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Your Favourite Foreign Language Films


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1963

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The Fire Within (1963) Louis Malle, France

I finally caught up with this Malle film after taping it on TCM many years ago.  Robert Osborne introduced it as part of their Malle tribute.  I liked it quite a bit but having seen 33 other FF’s from this great year it didn’t make my top ten.  I’d like to see it again in a few years time.

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Welcome Mister Marshall (1953)  Spain/Dir: Luis Garcia Berlanga  -  When a small Castilian town is informed that representatives of the U.S. Marshall Plan European Recovery Act will be arriving soon, the townsfolk rally to present a good face in hopes of securing some much needed funding. Berlanga presents his usual mix of offbeat characters and rapid-fire dialogue, this time accentuated with some sharp social commentary via some fantasy sequences involving the townsfolk's dreams depicting their perceptions of America.   (7/10) 

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After the Curfew (1954)  Indonesia/Dir: Usmar Ismail  -  A troubled young man returns from fighting in the recent anti-colonialist war for independence and tries to put his pre-war life back together. However, social entanglements and unresolved trauma combine to undermine him at every step. This is considered a landmark film in Indonesian film, directed by the man credited with starting the nation's film industry. It's often technically sloppy compared to many other nation's films of the time, and some of the acting is clunky, but the story is moving and has universal resonance.   (7/10)

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1964

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7.  491 (1964) Vilgot Sjömän, Sweden

I was quite amazed that this film was made in 1964 and gained a release, albeit X rated.  It is not a 60’s erotic picture.  It is about delinquent boys who are grouped together in a half way house as a social experiment.  As can be expected this is no Boys Town (1938).  Lena Nyman who was soon to make her mark in the Swedish ‘Curious’ films is a standout as a young out-of-control prostitute.  Recommended.

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The Queen of Babylon  (1954)  Italy/Dir: Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia  -  A lonely farmgirl (Rhonda Fleming!!!) assists an injured Chaldean rebel leader (Ricardo Montalban). This causes her to be imprisoned by the evil Babylonian king Assur (Roldano Lupi), who quickly falls for her charms and decides to make her his queen. This is typical peplum stuff, with bad swordfights, a half-naked dancing girl scene, and big impressive sets. Based on the legend of Semiramis.   (5/10)

 

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Legions of the Nile  (1959)  Italy/Dir: Vittorio Cottafavi  -  Clunky telling of the Antony and Cleopatra tale, told from the point of view of Greek-Roman warrior Curridio (Ettore Manni). He tracks down Mark Antony (Georges Marchal) to try and get him to return to Rome and prevent a war with Octavius (Alfredo Mayo), but Antony has been bewitched by the beauty of Egyptian queen Cleopatra (Linda Cristal). There's more dancing girls, more swordfights, a couple of big barroom brawls, a large supporting cast of ridiculous characters, and decent production values. Fox reportedly tried suppressing this film so as not to distract from their own bloated Cleopatra a few years later.   (5/10)

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1965

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The Long Hair of Death (1965) Antonio Margheriti, Italy

Good atmospheric medieval chiller with Barbara Steele.  My criticism would be that it is a bit too predictable and plodding.

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Last of the Pagans (1935) Richard Thorpe, Tahiti/ USA- 7/10- Another goona goona type island film from director Richard Thorpe mostly in the Tahitian language. Taro lives in Tahiti with his kidnapped bride who gradually begins to fall in love with him but a problem arises when Taro is kidnapped by French sailors and forced into a mine while his woman is married off to another man. This is from the same year as Legong and is in sound and has better cinematography though the story did not move me as much as the previous film due to the hand waved happy ending. This film also lacks the nudity factor present in the other one that was heavily advertised to get men into theaters. Still this was a good film and I rate it my second favorite of 1935.

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Wuthering Heights  (1954)  Mexico/Dir: Luis Bunuel  -  Emily Bronte's tale is transposed to 19th century Mexico. The brief 90 minute runtime means a lot of the detail of the book is missing, but I liked it well enough, and the ending memorable. Reading comments on the film after watching it, I see that the opinions are split, with some calling it Bunuel's worst, and others calling it the best adaptation of Bronte's novel.    (6/10)

 

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Valley of the Dead  (2020)  Spain/Dir: Javier Ruiz Caldera & Alberto de Toro  -  Set during the Spanish Civil War, opposing forces must come together to survive a zombie outbreak created by the release of a Nazi-created chemical that revives the dead. This character-driven effort has quite a bit of humor, and everything is played tongue-in-cheek, which elevates the well-trod subject matter.   (6/10)

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2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967) An actress moonlighting as a prostitute serves as a springboard for Jean-Luc Godard to take a didactic tone towards capitalism (in his own voice-over) as a pernicious, omnipresent force, visualizing his displeasure with images of industrial landscapes, architecturally unappealing apartment buildings, and an overabundance of cleaning products. Following Anna Karina, Godard here works with a new muse, Marina Vlady. Her part-time prostitution is done for no discernible reason other than to earn extra money, and perhaps boredom.  She’s a good mother, and her husband, who works in a garage, is a bit of a pseudo-intellectual, who intently listens to radio dispatches of the Vietnam War. (One can read into this, albeit generously, as an unofficial apology for France’s colonialist history in planting the seeds for that conflict.) Vlady’s performance is detached (something she shares with the director’s previous female protagonists). Her interests in fashion, and shopping for clothes, escape a harsh treatment, perhaps because of the former’s importance to film. Indirectly, Godard celebrates mass consumerism, or at least understands the power of its persuasion. (Contradictions are part of the filmmaker’s body of work, and I find they enrich the experience.) The script has its share of philosophical mumbo jumbo, but there are also prescient statements about the evolution of language and communication.  Nevertheless, this is the aesthetic audiences associate with the filmmaker. Raoul Coutard’s color cinematography pops off the screen, and Godard’s ability to headily capture time and place remains intact. I didn’t find the messaging heavy-handed. 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her is a towering achievement, opening a window to where the director was headed.

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Dreams  (1955)  Sweden/Dir: Ingmar Bergman  -  The owner of a modeling agency (Eva Dahlbeck) and her top model (Harriet Andersson) travel for a photo shoot. They separate until the job is ready. The model meets a wealthy, older gentleman (Gunnar Bjornstrand) who takes on a shopping spree. Her boss arranges a rendezvous with her married lover (Ulf Palme). I'd rank this pretty low on the Bergman scale, although the acting is fine, and there's some moody B&W cinematography.  Also known as Journey Into Autumn.   (6/10)

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Floating Clouds  (1955)  Japan/Dir: Mikio Naruse  -  Set just after the end of WWII, the story chronicles the twice-cursed romance of Yukiko (Hideko Takamine) and the married Tomioka (Masayuki Mori). After meeting in French Indochina during the war and carrying on a brief dalliance, they are reunited in bombed-out Tokyo, where Tomioka lives with his ill wife, and Yukiko struggles to find work and shelter. 

This is a prime example of the tearjerker "woman's picture" that formed a cornerstone of Japanese cinema since its inception. The performances are good, and the mounting tragedies moving and engrossing. This isn't the type of film I'm normally interested in, but I still found myself entertained. Many respected directors regard this as a favorite (Scorsese, Wenders, Kurosawa), and a Japanese film journal listed this as the third best Japanese film of all time. I think that's taking things a bit far, but it's still worth seeing.    (7/10)

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Half Human  (1955)  Japan/Dir: Ishiro Honda  -  A group of mountain climbers encounter a strange village and a large Yeti-type creature living in a cave nearby. Some people want to capture the creature for exhibition, causing more trouble. Featuring Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, and Nobuo Nakamura. This was Toho's follow-up to the smash hit Gojira, but this rushed effort isn't nearly as good. Made to cash in on a trend for Abominable Snowman stories ( see The Snow CreatureMan-Beast, and The Abominable Snowman), this lacks the scale or the horror of Gojira.

The film's American rights were bought by a minor company that proceeded to edit out over half the film, including the dialogue, and add scenes featuring John Carradine as a scientist relating the story. This hatchet job was released to zero fanfare in 1958. For years the original version was hard to find, supposedly due to Toho's embarrassment over the depiction of the rural villagers. I finally found a poor copy of it on archive.org, but at least it was the original, subtitled version.   (5/10)

 

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1966

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7.  Samurai Wolf (1966) Hideo Gosha

The influence of Leone’s and Morricone’s A Fistful of Dollars (1964) is splashed across just about every frame of this really entertaining samurai picture.  There are plenty of well drawn characters with great plot twists and reveals.  I’m surprised (if) this has not been remade.

 

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Masculin Féminin (1966) Jean-Luc Godard, France

I finally caught up with this one and found it to be quite fun.  Not earth shattering - at least not anymore.

 

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Mademoiselle (1966) Tony Richardson, France

I saw the French/Italian language version of this film.  It is quite an odd tale about a repressed school teacher played by Jeanne Moreau in a small rural village who sets fires and instigates other criminal disasters so that she can watch a particular beefy man come to the rescue.  David Watkin’s photography is an asset.

 

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The Lodger (1966) Janusz Majewski, Poland

A young strait-laced man is state assigned a room in a shared suburban house after the death of one of its lodgers.  The other occupants are an assortment of eccentric women.  This is a hit-and-miss absurdist comedy.  One of the leads, Barbara Ludwizanka won the Best Actress Award at the Chicago International Film Festival.

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Sleeping Beauty  (1955)  West Germany/Dir: Fritz Genschow  -  Silly live-action version of the fairy tale, written, directed and co-starring (as the King) Genschow. Starring Angela von Leitner as the title character. There are a lot of fancy costumes and some silly creatures, like a large bug-eyed frog.   (5/10)

 

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Snow White  (1955)  West Germany/Dir: Erich Kobler  -  Silly live-action version of the fairy tale, with Snow White (Elke Arendt) menaced by the evil Queen (Addi Adametz) who is jealous of her beauty. The Seven Dwarfs appear to be children with bad fake beards.   (5/10)

Both films above were later released by AIP to American TV in dubbed versions, both narrated by Paul Tripp, and with some added terrible songs. There's also a West German version of Rumpelstiltskin from this same year that I want to see, but I haven't found a copy yet.

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The White Angel  (1955)  Italy/Dir: Raffaello Matarazzo  -  Sequel to 1951's Nobody's Children. After the events of the first film, Luisa (Yvonne Sanson) continues her life as a nun, while her ex-lover Carani (Amedeo Nazzari) is trapped in a loveless marriage. After even more tragedy strikes, Carani meets Lina (also Sanson), a lookalike for Luisa, but with an even more troubled life.

Matarazzo manages to ratchet up the melodrama, teetering ever so precariously toward camp as the tragedies pile up. Everything is played very serious and  straight, but a viewer could be excused for chuckling at the misfortunes on display.   (6/10)

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I wasn't inquiring about foreign films.  I wanted to say that I stumbled on  a Saturday morning cowboy movie with Tim Holt.  I am surprised I never saw any of his films as I grew up during the time his films were being made.   We had Gene Autrey, Hop-a-Long Cassidy, The Lone Ranger; but I don't remember his.  I really like his films and I especially like him.  He is so adorable with his dimples and smile.  I look forward to the next episodes every week.  I also thought he was great in  "The Treasure of Sierre Madre."  Keep showing his movies.  There is one coming up Thursday evening about a monster.  It made me sad to know he died so young.

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Official Competition (2021) Seeing three actors tear through their scenes with such gusto is rare. Thankfully, that’s the case with this biting, no-holds-barred comedy on art, showbiz, and thespian vanity, from Argentinean filmmakers Gastón Duprat and Mariano Cohn.  A billionaire, unsatisfied with philanthropy, purchases the rights to a prestigious book about sibling rivalry. He hires an eccentric, avant-garde director (an electrifying Penélope Cruz ) to adapt the novel into a film. She then brings on board two artistically and temperamentally mismatched actors: a pampered international star who enjoys the accompanying perks of money, women and awards; and a professorial theater actor who wears his elitism like a badge of honor. They are played by Antonio Banderas and Oscar Martinez, respectively. Thus, we get a movie about the rehearsal process in making a movie. Watching Cruz use unconventional methods to break down the ego of her leading men is hilarious, and the script keeps pulling out wonderful surprises. This is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.

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The Captain from Kopenick  (1956)  West Germany/Dir: Helmut Kautner  -  A recent parolee (Heinz Ruhmann) poses as a military in an effort to find employment. A broad satire on Prussian bureaucracy, made as a showcase for Ruhmann, who was a major star in Germany for decades. It failed to connect for me.   (5/10)

 

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I Will Buy You  (1956)  Japan/Dir: Masaki Kobayashi  -  Baseball scout Kishimoto (Keiji Sada) goes to great lengths to sign young phenom Kurita (Minoru Oki). Various people in Kurita's life try to steer him this way and that. Straightforward sports drama set in a milieu that I have little interest in, yet I still appreciated the performances.   (6/10)

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On 7/24/2022 at 3:43 PM, Diane Robinson said:

I wasn't inquiring about foreign films.  I wanted to say that I stumbled on  a Saturday morning cowboy movie with Tim Holt.  I am surprised I never saw any of his films as I grew up during the time his films were being made.   We had Gene Autrey, Hop-a-Long Cassidy, The Lone Ranger; but I don't remember his.  I really like his films and I especially like him.  He is so adorable with his dimples and smile.  I look forward to the next episodes every week.  I also thought he was great in  "The Treasure of Sierre Madre."  Keep showing his movies.  There is one coming up Thursday evening about a monster.  It made me sad to know he died so young.

Sir, this is a Wendy’s.

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The Phantom of the Red House  (1956)  Mexico/Dir: Miguel M. Delgado  -  Various characters gather at an old dark mansion for the reading of a will, only to be targeted by a mysterious masked killer. Yes, this is just like dozens of American films from the 30's and 40's, only interrupted occasionally for a musical performance. With Alma Rose Aguirre, Raul Martinez, and Antonio Espino. This was later released dubbed in the US by K. Gordon Murray.   (4/10)

 

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Ragnarok  (2013)  Norway/Dir: Mikkel Braenne Sandemose  -  A widowed archaeologist (Pal Sverre Hagen) takes his two young children on an expedition to a remote region of northern Norway in search of Viking relics. Joined by other colleagues and a gruff local guide, they discover a hidden island cave that's home to a creature out of legend. This is a slickly-made old-fashioned creature feature, with a slow build-up (the creature isn't glimpsed until nearly an hour into the movie) and well-drawn characters. In the end it doesn't amount to much, but fans of the genre could do much worse.   (6/10)

 

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Moloch  (2022)  Netherlands/Dir: Nico van den Brink  -  A single mom (Sallie Harmsen) living with her eccentric parents and precocious daughter gets wrapped up in a local mystery when an ancient bog body is discovered near their home. She quickly befriends an archaeologist (Alexandre Willaume) who is heading the excavation team, but a mounting series of strange occurrences leads them to believe something more sinister is afoot. This is well done slow-burn supernatural horror tale, firmly in the folk horror subgenre, with solid performances and excellent atmosphere. A good deal of this is in English, but 2/3rds are in Dutch.   (7/10)

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