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WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

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Bronxgirl48
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby Bronxgirl48 » February 2nd, 2014, 11:37 pm

Jackie, like you I didn't really have any concrete idea of what to expect going into CLEO. I find myself vigorously nodding my head in agreement with all your figuring-it-out assessments: "stylish yet unpretentious", "opposing forces in perfect balance", incredible vocabulary yet camera not intrusive". Yes, I wonder as well, how DID Varda pull this off?? I do find a similiar wistful, quirky, melancholic spirit to JULES AND JIM, but CLEO has an unusually haunting (I keep coming back to that word, encapsulated by the hospital park scenes with the soldier towards the end -- there's something almost eerily, futuristically unreal about that setting for some reason) intimacy that I find both disturbing and uplifting.

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JackFavell
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » February 3rd, 2014, 10:14 am

That's very good. The movie gets to a really profound personal truth by visiting a series of places. The backgrounds seem strangely real and at the same time unreal. I think Varda caught that feeling of feeling unreal yourself - when you receive bad news, or are shocked out of complacency about something. Doesn't the world seem like a different place when you are dealing with mortality? I've walked around like that before, a part of the world and yet not, separated from it, objective on some level, but also yearning to be a part of it. It's so interesting that she was able to capture such ephemeral feelings with a camera, just by showing a place, or an object, or a character's relation to those things.

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Bronxgirl48
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby Bronxgirl48 » February 4th, 2014, 12:37 am

Oh, Jackie, that's it -- In one achingly eloquent, exquisitely perceptive paragraph. You just took my breath away; everything I was struggling to express.

I was also thinking during that entire closing sequence, not only in the midst of Life are we in Death, but in the midst of Death we are in Life.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » February 5th, 2014, 10:53 am

I was also thinking during that entire closing sequence, not only in the midst of Life are we in Death, but in the midst of Death we are in Life.


That's a perfect description of the feeling of that last section.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » February 5th, 2014, 11:26 am

Yesterday I watched The Burmese Harp and Closely Watched Trains.

Two more different movies would be hard to find. I liked both very much.

The Burmese Harp was so beautiful. The prominence of the music, the camera's deep look into the wartime faces of soldiers was very reminiscent to me of John Ford. But after the lovely and suspenseful scene where the Japanese soldiers rescue their ammo wagon while singing Hanyu no Yado, and the English soldiers respond with Home Sweet Home, sung to the same tune, the movie took a very different turn. Kon Ichikawa's compositions are very Ford like, using all planes within the frame beautifully.... his actors don't always travel from one side or the other of the frame, but enter from high above or slide diagonally downward and across, depending on the setting. His eye is so artistic, and yet, like Ford, one never really notices how his actors get into these remarkable tableaux. His ponderings on war and it's aftermath travel a solitary and spiritual path, but he also deals with friendship and group dynamics, the scenes of which are almost more powerful. I very much liked the relationship between Captain Inouye and Mizushima. Full of understanding and parallels, their paths are the most alike. I also loved at the end how the most insensitive soldier became Mizushima's staunchest defender and was the one who most wanted him to come home. Though some might say this film laid it on thick, it did so with such heart that I found myself with a huge lump in my throat at the end, eyes burning to release tears. This film must have meant so much to the survivors in Japan. It feels like closure to me.

Closely Watched Trains was a delight all the way through. It took me maybe 15 minutes to get used to it's deadpan style. Many have compared it to The Good Soldier Schweik, and they were spot on. The humor is very subdued, very catching, but it takes a few minutes to get used to it. The humor makes the true point of the movie come off so much stronger, like a fist in a velvet glove. I can't really describe the film well here, you must see it to get an idea of how subversive it really is. I would say it is in the category of slightly absurdist films like MASH or Catch 22, but the comparison makes less of it than it is. The acting is wonderful, the directing is perfection - very modern visually, and the comedy is as light as air, though the meaning behind it is certainly not, as is the case generally with theatre of the absurd. The humor just grows and grows on you, it very much appealed to me, the silliness of it all. The contrast between the way the story is told and it's meaning made my stomach sink at the end, and yet it retained that lightness right through the final comic/tragic scenes. Bravo! This is why the Czech artistic movement can take credit for most of the political achievement in the Czech Republic.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » February 6th, 2014, 11:21 pm

On Wednesday, I watched "Red Lion" (1969) directed by Kihachi Okamoto.

The film is set in the Meiji Restoration in 1860s Japan. Toshiro Mifune is a not-especially bright soldier who goes to his village to launch a social revolution and turn the people away from the Shogunate to the Imperial cause.

Mifune is very good in this movie, and it is interesting to see him play a character who is decidedly NOT the smartest guy in the film. The problem is that the movie's plot gets entirely too convoluted with conspiracies within conspiracies as the town's power elite tries to destroy Mifune.

Really, one of the great strengths of Kurosawa's films is that he keeps the plots simple. Seven Samurai -- samurai and peasants vs. bandits. That's it. Yojimbo -- wily ronin vs. two gangs. No more.

The more samurai movies I see, the more I see that they usually have far too much plot than they can consume during their running time.

"Red Lion" isn't bad; it just could have been a lot better.

It reminded me of an Eighties movie from Shohei Imamura, "Eijanaika," which dealt with the same phenomenon in the Meiji Restoration. I can hardly remember the Imamura film other than I liked it.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby kingrat » February 7th, 2014, 1:10 pm

JF, so glad you enjoyed The Burmese Harp, which is one of my favorites.

I loved the deadpan humor of Closely Watched Trains, which I'd always sort of avoided because the "coming of age film with the sympathetic older woman" usually has me rolling my eyes. Nothing I'd read about CWT caught the flavor, the Buster Keaton's Czech nephew quality of it. The soundtrack is masterful, with very precise sounds that suggest the age of the equipment. This is also one of the rare films where the change of tone works.

Jiri Menzel clearly had a vision for this film, how the acting style, images, and the problematic change of tone were all going to work together. The cinematography couldn't be more lucid, and Menzel takes a few items from the New Wave menu without trying to be the Czech Godard or the Czech Truffaut. When Menzel photographs our hero outside, he's usually at one side of the frame, not in the center, which feels emotionally right. Menzel has also made a historical film, obviously anti-Nazi and thus safe, which some of the audience will read as anti-Soviet.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » February 8th, 2014, 9:39 am

Great point about Menzel's precise and lucid directing style, it was a pleasure to watch. Funny how some of the best comedies have that crystal clear plotting out of images. One or two of them really stuck in my head - a shot where Milos is filmed between two train cars as the train is coming to a full stop - as if he were squished between them (you KNOW that had to be planned to the nth degree), and the scene where Milos' hat comes flying out of the smoke and debris toward Masa at the end. I tried to find some photos from the film online but all I could find were pictures of the rubber stamp scene. I should have known better. :D

Odd isn't it that both films dealt with quite heavy subjects, and yet the tone of each was actually very light. Even though The Burmese Harp was filmed quietly, sombre-ly, it still had a very light touch. I appreciate that so.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » February 10th, 2014, 8:53 am

I really like Jiri Menzel, whose career extends far beyond "Closely Watched Trains."

There is "Larks on a String," made at the end of the Sixties with some of the same people as "Trains." It was 'banned forever" after the crushing of the Prague Spring.

From the Eighties he has "My Sweet Little Village" which is a very funny comedy that pays tribute (in a way) to Laurel and Hardy.

In the Nineties he made "I Served the King of England," a terrific film about an opportunist in the wartime era.

Many people like his Seventies film "Capricious Summer." I found it predictable. From the first minute of that one, I knew what the last shot would be. It is a rare Menzel misfire for me, but perhaps it was his "repentance film" to obliterate the "stain" from "Larks on a String."

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » February 10th, 2014, 10:58 am

Thanks for listing all these Menzel films for me, now I have a list to go from. I suspect I'll like the rest of his work as much if not more.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » March 18th, 2014, 9:10 am

I've been watching "The Yakuza Papers" (1974) directed by Kinji Fukasaku recently.

This was a Japanese TV miniseries based on the life of a real Yakuza (gangster).

It is an interesting experience, the first time I've really enjoyed a Yakuza movie. It is very dynamic and at times feels like a Japanese "Goodfellas" as we see the characters move from clash to clash. There is none of the overt stylization that has put me off Yakuza movies in the past.

At times, however, particularly in episode 3, the plotting becomes over-elaborate. There are no concessions made to foreigners also. The Yakuza apparently allow a guy who belongs to one family to be "adopted" by another family, which just seems like asking for trouble to me, but everyone seems okay with it in the movie.

I've seen four out of five episodes, and I'd say it's worth a look, most certainly the first one.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby moira finnie » March 19th, 2014, 10:24 am

MikeBSG wrote:
In the Nineties he made "I Served the King of England," a terrific film about an opportunist in the wartime era.

Loved this one when I caught it a few years ago. The atmosphere darkened as the movie went on, but the viewer couldn't help seeing why the survivor mentality--which sometimes meant having the most tenuous ties to others--may have been a sane reaction to an impossible situation from the POV of the central character. By the end of the film it's impossible to dismiss the character's shifts in loyalty simply as morally indefensible. The question of how any of us would behave in the same circumstances is always under the movie's ebullient surface, even while I felt empathy for people in this bittersweet story as the Czech people go from the hedonism of the '20s through fascism and communism, eventually finding something worthwhile in their everyday endurance and momentary happiness.

Thanks for reminding me of this one, Mike. Your knowledge of foreign film never ceases to impress me.
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MikeBSG
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » May 4th, 2014, 8:37 pm

Yesterday I watched "The Ballad of Narayama" (1958) directed by Keisuke Kinoshita.

This is about a poor village where those who turn seventy are taken away into the mountains to die.

I had seen and liked the 1980s version of this story by Shohei Imamura. That one took a realistic/naturalistic approach to the story.

Kinoshita's film takes a theatrical/stylized approach. Everything seems to be happening on soundstages, and transitions are theatrical instead of cinematic. (The lights go down and the actors sink out of frame, or scenery is pulled away for example.) As a result, things seem to be not quite real, except for the emotions, which are very strong and very powerful. While there is nothing supernatural in this movie, "Ballad of Narayama" almost feels like a horror film, particularly when a son carries his mother to the skeleton-filled field where he has to leave her. There is no talking, only the mournful and repetitious music that builds up an overwhelming sense of doom.

I have now seen two Kinoshita films I really like: "Ballad of Narayama" and "Twenty-four Eyes." If "Narayama" is stylized, "Eyes" is very realistic.

Oddly, the first Kinoshita film I saw I hated. It was "She was Like a Wild Chrysanthemum," and what made the movie sheer torture for me was that Kinoshita had put an oval picture frame around the screen. I felt utterly distanced from the movie and couldn't even care what happened to the characters.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby kingrat » May 9th, 2014, 4:14 pm

I loved The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), one of those films where everything had to go right for it to work. Michel Legrand’s music not only has some great tunes, it sets the right romantic mood without cloying and never overwhelms the film. The cast is quite good-looking, and not just Catherine Deneuve, and the sets and costumes, which often match, are quite pretty. Each aspect of Umbrellas works with all the other parts. Except for the obvious love of Hollywood, Umbrellas is almost completely opposed to the work of Demy’s French contemporaries. His earlier film Lola feels more New Wave, with Raoul Coutard’s photography of Nantes as the backdrop to an equally romantic story.

The plot of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a variation of Fanny. The Joshua Logan film starring Leslie Caron came out in 1961, so the story must have been very much on Demy’s mind. As in Fanny, all the characters are sympathetic, which is unusual but satisfying. The bittersweet ending of Umbrellas is different, and it works very well.

Precise editing helps a great deal. Demy knows how to make his points economically. For instance, from one glance and the line “Adieu, Guy,” we know that Madeleine is in love with Guy.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby Moviedaughter1990 » May 21st, 2014, 3:02 pm

It has taken some courage to post on this vast site with what little knowledge I have but I figured I'd start here.

There are two movies that I have watched recently that captured my full attention. Both are from 2012 and a touch risqué.

The first is called "A Royal Affair". When I first watched this movie I was crocheting and I soon found out it was difficult to pay attention to both. I have since then re-watched this lovely film with no distractions. This is an excellent cast with Alicia Vikande (Kitty from "Anna Karinina") as the leading lady. In my opinion she plays her role perfectly with grace and heart. I also enjoyed seeing Max Kikkelsen (Le Chiffre from "Casino Royale") in a role other than the bad guy. He was very charming and intelligent. These two characters make from a great love story in a less traditional sense.

The Second film is called "Therese" which can be found on Netflix instant que. (like the other movie I mentioned). I was pleasantly surprised that this movie was in French and I was able to understand most of what they were saying. This story progressed much differently than I expected from the caption portrayed. I enjoyed it although there were some scene endings that almost looked like commercial cut outs. I do think the lead actress was somewhat lifeless but her role called for that which I appreciated. It was almost as though she felt nothing and tried to sabotage her marriage.

I'll have to go back through the pages and pages of suggestions I missed for other foreign films :D
-Mo


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