Around the world in foreign film

Subtitles? Slow-moving plot? Strange cadences and obscure philosophical underpinnings? Bring it on! Especially if it shines a light on a particular culture or country–in fact, that’s how I’m organizing the best films I watch.

Ma vie en rose

The Barbarian Invasions
Seducing Doctor Lewis

Czech Republic:

The Road Home
Not One Less

Babette’s Feast
Villa Paranoia

Great Britain: (In this category, I will be simultaneously meshing distinct cultures within GB and parsing out culture that has a lot in common with U.S. culture. Films from GB are not usually foreign language films, and yet they arise from a particular social and political landscape that is distinct from the U.S.)
Pride and Prejudice
Brideshead Revisited
Children of Men
Room at the Top
24 Hour Party People A blend of re-creation and documentary–after the Joy Division section was over, I got a bit bored. The best thing about this film is that it makes me want to go to more live shows. Suitable for 15+. 12/09
Jane Eyre The casting is quite to my liking; a good adaptation of the novel. Suitable for 10+. 3/13

A Cat in Paris An hour-long animated crime caper with a great jazz soundtrack. A hit for family movie night. Suitable for 6+. 3/13
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly This film, based on the book by Jean-Dominique Bauby, is about what it means to be human: to imagine and to remember. Tom Waits in the soundtrack. Reflective and perfectly paced. Suitable for 12+. 10/15
Blue trilogy
My Father’s Glory
My Mother’s Castle
Un Coeur en Hiver
La Belle et la Bete
400 Blows
The Science of Sleep Scenes and characters from this movie have stayed with me for years now. Charlotte Gainsbourg in a perfect role for her.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Children of Paradise
L’Emploi du Temps
The Dinner Game
Tell No One
I’ve Loved You So Long
La Femme Nikita
Mercenaire Set in New Caledonia and mainland France, this is the story of a young rugby player leaving home, and then returning. The haka scenes are moving; the brutality in Soane’s life is difficult to watch in the same way Once Were Warriors is. Suitable for 15+. 12/16
The Class
A Very Long Engagement
Etoiles: Dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet A compelling documentary featuring articulate, thoughtful, lithe and beautiful dancers. The cheekbones! The clavicles! The honesty and grace and artistry–how could I not love this one? Suitable for all. 12/09
The Red Balloon We re-visited this with the kids, as one must from time to time with any great allegory. Suitable for all, depending on temperament. If your little one is especially sensitive to sadness, wait a bit. A., at 9, was quite affected. 4/13
Tales of the Night (aka Les contes de la nuit) Michael Ocelot’s animated collection of traditional stories from around the world captivated our family. Exquisite and charming rendition of fables that don’t shy away from darker truths and encourage conversation afterwards. We especially liked the sections between the stories where the creative process is exposed a bit. Suitable for 8+. 5/13

Wings of Desire
Far Away, So Close
The Blue Angel
Run Lola Run
Das Leben der Anderen
Pina Gorgeous dancing, haunting choreography and the grave intelligence of the departed Pina make this a standout documentary. A bit overlong. Suitable for 7+. 3/12

Sing A 25-minute short, this movie about children conveys the power of everyone acting together. (The Hungarian title, Mindenki, means ‘everyone’.) A powerfully moving twist at the end. Suitable for everyone. 6/17

Bride and Prejudice

Il Postino
Life is Beautiful
Cinema Paradiso
The Bicycle Thief
La Strada I have mixed feelings about this one. Fellini’s fable is filled with strange and wretched characters, a gorgeous trumpet refrain, existential questions, abuse. Suitable for 12 +. 12/09

Children of Heaven
The Color of Paradise

The Secret of Roan Inish A lovely mix of myth and realism. Suitable for all.
Into the West With the incomparable Gabriel Byrne.
Waking Ned Silly, fun, outlandish plot.

Waltz with Bashir Set in Lebanon, this is an important film, though emotionally difficult and harrowing especially at the end. The story unfolds through a mix of genres: frustrated memoir, documentary, drama. The fact that this film is animated adds to the unreal feel and the horror in the ending clips. Yes, this happened. (Similar to Grave of the Fireflies in that way.) Note on R content: except for one (easily skipped) scene, content is suitable for 15+. 11/09
Ha-Ushpizin A look at an Ultra-Orthodox couple who unwillingly host a couple of rascally (and secular) guests. By turns culturally illuminating and distressing. Suitable for 11 +. 1/10

Grave of the Fireflies–This remains the saddest movie I have ever seen.
The Seven Samurai
The Bad Sleep Well Long, campy, interesting time capsule of 1960 Japan and corporate corruption, suicide. Suitable for 12+. 12/09
Departures A beautiful, absorbing, deeply moving film. Suitable for 12+. 4/10
Jiro Dreams of Sushi This film will make you reflect on your relationship with your parents, with food, and with work. It will also make you laugh (and really want to eat good sushi). Suitable for all. 5/12

Out of Africa


Amores Perros

New Zealand:
The Piano
Whale Rider Powerful performance by young Keisha Castle-Hughes, good adaptation of story by Maori writer Witi Ihimaera. Suitable for 6+. 5/12
Boy Heartbreaking and hilarious, brilliantly told story about an 11-year-old in rural 1980s New Zealand. B and I loved it; the kids thought it was depressing. Suitable for 8 +. (Note: there are several F-you! No, F-you! exchanges, as is true to life here 🙂 ) 8/12
This Way of Life Hands down, one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen. New Zealand gorgeousness, wildness, poverty, happiness. A free-spirit father with loads of charisma and troubles hanging over his head. Six children and a wife who is heartbreakingly gentle. Their Mormon background is quite an interesting layer to the story. Suitable for all. 8/12
Once Were Warriors This movie, superbly directed and acted, is lacerating to watch. It is an important story that depicts the poverty, culture of violence, alcohol abuse, and domestic struggles that too many modern Maori experience. Gives insight into situational despair that leads to the high Maori suicide rate. Suitable for adults. 3/13
A Portrait of Katherine Mansfield (streaming link) This documentary is used by Katherine Mansfield’s Birthplace, the house-cum-museum in Wellington. Quite good. Suitable for 8+. 1/13

Miss Minoes A silly but utterly charming family movie, a rare find. Scenes of various Dutch shops and apartments are cozy and heartwarming; Carice van Houten is radiant as a green-coated cat. Suitable for 6+. 4/13


The Story of the Weeping Camel

Roma (Gypsies):
Gypsy Caravan

Farewell Engrossing and moving. Led me to want to know more history behind the fall of the U.S.S.R, and also to feel a huge sense of empathy for nameless numberless people who suffered during the shift in ideology. Suitable for 12+. 1/13
Andrei Rublev

South Korea:
The Way Home

Timecode This 15-minute short delightfully reveals the artistic antics of two security guards. Inspiring and refreshing. Suitable for all. 6/17

The Sacrifice, Wild Strawberries, Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, The Silence, The Seventh Seal
A Man Called Ove A poignant movie, a huge family hit with our teenagers (though not for children, due to Ove’s repeated attempts to join his dead wife). Suitable for 12+. 6/17


The Edge of Heaven

The Scent of Green Papaya

3 thoughts on “Around the world in foreign film

  1. Have you watched those films I loaned B? My Name is Dave; and also Osama……if not, dig them out and watch them. Such good shows. Someday I want them back, but I know where they are….lol….

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