So two weeks ago I posted my Ten Best Foreign Films of the 90s. And then I asked you all to tell me what I was missing. And here is what you came up with, you clever folks:
The Top 5 Foreign Films of the 90s (That Didn’t Make My List)
Not to sound condescending, but I’m so proud of y’all for choosing this over CITY OF LOST CHILDREN. Many of you noted that DELICATESSEN had a greater impact which I believe. It was the world’s first exposure to Jeunet and his co-director Caro, and it was a bit of kick in the pants. This film is still the most out there and visceral of their oeuvre. It centers around a butcher, who is also the landlord of the building over his shop. His tenants are far from normal in a post-apocalyptic world where food is scarce. As you may imagine, the landlord has some creative ways for taking care of his tenant’s needs as the new janitor Louison (Dominique Pinon) is about to find out. This is a pleasantly disturbing film and one you’ll certainly remember.
This film was on my original list until I realized I had 11 films and had to get rid of one. I dropped this one because it was a lot more well known than the other films on my list. Well, you guys weren’t having none of it. And rightly so. TRAINSPOTTING was huge upon it’s arrival here and is well-loved. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Although beware some disturbing imagery and ‘potty’ humor. The film, directed by Danny Boyle and based on Irvine Welsh’s novel, is about Renton (Ewan McGregor) and his group of drug addicted cronies — their lives, their ‘loves’, their addictions, their somewhat disturbing hallucinations (ew that baby), and an attempted large money illegal operation. If your wondering why that plot description is a bit lacking, watch the film and you try to summarize it — not easy is it? One of the things that’s so good about it is that you can’t entirely explain what’s so good about it. Just enjoy.
3. CHUNGKING EXPRESS
Wong Kar Wai’s international smash and the film that really introduced this innovative filmmaker to the world. The reason I didn’t include it on my original list is that I like some of WKW’s less touted 90s films better (his genre work like AS TEARS GO BY and ASHES OF TIME), but certainly a lot of people have love for this languid slice of life tale. It is essentially two stories of loneliness. One of Cop 223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro) a recently single fellow, whose story culminates in a mysterious meeting with a woman in a blonde wig (Bridgitte Lin). And Cop 663 (Tony Leung), also recently single, who doesn’t quite realize how big a crush the girl at the food stand (Faye Wong) has on him. Christopher Doyle’s cinematography is always worth the price of admission but the honest performances and simple but sympathetic storylines have turned many a viewer into a certified WKW groupie. And if you find yourself so enchanted then check out the loose prequel DAYS OF BEING WILD and loose sequel FALLEN ANGELS.
4. LA HAINE (HATE)
Mathieu Kassovitz’s black and white politically charged masterpiece is often compared to Spike Lee’s DO THE RIGHT THING. The French feature focuses on Vinz, a Jewish character played by Vincent Cassel, and his Arab friend Said and Black friend Hubert. They are all outsiders and the film represents their struggle against the rascist French police. The film was quite big in France and internationally upon it’s release. But the recent riots in France helped thrust this film back into the spotlight and people have been talking about it quite a lot lately. An emotionally charged viewing experience that any viewer will certainly remember.
5. FESTEN (THE CELEBRATION)
Thomas Vinterberg is not the most well known director to come out of the dogme movement, but this film, the first film that followed the minimalist manifesto, is the most ‘celebrated’ (excuse the pun) of the bunch. An exercise of how much you can do with with a little, the film centers around a 60th birthday party for the family patriarch Helge (Henning Moritzen) when a horrific accusation ruins the festivities and underlies all the relationships in the room. There is a lot of talking heads in this exercise of restraint but it still manages to be largely affecting and introspective.
Most Interesting Suggestions
Some people actually managed to suggest things I hadn’t seen. And these were the most fascinating….
EL DIA DE LA BESTIA (THE DAY OF THE BEAST)
This Spanish cult classic is about a priest who believes the anti-Christ will be born by Christmas. When no one believes him he’s decided to stop it all by himself, forsaking his vows and goodness in the process. And next thing you know you have anything you’ve ever wanted from a gun-totting priest and more. It’s dark, it’s funny, it’s gore-y — Miike through Almodovar’s lense. It may be a bit too weird, a bit too gross but it’s so truly unique and visionary you’ll probably keep watching. It’s hard these days to find anything that is like nothing you’ve seen before, but this film might fit the bill.
This film was pretty well received (it won an Oscar) and seen by a good amount of folks upon it’s release in 1991. But since I wasn’t watching foreign films yet in 1991, I had never heard of it and as it turns out, it is quite lovely. This Italian film is certainly of a foreign film type — a feel-good touristy romp. This film is equal parts fantasy and comedy with a beautiful setting. It takes place on an island during WW2, where a group of soldiers, being sent there, find the pluses of peace and find themselves and all that. These are some truly fuzzy lovable characters. Sometimes you just want to watch something that’ll make you smile and doesn’t bring you down and also not be stupid and this film should be the first place you look.
Well this would seem to be a movie that polarizes people. IMDB tells me the film is in fact from “France/UK” despite the starring presence of Jeff Goldblum. It also stars the always lovely Alan Bates and a whole host of French people. The premise is that a mass murderer (Goldblum) is sent to a mental institution where he’ll only talk to a female psychiatrist (Kathy Bates) and of course he attempts to manipulate her. As it turns out there’s a lot more to him then there seems. That’s vague but I don’t want to give away the ‘twist’ even though they reveal it to you relatively early on. Whether you enjoy this film or not depends a lot on whether you see it as a comedy or a drama and your ability to stand Goldblum at his Goldblumiest. But the film is nothing if not interesting…
The Professional’s Opinions
I know that I’m not the end all of foreign film criticism on the web, although I like to think I am. So here’s the opinion of some of the web’s most prominent bloggers and website maestros on the topic of the Best Foreign Film Of The 90s:
Filmbrain: Sátántangó, Bela Tarr, Hungary (1994)
“To select a single film from a very strong ten-year period was nearly an impossible task. Lars von Trier, Wong Kar-wai, Hou Hsiao Hsien (to name a few) released some of their finest works during the 90s, not to mention the myriad of films from newcomers such as Arnaud Desplechin and Takashi Miike. Yet of the many contenders, there is one film that rises to the surface – one that I’ve seen three times, which is quite a feat considering its seven-and-a-half hour length – Bela Tarr’s masterpiece, Sátántangó. Don’t let the running time intimidate you – this films grabs you from the first shot and doesn’t let go until the very end. And though a black and white portrait of a tiny village in post-Communist Hungary might not sound all that exciting, Tarr manages to create an uneasy tension that sustains itself all the way through. There are images in this film that, once seen, are not soon forgotten. But please, don’t ask about the kitten.”
Todd from Twitch: Jeunet et Caro’s Delicatessen.
“Again, many would point to City of Lost Children as a better film and in many ways I agree that it is, but for some reason Delicatessen just sticks with me in a way that City doesn’t. Domenique Pinon is at his best here and gives the high style of the directors its human heart. Unlike much of City, which is purely cerebral (ha, ha), the human relationships in Delicatessen actually work, which is what I think gives it the edge.”
Thanks for all your e-mails. Even if you suggestion didn’t make the list, many of you have given me fantastic ideas for future columns. There were a lot of Australian films represented in your e-mails (although not enough votes for any one movie for it to make it on here) and that’s certainly something I’ll cover in the future. Anyway, I hope this list will keep you all busy till I demand you watch something else in two weeks time….
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