Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Top 5 foreign language films of all time (as voted by Guardian readers)

List by Guardian readers

"Film memory has kept them all for us, beyond death or, better, beyond youth."
- Dumitru Ion Suchianu

I have terrible taste in films - I know it, my family knows it and so do my friends. So much so that when my nephews want to have a 'Bad movie night in' they look to me to make the choices. I'm still not sure whether or not that's a compliment. Some nights it keeps me up. (Kidding). Whenever friends suggest getting together to see a movie I cringe way down deep inside because, ultimately, I know this means that we're going to watch one of two types of film: something so arty and obscure as to be beyond my comprehension or, worse, something so touchy-feely-girly-romantic that I'm embarrassed to be a girl. Either way, I'm on the outside looking in. When it's my turn to choose they groan in exasperation because 1) someone will die a spectacularly glorious death complete with explosions and blood on-camera and 2) there will be no romance unless there is a most awesome knock-down drag out fight where the bad guy gets beheaded first. Or handcuffed. To date I'm not sure which pleases me most. Needless to say, I don't get asked to the movies much by anybody including my two best friends. (I have only two best friends - I convince myself it's about quality not quantity instead of the truth which is that nobody can stand us except...us).



When toying with the idea of celebrating the NZ International Film Festival on Facebook, Twitter and our blog, a tiny part of me died a little inside because this topic is not my forte. Having said that, though, I have had such fun doing this all because this month, more than any other, I've had the most engaging movie discussions with colleagues and family. I actually have half a clue what people are talking about. (For once). I'm a fan of in-yer-face lists, the type that proclaim they're the be-all-and-end-all and that's-the-bottom-line-son. Why? Because they're provocative, highly subjective, great for debate and make people stop and think about what they'd have had instead. We've had some quite heated discussions both here at work and at home about some of our 'definitive' lists. I have no doubt that this list will probably be along those lines. I was on the scrounge for a top list of foreign language films - a big ask, I know - and came across one on the Guardian's site from May 2011. In March they asked readers to write in and tell them what their favourite foreign language film was, they then tallied them up and presented a top 40 list, and then asked their film critics what they thought of the selection. It makes for great reading. Being an impatient sort, though, I'm working my way from numbers one to five instead of counting down from five to one. (I'm a firm believer that dessert should be eaten before dinner). And their number one choice? I loved it so much! Will I choose a film fest-type movie next time it's my turn to decide what we see? Very possibly.

Query: Do you agree or disagree with this list?

Honourable mention:
  • Breathless by Jean-Luc Goddard
  • Jean de Florette and Manon des sources by Claude Berri
  • Pan's labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro
  • In the mood for love by Wong Kar Wai


  • Battle of Algiers [DVD videorecording] / directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
    The Battle of Algiers focuses on the harrowing events of 1957 as Algiers struggles for independence from France. This documentary-style film vividly recreates the Algerian uprising against the French, filmed in the streets of Algiers. The French win the battle but lose the war. Starring Brahim Haggiag, Jean Martin, Saadi Yacef, and the people of Algiers. In French and Arabic with English subtitles. Rated M: suitable for mature audiences aged 16 years and over. Note: Contains medium level violence.

    City of god [DVD videorecording] / directed by Fernando Meirelles
    Tagline: 15 miles from paradise ... one man will do anything to tell the world everyhing.
    The world's most notorious slum, Rio de Janeiro's City of God, where combat photographers and police rarely go. The true story of a young man who grew up on these streets and whose ambition as a photographer is our window in and his only way out. Starring Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino Da Hora, Jonathan Haagensen, Phellipe Haagensen, Douglas Silva, Daniel Zettel, Seu Jorge, Matheus Nachtergaele. In Portugese with English subtitles. Restricted 18 - Restricted to persons 18 years and over. Note: Contains graphic violence, drug use and offensive language.

    Seven samurai [DVD videorecording] / directed by Akira Kurosawa
    Tagline: The mighty warriors who became the seven national heroes of a small town
    In sixteenth-century Japan a poor village is threatened by a group of bandits, until the villagers decide to hire professional warriors to protect them. In Japanese with English subtitles. Starring Takashi Shimura, Toshira Mifune, Yoshio Inaba. PG - Parental guidance recommended for younger viewers. Note: Contains violence.

    Amelie [DVD videorecording] / directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
    Tagline: One person can change your life forever.
    Amelie tries to enrich the lives of those around her by weaving her special brand of magic. She befriends strangers, plays pranks, steals a garden gnome and returns objects she collects to their rightful owners. She daydreams in the cafe where she works and marvels at life's ironies. One day she finds a small box containing a child's momentos and decides to set about finding its rightful owner...will romance blossom for Amelie? Starring Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus. In French with English subtitles. Rating M: Suitable for mature audiences 16 years and over. Note: Contains sexual references.

    Cinema Paradiso [DVD videorecording] / written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore
    Tagline: A celebration of youth, friendship, and the everlasting magic of the movies.
    Poignant story about a young boy's love affair with the cinema. 1989 Academy Award winner best foreign language film. Jacques Perrin, Phillipe Noiret, Leopoldo Trieste, and Salvatore Ascio. Awards 1989 Academy Award winner best foreign language film. In Italian with English subtitles. PG - Parental guidance recommended for younger viewers.

    2 comments:

    Kelly M said...

    I saw the title of this top 5 and immediately thought "Amelie better be in there!'.....so glad it is - I'm not so much an arthouse or foreign film buff either, but Amelie is quirky great :)

    Danielle said...

    'All time' is kind of a scary qualifier, but I do have a handful that I've watched more than once and recommended to others? Mostly either horror or suspense thriller/gangster genre films, and most sadly not in the library collection:

    Hansel & Gretel; Running out of time; Nikita; Infernal affairs; Mifune; Overheard; Confessions; Girl on the bridge.