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WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

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kingrat
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby kingrat » November 1st, 2013, 4:46 pm

I’d always wanted to see Boy (Nagisa Oshima, 1969) for a personal reason: an acquaintance with an attraction to lowlifes had a boyfriend whose family earned a living by staging slip-and-falls in grocery stores. In Boy the 10-year-old hero and his stepmother pretend to be hit by automobiles, then the father shakes down the drivers, who pay off to avoid being charged by the police. The family goes from city to city so that they won’t be recognized and caught.

Oshima tends to film scenes in long shots, which distances us from the characters. This does have the advantage of not sentimentalizing or overdramatizing the story. Boy has a fair amount of New Wave-ish stuff, like scenes shot with various filters or in black and white, for little reason that I can tell. If this is supposed to tell us more about the emotions of the young protagonist, it does not.

Ironically, the strongest elements of the film are traditional: the strong central situation, which was “ripped from the headlines,” and the casting of the young non-professional, himself an orphan, to play the boy. His impassive face is a perfect camera subject, and we feel even more strongly the emotions which he doesn’t show. To deal with what’s happening, he tells his little brother stories about monsters and aliens (excellent writing, as much as we can tell from the subtitles). I also love the scenes with the yellow baseball cap which is his prize possession for a little. The very best scene, which comes late in the film, involves a snow-covered landscape with the two boys, both dressed in black; a snowman; and a red boot. Oshima looks like a much better director in the composition of these shots.

Unfortunately, Boy is not available on DVD. Earlier films which are described as “left-wing, influenced by Godard” don’t sound too appealing. I’ll pass on In the Realm of the Senses, thank you very much, but Cruel Story of Youth sounds interesting, as does the late film Taboo, about homosexual feelings among the samurai warriors.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » November 14th, 2013, 9:38 pm

Today I watched "Hamsun" (1996) directed by Jan Troell.

This film looks at the WWII career of Knut Hamsun, a Nobel Prize winning author, who collaborated with the Nazis. He was in his 80s when this took place. Max von Sydow gives a fine performance as this crusty old man, and the film itself is very thought-provoking and ranks up there with "Mephisto" and "Taking Sides" (both directed by Istvan Szabo) as films that examine the dilemma of an artist in a totalitarian society. While the movie was long, I thought it needed its length to establish the character of Hamsun, his wife, and their children, as well as fill in the historical context.

A very strong movie. I think I saw an earlier film by Troell, about a doomed Arctic expedition, years and years ago.

kingrat
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby kingrat » November 15th, 2013, 3:53 pm

Mike, Jan Troell also directed The Emigrants and The New Land, once highly praised--they even got some Oscar nominations--but now unavailable. Hamsun certainly sounds interesting. I've never seen any of his films.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby kingrat » November 20th, 2013, 8:34 pm

Cleo from 5 to 7 was an unexpected delight. Beautiful cinematography, very bright, and welcome after all the murky films I’ve seen lately. Cleo has two hours until she learns if she has cancer, and we follow her until she finds out. Much shooting on the sidewalks of Paris and other Paris locations. A great flavor of other lives passing by. Agnes Varda may cheat a little by making Cleo a singer with lots of creative friends, but they are fun to meet. The scene in Cleo’s top floor studio—I wanted to move in—is lots of fun, as Michel Legrand plays the beginning of one song after another, and as Cleo’s assistant rocks back and forth in a swing, the camera swings gently as well. Varda uses lots of different techniques, but never seems to focus on the techniques to the detriment of the film.

The scene in the sculpture studio is wittily filmed as well, as we see a statue here, a statue there, and hey, isn’t that a very attractive naked lady? I’d rather not say too much about various scenes because part of the pleasure of the film is not knowing quite where it’s going to take us next. The good thing is that you’re willing to go there, wherever It is.

Many viewers will be stumped by all the attention to the conflict in Algeria because Varda, quite reasonably for the time, assumes that everyone in France will know the situation, just as any American filmmaker on the late 60s/early 70s doesn’t have to explain about Vietnam.

I notice that CCFan and MichiganJ are fans of Cleo as well. Barnes and Noble has the 4-disc Varda set for half price, though it’s still pricy.

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JackFavell
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » November 21st, 2013, 9:22 am

It's an amazing film KR, absolutely unexpected at every turn. The kind to watch in differing moods, because it captures so much LIFE. Varda is brilliant, such flowing technique without ever being intrusive or showy. She gets to the heart of things so easily it seems, a born filmmaker. This is a movie I will watch over and over.

I think Corinne Marchand has that indefinable something, that je ne sais quoi makes you want to watch her endlessly. I don't know if she's underrated en France, but there is literally no information about her here.... I looked her up and there's NOTHING. A spectacular performance, so open, full of longing, ennui, frailty, and in the end strength, spirit that can't really be quenched by adversity.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » November 28th, 2013, 8:49 pm

Today I watched "Babette's Feast" (1987) directed by Gabriel Axel.

I skipped this film when it first came out, but over the years I have heard it praised a lot, so I gave it a chance.

It started slow, and it had a lot of voice over narration at the beginning, which nearly put me off the movie. But, about 20 minutes in or so, the narrator seemed to go away, and I began getting caught up in the story. By the time Babette had started putting her feast together, I was really into this movie, and I could see why the people who had praised the film liked it so much.

The movie succeeds in making the assembling and serving of a meal cinematic. Not just cinematic but extremely interesting. (This is something that "Age of Innocence" never did for me. To me, that movie was just fetishist about china and hats.) "Babette's Feast" conveyed the relationships behind the meal and it also made me think about choices made, regretted, and the people we owe things to and how we should make the best use of the life we have left. I came away very impressed with this movie. I think it is far more than a mere "heritage film."

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby kingrat » December 2nd, 2013, 5:20 pm

“Stop being so good to me!” a woman yells to the man who loves her. This seems to be the psychological heart of Wong Kar-Wai’s Days of Being Wild (1990), and would also apply to Happy Together, the other film of his I’ve seen. There are people you are desperately in love with, despite all evidence that this is a bad idea, and kinder souls who might be good to you and for you. The protagonist in Happy Together moves a little closer—though only a little—to the notion of a more loving relationship than any of the characters in Days of Being Wild can manage.

The most gifted directors don’t always make the most satisfying films. Apparently Wong Kar-Wai, who has talent to burn, starts filming without a script and with only a general sense of where things are going. He shoots a lot of film and pulls things together in the editing room. It’s not surprising, then, that Happy Together meanders and runs out of steam in the second half and that Days of Being Wild goes off in various directions, radically shortens the Philippines section, drops the character played by Maggie Cheung, who has seemed to be the main female character, halfway through, and drops the showgirl just when we want to see what happens if she joins the protagonist in the Philippines. To his credit, Wong doesn’t give a sense that he thinks his methods superior to the usual procedure.

Wong is as romantic and melancholy as anyone in Port of Shadows, and his actors convey that high romanticism very well. Yuddy, also known as York (Leslie Cheung) gives a big romantic come-on to Su, a relatively shy and inexperienced girl (Maggie Cheung) who distrusts him, then falls for the handsome man with the romantic words. She learns too soon that he has no interest in commitment, and he drifts into an affair with a showgirl (Carina Lau, who seems equally well suited to drama and comedy) who goes for him even after, or because, when she first sees him, he is brutally beating a man who has taken money from York’s adopted mother. Mimi the showgirl expects rougher men and rougher sex, but she is equally crushed when York draws away from her. The shy Su finds an admirer in Tide (Andy Lau), a cop walking the beat, and York’s goofy pal Zeb gets a crush on Mimi, but neither woman can respond to the kinder touch of these men. York’s adopted mother (Rebecca Pan), a high-class prostitute who is now aging, may be the most fully developed character of all, bitter and selfish yet not altogether unsympathetic.

Wong and his cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, use lots of dark green. Noir’s black and white would have been richer, but it is interesting to see the color equivalents they choose. Many moments capture the sense of being so deep in an unhappy affair that no other reality seems to exist. Some reviewers have described the film as more like a tone poem than a movie, and that’s a good analogy.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » December 3rd, 2013, 9:07 pm

Today I watched "The Organizer" (1960) directed by Mario Monicelli.

I had heard good things about this movie, but it managed to exceed my expectations.

In some ways, this is like Monicelli's "The Great War." It is a historical film about a serious subject but with a number of comic elements. Here, it is the struggle for workers' rights in the late 1800s. In some ways, this is even a more serious film than "The Great War." While the ending of that film was dark, it was ironic. The ending of "The Organizer" is just depressing.

Yet there are wonderful funny moments here, and Marcello Mastroianni is terrific as the title character. (Although as I understand, the Italian title translates directly into English as "Comrades," which makes more sense to me, because while the organizer is important, the movie is about more than his efforts.) The movie also allows some ambiguity about the organizer. Does he really make life better for the workers, or does he cause catastrophe?

I found "The Organizer" moving, funny and thought-provoking. It is, perhaps, one of the great underrated European films.

kingrat
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby kingrat » December 4th, 2013, 12:19 pm

Mike, I couldn't agree more about The Organizer. Now I need to run down The Great War.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » December 14th, 2013, 6:11 pm

Today I watched "As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me" (2001) directed by Hardy Martins.

It is a German film about a German POW who escaped from a Soviet prison camp in Siberia in 1949 and in 1952 crossed the border into Iran.

The opening of the film was rather rushed. The film is adapted from a book, and I had the feeling that the film was compressing a lot of stuff very quickly here. Finally, when things settled down the movie became very compelling.

The interesting thing about this movie to me is that it really gets across how diverse the USSR was. There is the bitter Arctic landscape near the prison camp. Then there is the Yakutsk culture, which seems to exist as if the USSR itself doesn't exist. Eventually the film gets to Soviet Central Asia and has something of a Middle East flavor.

It's not a great movie, but it held my interest and I wouldn't mind seeing it again some day.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » January 10th, 2014, 9:42 pm

Today I watched "Incident at Blood Pass" (1970) directed by Hiroshi Inagaki.

This was a very enjoyable samurai film about a group of travelers at a remote mountain in who are taken captive by bandits. Toshiro Mifune is a ronin who gets caught up in the situation. (And yes, I did think of "Key Largo" and "The Tall T" and "Hombre" a lot.)

The movie is in color and takes place in the winter, which sets this apart from the typical samurai film.

I loved seeing Mifune in action, as he silently weighed the pros and cons of each situation. His face is one of the treasures of cinema.

And it was a delight to watch a samurai film again, and see real people hitting each other with real weapons, knowing that it wasn't CGI and all fake. The movie begins slowly, but the climax is very powerful. (I cheered at points.)

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » January 11th, 2014, 3:54 pm

Today I watched "Hannah Arendt" (2012) directed by Margarethe von Trotta.

I was impressed by this film. It looks at the controversy touched off by Hannah Arendt's book "Eichmann in Jerusalem" and its impact on her life.

In some ways, making a movie about an intellectual who writes a book and enduring the reception of the book is almost uncinematic. However, I found this movie worked. It did a great job of recreating the look of the early Sixties. It made Arendt a compelling character, showing that she did have caring relationships with people and was hurt by the way some people responded to her book. It also showed the deep anger and sense of betrayal that some people felt about her book. (Some of Arendt's critics did come across as self-satisfied jerks, but the more important ones were significant characters in the film.) And it didn't give us an easy resolution but showed how Arendt had to wrestle with some of these issues for the rest of her life.

Very good performance by Barbara Sukowa as Arendt. A fine job by von Trotta. (I didn't like her Rosa Luxemburg film much, but this one is very strong.)

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby moira finnie » January 31st, 2014, 12:47 pm

MikeBSG wrote:Today I watched "Hannah Arendt" (2012) directed by Margarethe von Trotta.

I was impressed by this film. It looks at the controversy touched off by Hannah Arendt's book "Eichmann in Jerusalem" and its impact on her life.

In some ways, making a movie about an intellectual who writes a book and enduring the reception of the book is almost uncinematic.


You made me want to see this movie, Mike. Having seen Arendt interviewed in the '60s, it does seem that such a vivid personality could be sufficiently cinematic and make interpreting the world philosophically an interesting topic for a movie. Maybe even the people today who are unwittingly influenced by her ideas could learn about her through this movie. For a sample of her dynamic way of making intellectual ideas compelling, this German interview (with subtitles) might be of interest:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsoImQfVsO4[/youtube]
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Bronxgirl48
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby Bronxgirl48 » February 1st, 2014, 5:39 pm

kingrat and Jackie, I was absolutely fascinated by CLEO FROM 5 to 7! I had never seen any Agnes Varda before, but now I think this may become one of my favorite foreign films. I found all the symbolism involving Cleo's condition and "voyage" of discovery quite haunting and moody, with strands of a beautiful melancholy weaving through all the teeming street life. I also want to see it over and over!

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » February 2nd, 2014, 12:49 pm

Bronxie, I am so happy you saw and liked Cleo From 5 to 7. Brilliant!

Had I known anything about it when I watched it, I might have passed it up, but luckily I didn't know what it was about. It's so stylish, and yet quite unpretentious. In just the same way, the mise en scene has incredible vocabulary, and yet the camera is not nintrusive. I think that melancholy spirit you talk about is what will keep me coming back to the film. In the end though, it is far from a sad film. It's just got so much going for it, so many opposing forces in perfect balance, plus it's pot that crystal clear narrative. I cannot figure out how Varda did it, got this whimsical? if that's the right word? tone. It's completely unforced. A truly fascinating film.


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