WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

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kingrat
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Post by kingrat »

I liked LA PROMESSE (1996, dir. Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne) very much. Igor (Jeremie Renier), about 14-16, helps his father Roger (Olivier Gourmet) in his business of using illegal immigrants to work on his construction projects in Antwerp. Roger exploits his cheap labor and charges his workers high rent for lousy apartments. When one such worker is injured, Igor promises the man to look after his wife and child, who have just arrived from Burkina Faso. Igor begins to develop a conscience about what he and his father are doing. Roger does love his son, but the only way he knows to show this is by treating him as an adult pal prematurely.

Although you could easily turn this into Hollywood melodrama and uplift, that’s not the Dardennes’ approach. Hand-held cameras, no music except what the characters hear. Although there are many close shots, the approach is objective, matter-of-fact, with no interest in creating additional sympathy or anger toward the characters. One poster at TCM City, JonasEB, makes the interesting observation that “very on the nose editing” is the key to the film’s success. The Dardennes do not believe that sloppy camerawork = sincerity or that rambling dialogue = real life. LA PROMESSE is narratively as taut as Fred Zinnemann at his best. The editing doesn’t linger. There are no speeches about the plight of illegal immigrants, no sense of political views being hammered into our thick skulls. There’s no backstory, no psychological probing of the characters, just what the characters do. If you want to see this as an existential film, you could.

SPOILERISH: To understand how the Dardennes handle important story points, look at the way we learn about what the father intends to do in Cologne. We don’t understand why Igor jumps in the car until after the fact. We can appreciate, then, how this scene was set up by the earlier scene where Roger turned over the wheel of the van to his son. One of the greatest moments in the film occurs when the father decides to buy his son a hooker for his first sexual experience. We see the father, his girlfriend, the son, and the prostitute in a bar smoking, drinking, and singing. Then the film cuts to Igor the next day pushing the wheelbarrow which has figured prominently in an early scene. No tender SUMMER OF ’42 moments. Nothing. This little episode has made zero impact on Igor’s life, and is insignificant compared to everything else in the film. Thus the directors stomp on cinematic clichés, and I can hardly say how much I admire this. The ending of the film is somewhat odd; I could make an intellectual defense of it but it didn’t feel as right as many other parts of the film did.

I'd like to hear about other films by the Dardenne brothers which people have seen.
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JackFavell
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Post by JackFavell »

I missed this movie too, kingrat. I really wanted to see it.

What you describe sounds to me like a spot on description of Forbidden Games. Not the story itself, I mean in the editing and filmmaking techniques, the way things are filmed without anger, rancor, sentimentality, or any other emotion overlaid. Are the two films at all alike?
kingrat
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Post by kingrat »

The connection hadn't occurred to me, but there's a common lack of sentimentality, an objectivity, and a respect for the audience's intelligence. Both keep the perspective of the young person, although there's obviously a big difference in age between five and fifteen. LA PROMESSE has a very gritty look and feel which seems contemporary.

As different in look as the two films are, neither Clement nor the Dardennes wow you with special individual camera movements or shots. They know that the overall effect is more important.
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JackFavell
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Post by JackFavell »

Thanks kingrat, for thinking about the two films. Your review was so descriptive, I couldn't help but compare the two.
MikeBSG
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Post by MikeBSG »

Just watched a terrific Polish film, "Anger" (1997), directed by Marcin Ziebinski.

It is the kind of film that could be insensitively summed up as the Polish "Straw Dogs." There is a lot of violence, and it is a difficult movie to watch. But it is very dynamic, propelling its characters from one tight situation to the next. The editing and camera work here never let the viewer relax, but (and this is important) the film never becomes dizzying or gives the sense that it is trying to shock for the sake of shock. It almost feels like a lost school of filmmaking -- real people struggling against each other.

The story takes place in post-Communist Poland. A middle class man and his girlfriend are fleeing from gangsters, when they run into the man's younger brother and the brother's ex-con friends.
kingrat
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Post by kingrat »

I spent New Year’s Eve watching the last two parts of LES MISERABLES (1934, dir. Raymond Bernard), having seen the long first part the night before, and it was a fine way to welcome the new year. Many thanks to TCM for showing this fine four-and-a-half-hour film, which looks good and is available on Criterion. So is Bernard’s WWI film, WOODEN CROSSES. He’s obviously a talented director, and I’d like to see more of his work. Perhaps our friend AnnHarding has seen more of his films in Paris? Bernard includes some location work, enough tilted angle shots to remind you of THE THIRD MAN, and a keen sense of editing and pacing. The scenes in part three where the barricade is built and when the soldiers attack is very well done. Bernard seems equally successful with intimate and large-scale scenes. The film feels rich and expansive rather than slow and plodding, like the best work of George Stevens. One reviewer mentioned that the scene where Cosette goes to get water in the forest must have influenced Walt Disney for Snow White.

Harry Baur seems perfect as Jean Valjean. He’s equally convincing as the not-yet-human but physically powerful man who’s been in prison nineteen years and as the successful factory owner, not to mention the broader style he has playing the unfortunate man who resembles Valjean and is almost sent to prison in his place. As one reviewer said about Charles Vanel’s approach to Inspector Javert, instead of taking a psychological approach as Charles Laughton did in the Boleslawski version the next year, Vanel makes him a bureaucratic functionary. This film does underplay Javert’s fate, which seems a curious choice. Charles Dullin and Marguerite Moreno (a great friend of Colette) are just right as the nasty Thenardiers, and the little boy who plays Gavroche, an important character in the third part of the film, is like a young Mickey Rooney without the Mick’s relentless showmanship. Jean Servais, who would be a great tough guy in RIFIFI twenty years later, is a rather wimpy Marius, and unfortunately the grown-up Cosette is annoying, seeming self-centered and without any trace of her unhappy time with the Thenardiers. However, this is a minor quibble in the face of so much that is expertly done.

Music by Arthur Honegger is another plus.
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I'm glad you liked Les Miserables, Cosette didn't gel terribly well with me when I watched this version but I did like Harry Baur, a lot. Although it's a long film it didn't flag for me at all. As much as I like Bowleswski's version of Les Miserables and how I like Fredric March as an actor I didn't feel he was old enough to play Valjean, whereas Harry Baur was the right age. March was good in the role, I'd liked to have seen him play Valjean a little later.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I watched Profumo Di Donna today, the original version of Scent of A Woman, I liked it so much that I wrote it up on the main thread here

http://silverscreenoasis.com/oasis3/vie ... start=5940

I thought it might provoke more conversation over there as more people might come across it. All I can say is head and shoulders above what I remember of the original, it was very moving.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I watched Il Bell Antonio starring Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale and Pierre Brasseur, once again this was in Italian with French subs, once again a comedy that has the ability to poke fun at the Italians themselves, this time it's the Sicilians. It's Mastroianni's next film after he played the lead in La Dolce Vita and in this he chose a role that was so opposite the one that he'd just played. He is the only son of a Sicilian couple, he's worked away in Rome for the last few years, he comes home along with a reputation (mostly put around by his Dad that he is a great lover and has had many affairs) he enters into an arranged marriage with the daughter of one of Sicily's most important families, his wife played by Claudia Cardinale, who is clueless as to what to expect from a marriage but is puzzled when she doesn't get pregnant, when she asks the servant she tells her to watch the hens. Then Barbara/Claudia realises what is wrong with her marriage, it is unconsummated, Antonio/Marcello being impotent. Of course this informaation gets around and from the feted returning son all of Sicily seems to know that Antonio cannot perform his husbandly duty to his stunningly beautiful wife. He does love her and that is the tragedy in this comedy, her family arrange an annulment, his father, determined to show what a man he is, dies in a brothel. Antonio's Mum's serving girl, who has a crush on Antonio is found to be pregnant tells Antonio's mother that the child is Antonio's and the mother, so relieved that her son is a man, broadcasts the news from the balcony. It's left open to the viewer as to whether he really is the father but he's a decent chap, he's not going to denounce the girl who has restored his good name.

It pokes fun at the machismo of the male culture but it also treats quite sensitively and quite directly the subject of impotence. There's no suggestion that he's gay, the is the implication that he is so handsome that women stop to take a better look at him but he's not big headed about these attentions. He is sensitive but one gets he impression that's either because of his trouble or the way he is naturally. A great performance by Marcello and a brave choice, Claudia doesn't have a great deal to do apart from look beautiful. I hope this like Profumo Di Donna gets released with English subs one day because they both deserve to be seen by a larger audience.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
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Rita Hayworth
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Post by Rita Hayworth »

Allison,

I seen both of those films that you mentioned in BOLD and I for one like them very much. I don't watch many FOREIGN FILMS in my lifetime because most of them do not have subtitles for English Translations. However ... I'm a fan of Marcello Mastroianni and I try my best to watch as many of his films as possible.

Great write up on Il Bell Antonio.
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

Thanks Erik, he's an actor always worth watching. I'm hoping the foreign movie market will open up even more, sometimes I'm amazed that certain titles haven't been released to the English languaage market yet.

I watched another foreign movie, this time to tie in with a book I've been reading. this one was Sophie Scholl the Final Days, what can I say apart from it's a faithful retelling of a true heroine who stood up to Hitler, executed aged 21 for a peaceful protest against the Fuhrer along with her brother and other students. Incredibly moving and believable, I was moved to tears.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
MikeBSG
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Post by MikeBSG »

I have to say that I prefer "The White Rose" (1982) directed by Michael Verhoeven (most definitely NOT Paul Verhoeven), which tells the story of Sophie Scholl and her anti-Nazi circle. I like the earlier film because it (in my view) gave me the whole story from beginning to end. The more recent film seemed too tightly focused (in my view) on the time between arrest and execution (in which, realistically, there was nothing the protagonist could do.)

Today I watched "La Rupture" (1970) directed by Claude Chabrol. It was a mixed bag. Apart from a violent scene at the very start of the movie, "La Rupture" seemed to spend about half of its running time getting into gear, when it suddenly became quite suspenseful and gripping. So a rather unfocused and leisurely first hour added to a gripping second hour equals an okay movie. I still find "Le Ceremonie" to be my favorite Chabrol film.
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I think I would have been lost had I not just read a book about Sophie which fully explained what they did. It does stand up well on it's own but I agree, anyone with wanting to know any background would have to go away and research her themselves. I'll look out for The White Rose. I was very mindful when watching Sophie Scholl that she was only one of many who were executed by the Nazis for being members of the White Rose, it's easier to focus on her because she is a woman and one of the youngest.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
kingrat
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Post by kingrat »

I enjoyed Jean-Pierre Melville's BOB LE FLAMBEUR. TCM has been offering us an interesting run of foreign films. Bob (Roger Duchesne) is a former criminal and an aging compulsive gambler. He's even struck up a friendship with a sympathetic flic (cop), played by Guy Decomble. Bob has an eye on Anne, a sexy young woman (girl, really) who's not yet twenty (Isabelle Corey, very attractive), but so does his young protege Paolo (Daniel Cauchy). Bob holds back in case Paolo is interested but keeps an eye out in case Paolo (who, like most young men, hasn't a clue about Bob's feelings) foolishly lets her go. There's also a sympathetic bar owner, Yvonne (Simone Paris, the most sympathetic character), who seems to be an old flame. This subplot is very much like the one in TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI where Jean Gabin and the restaurant owner have a similar relationship. After a particularly bad gambling loss, Bob hatches a plan to rob the casino at Deauville. If you've seen your heist movies, you know that nothing ever goes according to plan.

The acting, set design, music, and directing are all quite good. Films that hinge on extended games of poker, pool, or in this case, baccarat, make me lose interest just when I'd like to be most fully engaged, so that BOB isn't as compelling to me as RIFIFI, THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW, or TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI, but not many crime films are on that exalted level. The location shooting in Paris is a bonus.

I forgot to mention the cinematography of Henri Decae, who will become the favorite of the New Wave directors.
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Ann Harding
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Post by Ann Harding »

Recently I saw Les Amants de Vérone (The Lovers of Verona, 1948) with Anouk Aimée, Serge Reggiani and Pierre Brasseur. This André Cayatte feature proved really worthy of a discovery. Unlike some of his other films which are often overlong and ponderous, this updated version of the Romeo & Juliet legend is a delightful film shot on locations in Venice and Verona. Angelo (S. Reggiani) a glass blower from Murano falls in love with Georgia (A. Aimée then only 16) the young daughter of a fallen magistrate (Louis Salou). The evil Raffaele (P. Brasseur) is going to do his best to separate the young lovers... The cinematography is absolutely superbly handled by that master of light and shadows, Henri Alekan. The script written by Jacques Prévert offers a great gallery of characters. I was really pleased by the performances of the two young lead actors. Anouk Aimée at 16 was delightful so was Serge Reggiani as Angelo. Pierre Brasseur chews the scenery with gusto, so is Marcel Dalio as the demented Amadeo. The storyline weaves cleverly a story within the shooting of a film. Angelo and Georgia meet on a film set after they have both been selected as stand-ins to the lead actors. Martine Carol plays the film actress hired to play Juliet. All in all, a really nice film that uses cleverly Italian locations and also the political situation of Italy after the war (Georgia's father is a former judge who worked for the fascists).
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