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Your Favourite Foreign Language Films


Bogie56
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Qivitoq: The Mountain Wanderer  (1956)  Denmark/Dir: Erik Balling  -  A Danish woman (Astrid Villaume) makes a surprise visit to a small village in Greenland to surprise her doctor fiancé , but is herself surprised to find him having and affair and calling off their wedding. With a long wait until the next boat back to Denmark, the woman agrees to travel to an even smaller village further north, where she stays with a grouchy Dane (Poul Reichhardt). As the two slowly warm to each other, they are also caught up in the lives of the local natives. This Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film features some gorgeous color cinematography, and is said to be the first feature shot on location in Greenland. The footage of the calving glaciers must have been amazing at the time. The plot and the characters are only passable, and the acting by the amateur natives is what one would expect.   (6/10)

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1967

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2.  War and Peace (1967) Sergei Bondarchuk, Russia

I have put War and Peace in 1967 as I regard this now as one film.   It was originally released in four parts in 1966 and 1967.

Just a staggering achievement.  Probably the most expensive film ever made and no doubt that it could never be made today without the help of CGI.  I enjoyed it much more the second time around.  I managed to buy the rare Artificial Eye Region 0, 5 disc release of this film at the BFI which is not only longer than any other subtitled version but is loaded with extras as well.  It runs 403 minutes and that is at 25fps PAL speed.

 

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Samurai Wolf II (1967)  Hideo Gosha, Japan

Number 11 on my list.  This was just about as good as Samurai Wolf I (1966) with lots of action and precarious predicaments.

 

and I’ve also seen …

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An Evening In Paris (1967) Shakti Samanta, India

Sharmila Tagore who began her long career acting in Satyajit Ray films stars in this Bollywood romance set in Paris (for no good reason) and lots of other places.  I suspect the filmmakers locked in their travelogue locations and then fashioned an inane story of love, doppelgängers and kidnapping around them.  This often makes Jerry Lewis pictures look like a Robert Bresson film in comparison.  You cannot believe that a film angled toward adults can be so stupid.  Besides Paris the main characters appear in Switzerland and in the Med.  Spoiler ahead - When the crooks need a place to exchange money for the damsel in distress it is announced it will be in Niagra Falls!  Then off we go to Canada, where you might have guessed it the transfer will take place on a boat on the river above the falls which then has engine failure.

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Street of Shame  (1956)  Japan/Dir: Kenji Mizoguchi  -  Last film from respected director Mizoguchi looks at a group of prostitutes and their personal struggles as they wait to see if their trade will be outlawed pending a government vote. The cast includes Machiko Kyo, Ayako Wakao, Aiko Mimasu, Michiyo Kogure, and Hiroko Machida. Excellent performances.   (7/10)

 

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Teenage Wolfpack  (1956)  West Germany/Dir: Georg Tressler  -  Teenage rebel Freddy (Horst Buchholz), along with his brother (Christian Doermer) and girlfriend (Karin Baal), embark on an escalating crime spree. This German version of American JD movies made a star out of Buchholz, who'd been appearing in films and TV since '52. The English-dubbed version billed the star as "Henry Bookholt". This kind of film was common during the decade, but this one is fairly well done, and Baal is good in her debut.   (6/10)

 

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The Thick-Walled Room  (1956)  Japan/Dir: Masaki Kobayashi  -  This directorial debut from Kobayashi focuses on former soldiers held prisoner in an American Army-run prison. The inmates struggle to maintain their sanity and dignity, while reflecting on their pasts. This highly-controversial film was shot in 1952 but not released until 1956 when Shochiku, the production company, finally felt it would be possible to screen the film without edits. The film paints the prisoners in a favorable light, as men who followed orders, while the men "really responsible" were given lighter or non-existent sentences. The cast includes Ko Mishima, Torahiko Hamada, Keiko Kishi, and Tatsuya Nakadai in his debut.    (7/10)

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The 2020 winner of Norway’s Amanda Award for Best Picture went to ….

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The Painter and the Thief (2020), Benjamin Ree, Norway

 

The 2020 winner of Norway’s Amanda Award for Best Foreign Film went to ….

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Another Round (2020) Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark

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The Devil Strikes at Night  (1957)  West Germany/Dir: Robert Siodmak  -  During the waning days of WWII, police inspector Kersten (Claus Holm) looks into a series of murders of women that have occurred in Germany. A man is soon arrested and charged for the crimes, but Kersten thinks they may have the wrong man, and sets his sites on Bruno Ludke (Mario Adorf), a local "idiot" with a violent streak. However, Kersten soon learns that the ruling Nazi regime may be less interested in justice than in keeping things quiet. Also featuring Annemarie Durringer, Hannes Messemer, and Carl Lange.

Director Siodmak's career began in Germany in the early 30's, but he traveled to Hollywood during the war years, making such notable films as The Wolfman and The Killers. He returned to Europe in the 1950's, with this film being the arguable highlight, as it was nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. It was controversial then, and has only become more so with time, as the question of the real Ludke's guilt is in doubt, with many believing he was forced into confessing to as many as 82 murders. As a film this is well-made, ahead of its time in subject matter, and featuring good performances.   (7/10)

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The Body Snatcher  (1957)  Mexico/Dir: Fernando Mendez  -  The mad Dr. Panchito (Carlos Riquelme) and his henchmen murder professional wrestlers, steal their corpses, and then use them in brain transplant surgeries in hopes of obtaining the secret to immortality! Police Captain Carlos Robles (Crox Alvarado) enlists his old friend Guillermo (Wolf Ruvinskis) to go undercover as the masked wrestler El Vampiro to try and draw the evildoers into the open. This utterly ridiculous horror/wrestling movie ratchets up the silliness the longer the film goes on, and the final 15 minutes are a mind-blowing parade of strange story choices. It's not very good at all, but it's rarely boring.   (5/10)

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The Curse of the Aztec Mummy  (1957)  Mexico/Dir: Rafael Portillo  -  Second installment in the Aztec Mummy series. The villain from the first film, Dr. Krupp aka The Bat (Luis Aceves Castaneda), returns to once again kidnap Flor Sepulveda (Rosa Arenas), the reincarnation of the Aztec princess Xochitl, in hopes of forcing her to divulge the locations of a fabulous treasure. However, the evil Doctor and his gang must contend not only with the undead Aztec mummy Popoca (Angel di Stefani) who guards the treasure, but also masked superhero Angel (Crox Alvarado).

Falling between the original The Aztec Mummy (1957, released in the US as Attack of the Mayan Mummy) and the third film The Robot vs the Aztec Mummy (1957), this second entry is the worst. A lot of footage from the first film is repeated, and the addition of the Angel masked hero character makes very little sense and adds little to the meager entertainment. For Aztec mummy completists only!   (3/10)

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The Gates of Paris  (1957)  France/Dir: Rene Clair  -  Layabout artists Juju (Pierre Brasseur) and Artiste (Georges Brassen) have their lives upended when a fugitive killer (Henri Vidal) takes refuge in their rundown home. Also featuring Dany Carrel. A nice blend of comedy, drama and atmosphere, with good performances and a few memorable sequences.   (7/10)

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On the 3rd Day  (2021)  Argentina/Dir: Daniel de la Vega  -  Muddled supernatural thriller with a mother (Mariana Anghileri) searching for her young son after a traffic accident. Left dazed and unsure of her surroundings, the mother slowly comes to realize something more sinister is afoot. My description is kind of vague, as the greatest value in this misfire is the reveal of what's actually going on. I had it figured out somewhat early, but it wasn't the two scenarios that seemed the most obvious. The first 2/3rds of the film are a real mess (much of it intentional, to raise the sense of confusion felt by the main character), but the last act has some good effects and creepy atmosphere.    (5/10)

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Nine Lives  (1957)  Norway/Dir: Arne Skouen  -  True story of Jan Baalsrud (Jack Fjeldstad), a Norwegian resistance fighter during WWII who becomes trapped alone behind enemy lines. He makes a daring escape attempt through the frozen Lapland wilderness, with occasional help from friendly locals along the way. I enjoyed the film well enough, but it suffers from a fatal flaw - the film begins with Baalsrud recovering in hospital, and he then tells his story via flashback to a reporter. Therefore the many times the film relies on the suspense of will-he-or-won't-he make it are totally undercut, since we know he must. It's still worth checking out, though, particularly if that sort of thing doesn't bother you. An informal poll of the Norwegian public in the 1990's named this as the greatest Norwegian film ever made, and it was also nominated for the Foreign Film Oscar.   (6/10)

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Swamp of the Lost Monster  (1957)  Mexico/Dir: Rafael Baledon  -  Typical western-horror-comedy-mystery. A detective searches for answers when bodies start piling up and a strange creature is spotted in a nearby swamp. This was pretty terrible, with a very laughable "creature". Like many Mexican genre films of the era, it was picked up by K. Gordon Murray, poorly dubbed and re-edited, and released on an unsuspecting American public. Also released as Swamp of Lost Souls.   (3/10)

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The Third Sex  (1957)  West Germany/Dir: Veit Harlan  -  Here's a real oddity. Klaus (Christian Wolff) is an artistic young man whose family feel that he's spending too much time with his male friend Manfred (Guenther Theil) and their "bachelor" mentor and antiques dealer Dr. Winkler (Friedrich Joloff). To subvert his homosexual tendencies, the parents enlist their young and pretty maid Gerda (Ingrid Stenn) to seduce Klaus. 

This was very daring stuff for the time, and faced a lot of censorship both in its home country and abroad. Various versions exist under several titles, including Different from You and Me and Bewildered Youth. The director had been responsible for some Nazi propaganda films during the war years, including the infamous Jud Suss (1940). The gay guys have parties where they listen to and play weird proto-electronica music and watch wrestling. One of a kind.   (5/10)

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A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces (2022), Shengze Zhu, China - 8/10- This documentary features footage of daily life in Wuhan under the quarantine during the worst parts of the COVID outbreak. Interspersed are letters written by living family members to their relatives who died of COVID. The first letter with the husband writing to his deceased wife about raising his daughter after her death was extremely difficult to get through. When he talks about crying while making food and crying under the sheets in bed at night so as not to worry his son that really hit me. I was in tears. He mentions looking at a photo of the three of them wearing silly light up hats for a festival and he found the hat under the sofa but it was broken and even batteries wouldn't make it light. That whole letter made me pause the film and sob uncontrollably before continuing. Seriously, this documentary does not sound very interesting from IMDB or Wikipedia's description but this is just really heavy stuff. This is both sad but also optimistic as it depicts the living continuing about their daily lives and powering through the ordeal. This movie should be shown to any COVID/ vaccine deniers FORCEABLY if it must. I can not recommend this film enough. German Wikipedia lists the US release as April 2022 at the Seattle International Film Festival so I am counting the film towards this current year and I have to say this is an extremely relevant and important documentary. Probably my current pick for this year.

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Arms and the Man  (1958)  West Germany/Dir: Franz Peter Wirth  -  Adaptation of the George Bernard Shaw play. Bluntschli (O.W. Fischer) is a Swiss mercenary working for the Serbian army. After his unit is routed in battle, he seeks refuge in a nearby Bulgarian village. Unfortunately, his choice for a hiding place happens to be the home of Raina (Liselotte Pulver), the fiancée of the Bulgarian officer that just defeated him. Much romantic wackiness ensues. Also featuring Ellen Schwiers, Jan Hendriks, Ljuba Welitsch, and Kurt Kaszner.

This reminded of the sort of thing Lubitsch was making in the early 30's. It's pleasant enough, and looks nice, but ultimately ephemeral. It was an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film.   (6/10)

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Goddess of Love  (1957)  Italy/Dir: Viktor Tourjansky & Fernando Cerchio  -  Praxiteles (Massimo Girotti) is an Athenian sculptor working on a statue of Aphrodite. He's using as his model young beauty Iride (Belinda Lee). Their lives are upended when Laertes (Jacques Sernas), an injured Macedonian military officer, is discovered by Iride, who brings him to Praxiteles' studio to hide him out until he can heal and return to his people. Naturally the Macedonian falls in love with Iride, drawing the jealousy of the sculptor.

I was expecting Greek mythological fantasy (one description of this film stated that Zeus turns Aphrodite into a mortal in order to find true love, which never happens in this movie) or else peplum-style fighting and heroism. Instead, this is a fairly sedate romantic drama, highlighted by the widescreen, color compositions. The original Italian title, translated as The Virgin of Cheronea, was changed to Goddess of Love. To confuse things further, there's a 1958 film, originally titled Slave Girl of Corinth, that was also released as Aphrodite, Goddess of Love. Like most of these peplum films, this exists in various dubs and running times. IMDb lists it as 66 minutes long, Wikipedia lists it as 90 minutes, while the Italian-language version I saw was 84 minutes.   (5/10)

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Brink of Life  (1958)  Sweden/Dir: Ingmar Bergman  -  Three women wait together in a hospital maternity ward: Cecilia (Ingrid Thulin) has just had a miscarriage, causing her to reassess her future; Hjordis (Bibi Andersson) is young and unmarried, and her status as a single mother causes conflict with her mother; and Stina (Eva Dahlbeck), happily married and preparing for a bright future with her loving husband, but her delivery is overdue. Also featuring Erland Josephson, Max Von Sydow, and Barbro Hiort af Ornas. Typically excellent character study featuring fine performances. This won a Best director prize for Bergman at Cannes, and Thulin, Andersson, Dahlbeck, and Ornas shared the Best actress prize at the same.   (7/10)

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1968

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1.  Stolen Kisses (1968) Francois Truffaut, France

I saw this again recently and moved it up to my number one FF of the year.

 

and I’ve also seen …

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Affair In the Snow (1968) Yoshishige Yoshida, Japan

A young woman escapes the big city and travels north to the wintery mountains.  She is followed by the boyfriend she recently dumped and an old flame that she meets along the way.  It’s style, music and photography is reminiscent of the French New Wave but this is no Jules and Jim.  Pleasant enough but for me it seemed to run out of screenplay after an hour.

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The Pirate of the Black Hawk  (1958)  Italy/Dir: Sergio Grieco  -  Pirate captain Riccardo (Gerard Landry) and his men work to restore the throne of the Montefortes, which has been usurped by the evil Manfred (Andrea Aureli) and his Saracen horde. With Mijanou (sister of Brigitte) Bardot. I thought this was awful in every respect. I would have graded even lower but I'm not sure how poor the copy I watched was, although it was widescreen and color; I read that the later American release was cropped and in B&W.   (3/10)

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The Sword and the Cross  (1958)  Italy/Dir: Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia  -  Courtesan Mary Magdalene (Yvonne De Carlo) tempts Roman military officer Gaius (Jorge Mistral), but her attention is drawn to some guy named Jesus. Italian peplum-style religious drama with the emphasis on fiction, drawn out and dull. Also released as Mary Magdalene, and not to be confused with The Sword and the Cross (1956), another Italian flick also known as Slave of Carthage.   (5/10)

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Village on the River  (1958)  Netherlands/Dir: Fons Rademakers  -  After an unfortunate turn of events, the citizens of a small Dutch village turn against their town physician, Dr. Van Taeke (Max Croiset), who stubbornly tries to continue in his duties. This was the first Dutch film to garner international acclaim, and was nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. I enjoyed it, with an emphasis on characters, and some striking B&W cinematography.   (7/10)

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The Warrior and the Slave Girl  (1958)  Italy/Dir: Vittorio Cottafavi  -  Honorable Roman Centurion Marcus Numidius (Ettore Manni) is sent to Armenia to quell a slave rebellion led by gladiator Asclepius (Georges Marchal). The Roman is soon enamored by the local Princess Amira (Gianna Maria Canale), but he learns there are sinister plots at work, and enlists the aid of sympathetic slave girl Zahar (Mara Cruz). Typical peplum stuff, with sweaty gladiator battles and Roman-era women with 1950's hair & makeup. The original Italian title translates as The Revolt of the Gladiators.   (5/10)

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The Black Pit of Dr. M  (1959)  Mexico/Dir: Fernando Mendez  -  Shortly before Dr. Aldama dies, he promises his colleague Dr. Mazali (Rafael Bertrand) that he will contact him from the "other side", proving the existence of an afterlife. Meanwhile, Mazali continues to operate his mental asylum, while training a new doctor (Gaston Santos). Also featuring Mapita Cortes, Carlos Ancira, Carolina Barret, and Abel Salazar. This atmospheric mash-up of several horror archetypes (mad scientist, ghosts, insane killers, scarred lab assistants, possession) is very well shot in B&W, and the performances are pitched just the right amount of over-the-top. One of the better Mexican horror films from the classic era that I've seen.   (7/10)

There was a dubbed version that played in American theaters and on TV, but strangely it is now thought to be lost.

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The winner of the 2022 Sweden’s Goteborg International Film Festival Best Picture Award was …

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Compartment Number 6 (2021) Juho Kuosmanen, Russia

 

The winner of the 2022 Sweden’s Goteborg International Film Festival Best International Picture Award was …

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Playground (2021) Laura Wandel, Belgium

 

The winner of the 2022 Sweden’s Goteborg International Film Festival Best Nordic Picture Award was …

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As In Heaven (2021) Tea Lindeburg, Denmark

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1969

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The Lady From Constantinople (1969) Judit Elek, Hungary

An elderly lady wishes to downsize from her two bedroom apartment and enters the bizarre practise of searching for someone to ‘house swap’ with.  This is a dry comedy about a mad, chaotic world which was peculiar of Hungary in the 60’s.  Its lead, Manya Kiss won Hungarian Week’s Best Actress Award.

 

and I’ve also seen ….

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A Man For Emmanuelle (1969) Cesare Canevari, Italy

As one imdb reviewer put it, “an art house film about a mentally unbalanced woman who stumbles through several unpleasant sexual encounters with men.”  Erika Blanc does a good impression of a store mannequin in the title role.  This reminded me of Woody Allen’s Italian segment in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex.  Adolfo Celi has a small part.

 

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Destroy, She Said (1969) Marguerite Duras, France

Ridiculous.

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