« The Big Broadcast of 1938 | Main | True Stories of Nicholas Ray »

August 23, 2007

It's All True


Yes, it's true. Of the 122 foreign language films that I have to consider, I have not seen eight. Jim Emerson has five to catch up on. I checked the list a couple of times to make sure about what I had not seen. And yes, it is also true that I could have seen a couple of the nominees theatrically but I didn't. Why not? Well I guess I could quote Dick Cheney and say, "I had other priorities".

I could have seen The Decalogue and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul on the relatively big screen but chose not to. On the other hand, I have seen the Three Colors Trilogy and Double Life of Veronica so I am not unfamiliar with Krzysztof Kieslowski. Likewise with R.W. Fassbinder, I have seen several of his films, and even worked as the Assistant Manager where The Merchant of Four Seasons had its American premiere. My favorite Fassbinder is actually the one made from his play and filmed by Francois Ozon, Water Drops on Burning Rocks.

I almost was going to see that other version of Day of Wrath when I spotted it a my neighborhood VCD store in Chiang Mai, but the version they had was strictly Thai dubbed. Otherwise, I think of Carl Dreyer as the film equivalent to broccoli. I know it's good for me, but I really rather go for the nutritiously dubious works of Jesus Franco. I have seen Vampyre, but I have more fun with the exploration of the genre by Jean Rollin. Maybe if Carl Dreyer had the courage to stock his films with lesbian vampires who wander around wearing diaphanous nightgowns, I'd watch more of his films. I guess I will have to seek out Dreyer's Day or Wrath as well as Ordet on DVD.

I missed the theatrical run of Army of Shadows as I was in Thailand at the time, but I will be getting a copy from the Denver Public Library soon. Forbidden Games was already on my rental list. It's a film I recall my parents discussing. I've seen a couple of other films by Rene Clement including what may be one of the best films Charles Bronson was ever in, Rider in the Rain.

As for The Story of the Late Chrysanthemums, I'm not about to buy a VHS tape for the sake of a possible vote. Had my own film collection not been in storage, I might have more easily remembered my own favorite Mizoguchi, Princess Yang Kwei Fei. My region free DVD player is also in storage so Bela Tarr's Satantango will have to go unseen as well.

I may see Cinema Paradiso again only because of the recommendations of those who have seen the complete version, not the U.S. theatrical version I am familiar with. The films I have seen by Giuseppe Tornatore have not made me enthusiastic about his work, including the Italian version of Malena.

While some have questioned Run Lola Run, I might have included this film. I saw it theatrically and own both the DVD and the soundtrack DVD. From my Buddhist point of view, Tom Twyker's film and Robert Bresson's L'Argent are both terrific in how they detail cause and effect, the unintended consequences of actions of people.

I have to wonder if Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon would score so high if more people were familiar with Ang Lee's source of inspiration, King Hu. Having seen a number of Hong Kong martial arts films that have preceded Lee's, my own feeling is that Lee had the advantage of a relatively huge budget and the marketing muscle of Sony Pictures. Part of my problem stems from the fact that the success of Lee's film has inspired so many variations, the best of which was Zhang Yimou's Hero. A few years ago I had the opportunity to see one of the first Hong Kong films with a female star, Come Drink with Me with Cheng Pei-Pei in attendance. Speaking of King Hu, I am hoping to see Dragon Inn, the film screened in Goodbye, Dragon Inn. I do love the Tsui Hark remake. Not that Zhang Ziyi and Michelle Yeoh are not attractive, but nothing compares to the opening scene of the new version of Dragon Inn. The sparks are palpable when, disguised as a young man, Maggie Cheung flirts with Brigitte Lin.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at August 23, 2007 12:41 PM


I'm with you in that there are many films of the 122 I haven't seen.

Many, many, many.

12 or so of my top 25 did make the list...and a hanful of films I have seen (but didn't like) made the list as well...so I'm rounding out my own experience and picking up as many of these films as I can fit in. It's incentive to watch those films you know you should. Or at least feel like I should.

Posted by: RC of strangeculture at August 24, 2007 12:55 AM

I haven't seen about 25 films out of 122 but in all honesty, many don't interest me much either which is why I haven't seen them. I'd like to make time to see a few things but I already can't decide from the 100 films I have seen so that's doubtful at this point. I'm also not in the mood at the moment to sit through a 7 hour Bela Tarr film.

I highly recommend Forbidden Games. Rene Clement is a great director but I'm surprised he made the list. Rider in the Rain is one of his best films in my opinion.

I enjoyed Run Lola Run a lot too. It won't be one of my picks but I like it.

On the other hand, I'm not a fan of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. There are so many better Kung Fu flicks. I wanted to put the entire Once Upon a Time in China series on my own list and almost did. I love Tsui Hark's tribute to Leone's westerns, but he's made a lot of terrific films.

Posted by: Kimberly at August 24, 2007 01:29 PM

Ahh Peter, how could you leave that glorious invention known as a region-free DVD player in storage? If I could travel with my DVD player, I would! It's like my third arm now.

Posted by: Joseph B. at August 24, 2007 11:54 PM

I liked Run Lola Run too, but less so after I saw the Milkyway Production from a year earlier, Too Many Ways To Be #1, which it shares enough similarity with that I can't help but wonder if Twkyer got his best ideas from the film.

I like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, recognizing that it is less of a genuine kung-fu film than a middlebrow variant aimed more at subtitle-readers relatively unfamiliar with wuxia than at Mandarin speakers looking for a retelling of a well-known tale.

I voted for my own favorite Shaw Brothers action extravaganza, Eight-Diagram Pole Fighter starring Gordon Liu, but I guess I was the only one.

Posted by: Brian at August 28, 2007 07:56 PM