I appreciate all kinds of movies. Today, I decided to pay tribute to a few of my favorite films that aren't in my native English language.
1) Pan's Labyrinth: Whenever I think of Guillermo del Toro the first thing that comes to mind is fabulous art direction. His films always have a distinct look to them, they're beautiful and bizarre. Pan's Labyrinth is no different. Taking place in fascist Spain a young girl escapes her cruel stepfather in a elaborate fantasy world. It's anything but a fairy tale, young Ofeila has to complete tasks that make her question right and wrong. I loved the look and the dark feel of this film. It's got everything a good film needs, plus a hell of a performance from young Ivana Baquero.
2) Amélie: This film is like a giant warm fuzzy. It was so warm and so endearing that it's probably one of the best love stories of all time. Amélie is a peculiar young woman who marches to the beat of her own drum. We watch her go about her life and eventually find love. French in general is a beautiful language and I think it's one of the things that makes this film so lovely. Audrey Tautou is enchanting to say the lease.
3) Let The Right One In: We make our way to wintery Sweden, we find a young boy who's being bullied at school and his interested new neighbor. Let The Right One In is charming and dark all at the same time. It's a cute tale of your first love..if your first love involved drinking blood to live. This was shot before the "Vampire craze" hit the U.S. I don't recall it ever referring to Eli as a vampire by specifically. It also had an interesting twist to it's love story, something I thought that made it all the more sweet.
4) Audition: Japanese horror films it is! The Japanese (and Italian) for that matter know how to make horror films. This film in particular is interesting because of all the hype. You've heard Horror lovers like Eli Roth cite this as one of their favorites, so you automatically know something screwed up is going to happen. That's what makes this film so great. A widower attends a special audition, one that will find him a new wife. He becomes fascinated with Asami Yamazaki, but she's hardly who she seems. The film has a perfect flow of suspense (and the occasional gross out moment) all up until the final 20 minutes when the big act of brutality takes place. Normally I would be angry at a film that saves everything for last, but this really worked in it's favor. It's not the goriest film on the planet, but it sure gets it's point across.
5) Life is Beautiful: It's pretty amazing to think that someone can take something as depressing as the Holocaust and turn it into something touching. Roberto Benigi stars as a man who tries to disguise his time in a concentration camp as a game for his young son. He pretends it's all a contest to shield him from the horrors of reality. I thought this was a bold move on the film maker's parts. They could've ended up offending thousands but instead touched them. Benigi's collection of his Best Foreign Film Oscar was pretty amusing as well. Instead of walking down the aisle he climbed over the seats, then when he won Best Actor later on in the show he said that he used up all his English on his last speech.
Honorable Mention: (as always)
The Lives of Others - Being fluent in German it was hard to single out films when I've seen so many. I enjoyed this one so much. (and won quite a few bets thanks to it's Oscar win) The fact that star Ulrich Mühe died of cancer shortly after this film's release is truly sad. This is German cinema at it's best.
Water Lilies - Only the French could get away with this coming of age film. I first caught the end of it on IFC and was determined to find out how this film got where it did. I'm glad I got to watch it start to finish.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days - A film tackling back alley abortions is going to have a lot of critics. I thought this Romanian film was an intense character study of how one student's immaturity and her friend's faithfulness could be tested.
Y Tu mama tambien - Alfonso Cuaron at his best.