03 June 2010

Films Loved by Film Lovers -- Foreign Language Edition

In my previous post I took on the daunting task of naming films that I believe are particularly loved by film lovers. I simplified the task by naming one per decade and restricting myself to English language films.  Today I offer the sequel to my original post with foreign language offerings.

Before preceding I quote from from that first entry: In no instance am I suggesting that any one of these films is universally loved by every single movie aficionado, such a thing is impossible. And as will quickly become obvious, I have not picked any films lacking broad appeal. I merely mean to say that to the majority of those people to whom movies are more passion that diversion, these films are highly esteemed.

20s Nosferatu (1922). Eighty-eight years after it premiered Nosferatu remains a one of the best horror films ever made. As I said in a post from last FallNosferatu is like a nightmare. Not a gross disgusting one that you want to run away from. No this is a bewitching, beguiling nightmare that despite the better angels of your nature you want to behold. More than that, you want to follow -- where will it take me? Surely this is ultimately harmless, it's only a dream (a movie). All those haunting images and that's not even including Count Orlock (Max Schreck).

30's Grand Illusion (1937). On the surface this is a World War I POW escape film but it is clearly so much more. French director Jean Renoir's masterpiece is also very much about classism, particularly the type that was dying in Europe. It is at once a subtle and clear film, acclaimed by many as a perfect movie. Jean Gabin and Erich von Stroheim lead a terrific cast.

40's Open City (1945). This film from Roberto Rossellini about the resistance movement in Rome during World War II was made just months after the events depicted. Add to this the use of non actors and the actual locations and you've got the greatest example of neorealism ever made. It is heartbreaking, compelling cinema that inspired a genre.

50's The Seventh Seal (1957). Like Grand Illusion, there are those who consider this a perfect film. It is considered by many to be Swedish director Ingmar Bergman's best, which is saying a lot in and of itself. In being so much about death it is really about living and the joys thereto. I expounded on the film recently in this post.

60's Closely Watched Trains (1966). War torn Czechoslovakia is not the ideal setting to "come of age" sexually but one often has to make do. From Czech director Jiri Menzel comes this story of a young train dispatcher who ends up combining sexual awakening with resisting the Nazis. It all comes together in one of the sweetest and saddest films ever made. It's one that could easily have lapsed into sentimentality but managed to avoid cliches and hit all its marks.

70's Aguirre the Wrath of God (1972). In the nearly four decades since completing Aguirre, director Wernor Herzog has continued churning out all manner of outstanding films including documentaries. However this still stands as the piece de resistance of his career. It is a trip. Both in the slang and traditional senses. The story of an ill fated conquistador's search for the mythic El Dorado in the Amazon jungle is a magically crafted elegy.

80's Ran (1985). Akira Kurosawa enjoyed wide appeal among critics and mass audiences alike. You'd be hard pressed to find a film lover who was not a fan of the Japanese director. Any number of his films could have made this list. Clocking in at nearly nearly three hours, Ran is grand, epic film making at its best. It is also one of the better cinematic versions of a Shakespearean play, based as it is on King Lear. Made when Kurosawa was 75 years old and after 45 years of making films, Ran proves the master's skills did not fade with age.

90's All About My Mother (1999). Many of Pedro Almodovar's most ardent fans have expressed varying degrees of disappointment with his latest directorial efforts. It is in good part because of films like All About My Mother which served to set the bar so very high. This is among the Spanish director's most revered films. At his best Almodovar is an excellent director of women and women's stories and this film, starring the wonderful Cecilia Roth, is an excellent example.

00's Barbarian Invasions (2003). The last days of a dying college professor are the subject of this intellectually stimulating French-Canadian film from director Denys Arcand. What could be morbid subject matter is instead engrossing as the soon-to-be-deceased is surrounded by close friends and family for some hearty laughs and provocative discussions. It's one of those films that introduces topics crucial to the very core of our existence.

Others: Le Samurai (1967), La Strada (1954), Port of Shadows (1938), Beauty and the Beast (1946), Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)Celebration (1998), Metropolis (1927), Murmur of the Heart (1971), Mephisto (1981), Smiles of a Summer Night (1955).

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