If you are you planning on being extremely sophisticated this fall, you might want to check out some of the newest celluloid masterpieces from across the ocean. It has been an incredibly good year for non-Hollywood cinema, and with the approaching of the Oscar season, no country wants to leg behind in the Foreign Language Film department. As an international student, I am always interested in seeing what my dear old Europe comes up with at the multiplex and I’m also captivated by the fresh and powerful prospective of more exotic films and filmmakers. It is a privileged time to listen to these diverse voices because the Cannes and Venice film festivals have already launched some amazing productions that are now being released in the United States or will be released as the awards season continues through December. Without further ado, here are five movies you are going to want to check out and maybe even impress your next date with.
1) LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (Japan) – The original title would beそして父になる, and even if you don’t read Japanese let me tell you: that’s a synonym for “here’s a film you have to watch”. Hirokazu Koreeda, one of the best contemporary Japanese filmmakers working today, directs this modern drama with a typical touch of oriental lyricism, which granted him a nomination for the Palm D’Or at this year Cannes Film Festival as well as the winning of the Jury Prize at the Toronto Film Festival. It is the unsettling story of a couple who learns that the six year old boy they have been loving and brining up is actually not their son; their real child was exchanged at the hospital due to a clinical error. They are then faced with the chance of giving back the boy to his own parents and raising their biological son. If you think that this might be the plot of one of the earliest Olsen twins’ movies, well, just wait for the main character to start questioning the meaning and role of fatherhood and family. From the trailer we can already gather Koreeda’s choice to stick to a Japanese taste, which very much reminds us of the literary classic of the country of the rising sun. This morality questioning drama came out in the States on October 5th, so hurry up and see it already!
2) WADJDA (Saudi Arabia) – وجدة or “Wadjda”, by Haifaa al-Mansour is more than a film, it is a breakthrough moment in cinema history. It is the first feature by a Saudi female director and also the first movie that Saudi Arabia has ever submitted for the Best Foreign Film Oscar! The title is also the name of the protagonist, an 11 year old rebel girl who dreams of owning a green bicycle to race against her friend, Abdullah. Her familial background gives us a startling insight on the everyday problems of a Saudi family, a point of view to which an American audience might not be used to seeing and understanding. This movie premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival to rave reviews and it received an incredible 98% on Rotten Tomatoes when it was limitedly released in US theaters a few weeks back. In other words, what are you waiting for? This Saudi Arabian gem is a milestone for international movies and can not be missed, especially since it should have no problem securing a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the upcoming Academy Awards.
3) BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR (France) – Here’s a movie that most cinephiles have already heard a lot about. La Vie d’Adele (as it is known in France) was the winner of the 2013 Palm D’Or and the first movie to be awarded a prize for both the director, Abdellatif Kechiche, and the main actress, the rising star Léa Seydoux. Needless to say I am ready to camp out of the cinema to be the first to get tickets to this 179 minute long French masterpiece. It surely needs almost no publicity before its release in cinemas on October 25th. Based on the graphic novel “Blue Angel” by Julie Maroh, Blue has been the topic of intense discussion because of its long and graphic lesbian sex scenes, which led to consequent editing before its distribution. But worry not, movie lovers, before frowning you should know that the Motion Picture Association of American classified the film as NC-17 and decided to allow US cinemas to screen it in its original version. The story revolves around two teenage girls, Adele and the blue-haired Emma, who become romantically involved in an intense and complicated way that will probably keep us glued to the screen until the very end and maybe even later on. Finally, a fearless coming of age story that does not try to sell us Holden Caulfield in disguise. It’s not everyday we get to see coming-of-age love stories between young females and for that alone this is a daring piece of foreign filmmaking that cannot be missed at art houses theaters this October.
4) THE GREAT BEAUTY (Italy) – Looking at my homeland Italy now, here comes La Grande Bellezza by Paolo Sorrentino. In American theatres starting on November 15th, this film won’t fail to show you just how breathtaking Rome still is in its sheer contrast between the beauty of the past and the squalor of the modern days. Nominated for the Palm d’Or, presented at the Toronto Film Festival, and selected as the Italian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards, Beauty surely sets the expectation bar incredibly high. With a cast of well-known, even iconic Italian actors, it immediately reminds us of Rossellini and Federico Fellini. The city is just an hallucinating set for the story of a successful journalist who has spent his whole life so irremediably involved in his lavish night life that only on his 65th birthday will he suddenly realize with shock that his life has been wasted in hell. He will start mourning missed opportunities just like you will if you let yourself forget about this film.
5) VENUS IN FUR (France) – Raise your hand if you are obsessed with Roman Polanski (the horrifying Rosemary’s Baby, the immortal neo-noir Chinatown)? Good. Now, raise your hand if you still are wondering if his last film, Carnage, really was just a movie because you left feeling like you had just seen an incredibly good show in an underground local theatre, at which you were so close to the stage that you could count the age lines on Jodie Foster’s face. Well, this time you will really be sitting in front of a wood smelling black box, because the 96 minutes of Venus in Fur are played in real time and they will actually tell the story of an actress auditioning for a role with an exasperated scriptwriter/director. Adapted from David Ive’s award-winning play, the movie was presented at the Cannes Film Festival and should confirm Polanski’s role as one of the most interesting filmmakers around. The release date is yet to be announced. Presumably, it will be closer to the Oscar season.
Are you as big as fan of Foreign Language Films as I am? Which international movies are you most looking forward to this year?
Article by Giulia Rho