99 From Around The World: My Favorite Foreign Flix
54 4.9 5.699. 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.
53 6.5 6.498. 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.
77 6.8 6.697. 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.
29 6.9 6.696. 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?
271 7.7 7.795. Lady Snowblood (1973)
671 7.2 7.294. 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.
1095 7.2 7.393. 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.
163 7.4 7.292. 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'.
292 6.8 6.891. 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".
48 5.9 6.490. 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.
454 6.6 789. Troll Hunter (2010)
112 7.4 6.988. 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.
354 7.4 7.787. 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.
78 5.6 6.286. 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.
884 7.7 7.585. 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.
61 7.3 7.884. El Norte (1983)
Considered by many film critics as a spanish version of Grapes Of Wrath, this film tells the story of Enrique and Rosa, a brother and sister pair who are forced to flee the civil war torn country of Guatemala after the rest of their family have been either killed or captured by soldiers. Deciding that the only place where a couple of Mayan Indians may stand a chance of a fruitful future is the U.S. they begin a trek that takes them through the equally troubled land of Mexico. But as they transpire north, they find that as harrowing as the journey "up" was, their struggles don't end when they finally reach the "promised land".
Just as people of peasant stock were looked upon only as "strong arms" for cheap labor in their native land, they quickly realize that this a view that is still the same in "el Norte".
279 7.7 7.683. A Better Tomorrow (1986)
Here is a tale of two brothers, one a reformed criminal, the other an aspiring police officer, and the obvious conflicts that can result from such a compromising situation.
Released at a time when the average Hong Kong action flick was festering in it's own overly recycled plot elements, this is the movie that redefined the formula of flying fists and shell-spewing gunfights, and put the then-burnt-out genre on a path for a better tomorrow. It's a film that's also famous for being the one that put the already experienced John Woo onto the directorial map and made Chow Yun-Fat an international star. Therefore, driving the "better tomorrow" metaphor into the better part of next week.
161 5.5 5.982. 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?
18 6.9 7.181. The Clockmaker of St. Paul (1974)
A quiet & single clockmaker is visited by the local police & is reported that his son has committed a murder.
Now, as he contemplates the why's of his son's actions, he begins to delve into the nature of their relationship and into the nature of the crime.
A road of reflection that eventually leads the clockmaker into an internal confrontation with his own deceptions as a parent and now, must find a way to come to terms with his past.
L'horloger de Saint-Paul is a film that, while it may not live up to the levels of the New French Wave movement that preceded it, still makes a worthy effort into the introspective type of storytelling that put this kind of cinema on the map.
565 8 7.980. Hard Boiled (1992)
303 8.1 7.979. 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, but also as a movie where two actresses alternatively play the same female lead character. Her name is Chica, a woman who happens to be a Sevillian flamenco dancer and at the same, an off-and-on temperamental 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?
781 8.3 8.178. Wings of Desire (1987)
Now here's a movie from Germany with a story that reveals how all we mortals are walking around this planet Earth with angels on our shoulders.
Well, actually, that we Earth bound beings have angels looking over our shoulders.
This is the "foreign" film which the box office smash City Of Angels was remade from. However, as is standard with most American remakes of cinema from outside their borders, the original subtitled version is the one to see since it's free of all the "Hollywoodifactions" that have a strong tendency to dilute all the conceptual aspects that gave the original it's distinctive flavor.
499 8.2 8.177. Cries and Whispers (1972)
I'm usually not a big fan of period pieces, but every once in a while, a petticoat or two does find a way to creep silently into one of my lists of film faves.
A dying woman in the 1800s spends her final days in a family mansion with her two sisters. Hopelessly trying to find some connection with her two siblings, emotional comforts seems to come only in the form of the hired help.
Even after dreamily returning after her death, when it comes to facing one's mortality, it's seems like strengthening the bonds between the family requires more that crossing interdimensional distances.
1600 8.3 8.376. 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.
676 7.3 7.575. 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.
13 7.8 7.774. Journey of Hope (1990)
Since the beginning of civilization, there have been people who struggled to make it to the "promised land". Haydar and Meryem are a couple who have left behind their home in the hopes of exchanging a "turkey" of a country for a small slice of heaven. And even though their trek through a series of heartfelt hardships is a story that ultimately becomes just one out of a million, it is also an inspired tale that, with it's very first step, began as a journey of hope.
4828 8.1 8.573. Amélie (2001)
41 5.6 5.972. 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.
152 7.5 7.771. Europa Europa (1990)
Man, I love these kinds of movies!
Foreign flicks which center around the Jewish persecution during the rise of the Third Reich. Because of the seriousness of the subject matter, lots of effort is usually put into the story, the acting & just overall whole production of the film. The kind of high quality effort that usually results in high quality cinema.
Maybe it's not the kind of escapist fantasy done for "fun" that the majority of mainstream movie goers for, with the intent of just killing a few hours, but it is the type of film that allows for the kind of discussion of celluloid art that lasts long after the movie is over and that true connoisseurs crave for.
1209 8.1 8.570. Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Salvatore is a boy who lives in a small Italian village.
And passing the time at the local cinema is the villager's favorite pass-time. With the exception of Salvatore. For him, the movies aren't just a way to kill a few hours. They're an obsession. The movie images that flash on the theater screen provide him with a window to the life and to the lessons that exist beyond the borders of the hamlet he calls home.
In short, Cinema Paradiso is a simple small town story that's just simply about love.
Love for the cinema,
love for a lifelong friend,
& of course, love for a woman.
676 8.3 8.269. Fanny and Alexander (1982)
In early 1900's Sweden, a well-to-do family suddenly finds it household radically shaken when the father dies of a stroke. Seen through the eyes and minds of the two youngest children Fanny and Alexander (mostly Alexander's though), the clandestine drama unfolds between stark reality and childlike imagination.
Directed by legendary filmmaker Ingar Bergman, this is a movie that is a defining moment in what I interpret to be arthouse filmmaking. The story is set up so that the momentum of the movie is dictated by the twists and turns that naturally spawn from life's turmoils, therefore avoiding the linear unreality that usually results from the formula of more mainstream features. But it doesn't stray too far off the road that the plot loses its stream of purpose. The artistic abstraction comes more in the style that the story is presented, so that the viewer isn't left stranded in the middle of a bunch vague blank spaces that he or she has to fill in him/herself.
232 7.5 7.768. Cell 211 (2009)
668 8.2 8.467. 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.
166 7.8 7.566. L'Argent (1983)
Money is often credited as the root of all evil. Even if that money is a forgery. And it's evil usually compounds with interest.
A counterfeit bill passes hands from one situation to another and ends up starting a chain reaction of events that spans years. Starting with deceit, the fake cash then leads to theft, incarceration and eventually, to a pretty hefty dose of bloodshed.
Directed by one of France's leading auteurs, L'Argent is that type of art film made for the type of fans who enjoy looking deeper into cinema than just what's on front of the screen. Meaning that if all you look for in movies is the typical color-by-the-numbers kind of story-telling, then this probably is not a flick that you'd want to spend any "reel" money on.
159 7.1 7.665. 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.
351 6.4 6.764. 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.
234 7 7.463. 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.
193 7.6 7.662. Iron Monkey (1993)
256 7.8 7.961. 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.
1398 8 860. Nosferatu (1922)
738 8.1 7.959. 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.
119 7.7 7.958. Pixote, the Law of the Weakest (1981)
Pixote is a pretty amazing piece of work that depicts an unblinking view into the justice system of a country that is overrun with crime and poverty in its streets and with bleak and bloated corruption in it's penal system.
We follow the exploits of a ten year old homeless criminal named Pixote as he endures the unscrupulous savagery within the prison walls and the harsh hoodlum lifestyle without.
The City Of God of the 80's (actually, since this movie came out first, City Of God should be referred to as the Pixote of the new millenium), this is a film that provides an unwavering window view into the world of ruined rural orphans whose numbers in that part of the globe have gotten grotesquely out of control.
280 8 857. 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.
73 7.4 856. Brother (1997)
After the crumbling and desolation of the Soviet Union, ex-military clerk Danila must find a way to make it through the financially broken remnants of an emerging democracy. So he heads out to be with his brother in the "saint-lacking" city of Petersburg & enters into a world full of mob hits and treachery. And quickly discovers where the fine line is between surviving in an ineffective society & what is right & what is wrong.
748 6.6 7.155. 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!
341 8.1 8.454. 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.
417 7.8 8.153. Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987)
Sometime during the first years of the 1990'S,
in a video store called The Video Archives in Manhattan Beach, CA, worked a store clerk who had a habit of recommending little known movies to his customers. After suggesting Au Revoir Les Enfants to one particular patron, the patron responded with "I don't want to see no reservoir dogs!".
The store clerk's name was Quentin Tarantino.
And the fact that he was a kid who enjoyed foreign works like Au Revoir with the same amount of enthusiasm for exploitation fodder like Switchblade Sisters, showed what kind of passion the future filmmaker had for the medium.
So, after I first heard this story of Quentin's recommendation, it made me seek out this movie out of curiosity, thus influencing the expansion of my then not-so-scopious palette for cinematic fare.
Which helped me to approach films like Au Revoir with as much appreciation as I would with Reservoir.
Which, as far as I'm concerned, has gotta count for something.
367 7.9 8.252. Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
At a time when warlords still ran the feudal lands of "modern" China (the early 1920's, to be exact), palatial households of power were filled to the brim with concubines. And each concubine was a wife whose place on the tier was determined by the amount of attention she received by the master of the house. A system of status that led to continual competition for the sake of that night's privileges.
Raise The Red Lantern is an epic piece of domestic drama that uses the vastness of it's sets & the vibrancy of it's colors to depict the kind conniving counteractive universe that females of that particular part of the eastern world had in compete in just to "domiciliary survive". All in order for the chance to experience even a slice of importance in a high class society where women were still nothing but second class citizens.
515 8 7.951. The Killer (1989)
Do you like to watch scenes of people pointing guns in each other's faces Mexican stand-off style?
Then The Killer is the action flick for you.
A hired assassin goes on what he hopes will be his last hit. But soon finds that the circumstances of the assignment has put him in a situation of hurting an innocent whom he soon begins to feel fondly towards. So he decides to take on one more last hit in hopes of righting the wrong.
While John Woo had started directing full film features in his native East as way back as the early 60's, it wasn't until 1986 with A Better Tomorrow, that acclaim for his work began to really rise.
Then, in 1989, he directed The Killer which peaked higher in terms of critical praise, particularly for a martial arts flick. So naturally, it soon had Western movie producers taking notice. Thus paving Woo's way from Hong Kong to Hollywood.
278 8 7.950. 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.
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