The Bicycle Thief, Let the Right One In, Breathless, Run Lola Run, Pan’s Labyrinth.
What do all these films have in common? Besides being incredibly well-made films, they all come from another country and industry besides our own behemoth known as Hollywood.
Now take a step back…how many of these films do you know and how many do you know by their actual foreign title? I’m going to go ahead and assume that most of you have not heard of all these films. And I don’t blame you. I mean the audience is not to blame for not knowing about movies. It comes to down to what we are exposed to, and we are naturally exposed to films and movies that come from our own country.
However, there is a firm belief in some casual moviegoer’s eyes that foreign films are somehow not as good as their Hollywood counterparts. Not only is this untrue, but foreign films tend to think ahead of the curb when it comes to film quality. While American films sometimes generate standards for film, historically, it has been foreign cinema that has introduced new elements and styles to film.
Take the film Breathless for example: it introduced a style of editing never before seen in film. Now this was a major risk, one that could have totally backfired, but Jean-Luc Godard, the director, was fearless and believed in changing people’s perception of film. And this exact mindset is what made Breathless one of the greatest French films ever made (and one of my favorite films of all time). However, most people have not even heard of this movie. It has two things going against it. It is an old, black and white 1950’s film (I talked about this before: https://cinemabeats.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/out-with-the-new-in-with-the-old/) and it is a foreign film. However, this does not mean that it should warrant any less attention than your modern Hollywood flick (let’s say The Bourne Identity). Now let’s be clear. I love The Bourne Identity but many people like this movie because it was in English and a Hollywood product (something familiar). Now let’s imagine that the same film were in German. Would it have been as successful? Probably not. Most Hollywood flicks that take place in other countries (Tom Cruise’s Valkyrie for example) do not even attempt to speak the actual language of the country. Not only is this inauthentic but it is extremely lazy.
Some people do not like to read subtitles. This is unfortunate. While reading subtitles and watching a film can be difficult for some people, it does not suggest that the film is in any way less excellent. Foreign films often offer different perspectives than American films, and they include dramatic elements that are not frequently seen in Hollywood. It becomes extremely refreshing when you watch films like these.
Latin American films in particular appeal to me most. They have a quality about them that makes them very intriguing. The language and associated cinematography have a wonderful marriage with one another. It is what makes Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Alfonso Cuaron two of my favorite directors.
Nevertheless, all foreign cinema has a certain charm to it. There are so many films to discover. Wonderful ones. Whether they be Indian, French, German, Spanish, Mexican, Persian or Chinese, they all have something different to offer and it’s about time people started taking notice! Because there are films that exist outside of this country. And there is cinematic joy to be found all around the world!
Give ’em a chance!
Here are some good ones to check out:
Amelie, Y Tu Mama Tambien, The Red Balloon, Memories of Underdevelopment, Rudo y Cursi, Flame and Citron, Oldboy, Ip Man, The Secret in Their Eyes, Amores Perros, The 400 Blows, Battle Royale, Tsotsi, The Edge of Heaven.
So many more exist so go find them. The ones I listed at the top of the post are excellent as well!