Wednesday, July 20, 2011

La creme de la creme of foreign films

Welcome to my second edition of Flickchart Tuesdays. In this series I will examine some movie proclivity I may never know I had, based solely on how I've ranked my favorite films in Flickchart. See my "flickchart" label at the bottom of this post for all previous references to Flickchart and a description of what it is.

Today I'm going to explore my top ten foreign films, based only on my current rankings in Flickchart. (For the purposes of this post, I'm observing the same rules as the Academy does -- they have to be foreign language films.)

The rules are that I'm not even going to vet out my topic before I start writing. I'm just going to choose a topic, then go into Flickchart and see what comes up, however embarrassing the results may be.

Without any further ado:

1. Run Lola Run (1999, Tom Tykwer). I believe this movie actually came out in 1998 in Germany, but my first opportunity to see it was 1999, where I ranked it the #1 movie I saw that year, so I continue to list that as its release year. This choice should not be such a surprise for anyone who read last week's post containing my top 20 overall. Nothing but love for this movie: wild, passionate, devoted love. Flickchart: #16.

2. The Bicycle Thief (1948, Vittorio di Sica). A classic, for good reason. I am now kicking myself that I've seen this only once, and it was a good 20 years ago now. Every time I see The Player I'm reminded that I needed to see this again. And every time I see Reality Bites. (Let's see if anyone gets that reference.) Flickchart: #26.

3. The Seven Samurai (1954, Akira Kurosawa). This was in my top ten overall in my previous incarnation of Flickchart, before I re-ranked my films based on a new ranking system. The current ranking is probably more accurate -- but never fear, Seven Samurai, being in my top 40 overall is massive praise from me. It's just a shame I can't sit through it more often, it being a girthy 204 minutes. Still, I've watched it twice, and am immeasurably richer for it. Flickchart: #38.

4. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007, Cristian Mungiu). I love movies about abortions! Actually, I love movies made with unforgettable technique (every other shot in this film is an impressive long take), brilliant acting and plenty of substance, and the so-called "Romanian abortion drama" qualifies. So much so that it's my fourth favorite foreign-language film of all time. Flickchart: #65.

5. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007, Julian Schnabel). More incredible technique and an incredible, moving story. There's so much life in this film about a man who can only move one eye. And so much great acting by that man (Mathieu Amalric). I'd watch this movie again and again ... even if I had only one eye. Flickchart: #69.

Can I just pause here for a moment to note my diversity? Five films, five languages: German, Italian, Japanese (hey, those World War II Axis powers can make movies), Romanian and French. There should be a Spanish film coming soon ... maybe next? Like I said, I don't know -- I'm figuring it out as I write!

6. Let the Right One In (2008, Tomas Alfredson). Okay, not Spanish, but how about Swedish? My favorite vampire movie of all time may be slightly inflated at this ranking, but my oh my is this filmmaking at its best. If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about. Flickchart: #71.

7. Cinema Paradiso (1990, Giuseppe Tornatore). Okay, Italian repeats before we get our first Spanish-language film. There are few movies out there that celebrate the love of cinema more wonderfully than Cinema Paradiso. A simply joyous film. And the ending always gets me. Flickchart: #87.

8. Waltz With Bashir (2008, Ari Folman). Wow, I did not expect an animated film to make the list ... though now that I think about it, there could have been a couple contenders. This visually trippy memory piece, where Folman (as himself) interviews veterans about their remembrances of the night 3,000 Palestinian refugees were massacred in Beirut, is simply outstanding. Sounds heavy, but the animation is so wonderful that it leaves you feeling lively. Flickchart: #108.

9. The Wages of Fear (1953, Henri-Georges Clouzot). This should count as multiple languages, because multiple languages are spoken in this film about the impossible task of transporting tons of sensitive explosives across rough terrain in Central America, via truck. Just saw this for the first time about two years ago, and it floored me. Flickchart: #133.

10. Mother (2009, Joon-ho Bong). I've simply never seen a film quite like Mother. Terrific technique, terrific acting -- I still don't know how they got some of the shots. See it. Flickchart: #139.

Still no Spanish-language films. Well, I'm going to make it my habit in these posts to list 11-20, without any commentary. Maybe we'll find one in there.

11. The Professional (1994, Luc Besson). Flickchart: #147.
12. Lemming (2005, Dominik Moll). Flickchart: #148.
13. The Lives of Others (2006, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck). Flickchart: #163.
14. Delicatessen (1992, Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Marc Caro). Flickchart: #174.
15. Oldboy (2003, Chan-wook Park). Flickchart: #176.
16. The Seventh Seal (1957, Ingmar Bergman). Flickchart: #179.
17. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001, Alfonso Cuaron). Flickchart: #187.

Praise Jesus. Finally a Spanish-language film.

18. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006, Clint Eastwood). Flickchart: #188.

Does this count? Hell yeah. It was in Japanese.

19. The Sea Inside (2004, Alejandro Amenabar). Flickchart: #199.
20. Wild Strawberries (1957, Ingmar Bergman). Flickchart: #202.

Most surprised not to see on there: Amelie (2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet). I know I've backlashed some against this movie in recent years, mostly because Audrey Tatou has kept playing Audrey Tatou year in, year out in the decade since Amelie was released. But I still predicted it would be in my top 20. (I looked ahead, and it would have been #25.)

Breakdown of languages in top 20: French five, Swedish three, German two, Italian two, Japanese two, Korean two, Spanish two, Hebrew one and Romanian one.

Only repeat director on the list: Ingmar Bergman.

Would love to hear your thoughts on my choices. See you next Tuesday for more Flickchart fun.


Don Handsome said...

Very cool use of FlickChart here. This sort of sorting is what I would like to use FlickChart for, but I just haven’t found the process smooth or forgiving enough (nor have I prioritized the time it takes) to enter all of my seen films in to their system as you have. But I'm glad to see the system at work. Nice job!

No real comment on your actual foreign film selections...except that I've seen all or most of your top 20 and I like them all. My list, I imagine would be a lot heavier with new wave films and I note that you don’t have one classic new wave film in your top 20. Surely, I'd have Breathless in the top 2 or 3 and 400 Blows might crack the top 5 as well. Not really a criticism, mind you...just an observation and a point to ponder. What’s your beef with the new wave??

Also, you've got to see some Melville. I assume you haven’t seen his films, because that’s the only explanation for his mysterious lack of presence in your top 20.

Vancetastic said...

Dom, I guess I'm not such a fan of French New Wave. I really want to be, but Flickchart is where the honesty comes out.

Melville is high on my list right now, largely because of your ravings. But as of now I have seen none.

Gotta correct the record here: I stupidly included The Professional as a foreign film, when obviously it's in English. D'oh! However, I will leave the original post as is.