring back to civilization, where the creature becomes a public attraction. Also featuring Mary Johnson, Hugo Doblin, Georg Guertler, Camillo Kossuth, Hermann Vallentin, and Max Schreck. This movie is considered the first to feature an abominable snowman/yeti/bigfoot-type creature. The movie only runs about an hour, and there isn't a lot to it, although the set/locations are good, and there are some good editing effects.   (6/10)

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The Hound of the Baskervilles  (1929)  Germany/Dir: Richard Oswald  -  Yet another adaptation of the Arthur Conan Doyle story, which had already been filmed several times by this point, although this was the last silent version. Renowned detective Sherlock Holmes (Carlyle Blackwell) and his friend Dr. Watson (George Seroff) are called on to investigate the appearances of a ghostly hound, said to be a harbinger of death toward members of the Baskerville family. Also featuring Alexander Murski, Livio Pavanelli, Betty Bird, Valy Arnheim, and Fritz Rasp. 

This version was thought lost for many years, but much of it was discovered and restored a few years ago. A few scenes remain missing, and have been recreated using stills. American actor Blackwell is decent as Holmes, although the part is hindered a bit by being silent. Blackwell retired shortly after making this, the next to last of his 199 film appearances.   (7/10)

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On 10/1/2021 at 5:20 PM, LawrenceA said:

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The Queen of Spades  (1916)  Russia/Dir: Yakov Protazanov  -  Adaptation of the Pushkin story. After an all-night card-playing session, an army officer tells his comrades the story of a countess who made an unholy pact in order to always win while gambling. Learning her secrets becomes an obsession for one man, who is driven to extreme lengths. There have been several filmed versions of this story, and in fact I watched the 1910 short version of this just last week. This one was an improvement over that, with good acting for the time, and excellent production design.   (7/10)

I watched it some time ago on Internet Archive. I also watched the 1949 British version a few weeks ago, and it's very good, too.  Anton Walbrook and Edith Evans are excellent.

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Alraune  (1930)  Germany/Dir: Richard Oswald  -  First sound version of the Hanns Heinz Ewers story, with Albert Bassermann as the respected scientist who creates an "artificial woman" using genetic information from a murderer and a prostitute to determine if immorality is hereditary. Brigitte Helm once again stars as the unfortunate title woman. Also with Harald Paulsen, Agnes Straub, and Martin Kosleck. The highlight for me was seeing revered German stage-and-screen actor Bassermann hamming it up in an over-the-top performance.   (6/10)

 

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The Erl King  (1931)  France/Dir: Marie-Louise Iribe  -  Adaptation of the Goethe poem, about a man taking his sick child through the countryside, where the child envisions being beckoned by the Erl King, lord of all supernatural creatures. There's some nice fantasy imagery, and some creepy frog-people, but not much else.

 

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The Living Dead  (1932)  Germany/Dir: Richard Oswald  -  Writer-director Oswald does a sound remake of his 1919 Eerie Tales, sort of. A journalist (Harald Paulsen) suspects a scientist (Paul Wegener) of murder. As the scientist goes on the run to escape justice, the journalist pursues, and the two find themselves in various perilous situations. The film features adaptations of Poe's The Black Cat and The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Feather, as well as Robert Louis Stevenson's The Suicide Club. However, instead of an anthology of separate stories, this time things are presented as one continuous tale, which is an unusual conceit. The sets are excellent, and some of the supporting players are good, especially in the asylum-set segment.   (6/10)

 

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La Llorona  (1933)  Mexico/Dir: Ramon Peon  -  The first Mexican horror movie! After a mysterious modern-day death, a doctor (Ramon Pereda) looks into stories of La Llorona, "The Crying Woman", a folktale about a ghost that haunts the night, forever wailing for her lost children. The ghost's origin is told via flashback, with much period detail. The film is creaky, but historically interesting, and at least mildly engaging throughout.  (6/10)

 

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The Student of Prague  (1935)  Germany/Dir: Arthur Robison  -  The title student (Anton Walbrook, credited under his real name of Adolf Wohlbruck) falls in love with an opera singer (Dorothea Wieck) but doesn't have the money or status to impress her. A mysterious mystic (Theodor Loos) offers to help the student improve his station, but the cost of doing so may be more than the student expects.

This is the fourth or fifth version of this story that I've seen. Like in most, the "student" seems a bit too old (Walbrook was nearly 40 when this was made), but he gives a good performance. This version features several songs, some performed in a barroom, others during stage performances, but I wouldn't go so far as to call this a musical.   (7/10)

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El Superloco  (1937)  Mexico/Dir: Juan Jose Segura  -  Minor horror comedy starring Leopoldo "Chato" Ortin as Sostenes, a drunken goofball who lives off the generosity of his doctor friend Alberto (Ramon Armengod). Alberto is investigating a mysterious local scientist named Dr. Dienys (Carlos Villarias) who seems to never age and who keeps a weird beast-man chained up in his basement. Also featuring Aurora Campuzano, Consuelo Frank, and Emilio Fernandez.

This is more of showcase for the "comedic" stylings of Ortin than a horror film. I didn't find him very funny. The highlight for me, such as it is, was seeing Villarias, best known for starring in the Spanish-language version of Dracula (1931), in something else, and he gives off Lugosi vibes here, too. I was also delighted to Emilio Fernandez as the mad doctor's scary assistant. Fernandez would go on to be a respected film director and character actor, and he's arguably best remembered in the US for playing the bandit leader in The Wild Bunch  (1969). The print of this on YT is very poor quality. Also known as The Super Madman and The Crazy Monster.   (4/10)

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Watched Il Posto last night on TCM.    While my wife, who grew up in Italy had heard of the film she had never seen it.

There was a lot to like about the film despite the storyline really not going anywhere (well expect in one-direction related to the title).   

My favorite part was when the two leads were just getting to know he other.    This came of as really genuine.    I also feel the actress Loredana Detto gave a great performance (as well as being well directed).     Her "I'm interested,,, but" way of how she interacted with the young man very refreshing. 

 Il Posto (1961) - IMDb

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