Top 10 Movies From Around The World
August 29, 2012 11 Comments
If you’ve never ventured outside of Hollywood cinema or never considered other movies made all around the globe, then here’s the list for you. This is a bunch of movies that will hopefully initiate you into international cinema (or enlighten you if you’ve not seen them before). Yeah, most of the movies below will have subtitles. Get over it. There are some great foreign films out there and if you refuse to watch something in a different language just because it’s in a different language then you’re missing out. Simple. I’ve always said that if a movie’s good, it’s irrelevant what lingedy people are talking in; and you’ll forget that you’re reading. You’ll get to the end, and be like ‘was that really in French or Spanish, I don’t remember!’ So, here goes…
10. The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980 – South Africa)
Ok, let’s start off with an easy one. The majority of The Gods Must Be Crazy is in English, so no complaints. A plane passing over the Kalahari Desert disposes of a Coke bottle. It hurtles towards the ground and Xi, an indigenous tribesman, picks it up and takes it back to his people. In this bottle, he encounters technology for the very first time. He thinks it’s a gift from the gods as he and his tribe put the bottle to many uses. But one ‘gift’ isn’t enough to go around. The tribe finds themselves experiencing brand new emotions including jealousy and anger. Xi decides the tribe is better off without it and so sets off on a journey to throw the bottle off the edge of the earth. Upon his travels, he finds civilization for the very first time. And let the fish-out-water comedy ensue.
Interesting Stuff: The movie was banned in Trinidad and Tobago for racist undertones, when many see it as quite the opposite. It’s the modern world that’s the joke here. Oh and everyone should see a movie with a lead actor who has an exclamation mark in his name. No, really. Xi is played by that dude up top and his name is N!xau! (The second exclamation was just me exclaiming.)
9. Shaolin Soccer (2001 – China)
You do not have to like football to like this movie. Mighty Steel Leg Sing (Stephen Chow) wants to teach the world all about the shaolin art. He tries singing and dancing, but to no avail. Then he happens upon soccer and proceeds to get his estranged shaolin buddies all gathered up to form a team. Using their unique kung-fu powers, they set out to educate the world and ‘kick some (gr)ass!’. I won’t lie, this movie is nuts. It’s god damned crazy. It’s so ridiculous that it becomes completely entertaining. Ripping off numerous martial arts movies, it incorporates humour, extraordinary kung-fu skills and football. An odd combination, sure, but why not try it out.
Interesting Stuff: The goalkeeper in the shaolin team wears that yellow jump suit. You know the one. Bruce Lee in Game of Death? No? Dear me. Ok, how about Uma Thurman in Kill Bill? And he strangely looks a lot like Bruce Lee too. If you can get your mitts on the original Chinese copy of this, the subtitles are hilarious.
8. The Orphanage (2007 – Spain)
The first Spanish movie on the list comes in the form of horror. Not the kind of horror that usually finds its way into cinemas these days. There’s no sex or violence in this. No arduous torture porn. It’s just a good old-fashioned spooky ghost story set within a creeky aged orphanage. Laura, a former orphan buys the house that she called home as a child and moves in with her family. Her son, Simón starts playing games with his five invisible friends. Laura puts this down to an over active imagination. Then Simón goes missing. Duh duh duh. The movie plays on all the usual horror movie conventions, but puts them to good use. All bumps in the night are unsettling with creepy children aplenty. The Orphanage is a must watch; when horror is horrific without having to be a bloody mess with no story.
Interesting Stuff: Originally the movie was to be directed by Guillermo del Toro (he who did Hell Boy), but he ended up producing instead. His name was plastered all over the poster. I guess we should thank him for bringing the movie to mainstream cinemas. Check out the creepy ass mask from The Orphanage in my Top 10 Movie Masks.
7. The Skin I Live In (2011 – Spain)
Following the tragic death of his wife in a flaming car crash, Dr. Robert Ledgard becomes obsessed with creating the perfect synthetic skin. Starring Antonio Banderas, the movie examines sexuality, image and how a genius mind can be affected by emotional trauma. As the relationship between doctor and guinea pig unravels, the boundaries of science are crossed; culminating in one of the most messed up closing chapters I’ve seen in recent years. The Skin I Live In is horrific and beautiful all in one go and highly recommended.
Interesting Stuff: The movie won Best Film Not in the English Language at the 64th Cannes Film Festival and was described by its director (Pedro Almodóvar) as ‘a horror story without screams or frights’ – and he’s absolutely right.
6. Let the Right One In (2008 – Sweden)
So, before the U.S remake Let Me In (2010) there was the original Swedish art house horror/love story. It’s a tale of boy meets girl and girl just so happens to be a vampire. Just when you think that the vampire genre has been well and truly saturated, considering Hollywood’s latest offerings of vampiric blasphemy (Breaking Dawn Part 1 review here), there comes this. It’s a touching little movie of exsanguination and first love. It’s horrific, but more about relationships and about what happens when your best friend is a vampire. The minimal amount of special effects really works in its favour. It’s horror on a budget set mostly within the confines of a block of flats, which provides a far better sense of realism. It could be argued that Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass) is superior in the remake, but that’s as far as it goes. This is definitely one to get your teeth into.
Interesting Stuff: Even though the remake was pretty much shot-for-shot the same as the Swedish version, it had an obvious cut. The scene in question involves a close up of the vampire’s naughty bits. It just so happens that the vampire looks like a 12-year old girl! I assume the Swedes disputed the fact that the girl is a girl. Because she’s a vampire, silly!
5. Run Lola Run (1998 – Germany)
Starring a flame-haired Franka Potente (she of the Bourne movies), Run Lola Run, is the first foreign movie that I ever watched, (if you discount German expressionist stuff like Nosferatu). Ok, so not the nicest language to listen to, but Run Lola Run is a fascinating movie. An original film that tells the story of Lola, who has 20 minutes to save her boyfriend by coming up with a shed load of cash. However, it’s told in three separate alternative ways based upon the split decisions that she makes, remembering the mistakes made in previous efforts and avoiding them further on down the line. Umm…basically it’s the same story told three times. As you can imagine, there’s lots of running and as such, it’s the fastest paced movie in the world! Ok, so probably not; but you should check it out, anyway.
Interesting Stuff: Tom Tykwer, the director, also did all of the original music for the movie. And it’s the music that really makes the film what it is. An adrenaline fuelled gem of a movie. He also directed something called Heaven (2002) starring Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi – Check this out too.
4. The Raid – 2012 (Indonesia)
Gareth Evans’ The Raid follows rookie SWAT guy, Rama, and his team as they sneak their way into the most dangerous apartment block in town. Housing wall-to-wall bad guys, they attempt to bring down the crime lord, Tama. But to get to him, they gotta ascend the building floor by floor bypassing the machine guns, machete wielding nutters and a crazy little man who likes nothing more than a little bit of fisticuffs. This is no easy in n’ out job. The Raid is one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen for a long time, incorporating some of the most ingenious choreography. Never have I been witness to so many gasps, oofs and eeks from an audience. You can read all about the movie in the review right here.
Interesting Stuff: Welshman Gareth Evans’ movie has been hailed as ‘one the best action movies of the decade’. And it was made for a mere $1.1m. A sequel is in pre-production right about now and Evans apparently wants to see Rama fight 4 bad guys inside a car on the highway! Nice.
3. Oldboy (2003 – South Korea)
Possibly the best revenge film ever made. Dae-Su Oh is just an everyday normal guy. That is until he’s plucked from the streets and imprisoned for 15 years, not knowing why or by whom. Then all of a sudden, he’s released with no explanation and has 5 days to find his captor. The Koreans have got it down for movies with a fucked up narrative and this is no exception. Toying with all manner of shocking aesthetics including the consumption of a live octopus, Oldboy is outrageous as it is entertaining. It also holds the grand title of ‘best movie with a hammer in’ in this here Top 10 Movies with a Hammer In. And this hammer scene features some of the best 1-shot choreography I’ve ever seen. This is a fantastic movie that everyone should see. But you may need a strong stomach.
Interesting Stuff: Oldboy was nominated for the Palme d’Or and won the Grand Prize of the Jury at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. In his speech, director Chan-wook Park dedicated his award to the nine octopi who sacrificed their lives in the making of the movie. No doubt a CGI octopus will star in Spike Lee’s forthcoming remake.
2. Amelie (2001 – France)
As far as world cinema goes, French movies appear to offer something a little bit different and are my personal favourites. Amelie is one of very very few movies that can actually call itself a rom-com and be proud of it, as popular mainstream rom-coms are evidently neither romantic nor funny. However, this delightful movie actually achieves both. It is such a nice movie and one of which I can never get bored of. This shares the same (latter) plaudits as Die Hard and From Dusk Till Dawn! The story follows the titular character from childhood, where her father offered so few occasions of attention that when he did, her heart rate went nuts, resulting in her parents thinking she was ill all the time. She subsequently was homeschooled and grew up a loner falling back on her fantastical imagination for entertainment. As an (eccentric) adult, she one day finds a little box of treasures of a previous occupant in her flat. She goes about finding the owner and when she sees the utter joy on his face when he sees it, she makes it her mission to do good deeds for everyone around her. Amelie also has a truly fitting Parisian soundtrack, if you like that kinda thing.
Interesting Stuff: When (and not if) you see this movie and discover how utterly pleasant it is, you’ll probably be horrified to find out that the director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, also helmed Alien Resurrection! Talk about diversification.
1. Brotherhood of the Wolf (France – 2001)
2001 was great year for French cinema, but Brotherhood of the Wolf pipped Amelie at the post. Not just because this guy looks far meaner and has an axe, but because it’s ambition is far greater. It’s the only movie I know of that incorporates not one, not two, but three genres. Never would you think that gothic horror, period drama and martial arts could co-exist within one film. But they do here, and it just works. Set around the time of the French civil war, the story tells of Chevalier de Fronsac and his Native American compatriot, Mani, who are called in to investigate the inexplicable deaths of women and children in the area. The only suspect is the ‘Beast of Gevaudan’, a mythical incarnation shrouded in mystery. Showcasing the martial arts skills of Mani (Mark Decascos, the only American in this) and some acting prowess, mostly thanks to Vincent Cassel (Black Swan) and his real life wife, Monica Bellucci, Brotherhood of the Wolf is a fantastic watch. And it looks amazing, even now after 11 years. This is my must watch for everybody.
Interesting Stuff: Mani’s axe has a deserved position on this here Top 5 Movies with an Axe in. More interestingly, there really is documented evidence that the beast did exist between the years 1764 and 1767 and reportedly killed 100 people! Also, all the characters in the movie, bar Mani, were real people.
So, there you have it; 10 movies of all genres to plunge you straight into the world of errr… world cinema. Of course, all of you movie connoisseurs out there will have loads of recommends that should be on this list. For example, maybe Hero or City of God should have had a place. God forbid, maybe you think Pan’s Labyrinth should have pride of place here. It doesn’t. Anyways, let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions for everybody (myself included), please leave a comment. Thanks, FFL.
Goodbye, Totsiens, Joi Wooi, Adiós, Hej Då, Auf Wiedersehen, Selamat Jalan, Annyong-hi kashipshio (and finally) Au Revoir.