My Top 5 Best Foreign Films
I have always been fascinated by tango, ever since I first saw it in TV - I was 5 - against the background song Hernando's Hideaway. On my last visit to Victoria BC, there was a tango exhibition and free lessons near the Inner Harbour and we went to watch. I will always be fascinated by this dance.
Tango or Tango, no me dejes nunca, is a mesmerizing documentation of Argentine tango. Written and directed by Carlos Saura, it takes place in Buenos Aires and every scene is fascinating. This included several of young children dancing tango in couples, concentrating, disciplined, and enjoying themselves at once.. Another scene of one gentleman dancing tango with two women is extraordinary.
There is love triangle in the film that includes the director of a production, in Argentina that takes up historical themes of immigration and rebellion, all expressed in tango. The camera work does not concentrate only on the feet and legs, but upon the whole being of the dancers and their passion. A foreign language was no barrier to understanding this film as I watched, entranced.
Les Triplettes de Belleville
Les Triplettes de Belleville is an award-winning French animated feature that I have seen many times. Written and directed by Sylvain Chomet, it was released as The Triplets of Belleville in North America and as Belleville Rendez-vous in the UK. It was produced by companies in France, Belgium, and Canada.
The greater part of this film story is told in pantomime against musical backdrops, reminding me much of Marcel Marceau. The movie was enjoyed by audiences and critics on its release for its retro animation as well. The French sense of humor is evident in many scenes -- Belleville is New York City and every American is as fat as a double-wide hippo. Even the French gift to America, the Statue of Liberty, has become blimp-like. She came here and we made her fat.
The film satires the French as well, especially their enjoyment of the Tour de France and their fondness of frog delicacies. The French Triplets eat nothing but the amphibians, which they catch beneath the bridges and piers of New York every night. The film also features Tour de France radio commentary and a speech by Charles de Gaulle, again very retro. There is a kidnapping and villainy reminiscent of Disney films, and there is a happy ending spurred on by the Triplets themselves. This is a film I should like to view every year.
Three Men and a Cradle
Trois hommes et un couffin (Three Men and a Cradle) is a delightful French language film by Coline Serreau Three young men (Jacques, Pierre and Michel) share a Parisian apartment and play host to many women and parties. (During the movie, we even learn that they have signed a contract never to allow a girl to spend more than one night at their place). During one of their parties, a friends of Jacques' tells him he has a package of cocaine to deliver, and asks if he can leave it at the apartment. Jacques agrees and he works as a steward, flies away for a one month trip in Japan. He tells his roommates about the package. However, one of Jacques' girlfriends drops off a baby and Pierre and Michel think that this is the special package. Hilarity ensues when the cocaine package's messenger arrives to pick up t he package and there is only a baby, instead.
House of Flying Daggers
The title of this Chinese period film was taken from a four-character idiom that means "ambush from ten sides." In my Korean martial art, this is actually a drill called "Iron Circle" in which a defender in the center of a circle of 8 - 10 opponents wards off and counter attacks the barrages from the circumference, not knowing who or how many will attack next. The film provides some of that suspense and all of its intensity.
The idiom also represents the name of a famous traditional Chinese musical piece for the instrument known as a pipa. The song describes the battle between the Chu's General Xiang Yu and the Han military before the formation of the Han Dynasty. A short version of the=is piece is actually played in the soundtrack of House of Flying Daggers, which names a secret society portrayed in the movie.
House of Flying Daggers is a purposely colorful Asian action and romance genre film directed by Zhang Yimou. The film is of the wuxia genre, much like the popular Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero. However, House of Flying Daggers differs in that it is a love story first, only one in which the principal players are all martial arts aficionados and even legends.
The use of brilliant strong color themes is dazzling as a repeated hallmark if director Zhang. A series of scenes in a lovely bamboo forest fill the screen with green. The climactic fight scene occurs completely in a blizzard of white. The actors and blood are greatly highlighted on a whiteout background. The costumes, props, and decorations are replicas of the elements of the stylized Chinese period paintings. It represents is another world to the Westerner and a different set of values. It is all breathtaking.
Kung Fu Hustle
Kung Fu Hustle is a hilarious Hong Kong parody martial arts film. It is directed and written by Stephen Chow, paying exaggerated tribute to the wuxia genre of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It is an exaggerated wuxia movie, more like a cartoon that keeps one's attention. Set in 1930s Shanghai, it is a tale of redemption for Chow as the protagonist, a petty criminal that tries to join the most powerful kung fu gang in town.
Traditional period Chinese music is dramatic and profound against this comic rendition of chop sockey.
The film wonderfully includes the return to the screen of several retired 1970s actors from the Hong Kong action school of film. It is so good in its parody and its use of the Hong Kong "legends" of chop sockey magic - especially a dance scene with knives and an older heroine in curlers - that I like it even better than the excellent Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Interestingly, Kung Fu Hustle became the highest grossing film in the history of Hong Kong and the highest grossing foreign language film in America in 2005.