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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 » August 19th, 2013, 7:05 pm

ChiO, thanks for the recommendations. Most of Melville’s films are available on Criterion, which will make them easier to find.

Masha, thank you for recommending LE SAUVAGE (1975, dir. Jean-Paul Rappeneau), which I enjoyed. It’s like an updating of BRINGING UP BABY in more exotic locales, with Yves Montand as the guy who has established a quiet life and Catherine Deneuve as the wacky woman who destroys it. Nelly (Deneuve) runs away from her nutso Italian fiancé for whom the word “controlling” would be a gross understatement. Also on her trail is her occasional lover, a nightclub owner (Tony Roberts) who owns a Toulouse Lautrec which becomes more than a McGuffin in the story. Yves Montand has tons of middle-aged sex appeal, and Catherine Deneuve shows comic acting skills I’d never imagined, and she looks like, well, Catherine Deneuve. Bobo Lewis, sort of a taller Linda Hunt, has an amusing supporting role, and Dana Wynter shows up as an elegant businesswoman.

One of the most appealing aspects is that I never quite knew where the story was going. Important plot elements are withheld until they can be sprung at the right moment. Deneuve’s character often is not sympathetic, but the same can sometimes be said of Hepburn in BRINGING UP BABY. The mixture of elements is closer to Billy Wilder than to Hawks.

kingrat
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby kingrat » August 28th, 2013, 6:26 pm

Salvatore Giuliano (1961, dir. Francesco Rosi) begins with an overhead shot of a dead young man in a town square. There will be many more overhead shots, sometimes of outlaws in the Sicilian mountains shooting at soldiers, sometimes of people on the town roofs looking down at the soldiers in the street. Rosi has a complicated story to tell, and he wants our intellectual attention rather than a close identification with the characters or issues. Much of the film, particularly the first half, is in documentary style, with a narrator giving us significant information.

The story moves back and forth in time from just after WWII to 1960. Giuliano is a young criminal who becomes a fighter in the Sicilian independence movement, but he and his men aren’t given the pardon they expect. Outlaws, the Mafia, the police, and various shadowy right-wing causes all get tangled together, and Rosi doesn’t pretend that he can unravel all the threads. The police and the caribinieri (soldiers) are rivals, even enemies, and if you can unravel who’s betraying whom, you have more information than the viewer and the filmmaker possess. A key event is the massacre of Communist sympathizers at a May Day picnic in a mountain meadow. Giuliano scarcely appears except as a dead man or an offscreen presence. The second half of the film deals with a long, complex, and indeed confused trial of Giuliano’s men, but the first half, with its splendid location photography, makes a stronger impression.

Salvatore Giuliano is not for those who would prefer a fictionalized, close-up, worked-out version of events. If you can accept the approach, Rosi’s direction is brilliant without calling attention to itself, and the editing fits the film’s style exactly. You’ll see lots of men running across beautiful landscapes. The scene in Giuliano’s town where the women try to prevent the soldiers from arresting their men is another strong and memorable scene. Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers is only one film which seems influenced by Salvatore Giuliano.

Two caveats: it helps if you realize that “Turiddu” is a diminutive of “Salvatore” (this was confusing), and there are far too many white subtitles against a brilliant white background which makes them all but illegible. Most of the cast were local non-professionals, but Rosi does a great job of helping them to unselfconscious performances. Martin Scorsese named this one of his favorite ten films. Not many of us would, but Rosi is a very impressive director.

MikeBSG
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » August 29th, 2013, 6:31 am

Here's another vote for "Salvatore Guiliano." Now that you mention it, I do see a family resemblance to "Battle of Algiers." As you said, this isn't a film for everybody, but I was struck by how Rosi was able to get me into the story despite my weak background in Italian/Sicilian history.

I recently watched an Italian mini-series from 2003 called "The Best of Youth." It follows the lives of Italian baby boomers from the mid-Sixties to the (then) present. Very, very well done with fine performances.

kingrat
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby kingrat » August 29th, 2013, 12:07 pm

Mike, where was The Best of Youth available? That certainly sounds interesting.

Not sure if I mentioned how brilliantly Rosi handles the crowd scenes in Salvatore Giuliano. These scenes are so believable they could be newsreels.

MikeBSG
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » September 6th, 2013, 8:44 am

"Best of Youth" was available from Netflix. It was a two disc experience but worth it.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » September 10th, 2013, 9:34 pm

Today I watched "Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War" (2004).

It is a South Korean film about two brothers ultimately divided by the Korean War.

The film is deeply influenced by "Saving Private Ryan." There is a "frame" in the present around the bulk of the film set during the War. And the battle scenes are very intense, as in Spielberg's film.

The soundtrack was too obvious and sentimental. However, apart from that, the film was very well done. It was very interesting for me, an American, to see this film. Usually, I think of the Korean War as an American vs. Chinese conflict. This film focused on the Korean vs. Korean violence of the war, not just battles but atrocities committed by North and South. This was a perspective I hadn't really been exposed to before.

Worth a look.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » September 19th, 2013, 8:58 pm

Today I watched "The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu" (2010).

This is a three hour long documentary that covers the 25 year reign of the Romanian Communist dictator. I found it compelling viewing. Even in this official Communist footage (there is no voice over narration. The foootage is just presented to the viewer.) you can see how Romanian society (and the capital Bucharest) was crushed during this man's reign and became something empty and inhuman. The propaganda at the start of the film is clearly socialist realism, but it is human-scale. We see factory workers and peasants stopping to mourn the death of Ceausescu's predecessor. By the 1980s, the people are presented as a near-faceless mass.

It is interesting to see other people in this documentary. Richard Nixon, visiting Bucharest, shakes everybody's hand and almost seems ready to run for President of Romania. Brezhnev, "off-stage" at the Helsinki accords, seems remarkably avuncular and attractive. Reformist Czechoslovak Communist Dubcek (in 1968) seems extremely worried in his brief appearance.

And there is just odd stuff, like the children of the Communist elite (and a few old-timers) dancing to "I Fought the Law" at a New Year's celebration in 1969/70, or seeing how a bear hunt was rigged.

Just a fascinating film, one worth going back to.

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movieman1957
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby movieman1957 » October 21st, 2013, 12:07 pm

I saw Kurosawa's "Ikiru." It's a film that deals with a man's response to his impending death from cancer. He is a civil servant. The very definition of a paper pusher. He has no life to speak of and has gone nearly 30 years without missing a day's work. That is all about to change.

It's an interesting film. There are some funny things in it and certainly some sad things. There are some poignant things to it as well.

SPOILERS

About 2/3 of the way through the man has died and there is a wake for him. At this point the film becomes quite slow because, except for a few flashbacks, this wake makes up the rest of the film. It does however have some terrific dialogue. It shows how self serving his coworkers are and how they view the the deceased and his contributions. Everyone gets drunk and the discussion gets more agitated as it goes.

Good performances. It feels a bit long. I'm sure there is much I'm missing that would be obvious to a Japanese audience but all in all I think it was worth watching but not sure whether it is something I would revisit that much.
Chris

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."

kingrat
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby kingrat » October 22nd, 2013, 4:35 pm

Knife in the Water (1962, Roman Polanski) really impressed me, and it’s remarkable work for a first full-length film. This would make a great double feature with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, for the husband plays “Get the Guest” just as George and Martha do, and the wife in each film sleeps with the younger man. Probably no influence from Polanski, for Albee’s play opened in 1962.

Much of the action takes place on a small boat, and Polanski frames his shots to be claustrophobic. The husband’s hostility and attempts to score points off and humiliate the younger man seem unmotivated. Just when I was thinking how much I liked the power struggle not being intended as allegorical, some dialogue which is carefully placed late in the film gave a political cast to the events—and I liked the movie even better!

Spoilers: The wife, the most sympathetic of the three characters, asks the student if he lives four to a room, and he answers “Six.” She tells him that she once lived the same way—and so did her husband. Now the action takes a different shape: Polanski is showing us what it takes to succeed in Communist Poland. The husband has an apartment, a car, a boat, unlike almost all of his comrades. He has developed the skills to win at power games and crush any new competition. Only by being a nasty person could he hope to succeed in his society. The question, one the film leaves open, is how far he is willing to go and whether he will feel guilt about his actions.

The version shown on TCM looked great, and it was a surprise to learn that the dialogue of both the student and the wife was dubbed by other actors, the student by Polanski himself. Had I known nothing about the director, I’d have guessed wrongly that he was gay, for ordinarily only gay directors like Jean Cocteau (Orpheus) and Curtis Harrington (Night Tide) pay so much attention to the male form in tight pants.

Knife in the Water shows a couple of obvious signs of New Wave influence: the sunlight on the windshield in the opening of the film and the jazz score. Both seem somewhat dated; the sound effects, skillfully done, work better than any music would, in my opinion, though the music is OK. Otherwise, Polanski’s work seems fresh and confident. This would also work as a triple feature of movies made during the brief thaw, like Ashes and Diamonds, which sees the Communist takeover of Poland as just as bad as the Nazi occupation, and The Cranes Are Flying, which rejects all the standard tropes of the Soviet WWII film and replaces it with personal emotions.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » October 23rd, 2013, 9:22 am

Chris, the pace of Ikiru is so slow and deliberate that it can be a difficult watch except that it is fascinating! I'm glad you saw it and appreciated it. it's a beautiful movie in so many ways, it would be a shame to turn down watching it because it has slow sections in the final third. Definitely we miss the presence of 'our hero' Takashi Shimura, but I think that's the point...the others just splinter up without him. I think the film is worth getting through to the end.

kingrat, Knife in the Water disturbed me so much years ago that I have never watched it again. It wasn't the story or WHAT happened in the film, I just couldn't take the suspense, the buildup...Probably the most foreboding film I have ever seen. It made me want to jump out of my skin. It still makes me feel fearful thinking about it, but then I was pretty young when I first watched it. I imagine I should give it another go.

Ashes and Diamonds made me want to see more and more of Wajda, I LOVED his style of filmmaking, expressing the unsaid, politically and emotionally... showing a people who are corrupted by everything, by their history and the government they live under. This movie was a real revelation to me, I instinctively responded to Wajda's imagery and simple but also complex story. He's going to be a favorite.. I've always wanted to see his films...I somehow knew I would feel connected to him. Now I've seen one, and I feel like I met a new lover, someone I can totally give my heart to.

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movieman1957
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby movieman1957 » October 23rd, 2013, 9:50 am

Wendy, the funny thing is my daughter borrowed it from someone and brought it over. Even The Bride enjoyed it. I think if the early part of the film had been as slow as the final it might not have made it. It was important to have some humor at the start and some momentum to carry it.
Chris

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."

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JackFavell
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » October 23rd, 2013, 10:20 am

That's interesting, Chris. One of the things about Ikiru that surprised me was that humor. It actually has a LOT of momentum up until the movie breaks up - into those divisive greedy squabbles after his death. Maybe that slowness makes it more difficult, seeing how they all are out for themselves, we don't want that to happen and so it seems even longer, more troubled at that point, agonizing.

kingrat
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby kingrat » October 23rd, 2013, 5:04 pm

Wendy, I am so pleased that you loved Ashes and Diamonds as much as I do.

Knife in the Water is suspenseful and very intense. You probably need to be in the right mood for it.


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