27 January 2010

The Sorrow and the Pity, LAMB Readers' Top Ten Foreign Language Films

                                  From Fellini's Amacord.

The Large Association of Movie Blogs (LAMB) today published its list of top ten foreign language films as voted by it's members (yours truly included).

It's way too easy to pick apart such lists as they invariably fail to include a personal favorite. To rant and rave or even blog about the cinematic classics missing is a fool's errand. However, if such a list reveals a some truths then mention can and perhaps should be made.

First, let's look at the list:

10. The Lives of Others - 34 points from 6 voters (1)
9. M - 35 points from 6 voters (0)
8. Rules of the Game - 48 points from 7 voters (3)
7. (of course) Seven Samurai - 61 points from 7 (of course) voters (5)
6. Let the Right One In - 63 points from 12 voters (0)
5. Pan's Labyrinth - 72 points from 8 voters (3)
4. City of God - 73 points from 9 voters (2)
3. Oldboy - 75 points from 9 voters (2)
2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - 80 points from 13 voters (1)
1. Amelie - 88 points from 12 voters (3)

Truth number one can be revealed by the paucity of votes. Only 44 members of LAMB bothered to vote. I'm not sure how many LAMBers there are but an educated guess is there's well over 200. Also, there was a recent poll asking readers what their favorite Clint Eastwood-directed film is. It got 78 votes. Yet only 44 people could manage to name their ten favorite foreign language film. Sadly, I'm led to conclude that one helluva lot of LAMBers don't watch foreign cinema or haven't seen enough to make a list of ten they like.

Imagine limiting your viewing choices to English only films! It's as insane as not watching anything old or anything new.

A second truth revealed is that of those of us who've watched foreign language films, many have only seen recent releases. Seven of the ten movies and all of the top six were released in the past ten years. There is one film from Jean Renoir, one from Akira Kurosawa, one from Fritz Lang and none at all from Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Luis Bunel, Vittoria De Sica, Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman or Roberto Rossellini. Let me clarify. None. Zero.

So not only have we got people who eschew foreign cinema, but those that do apparently favor recent releases that played in their local multiplex. And these are people with film blogs!

(I pause to remind myself not to get depressed. I then wonder if its too late to avoid getting preachy.)

Since I've gone this far I should also express disappointment, though not surprise, at  the top three films on the list: I'm disappointed, but not surprised by the top three on this list.  Imagine Amelie beating out all the films of Bergman, Fellini, Truffaut, Kurosawa and every other director who has created a cinematic masterpiece.

Please allow me now to express my gratitude for LAMB. I am sincere in saying it's a terrific website promoting as it does the love of film and writing and commenting about film. It's a great way for film bloggers to get connected and to be exposed to other bloggers. (We cool?)

For the record, here are my top ten favorite foreign language films.

1. Amarcord (1973) Fellini
Grand Illusion (1937) Renoir
8 1/2 (1963) Fellini
Army of Shadows (1969) Melville
The Seventh Seal (1957) Bergman
M (1931) Lang
Nights of Cabiria (1957) Fellini
Rules of the Game(1939)Renoir
Open City(1945)Rossellini
Beauty and the Beas
t (1946) Cocteau


Colt said...

I always have a problem with lists that are too general. What constitutes "best"? Is just my favorites or are they films that had the most impact on later films?

This is one of the things I enjoy about your lists is that they generally have a narrow scope and are well defined.

TJDobbin said...

That's a shame. I opened my eyes up to non-English language cinema a few years ago and haven't looked back, since.

No Godard in your top ten, I notice? Not a big fan? What are your favourites of his?

I'm currently counting down all the Godard films I've seen.

Richard Hourula said...

My two favorites of his are Band of Outsiders and Breathless, both would be in my top 25. Will check out your blog.

Anonymous said...

Lists are difficult, and to limit only ten for all time best foreign films-- that's near impossible. But I must say, I would have to limit myself to one film per director. I love Fellini, but I don't think I'd give him three films on the list. I also may let in one or two more recent films-- a Wong Kar Wai maybe?
And Beauty and the Beast over, say, a Truffaut or Godard film? Or, gosh, a Kurosawa.
I would also have to put a Satyajit Ray in there.

Anonymous said...

But of course your list is a vast improvement to the ridiculous LAMB list!