Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I like movies with words at the bottom.

I really like watching foreign movies. If I were smarter, I think I would try to learn every language in the world. It’s just so cool to hear people saying things that I would say but in such a different way, you know? God, I’m only three sentences in and I am already on a weird tangent. I just think it’s really exciting to hear other languages spoken. It reminds me how big the world is. I think we tend to live in a little American bubble these days, most of the time I walk around pretty much unaware of the fact that America /=/ The World. IT’s also comforting, though, to see movies from far away lands and see that people are pretty much the same everywhere.

I love a good list almost as much as I love movie trailers (Seriously, I could spend hours on youtube watching nothing but movie trailers), so in this post I am going to give you both. This is a list of my top 5 favorite foreign films and their trailers. Everyone should see these movies!

First off: an honorable mention. This one isn’t a film, but a mini-series.

FLCL (Fooly Cooly/ Furi Kuri)

This is a Japanese show that you will probably have to watch a couple times to “get” if you are like me. It moves really fast and there’s a lot going on in every scene. The trick is to not worry about understanding everything, it all comes together in the end. I would say that it’s a classic coming-of-age story against the backdrop of some crazy japanese sci-fi epicness with a fair amount of sexual tension and disfunction, all in six episodes!

The best thing about FLCL though, is the music. All of the music is done by the best japanese rock band around, The Pillows. And there is a TON of music in this series. As someone who was a Pillows fan before I was an FLCL fan, it’s almost like the whole series is an epic music video. A warning though, these songs will definitely work their way into your brain and you’ll be humming them the next day. I promise.

5. Nana

If you are even remotely involved in the manga/anime scene, you probably know about Nana. This classic japanese manga turned anime turned film follows the story of two girls with the same name, same apartment, and totally different personalities. Sounds like a chick flick so far, I know, and it kind of is, but I know men who enjoy it as much as I do. This one also has good music in it, so even if just for the music, everyone should watch it, I think!

4. Gegen Die Wand (Head-on)

Gegen Die Wand might be the first foreign movie I ever saw outside of school. Full disclosure: This is definitely not a kid’s show. Drug use, angry sexuality, and violence play a big part here. I remember watching it on IFC in my room as a freshman thinking “Holy crap, this kind of stuff exists….and on TV?” I’ll always remember this movie because it was the first to push the boundaries of what I accepted as beautiful. It can be hard to watch sometimes, but it’s worth it.

3. Cowboy Bebop


Can you tell my husband is a Japanophile? Cowboy Bebop is another really popular manga turned anime turned movie with awesome music. Of all the movies on this list, this one is the most lighthearted. Boisterous, jazzy music strings along a fun story about bounty hunters in space. Don’t let the funny looking kid with the cute dog fool you though, grown-up themes like love, duty, and self worth are addressed poignantly throughout.

*note: the video above is in English. If you plan to watch this movie (or any foreign movie) I HIGHLY recommend you watch it in the original language with the subtitles turned on. English voice actors tend to be….not so good, which can really ruin an otherwise great movie.

2. Au Revoir Les Enfants (Goodbye Children)

I think I started watching this movie in French class, but I don’t remember finishing it. Maybe I was out of class or something. I watched it on my own recently on netflix though and it blew my mind. Au Revoir Les Enfants is about a Jewish boy hiding in a Catholic school in France during WWII. The sets and costumes are fantastic and I love the light filters they used to film. It’s got kind of a grainy, dark look to it which adds to the dreary feeling of the movie without being obnoxious. The boys in the movie are incredible actors. Usually I don’t like kid actors that much because I think they tend to over-act. Au Revoir Les Enfants takes a minimalist approach when it comes to the acting. Nothing seems forced or false at all. Lovely, lovely movie overall. It kind of reminded me of the American movie Empire Of The Sun, starring a young Christian Bale (Another super amazing movie, but that’s for another list) in that it shows the experience of children during war time, which is always inspiring to see. Kids are so much better than us, really.

1. Paradise Now

This movie Blew. My. Mind. I was shocked the whole time I was watching it because, here we are at war with basically a whole race of people and there I sat, watching a movie, realizing that this was the first time I had heard the Arabic language spoken softly. How many Americans think that Arabic is a harsh, ugly language because the only time they hear it is on TV when it is being shouted by frightening men with guns and turbans. The fact is that Arabic is a beautiful language. It sounds like it just drips off of the tongue.

This is definitely what I would classify as a minimalist movie. In fact, there isn’t all THAT much talking at all. SO much of the acting is in the eyes and body language, and let me tell you, every single actor in this movie is absolutely top notch. In the entire film there is not even a moment where you don’t feel like it is real.

This movie made me sad. It made me realize that here in America, we are only hearing half of the story of what is going on “over there.” It was shocking to me to realize that I had been so ignorant, and that’s never a happy realization. It is worth it though, because I think I am a better person for having loved this movie. I mean, sure, it’s still a movie and I don’t have the experience in the middle east to know how hollywood-ized it is, but I feel like I know more about these “terrorists” now, so at least it is a step in the right direction.

Movies like Paradise Now are important, because they make you see the humanity in people that our government and media have tried to de-humanize. In the end, we are ALL the same. We are all human. And this is a fantastic movie.

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