Wednesday, August 22, 2007

19 Foreign Language Films


I had a very difficult time choosing twenty-five movies to nominate as Best non-English Language Films.

Looking over my list (the six that made it onto the final list are in the comments on my original post), I find many, many things I regret missing, the most notable is a film by the brilliant Alejandro Jodorowsky. Other directors feel less absent. On my original, much longer list, my choice for a movie by Jean-Luc Godard had been Weekend, my choice for Federico Fellini had been Satyricon. I can only speculate that my vote could have pushed those movies over the edge, and really, both of those directors are well-represented on the final list.

In eliminating movies, I was deeply aware that I was nominating movies for a greater list. I was assuming that this list could serve to inspire people to view or consider as broad a range of foreign language movies as possible. I'm somewhat saddened to learn, in An appeal to survey voters by Edward Copeland, that a large group of people are not taking the weeks between now and the deadline to fill in some of the more obvious holes in their viewing.

As to the movies I nominated that did not make the final.



  1. A Better Tomorrow (1986 - Woo)

    I love that John Woo cycle. Yeah, that one. I'm a geek. What can I say? That said, this movie in particular resonates as the most heartfelt as well as the one with the tightest action sequences. Not to be even dorkier, but it's also gotten my through more than one particularly lonely evening, so it has sentimental meaning as well.


  2. Cronos (1993 - Del Toro)

    I saw this in 1993, at the Rialto Theater in Tacoma. It was another of those mind altering cinema experience, smart, funny, scary, but also haunting. A movie that never did leave my head.


  3. Dark Water (2002 - Nakata)

    One of the best ghost stories I've ever seen. It builds a creepy mood slowly, but mostly it does what ghost stories do best among fantasy and horror genres, it says something very sad about how we live and what we miss.


  4. Deep Red (1975 - Argento)

    A mystery? A horror movie? I didn't learn until after I'd seen it that it was a giallo. All I knew was that nothing I'd seen had ever made me feel the pain felt by murder victims in that way before. Powerful, chilling and surprising at every turn.


  5. Elevator to the Gallows (1958 - Malle)

    A perfectly tight thriller with an absolutely amazing score by Miles Davis.


  6. Female Prisoner #701 - Scorpion (1972 - Ito)

    I've written about this several times (most recently here), so I won't go into it here. I will acknowledge that Kimberly at Cinebeats was probably correct in choosing Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable as the best of the series. I chose this one largely as a proxy.


  7. The Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay (1971 - Gantillon)

    If I regret this choice, it's probably not for the reasons you think. It's merely because it was the one that I knew without the slightest doubt would not make the final list. That said, it's a wonderfully charming fairy tale, and I'm more than proud to list it among my favorite foreign language movies.


  8. Godzilla (1954 - Honda)

    As I said, I can't believe this one didn't make it! Were people merely stuck thinking of it in English? I can't say. This movie is frankly everything movies can and should be, a kickass monster movie, a political parable and a rich human drama.



  9. Incubus (1965 - Stevens)

    This movie always strikes me as Bergman-esque. It's one of the strangest, most genuinely otherworldly fantasy movies ever. I revisit it often, sometimes only in my mind, as dream, as thought, as lost images floating by...


  10. Master of the Flying Guillotine (1971 - Yu)

    It's the best Kung Fu action movie I've ever seen. I think that's reason enough.


  11. One on Top of the Other (1969 - Fulci)

    IMDb says A Lizard in a Woman's Skin is in English. I had The Great Silence slotted as the Eurowestern I was going to fight for, so Four of the Apocalypse was out... So, it was this quirky little thing.


  12. Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975 - Pasolini)

    Brilliant. Horrifying. Nearly unwatchable. But absolutely brilliant.


  13. Sex and Fury (1973 - Suzuki)

    Norifumi Suzuki is one of the most striking directors I've ever seen. The fact that he's spent his career making sleazy movies only makes him more appealing to me, but has probably kept his tremendous talent from getting the attention it deserved, certainly from serious critics.


  14. Spetters (1980 - Verhoeven)

    I suspect if I'd chosen The 4th Man or Soldier of Orange, there'd be a better chance that Paul Verhoeven would be represented on the list. I have no regrets, however, Spetters is amazing!


  15. The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971 - Martino)

    Argento took the giallo in one direction, while Sergio Martino took it a completely different. Martino's seems to have inspired more of his peers during the peak period of gialli and for good reason. This is a smart and sexy thriller.


  16. Tetsuo (1989 - Tsukamoto)

    Another that I'm surprised didn't make the list. This crowd was much less geeky than I expected. A movie that's hard to forget.


  17. Through a Glass Darkly (1961 - Bergman)

    My favorite Bergman movie by some distance. Heartbreaking and genuine. The cinematography by Sven Nykvist and the lead performance by Harriet Andersson are both as good as I've seen.


  18. Uzumaki (2000 - Higuchinsky)

    Positively Lovecraftian. Based on an equally fascinating Manga, Uzumaki by Junji Ito, this story of peculiar whirlpool spirals that take over people's minds and lives is beautiful and challenging.


  19. The Whip and the Body (1963 - Bava)
    Mario Bava made the most beautifully photographed horror movies in the whole of cinema. This is his most beautifully photographed movie. The fact that it has a beautiful and frightening performance by Christopher Lee is only icing on the cake.


And there you have, for better or for worse. I'll be pondering my final list, as well as a longer list and will post them as they develop.


3 comments:

cinebeats said...

What a wonderful list Neil! I really like the more personal lists I've seen and yours seems really thoughtful as well as personal.

Woo's The Killer was on my longer list so I understand the affection for Woo.

I also considered Cronos, Elevator to the Gallows, Tetsuo and The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh as well and I really love them all. Your Bava and Argento choices are terrific too.

I'm most excited to spot two films I've been curious about but haven't made the time to see yet - The Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay and Incubus. Now I will see them as soon as I can!

You've also got me curious to see Master of the Flying Guillotine as well. I came very close to adding the entire Once Upon a Time in China film series to my own list since I'm nutty about Jet Li's early films and I love that series a lot.

Neil Sarver said...

Thank you very much!

The Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay is a tricky movie. It's way too trashy to be recognized as an art movie and way too slow and arty to be celebrated by a large number of sort of college-aged "cult movie" fans. But I definitely think it has its own dreamy wonders.

Incubus is seriously an art movie that has a number of factors working against it... Shatner's, largely unfair, reputation as an actor, the fact that it's a horror movie and I think the Esperanto factor plays to too many as a novelty, but frankly it's a brilliant choice.

Once Upon a Time in China was (is) on my longer list and didn't come off until quite late in the game. One could, and some would, argue that I should have chosen something more substantive such as those over the purer Mortal Kombat-style thrill show. And, on another day, I would have. I enjoy Master of the Flying Guillotine every time I watch it, though. It's just a perfect example of that kind of movie.

RC said...

thanks for sharing the ones that didn't make the final list...

it's a pretty fun little experiment, and i'll be excited to see what hits the final list of 25.

--RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

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