Archive for May 6th, 2009

I have been telling friends for years that a lot of the best cinema in recent years has not been coming from Hollywood. Whist they are willing to watch British films and independent American films a lot are reluctant to watch foreign language films. Below are a few recommendations for foreign language films from recent years It is not a comprehensive list of the best films and I have avoided some of the films that have already reached a wider audience such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero and Amelie although they are all great films.

tell-no-oneTell No One: Directed by Guillaume Canet who is probably best known as an actor having played Etienne in The Beach. The film is surprisingly based on a novel by American author Harlan Coben. Eight years after being a suspect in his wife’s murder Alex (Francois Cluzet) is implicated again when two further bodies are found. At this time Alex receives an Email what appears to be from his late wife. The film has the feel of a Hitchcock style innocent man on the run thriller.



 Battle Royale: Is a Japanese film based on a novel (that has also been turned into a Manga series) The plot is relatively faithful to the novel and involves a class of 15 year olds who are sent to an isolated island and are forced to kill each other until only one winner/survivor remains. The film is as violent as you would expect at times but also deals with very strong themes and is described by director Kinji Fukasaku as a fable. An American remake has been rumoured for a few years fortunately has not materialised yet this is good as American remakes of Asian Films are generally rubbish so I am hoping this one doesn’t happen.

run-lola-runRun Lola Run: Lola (Franka Potente) has twenty minutes to find 100,000 Deutschmarks and deliver them to he boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) to prevent him from holding up a supermarket to get the money. He needs the money having lost his boss’s money on the subway. The film explores three different scenarios where small decisions have dramatically differing outcomes.

city-of-godCity of God: The film has been compared to Slumdog Millionaire both for its visual style and as a lot of the cast was made up of amateur actors from the Rio slums (including Alexandre Rodrigues who plays Rocket who was actually from the Cidade de Deus (City of God)). Based on real events the film is set over two decades and centres around the drug gangs that rule the streets but told from the point of view of Rocket a boy trying to escape the clutches of the slums. This is a stunning film that has to be one of the best films of the decade.

pans-labyrinthPan’s Labyrinth: Along with City of God this has to go down as one of my favourite films of the decade. It combines a gritty war movie with a beautiful fantasy. One of the reasons it works so well is that it has a amazingly performance from twelve year old Ivana Baquero at the centre of the story. All this is held together by Guillermo del Toro’s amazing visual style and ability to control tension and suspense perfectly. The ambiguity of the ending is absolute perfection allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions.

district-13District 13: This is a silly little action film that film snobs will file along with films like the Transporter but for some indefinable reason it really works and I absolutely love it. The film is a showcase for Parkour (sometimes referred to as PK or Free Running or l’art du deplacement (in English: the art of movement)) that was invented by David Belle one of the stars of the film. The film was written and produced by Luc Besson as is the sequel District 13: Ultimatum that is due out later in the year.

oldoyOldboy: A stunning film that will leave you speechless. The second of director Chan-wook Park’s vengeance trilogy. It is very different and far superior to Lady Vengeance and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. The story seems simple. A man is kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years then suddenly released with no explanation. He sets out looking for an explanation and for revenge. That is where things start to get complicated. Again like with Irréversible there were scenes in this film that made people walk out. Already one of my all time favourite films. 

irreversibleIrréversible: This film is brutal unforgiving and often difficult to watch but it is also beautifully shot fantastically acted (by real life married couple Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel) and totally compelling. The story is told backwards in the same way as Memento from a couple of years before. This is done for dramatic effect and not for the clever twists and turns of Memento. When I say this film in the cinema people walked out at three key moments in the film. Once at the start after a brutal opening, the second time you will know when you see it and the third sadly when they realised it was subtitled. 

initial-d-drift-racerInitial D – Drift Racer: Not the greatest film ever to come out of Japan but an interesting one based around the Japanese craze of Drift Racing. And it is at least a million times better than The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift! It started life as a Manga series and later became an animated TV show. 

brotherhood-of-the-wolfBrotherhood of the Wolf: When you think of French films the fist thing that comes to mind isn’t an Action Horror about a wolf like creature terrorizing a rural community. And when you think of an Action Horror about a wolf like creature terrorizing a rural community you don’t expect it to be any good but strangely it is. The monster is a bit ropy by Hollywood standards but they sensibly keep it hidden for a lot of the film.

 Also look out for: Taxi (for those who don’t know the Queen Latifah film is a remake of a great French film): Night Watch (Directed by Timur Bekmambetov who went on to make Wanted and is currently working on Twilight Watch the final part of the Night Watch – Day Watch trilogy): The Motorcycle Diaries (Produced by Robert Redford who knew he needed a south American cast and crew to do the film justice): The Wave & The Experiment (two German films based on real life events in America): Let the Right One In (The best film of the year so far and still on in some Cinema’s): [Rec] (Spanish horror remade last year as Quarantine).

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