’08 was an amazing year for films. Even the summer blockbusters, which usually consist of simple popcorn entertainment, gave audiences enough substance that they raised the bar even for the February award-winning releases. The greatness of The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Wall-E, Tropic Thunder, (only a handful of these years great blockbusters not to mention year round films) has been stated in numerous lists everywhere. But it has been a great year for films even outside Hollywood. This list summarizes a few international flicks from ’08 that are musts for any movie buff. They appear in order by country and language of origin not in order of merit (with so many to choose from I dare not judge). Without further ado here they go:
Entre les Murs (The Class) -Getting to like French cinema is hard, unlike Hollywood films, which have clear-cut plots; French films stray away into long dialogues. You actually have to be paying attention to understand, and that means reading subtitles. I fell asleep the first time I watch this film and God only knows what made me watch it again. Second time around the film got my respect. This is a film on how to use your brain not to think. A class filled with you typical urban ruffians, of minority ethnicities, stand up against their teacher. In an average Hollywood film, the kids would learn their lessons; here they outsmart the teacher and pay the price for it a harsh one but it is paid. And ofcourse we cannot forget to mention the French nominee for the Golden Globe:
Il y a Longtemps Que Je T’aime (I Loved You So Long) – a film that establishes Kristin Scott Thomas as possibly one of the greatest actresses alive. She plays a woman who after spending half of her life in prison attempts to reunite with a family that no longer knows her.
Vals Im Bashir (Waltz with Bashir) – Though this year did give us the masterful Wall-E as an animated film, it is a sad reality that animation is usually regarded as a medium for kids (at least in this hemisphere I know that in Japan animation has the respect of most adults). If anything Waltz with Bashir proves that everyone who ever thought such a thing was wrong. This is the story of an old war vet it deals with adult situations as powerfully as any classic war epic. In other words: think Apocalypse Now/Platoon/Saving Private Ryan as an animated feature. The film has been nominated for best foreign film in the Golden Globes, but I am still puzzled on how did Kung Fu Panda got nominated for Animated Feature and the Hollywood Foreign Press happened to skipped this film in that category.
4 Luni, 3 Saptamani si 2 zile (4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days) – If you have ever had one of those friends whom you have basically had to resolve everyone of their problems on top of solving your own just because they are not capable of doing it themselves, then you will begin to sympathize with the frustration Otilia has when her roommate Gabriela asks her to find an abortion. Poor Otilia does everything and deals with everything except the abortion itself. They say the experience of having an abortion is the most harrowing experience a woman can have, if this film doesn’t prove it for you I don’t know what will.
Two years ago a set Mexican directors, cinematographers, and writes where nominated to numerous awards for three films produced outside of Mexico. I am talking of course of Babel, Children of Men, and Pan’s Labyrinth (the first two produced in the US the latter one in Spain). Their success is part of an ongoing boom in Mexican cinema that began late in 2003. This year however the greatness comes within Mexico. Two films, incredibly different from each other, show how far this boom has come.
Rudo y Cursi – I have always hated my country’s national futbol team. I could rant on for ages but instead I recommend watching this film about two brothers from a middle of nowhere town in Guerrero, their rise into the big soccer league in Mexico, and their downfall due not because of their diminishing talent but because of their bad decisions on the game’s sidelines. Thumbs up for Guillermo Francella, for his role as Batuta, without his Argentinian charm this film would have been only half of what it is.
Arráncame La Vida (Tear This Heart Out) – A super-production about what the Mexican years after the revolution looked like, stabs deep into the origin of country’s corrupt politics. Seen from the point of view of Catalina, the wife of el General Ascencio, this film remembers that although there might have been great men in history, they usually relied on a woman, who had more power over their lives (and therefore history) than they imagined.
These are of course merely a handful of films and to list every good international film released this year would take pages out of this blog. Because this lists are meant so that every film reaches an audience, here is a list of a other great foreign films of this year that are musts:
Un Conte de Noël (A Christmas Tale) – France
Ne Touchez pas la Hache (The Duchess of Langeais or Don’t Touch the Axe) – France / Italy
Lat den Rätte Komma In (Let the Right One In) – Sweden
Ne le dis à personne (Tell No One) – Belguim
In Bruges – UK / Ireland
Transsiberian – Russia
XXY – Argentina / Spain
Bikur Ha Tizmoret (The Band’s Visit)- Israel
My Winnipeg – Canada
And the other Golden Globe Nomminees besides Waltz With Bashir and I Loved You So Long:
The Baader Meinhof Complex – Germany
Maria Larssons Eviga Ogonblick (Everlasting Moments) – Sweden / Denmark
Gomorrah - Italy