Saturday 25 August 2007

The Mostest Favouritest Bestest Non-English Language Films

I'll say it again...I love lists. For perusing, for gathering ideas, for challenging my own thoughts and even for validation. I love creating them too - makes me think about my preferences and helps me reassess them.

So I kinda salivated a bit earlier this week when I read Edward Copeland's blog post entitled Choosing the best non-English language films. Edward polled 51 bloggers and critics and asked for their top 25 non-English language films. The linked post has the whittled down list of 122 finalists that received at least 3 votes each (the full list of 400+ films that received at least one vote can be found in the comments section of the post). As it stands, that list of 122 is a great starting point for foreign films - it's missing a bunch of stuff that probably should be included in a canon, but you'd be hard pressed to cover all the ground perfectly with just a single poll.

A few things always occur to me during an initial scan of lists like this - how does it match my opinion and what am I missing out on?

What's Missing?

Like I said, it's a pretty damn good list...

But if I had submitted a Top 25 of my own, it likely would have contained these additional films not included:

  • After Life (1998 - Hirokazu Koreeda)
  • Battle Royale (2000 - Kinji Fukasaku)
  • Casque D'Or (1952 - Jacques Becker))
  • Cure (1997 - Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
  • Harakiri (1962 - Masaki Kobayashi)
  • Kwaidan (1965 - Masaki Kobayashi)
  • Samurai Rebellion (1967 - Masaki Kobayashi)
  • Le Trou (1960 - Jacques Becker)

It's kind of odd looking at that short list...6 Japanese films - 3 from the last 10 years and the other 3 by the same director - and 2 by Jacques Becker. I probably would have dropped one of the Kobayashis, but these are all films that I just simply love to watch. I'm not sure if they belong amongst the "Best Ever" foreign films, but I know they have a place among my personal favourites.

Le Trou is the only one that I don't think I've discussed on this blog previously...It's probably the best prison escape film I've seen. The slow, methodical approach and sheer amount of will to push forward are represented exceptionally well. Both this and Casque D'Or were films that just completely sucked me in - I can't even quite state why. I actually remember that with both these films I started them when I was tired and just thought I'd watch a few minutes to get an idea of the film (and then continue it the next day). In both cases I ended up watching the film straight through...That's gotta be a good indicator.

What Am I Missing?

The 43 films from the list of 122 that I haven't yet seen:

  • Andrei Rublev directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
  • Ashes and Diamonds directed by Andrzej Wajda
  • The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • The Blue Angel directed by Josef von Sternberg
  • Celine and Julie Go Boating directed by Jacques Rivette
  • Come and See directed by Elem Klimov
  • Day of Wrath directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer
  • The Decalogue directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
  • Dersu Uzala directed by Akira Kurosawa
  • The Earrings of Madame De... directed by Max Ophuls
  • Farewell My Concubine directed by Chen Kaige
  • The 400 Blows directed by Francois Truffaut
  • The Gospel According to St. Matthew directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
  • The Great Silence directed by Sergio Corbucci
  • Hiroshima Mon Amour directed by Alain Resnais
  • Jules and Jim directed by Francois Truffaut
  • La Dolce Vita directed by Federico Fellini
  • Last Year at Marienbad directed by Alain Resnais
  • Late Spring directed by Yasujiro Ozu
  • L'Avventura directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
  • L'Eclisse directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
  • The Leopard directed by Luchino Visconti
  • Lola Montes directed by Max Ophuls
  • Masculin-Feminin directed by Jean-Luc Godard
  • My Night at Maud's directed by Eric Rohmer
  • Open City directed by Roberto Rossellini
  • Ordet directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer
  • Orpheus directed by Jean Cocteau
  • Pierrot le fou directed by Jean-Luc Godard
  • The Red Desert directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
  • Rocco and His Brothers directed by Luchino Visconti
  • Sansho the Bailiff directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
  • Satantango directed by Béla Tarr
  • Scenes from a Marriage directed by Ingmar Bergman
  • Seven Beauties directed by Lina Wertmuller
  • Shoot the Piano Player directed by Francois Truffaut
  • Stolen Kisses directed by Francois Truffaut
  • Story of the Late Chrysanthemums directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
  • Talk to Her directed by Pedro Almodovar
  • Tampopo directed by Juzo Itami
  • The Tin Drum directed by Volker Schlöndorff
  • Wings of Desire directed by Wim Wenders
  • Woman in the Dunes directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara

Of course, I won't be able to fix these omissions before the deadline of September 16th (the final ballot), but I'm going to try to plug as many holes as possible. I actually own two of these and just haven't got around to them yet (Wings Of Desire and La Dolce Vita), but my DVDs are currently packed away due to some basement renovations.

I saw about half of these at my local video store today after a quick browse, so I should be able to pack in a few of those viewings. Things like The 400 Blows or L'Avventura have actually been in my hands a number of times, but I'd always change my mind and rent something else. I had Rocco And His Brothers in my hands today, but the 3 hour running time made me balk...I did pick up L'Eclisse though, so that'll be a start.

Point In Time

I'm going to hold off submitting until just before the deadline in order to watch as many of the ones I've missed as possible, but here's what I would submit right now if pressed (unordered for now):

  • Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972 - Werner Herzog)
  • Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974 - Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
  • Amelie (2001 - Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
  • The Battle of Algiers (1965 - Gillo Pontecorvo)
  • Three Colors: Blue (1993 - Krzysztof Kieslowski)
  • Children of Paradise (1945 - Marcel Carne)
  • The Conformist (1970 - Bernardo Bertolucci)
  • 8 1/2 (1963 - Federico Fellini)
  • Le Samourai (1967 - Jean-Pierre Melville)
  • M (1931 - Fritz Lang)
  • Nights of Cabiria (1957 - Federico Fellini)
  • Persona (1966 - Ingmar Bergman)
  • Playtime (1967 - Jacques Tati)
  • Raise the Red Lantern (1991 - Zhang Yimou)
  • Ran (1985 - Akira Kurosawa)
  • Rashomon (1950 - Akira Kurosawa)
  • Three Colors: Red (1994 - Krzysztof Kieslowski)
  • Rififi (1955 - Jules Dassin)
  • Run Lola Run (1998 - Tom Tykwer)
  • Smiles of a Summer Night (1955 - Ingmar Bergman)
  • Spirited Away (2002 - Hayao Miyazaki)
  • To Live (1994 - Zhang Yimou)
  • Ugetsu Monogatari (1953 - Kenji Mizoguchi)
  • The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964 - Jacques Demy)
  • Z (1969 - Costa-Gavras)

It'll be interesting to see if any of the ones I watch in the next month push out anything from the list. I'll likely only get a single viewing in of any title, so it may be tough for them to find a spot on the list.

The ever changing list.


Anonymous said...

I love Le Trou, After Life, Cure and Kwaidan. They're all on my longer list. Narrowing our choices down to only 100 was nearly impossible for me. I really wish we would have been allowed to send in a list of 100 films each and then selected the ones that got 3 or 4 votes for a final list.

I haven't seen Casque d'or but now I want to!

I also haven't seen about 25 films on the list of 123, but I'm not sweating it much since selecting only 25 of those will be hard enough.

From the list of movies you haven't seen I would recommend Day of Wrath, The 400 Blows, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, The Great Silence, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Jules and Jim, La Dolce Vita, Year at Marienbad, L'Avventura, L'Eclisse, The Leopard, Masculin-Feminin, Open City, Orpheus, The Red Desert, Rocco and His Brothers, Shoot the Piano Player, Story of the Late Chrysanthemums, Talk to Her, The Tin Drum, Wings of Desire and Woman in the Dunes. Of course I have no idea if you will like them all but I think they're all worth a look. It's probably best to read a little about the films and see if the themes jump out at you and grab your attention first before renting them.

Bob Turnbull said...

Hi Kimberly,

Yeah, Le Trou is just terrific. I really need to see it again. Let me know if you get to Casque D'Or. I'll be curious if someone else has a similar reaction to me - just getting sucked into the characters.

Most of the ones I haven't seen were already on my radar, but I just haven't got to them. Since I wrote that post, I've squeezed in L'Eclisse and Tampopo. Liked them both, but Tampopo is the one that jumps out at me more (its humour and how it focuses on our different levels of obsession with food - boy was I hungry during the film...). L'Eclisse sure was beautiful to look at though and that 8 minute final segment was quite interesting , both visually and thematically. I think this film will become like Blow Up for me...Something I was mixed on, but which gathered up a head of steam after the fact whenever I bring it to mind and allow myself to mull over "what it all means".

Woman In The Dunes is on deck and Lola Montes is in the mail via (Canadian NetFlix). I'm using this as a good excuse to finally see some of these, though I'm starting with the ones I already had high up the list or have just recently become curious about due to others' posts. Lola would be the latter - someone wrote about it and it really made me want to see something by Ophuls.

I'm not sure about Gospel According To St. Matthew...I don't have much knowledge or background in religion and I don't really find films that focus on it overly entertaining (Bunuel being an exception I guess). I also caught Teorema due to your post and though I liked it, some of it left me, ummm, not cold, but just not engaged. But I did like it and am curious about Pasolini.

Thanks again for the comments.