Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a serious cinephile. I am an avid devotee of movies, all kinds of movies, but particularly foreign movies. As an undergraduate, while devouring my college library’s collection of DVDs, I discovered a whole new world of intelligent, complex, and visually stunning movies that I had never had access to before; many of these were from outside of the English-speaking world.
This is why, when a friend recently sent me a list of what was claimed to be the essential foreign films of the decade, I was proud to see that many of the films present on the list are also films we’ve chosen to show here at the Macon County Public Library or have within our Fontana Regional Library system. Our libraries offer needed alternatives to the public by providing access to films that would rarely be found at the local movie theater or the local video store.
But what about those pesky subtitles? The most common reason for avoiding foreign movies is that a person has to read in order to understand what is happening. Don’t let subtitles keep you from discovering many of the best movies from around the world. I can attest from personal experience that once you begin watching you will barely even notice them. If you stick to it, it becomes second nature. And it’s great practice for your foreign language skills as well!
We have a fantastic selection of foreign movies available on DVD through the Fontana Regional Library. There is something for everyone—drama, noir, horror, romance, action. Be sure to check your DVD section or foreign language DVD section to see what is available. However, if you’re unfamiliar with foreign cinema, these are a few suggestions to get you started:
Classic Foreign Films:
M, Fritz Lang, Germany, 1931 This noir film starring Peter Lorre tells the story of the pursuit of a child-killer, while revealing the mob mentality present in a 1930’s Germany on the brink. It was later banned by the Nazis.
The Bicycle Thieves, Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1948 A man desperate for a job finally finds one, but for the job he needs a bike. When his bike is unexpectedly stolen he and his son go on a frantic search through Rome in an effort to recover it.
The Seven Samurai, Akira Kurosawa, Japan, 1954 In this mixture of the western and the samurai film, seven samurai are hired by a mountain village to defend them against bandits. One of the most influential movies of the 20th century, it was the inspiration for The Magnificent Seven, and inspired generations of great American directors such as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino.
The 400 Blows, François Truffaut, France, 1959 The first of the Antoine Doinel series, this film shows a misunderstood adolescent boy as he barely manages to escape juvenile delinquency. It’s full of beautiful black and white images of Paris and ends with one of the most legendary final scenes in cinema history.
Contemporary Foreign Films:
In the Mood for Love, Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong, 2000 1960’s Hong Kong is the backdrop for this beautifully stylized movie about the growing love between two neighbors in the same cramped apartment building when they discover that their spouses are having an affair.
Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro, Mexico, 2006 This Oscar-winning film is a dark fairytale that combines the harsh realities of a violent and repressive Franco era Spain with a young girl’s fantasy world.
The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Germany, 2006 In this drama, a hard-nosed Stasi agent in East Berlin becomes more and more involved with the lives of the couple he is spying on and begins to question his whole life’s work.
Let the Right One In, Tomas Alfredson, Sweden, 2008 Coming-of-age story meets vampire story in this move about the relationship between a 12-year-old boy and the girl next door, who just happens to be a vampire. Based on the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist.