75 From Around The World: My Favorite Foreign Flix
55 5 5.675. Saint Nick (2010)
For those of you may like your festive foreign films to have a bit of an edge (like the kind of edge you might find at the end of a large bladed object),
y'all may want check out "Saint" ("Sint" in it's original Dutch title.....don't know why Listal has it listed as "Saint Nick" in it's english translation, but whatever.......).
It even features a few Black Petes, though why they're called Black has nothin' to do with their skin color. It's about what these guys & their jolly ol' leader do on when they're out on their slayrides.
50 6.4 6.474. Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance (1974)
Lady Snowblood is an asian butt-kicking femme with whom I fell in love with instantly after her first foray in film the year previous.
In Love Song of Vengeance she returns, but with her primary goal of vengeance already satiated from the original movie, she then sets her mind & her katana (although through circumstances not of her choosing) towards the political realm of espionage.
And as we all know, there's more than enough blood in that arena to quench the thirst of anyone's (man or woman) sword.
76 6.9 6.673. Mothra (1961)
One of the things I liked about the Toho daikaiju was their ability to incorporate really cool & creative story-ideas into the middle of the rubbery cheese that was running amok thru the cardboarded streets & buildings of Nippon.
Mothra being my favorite example. Two tiny little beauties act almost as their familiars, who communcate telepathically with great godlike beast. Also, Mothra is usually treated as a Phoenix-like enity, in that every time it dies, it is soon ressurected as a giant egg, soon to hatch into it's larvae form (almost as equally formidable as it's adult moth stage).
For me, it's the over-all mythological slant that accompanies this particular kaiju that sets it apart from it's floppy-footed counterparts & therefore makes it one of my more favorites of the eastern-themed genre.
28 6.5 6.672. The Invisible (2002)
A high school teenager finds himself to be invisible to all the other kids in school. And not just cuz of his lack of personality.
The boy's a ghost, & thus begins a tale of redemption from beyond the "other side".
The Invisible (or Den Osynlige, in it's original Swedish title) is yet another fine example of a "foreign" film that got kinda ignored here in the States b'cuz Hollywood decided to produce an inferior remake instead.
Gotta love those formula flicks, huh?
260 7.7 7.771. Lady Snowblood (1973)
646 7.2 7.270. Thirst (2009)
Y'know, in their earliest appearances in the cinema, vampires were made to be that dwelled within the genre of horror.
After a while, particularly through the sixties & 70's, the idea of a fanged neck-biter became aligned more on the campiness of creature features. Nowadays, we tend to divide 'em into the two categories: that of the comicbook crowd (as in Blade) or worse, in the rallying side of the romantics (you know what I'm talking about).
In this film, we get to see the concept of vampirism in manner that was probably the original intention of those whose first spawned the folklore:
As a soul-craving thirst to unleash our deepest desires & darkest urges with an immortality that flies above pitiful human morals.
I never realized that I scribe down something so.... Freudian.
1057 7.2 7.369. Audition (1999)
Y'know how when you try to wake up your foot after it's fallen asleep & it then feels like there are a hundred thin needles piercing thru the flesh? Raise the level of that feeling from uncomfortable to horrific,
add a little razor-wire & an angelic smile, & there you go. You've got this movie.
Rarely does the face of horror look so beautiful and hurt so torturously bad at the same time.
156 7.6 7.268. Noroi: The Curse (2005)
A horror mockumentary in almost the exact same vein as Blair Witch Project.
To be honest, this story of an ancient curse bought forth to modern times comes off as a bit more complicated than it needs to be, not to mention some of the sidepaths the plot takes feels like they could've been edited out.
But still, the end does add a bit of freakiness horror that is usually expected in shaky-cam subcategory of the horror genre.
By no means perfect, but still, as someone who has grown restlessly tired of the formulaic so-called scare flick that the American movie market has been cranking out for the past decade or so,
I'm just glad to see any effort that steps out of the today's horror-themed same-ol' same-ol'.
275 6.8 6.867. Cronos (1993)
What is the secret if eternal life?
Why, human blood, of course.
So if you wanna live forever, try becoming a gosh-to-honest vampire.
But, as we all know by now (from watching movies like this one), there comes quite a high price to pay for becoming an eternal bloodsucker.
A price that kinda gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "get busy living or get busy dying".
49 6 6.466. Rammbock (2010)
Zombies who speak German. Well, not actually speak.....
growl is more like it. But still, whatever noise you can hear rumbling from outta their rotworm-infested mouths, it's definitely Deutschland.
Actually, to be honest, while I liked this film, when it comes to the zombie genre, I still found to be somewhat underwhelming. However I decided to still include it on this list just because any time anyone makes an honest effort to create a quality zombie flick with it's own unique twist, it's always a good thing.
Besides, as just a stand alone foreign flick, it has enough for me to give it's own entry here.
441 6.6 765. Troll Hunter (2010)
104 7.4 6.964. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (The Living Dead at... (1974)
To be honest,
I completely agree with the title of this film.
We truly need to simply just let sleeping corpses lie.
Cuz if we did,
we wouldn't have to worry about all this zombie apocalypse craziness.
And there would be no need to have to publish any handbooks depicting how to handle the situation.
Not to mention that our delectable edible brains (a cornerstone of any zombie's nutritious breakfast) would be able to sleep alot easier at night.
345 7.4 7.763. Drunken Master (1978)
Now while I agree with most people that (Legend Of The) Drunken Master II was technically a better & more masterful movie, this film is the beginning, & my favorite one featuring Jackie Chan's comedic style of "combat". There are still times when I watch the action scenes of DM & they still seem as energetic, cool & creatively crazy today as back when this first came out.
And to this day, there are many times when those alcoholic induced martial arts moves inspire me to think "I bet I could fight like that too."
If I was drunk.
74 5.6 6.262. Cold Prey 2 (2008)
Okay, lemme start off by saying that I'm not that a big fan of the slasher flick. So it's rare that I like one (I made a list of the few that I like watching, and it only came out to ten films). What's even more rare is that I'll like a slasher flick sequel.
I enjoyed the first Cold Prey enough to see why it was such a surprise success. This 2nd installment, made more as a result of that the first one did so well (as opposed to a story that had always been planned to be made as a series from the start), follows the standard of other sequels that came from unexpected successful movies; it's not as good as the original. However, because it was somewhat willing to venture outside the formula it's predecessor, it felt more as an extension of the first film & not simply as a xerox-copied script hoping to just lazily cash in.
846 7.7 7.561. Suspiria (1977)
A young woman travels from the States to Germany so that she can enroll into a prestigious academy of dance. And soon finds that, instead of the graceful gallop of ballet, her instructors are more focused on the mystic moves that come from dancing with the devil.
No matter what decade of cinema it is, past or present, most movies that have a dark themed story-line about dark magic try to convey their dark feeling of darkness by monochromatically limiting the color schemes to one or two dark colors. However, Suspiria jumps to the other side of the spectrum and emphasizes vibrant colors in order to convey the blackness of the stygian magicks that are brewing in it's plot.
159 5.5 5.960. The Horde (2009)
A band of police detectives decide to go rogue & take vengeance on a gangleading drug-dealer for their fallen comrade-in-arms.
However, they soon find out that even the most well-planned revenge raid can go wrong. And just when they think that it can't get any worse than finding themselves at the mercy of their enemy.
La Horde is the kind of film that once you shamble out of the theatre after watchin' it, you will realize that no matter how bad a situation you're life is in, you haven't hit rock bottom until you've hit the level of a zombie apocalypse.
Kinda makes you wanna start smelling the roses, huh?
548 8 859. Hard Boiled (1992)
287 8.1 7.958. That Obscure Object of Desire (1977)
Here's a movie that is remembered not just as probably the best foreign film of the year 1977 (one of my faves of the decade, to be sure), but also as a movie where two actresses alternatively play the same female lead character, who happens to be a Sevillian flamenco dancer and a tease. And when you think about it, two ladies making up one woman of that particular make up, it leads to a very profound and philosophical question;
is there any object of desire more obscure than that?
1540 8.3 8.457. Metropolis (1927)
As I get on in years, I've tried to keep my mind open to as many styles of film as possible by not limiting myself to liking any specific kind of genre. But the truth is, if I looked at all the films that I've enjoyed the most, the category that would occupy the largest amount on my list would definitely go the science fiction genre. And when it comes to the idea of high production value for the purposes of a high scale sci-fi flick,
this is the aptly titled one that started it all.
658 7.3 7.556. The Devil's Backbone (2001)
Guillermo Del Toro's tale of how an orphanage-turned-temporary safe-haven begins to show signs of a haunting after one of the orphan boys disappears (can you see why I stressed the comparison to Del Toro on my Orhanage entry?).
A story that may seem somewhat simplistic at first,
but when combined with the background dramas of both the lead characters, along with those hinted at of the supporting characters, along with the blatant "not-so-blatant" metaphors that are the director's strong-suit (that is, it's his strong-suit only if he isn't directing a Hellboy movie),
The Devil's Backbone turns out to be a satisfyingly rich movie that goes more for creepy metaphysical melodrama than it does for in-your-face scare tactics.
4725 8.1 8.555. Amélie (2001)
39 5.6 5.954. They Came Back (2004)
The dead have come back to life. But this time, they're not out for blood, brains or body parts. They just want to live amongst the living.
Thus begins the process of re-integration and healing.
But if anyone thinks that people can just go on to the other side, and then just come right back, they're wrong. Dead wrong.
Oh, okay, maybe that makes this movie sound a bit more cryptic than it really is, but still,
the message of "you just can't go home again" still applies.
Le Revenants/They Came Back is definitely whay you'd call an unconventional take on the zombie genre.
223 7.5 7.753. Cell 211 (2009)
643 8.2 8.452. Yojimbo (1961)
Akira Kurosawa's answer to "The Man With No Name" type of cowboy flicks. And of course, I'm sure it goes without saying the Clint Eastwood classic "A Fistful of Dollars" was remake of this.
So, I guess you can say that this is a sushi eastern with a splash of spaghetti western.
Wait, that doesn't make any sense, does it?
Ah screw it.
Let's just say that when it comes to Kurosawa klassics, this is one of those must-sees for any serious film student.
149 7.1 7.751. Voices of a Distant Star (2003)
Love knows no bounds.
Even in the midst of an intergalactic war with a buncha Martians (in this case, they are particular type of Martian known as "Tarsians"),
this movie shows that as long as you've got a cell phone, a good distance carrier & a hell of alot patience,
long distance relationships can work.
And as most of us who've been stuck in a short distance relationship for quite a while know,
sometimes, the idea of flyin' around in space in cool manga tech-gear & battling a buncha aliens, light years away from Earth, sounds alot like heaven.
341 6.5 6.850. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
Forget what you may have learned about Santa's origins in the Santa Claus Is Coming To Town tv special. This movie shows that St. Nick started out more as a punishing vigilante whose purpose was rooted in a dark quest for justice against those youngins who ended up on the naughty list. Back then, it was the bad kids who had to "put one foot in front of the other" as they ran like hell if they wanted even the slimmest chance of living long enough to see the New Year.
219 7 7.449. Fist of Fury (The Chinese Connection) (1972)
forget all those stupid Chuck Norris internet memes that you see running ridiculously rampant all over the world wide web. The reality is, his so-called brass balls could never hope to stand a chance against Bruce Lee's raging fists of fury. Let's face it, Chuck's milquetoast martial arts style is nothing but a mockery of a not so mortal combat. The truth is, there is only one true path to the style of the original oriental street fighting technique. And that way is through the path of the man known simply as The Dragon and his Chinese Connection.
187 7.7 7.648. Iron Monkey (1993)
245 7.8 7.947. Adam's Apples (2005)
In Casino Royale, Mads Mikkelsen played a bad guy who bled from his eyes, based off a James Bond book by Ian Fleming.
In Adam's Apples, he plays a sick guy who bleeds from his ears based off the Book Of Job by ....well uhmnn.... God, I guess.
Either way, same actor, two completely different yet distinctively cool movies.
1356 8 846. Nosferatu (1922)
697 8.1 7.945. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)
A simple story of a simple girl who discovers that she can simply leap thru time. But instead of using her powers for good, or even for evil for that matter, she uses it in a manner that we all wish we could if we were so magically endowed (especially if we were her age): to make up time when we were late, to retake exams we didn't study for, to get to our favorite snacks in the fridge before our annoying little siblings got the chance to polished 'em off, etc..
Which all leads up to a simple coming of age story that is as simply & beautifully told as it is simply & beautifully animated.
Simply put, simply beautiful.
263 8 844. The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)
The year is 1940, and a traveling movie theatre has just shown the film version of "Frankenstein" to a small village in Spain (which has just started recovering from it's recent civil war). Transformed by what she sees on the screen, young Ana, along with her sister Isabel, becomes determined to search out this "spirit-monster".
This is the type of arthouse film that I think can easily get pushed into the category of those other films that are so abstract, that they tend to get parodied or spoofed as vague un-understandable cinematic claptrap.
While I agree that Spirit Of The Beehive's visual presentation likes to include alot of open spaces for it viewers to interpret, I think that there's enough (more than enough, actually) in it's story to keep these interpretations reeled in. Or, at least, from straying too far off it's rails.
732 6.6 7.143. Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
A really cool blockbuster epic from France that is half historic film, half horror adventure.
A beastly creature is terrorizing the locals of the southern French province of Gévaudan. But is it an actual werewolf of many a folkloric legend 0r just an oversized man-eating wolf?
There are only two men who can find out,
and one them is the dude who hosts Iron Chef America!
Not since the Wolf-Man took on Abbott & Costello has there been such a clash of legendary titans!
327 8.1 8.442. Scenes from a Marriage (1973)
While the majority of films are about belief-suspending escapism or explosive sensationalism, every once in a while, there comes director with an adult vision for films with adult themes for adult mindsets.
Ingmar Bergman is one of those types of directors & his 1973 Scenes From A Marriage is one of those types of movies. Using a series of episodic scenes along with some other distinctive storytelling devices, it examines a marriage through a lengthy period of time & it's disintegration over the years. Apparently responsible for a rise in divorce rates in it's home country of Sweden, it exemplifies the kind of analytical storytelling that made this time of film-making universally thought-provoking & so "gutsyly" unique.
266 8 7.941. Nine Queens (2000)
A partnership is struck up when a chance meeting brings two scam artists together, and thus begins a day full of grift-games, con-jobs & hoodwinking hustles.
While one trickster is well experienced, the other is still wet behind the ears. But together, they begin to learn a few new tricks from each other strengths, which eventually leads to a scheme with a potential score that's big enough to get each man stamped out of his own personal jam.
Fast-paced & simplistically complicated, Nine Queens is the type of slight-of-hand cinema that is fun to watch as layers of the plot consistently continues to unfold & non-trustworthy characters unerringly appear to come out of the woodwork.
630 7.7 7.640. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
I gotta tell you guys, I hate most remakes.
Or, more specifically, I hate remakes of quality classic films.
There's a reason why a classic is a "classic". If a film is considered a classic, there's very little reason to remake it. Because, most of the time, the remake will never be able to make the kinda mark that the first one did.
I don't even like watching remakes that are generally considered good. Because, even if they're good, for me, they're still not as great as the original. I always felt why should I settle for watching something "good" when I can watch something "great". (I guess that's why you don't see Let Me In on this list....)
As I said at the beginning, I hate most remakes.
Obviously, since this movie is on this list, I'm sure that you've figured out by now that Nosferatu the Vampyre is an example of one of the rare few that I like.
Directed by the stylishly cinematic talents of Werner Herzog, it's no wonder that the updated Nos pays homage to the original quite faithfully, yet with just enough distinction to stand on it's own.
149 6.3 6.439. Cold Prey (2006)
A Norwegian-speaking cabin in the woods type of flick that follows the formula of the more well=known american franchises of the Freddy Kruger/ Michael Myers variety. Except, instead of a cabin, it takes place in an abandoned hotel. And also, the teenagers that terrorized by knife wielding slashmaster (a mountain man in this instance) are not so much in the woods as they are in the snowy mountains of Jotunheimen.
1534 7.5 7.638. Volver (2006)
Living in Madrid, Raimanda is a wife & mother who, in an incident that instantly makes her a widow, suddenly finds her's & her daughter's small household in jeopardy as family secrets threaten to come forward. Trying to formulate a plan, she is soon juggling the responsibilities of running a restaurant with trying to get rid of evidence that could be her family's undoing.
And if all that wasn't enough, there are now rumors that the ghost of her deceased mother has been seen wandering about the premises of the apartment studio/hair salon owned by Raimanda's sister, Soledad.
But is it really some kind of apparition or just the results of her family's dark's secrets finally coming out to the open?
96 6.8 6.837. Fear(s) of the Dark
From the country of France comes a really cool anthology horror film that's done all in black & white animation. Five different short stories, each written by one of five different artist and/or comic book creators with a style based on that particular creator's artwork. In between the tales are two running intervals which primary purposes is to stitch the whole thing together. Each segment's animation is done with a real sense of vibrancy, despite the monochromatic color scheme, which serve's to enhance the feel of creepiness that is the heart of this project's intention.
And while not every story may send you to sleep afterwards with nightmares, they will plant within your brain images that can convey the kind of creepy uncomfortableness that will make any sleeper dreaming these dreams to squirm spasmodically in their bed.
In other words, Peur(s) Du Noir is just plain good stuff all around.
890 6.9 736. The Host (2006)
Chemicals get dumped into the Han River,
and several years later,
the result of man's disregard for the aquatic ecological balance surfaces in the form of a....a...
well, in this film they call it a host.
I say, it's more of a giant walking catfish with Olympic level gymnastic skills.
Whatever you wanna call it,
it's payback time for all the centuries that humans have been hoisting waterbreathing critters outta the water since back when we first learned how to bait a hook.
And as far as the Host is concerned, this is a case in which the law of catch & release does not apply.
1405 7.9 8.135. Akira (1988)
2594 8.2 8.434. Oldboy (2003)
A hard-bitten, no-holds barred tale of revenge that bites hard & holds no bars. And while I know that sentence is doublely redundant, it seems to fit the situation as far the level of emotional ravishing that this story leads it's characters up to. Brutal it may be, it's a film that depicts it story in an operatic level & with a refreshing energy to give the film a distinct life that widely separates it from the standard vengeance theme of traditional Hollywood-fare. IMO, a great flick that is armed with a in-your-face type of plot twist & proves that the medium of the graphic novel & comicbook (of which this movie is based off) is a world full of potentially good cinema, if one is willing to shuffle passed the mainstream same old same old.
1731 7.6 7.833. Battle Royale (2000)
In the not too distant future, an entire grade level of high school students are planted on a island & forced to either kill themselves or defend themselves, until there's only one left standing.
A system of discipline to show 'em how to respect authority that might prove to be more efficient than staying after school cleaning erasers or detention, but probably won't be as enduring.
the kids would all be dead an' stuff.
500 6.1 6.632. [REC] 2 (2009)
How do you up the ante of a zombie flick that already raised the level of real horror & therefore finally busted through the mired schlock that had infected the genre?
revealing the answer to that question would require some big-time spoiler,
so let me just say,
it's about time the films about the living dead starting showing some new signs of life.
654 8.2 831. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
Rafting down through the Amazonian jungles in search of the famed "Lost City of Gold" known as El Dorado, a scouting troop of conquistadors find that with the results of their mutinous rebellion on one side & the hidden dangers of the forests, on the other,
both sides seem determined to put them face to face with the Wrath of God.
2316 7.2 7.330. Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
"You cannot say to the sun, 'More sun.' Or to the rain, 'Less rain.' To a man, geisha can only be half a wife. We are the wives of nightfall. And yet, to learn kindness after so much unkindness, to understand that a little girl with more courage than she knew, would find her prayers were answered, can that not be called happiness? After all these are not the memoirs of an empress, nor of a queen. These are memoirs of another kind. "
1284 7.1 7.529. The Orphanage (2007)
An orphanage-turned-family-household begins to show signs of a haunting after an adopted orphan dissappears, leaving his adopted mother on a quest that will result in either solving the mystery of her son's dissappearance, or lead her down a cryptic road to madness.
A film that's so Guillermo-Del-Toroesque, that it comes off almost exactly like a Guillermo Del Toro film. And surprise, surprise, even though it was neither written or directed by Señor Del Toro, he did pick it up as producer (the script was from the hand of Sergio G. Sánchez & the film was directed by Juan Antonio Bayona). However, let it be known that making such a comparison is not any kind of accusation of imitation, but more of a compliment to all those involved in making this creepy entertaining ghost tale which gears itself towards those viewers who are armed with an attention span.
208 7.1 728. Chocolate (2008)
It's been said that many people suffering from austism tend to develope some kind of focused talent to make for the lack of awareness. Like being able to do complex mathematical problems instantly or sculpt exquisite works of art from memory.
Zen is a young, autistic tweener-aged girl whose photographic memory allows her to copy advanced fighting techniques by watching television or by observing the students in a Muay Thai school next to her home.
An ability that helps in ensuring that Zen gets an entry high up in the upper echelons of female badassery.
1516 7.5 7.827. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
Actually, this is really an entry for the entire Millennium Trilogy (DragonTattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire &The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest).
A trio of tales that follows the tale of a social misfit with an exceptional talent as a computer hacker and the relationship that she forms with an investigative journalist.
Each chapter in this trilogy is a quality, provocative story & IMO, each one stands well out on it's own as a feature film.
87 7.5 7.626. Small Change (aka Pocket Money) (1976)
Outside of his role in Close In Encounters Of The Third Kind, famed French director Francois Truffaut never had much of break-out career in the mainstream market. That's because, as this film shows, he was never the mainstream kind of guy when it came to making movies.
However, as many hardcore film connoisseurs will attest, his contribution to the medium was pretty significant, particularly as a forerunner of the French New wave movement from the 50's & 60's.
L'Argent de poche, translated into Pocket Money, but called Small Change in U.S. side of the market, is one his later works and one his most popular.
While all those titles are work this movie, IMO, Small Change fits the best as this features not so much a linear storyline than a series of vignettes that are sewn together by the central theme of childhood lessons, some playful, some not so much.
I think that this is kind of a small milestone of Truffaut's work in that it sort of displays the accumulation of his particular brand of expressive filmmaking. Small Change demonstrate's the director's ability to connect different episodes of childlike spontaneity and film them in an order that, along with the few bits of intersected, scripted dialogue from adults, allows the pieces to coagulate into a cohesive piece of cinema that chimes at the heart with both it's light laughter & it's growing pains at the same time.
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