Foreign films became a passion of mine for two very different reasons. Firstly, two old school friends used to come over to my house and watch scary Japanese films with me, freaking my poor big sister out, who would sit in her bedroom next door and hear our intermittent squeals and screams (and often giggles!) and wonder what on earth we were doing.
And that was the start of my love for Japanese horror - Battle Royale, the Ring Trilogy and Audition were the favourites but we were also highly amused by the Tartan Extreme trailers that would come at the beginning of the DVD. Hard Boiled had the funniest (unintentionally!) trailer of Chow Yun-Fat cradling a baby and shooting everyone around him. Then came Hard Boiled 2 with its new tagline (which we created!) of more guns, more blood, more death and more eggs!
Then at university, I started to learn Spanish. And I started to take trips down to the local Phoenix cinema to watch the latest Spanish releases. Then I started to buy DVDs. It was at this point that I started to expand my foreign film viewing to other languages besides Japanese and Spanish. And I got to see the joy that is Amelie and the stunningly beautiful Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
Spanish films are still my favourite overall. Only in a Spanish film could Penelope Cruz play an HIV positive, pregnant nun and keep the plot plausible (All About my Mother) or Antonio Banderas play an ex-mental patient who kidnaps a porn star and still be funny (Tie me up, Tie me down).
But my real love of foreign cinema is their ability to be completely un-Hollywood. The American remakes of foreign films always leave something lacking (see review) - case in point: The Ring, Vanilla Sky etc. The characters do not always walk off into the sunset, nobody is shy about sex or violence, the plot is not thinned for the viewing public and the ends do not always tie up in a neat little bow. And for all that, I thank you foreign films, from the bottom of my slightly twisted heart.
Here are 5 you absolutely must see:
- Amelie (French) - beautiful, romantic without being cheesy, heartwarming for the deepest and darkest cynic.
- All About my Mother (Spanish) - to explain it would ruin it. Just watch it!
- Battle Royale (Japanese) - a class of Japanese school children are put on an island and forced to kill each other. Violent but very very clever!
- Ring Trilogy (Japanese) - Still creepy, will stand the test of time as one of the greatest horror films ever made!
- Pans Labyrinth (Spanish) - visually stunning and incredibly acted. Magical and very dark all at the same time.
And if you fancy a giggle - try "Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down" (Spanish). Antonio Banderas is hilarious and if you can get past the graphic sex scenes it's absolute comedy genius.