Sunday 16 September 2007

Top 25 Non-English Language Films Poll

Edward Copeland's blog post entitled Choosing the best non-English language films has, at the very least, got many of us to trying to fill in some gaps in our foreign film backgrounds. We've all seen a bunch, but there's that pile of "classics" that you just never seem to get around to.

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). I had wanted to get a decent sized chunk watched before voting, but only got around to seven of them:
  • The Blue Angel directed by Josef von Sternberg
  • L'Eclisse directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
  • Lola Montes directed by Max Ophuls
  • My Night at Maud's directed by Eric Rohmer
  • Talk to Her directed by Pedro Almodovar
  • Tampopo directed by Juzo Itami
  • Woman in the Dunes directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara
Every single one of them was worthwhile. I doubt I'll be watching "The Blue Angel" again though - that last half hour was just painful to watch as the Professor reached the bottom and then was crushed even further. Brillantly handled, but not a lot of fun. "L'Eclisse" and "Woman In The Dunes" were stunningly beautiful, but would most definitely need further watchings to really get more out of them. Both "Talk To Her" and "Tampopo" were excellent and might one day crack the top 25. But "My Night At Maud's" just hit every mark perfectly...It never did what I expected it to do and ended just perfectly given the main character and his moral code. So it made the final list.

Speaking of which, here it is:

1. 8 1/2 (1963 - Federico Fellini)
  • A meta-movie's meta-movie. Conceptually brillant and always visually interesting. And Marcello Mastroianni with a whip.
2. Playtime (1967 - Jacques Tati)
  • Just pure pleasure watching all the sight gags and invention in this film. I hope to one day see it on a big screen.
3. Three Colors: Blue (1993 - Krzysztof Kieslowski)
  • That musical score...And the timing of when it hits...
4. Ran (1985 - Akira Kurosawa)
  • My favourite Kurosawa.
5. Le Samourai (1967 - Jean-Pierre Melville)
  • The muted colours fit the tone of the story and Jef Costello's personality perfectly. And I love the interrogation scene in the police station (as the officer goes between the multiple rooms).
6. The Conformist (1970 - Bernardo Bertolucci)
  • Every frame of this film could be hung as its own work of art. I'm not the first to say that, but I can't think of a better way to describe this film.
7. Raise the Red Lantern (1991 - Zhang Yimou)
  • A simple story in a simple locale told as fascinatingly as possible.
8. Rififi (1955 - Jules Dassin)
  • There's a reason everyone always talks about that silent half hour heist. It's freaking great.
9. Amelie (2001 - Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
  • I know many don't think this even deserves to be in the running - either because it is too recent or because it is too sugary sweet. No matter, I love it. And if I've seen it 6 or 7 times , why would it matter if it's only 6 years old? It's a favourites list...Not a "completely objective definitive most influential standing the test of time" list. Anyway, when Amelie melts in a puddle on the floor, it's a perfect way of representing visually how she felt.
10. Rashomon (1950 - Akira Kurosawa)
  • And speaking of "completely objective definitive most influential standing the test of time" types of films...Each variation of the story is just as interesting as the last. You end up creating your own version that tries to bring them all together.
11. M (1931 - Fritz Lang)
  • Peter Lorre is tremendously effective and creepy. And I'm always amazed that someone could have this kind of command of filmmaking at this early a stage in its development (the use of sound was terrific too and it was only 1931).
12. Nights of Cabiria (1957 - Federico Fellini)
  • Giulietta Masina is just so damn watchable.
13. Smiles of a Summer Night (1955 - Ingmar Bergman)
  • Bergman funny? You bet and it'll leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy.
14. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972 - Werner Herzog)
  • The bookends to this film are some of the most stunning shots I've seen. It was my first Herzog and led to many others. Just for that alone, I have to be thankful to it.
15. To Live (1994 - Zhang Yimou)
  • This is probably the most "human" of Yimou's films and balances one family's tragedies with their hopeful spirit and determination to just live.
16. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964 - Jacques Demy)
  • Though I like "The Young Girls Of Rochefort" even more, you can't deny the brillant music and staging of this colourful story.
17. Children of Paradise (1945 - Marcel Carne)
  • 3 hours just zipped by in the company of these great characters.
18. Three Colors: Red (1994 - Krzysztof Kieslowski)
  • A beautiful and fitting end to one of the greatest trilogies ever.
19. Z (1969 - Costa-Gavras)
  • This film made me angry. Angry at the fact that the real life events depicted here happened. The fact that Costa-Gravas could pull those emotions out regarding an event I knew little about is quite amazing.
20. The Battle of Algiers (1965 - Gillo Pontecorvo)
  • Before I saw this film, I remember reading that you'll swear there's documentary footage in it. Then I saw it. I swear there's documentary footage in it...
21. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974 - Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
  • Fassbinder's reworking of "All That Heaven Allows" makes the taboo of the central romance about age and racial differences, but doesn't lose any of the glorious colours or heart wrenching emotion.
22. Persona (1966 - Ingmar Bergman)
  • Bibi Andersson's monologue about her sexual encounter on a beach is still one of the most erotic moments ever committed to film.
23. My Night At Maud's (1969 - Eric Rohmer)
  • A tale of one man's morality being questioned and tested.
24. Ugetsu Monogatari (1953 - Kenji Mizoguchi)
  • Spooky and beautiful.
25. Spirited Away (2002 - Hayao Miyazaki)
  • One of the most imaginative films I've ever seen.


Kimberly Lindbergs said...

Interesting list. I really need to see the Three Color films since I keep reading so much great stuff about them.

I didn't even consider adding anime or animation films to my list for some strange reasons, but if I did add an anime film Akira or Grave of the Fireflies would have been my choice. I like Hayao Miyazaki's films though.

Bob Turnbull said...

I have to revisit Three Colours as well. There are images and scenes from all three that remain firmly etched in my brain.

I might have chosen Grave Of The Fireflies as well above Spirited Away. Possibly even Whispers Of The Heart which is miles ahead of most coming of age stories. But you can't go wrong with Spirited Away...