‘Foreign Film Recommendations’ Category

Here is a list of some fabulous foreign films I have the privilege of recommending to you (in order by country). If you have any film suggestions that are good enough to recommend just email me the title and I’ll have a look, but I won’t promise it will end up on the list. 

Italian Cinema

8 1/2 (1963)
Director: Federico Fellini
Fellini’s masterpiece – a film about film. It is one of the best collaborations he made with star Marcello Mastrioanni.

La Notte (1961)
Director: Michaelangelo Antonioni
A story about how one couple’s relationship changes over the course of one night at a party in a billionaire’s mansion. Slow, dramatic and full of emotion.

Divorce, Italian Style (1961)
Director: Pietro Germi
This is a hilarious film about how far one man will go to end his marriage.

Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958)
Director: Mario Monicelli

A gang of would-be robbers attempt to pull off a big score, the only trouble is they have no experience, and are merely just a ragtag group of friends. Watch and find out what happens!

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970)
Director: Elio Petr
With a superb score by none other than Ennio Morricone, Petri’s film is as suspenseful as it is enjoyable.

L’avventura (1960)
Director: Michaelangelo Antonioni

A group of friends go on holiday to a secluded island and one of them disappears. As per his unique style, this is a slow moving, very dramatic and emotional Antonioni film.

The Bicycle Thief (1948)
Director: Vittorio De Sica
An Italian neo-realist film about a man searching for his stolen bicycle (which he uses for work and is thus his livelihood) with his young son. 


German Cinema

The Last Laugh (1924)
Director: F.W Murnau
A depressing yet honest look at what happens to a doorman when he is fired, and how it affects his relationship with his family and friends. 

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Director: Robert Wiene

This film is a turning point in German cinematic history because it introduced us to German expressionism, with its bleak and canted-angled set design and style that influenced later American films. 

Das Boot (1981)
Director: Wolfgang Petersen

The lives of German soldiers aboard a U-boat is chronicled in this film that leaves nothing out, painstakingly showing us the intricate details of how they cope with living on the U-boat, while trying to come to terms with the demands of the war. 

The Lives of Others (2006)
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

During the division of East and West Germany, officers in the East are employed are surveillants listening in on suspected defectors. One such officer overhears a popular writer’s attempt to show the West what is happening to the citizens in East Germany – however the officer develops a moral conflict as to whether or not he should notify his superiors. A wonderful film about morality, conscience, authoritative rule and how people live within it. 

Downfall (2004)
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel

This film chronicles the final days of Hitler’s life as he struggles to win a war he is continually losing while being locked away in his bunker. An intense film with superb performances by the entire cast. 

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1932)
Director: Fritz Lang
A police officer’s investigation leads to a prime suspect – a man who’s been in a mental institution for years. 

M (1931)
Director: Fritz Lang
A child serial killer is on the loose and when cops are unable to catch him, other criminals take up the cause to find the killer. The most haunting thing about this film is the way the killer whistles the song he uses to lure his victims. 

The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
This is a film about the marriage of a young woman to a German soldier during WWII and the effects of the war on her life, and the lives of German citizens. 


French Cinema

The 400 Blows (1959)
Director: François Truffaut
As a headliner for the French New Wave style of filmmaking, Truffaut brought the world a contribution to a new way of storytelling that was honest, real and focused on everyday people and incidents in a documentary like style. This film follows the struggles of a young boy from the working class who is constantly getting into trouble and is the black sheep of society that nobody wants to help. 

Shoot the Piano Player (1960)
Director: François Truffaut

This film is very different from Truffaut’s previous, The 400 Blows in that it takes on a more avant-garde style to it. It is a simple story of a piano player at a local bar who gets involved in dealings with gangsters as a result of his brother’s lifestyle. 

Jules et Jim (1962)
Director: François Truffaut

Truffaut chronicles the realtionship between a woman and the two men in her life who vie for her love and attention. 

Breathless (1960)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Godard’s first big international hit, chronicling the life of a newspaper worker who falls in love with a French man with a penchant for Humphrey Bogart – all in new wave style. 

Alphaville (1965)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Godard’s very avant-garde futuristic story about the ruler of a city who has outlawed all expressions of emotion, and the detective who wants to bring him down. 

Sympathy for the Devil (1968)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard

If you like The Rolling Stones then you’ll love this film. They let Godard film them in their recording studio while they were coming up with the song ‘Sympathy for the Devil’. What is interesting here is how Godard shows us the evolution of the song through it’s very different versions until we get to the one we all know today. What is even more interesting is, Godard never ever allows us to hear the song in its entirety. 

Pierrot le Fou (1965)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Like all of Godard’s film this one is just as imaginative and experimental as ever. He tells the story of two people leading very unordinary lives as they travel to the Mediterranean sea away from the hitmen that are after them. 

Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (1953)
Director: Jacqes Tati

Tati introduces us to his Chaplin-esque character Mr. Hulot, a bumbling man who always seems to get into trouble. The film is full of hilarious gags that are reprised in the sequels. Think of what Peter Sellers did in The Party and you have Mr. Hulot. 

Mon Oncle (1958)
Director: Jacques Tati

In this sequel, Mr. Hulot visits his sister, her husband and their son. The only problem is they are very up to date with technological advancements and Mr. Hulot just can’t seem to understand them. 

Playtime (1967)
Director: Jacques Tati

In his third outing as Mr. Hulot, Tati’s film revolves around modern day Paris and the complications that ensue when Mr. Hulot must navigate the modernity to meet his American official. 

Flight of the Red Balloon (2007)
Director: Hsiao-hsien Hou
Juliette Binoche stars in this French film by Taiwanese director Hsiao-hsien Hou. It follows the slow pace found in all of his films that looks in on the everyday lives of ordinary people. There is nothing fanciful about this film – it allows you to take in everything onscreen at your own pace – and that’s what makes it well worth watching. 

Under the Roofs of Paris (1930)
Director: Rene Clair
A street singer and a gangster both vie for the love of one woman in Clair’s film that captures the musical eccentricities of the city. It is one of his first sound films and therefore one to be watched by everyone.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Dreyer’s wonderfully cinematic film chronicles the trial of Joan of Arc. It is a silent film but makes up for that in its superb imagery. 

Port of Shadows (1938)
Director: Marcel Carne
A French film noir about a military deserter who finds love but then must hide his true identity.



Russian Cinema

October (1928)
Director: Sergei Eisenstein
Eisenstein’s counter-revolutionary film chronicles the events of 1917 with the overthrowing of the monarchy, the Bolshevik uprising and its “ten days that shook the world”. All of this is done through documentary-like style and Eisenstein’s famous montages – look for the intellectual montages where he pairs images of certain things like an ornate golden peacock with Kerensky. 

Battleship Potemkin (1925)
Director: Sergei Eisenstein
This film is famous for its Odessa Steps sequence featuring quick cuts and careful editing techniques, it’s no wonder ever single film course talks about it at length. Eisenstein’s film is about a famous mutiny on a Russian naval ship that involved not only the officers on the ship but also the citizens in the nearby city. It’s a remarkable film. 

Day Watch (2006)
Director: Timur Bekmambetov

I love this film. Timur Bekmambetov has such a fresh, visionary and unique style that is so indescribably great you have to see this for yourself. You will be blown away by the imagery and the story. 

Night Watch (2004)
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
The first film that follows a series of four books (I hope there will be four movies) is about the forces of the day and night battle for reign over all of Moscow. This is like nothing I have ever seen before and is one of my favourite foreign films. 

The Ghost (2008)
Director: Karen Oganesyan
I saw this film at the Toronto International Film Festival and I just loved it. It’s suspenseful, unique, has great performances and I can’t say enough how superb this film is. It’s about a mystery writer with writer’s block who meets an assassin and enlists him to help him write his story. Unbeknownst to the writer, the assassin is secretly setting him up. Konstantin Khabenskiy plays the writer in the film and he is one of those great actors where you don’t even have to know anything about the film to know it’s going to be remarkable. 

The Italian (2005)
Director: Andrei Kravchuk
This film centers around the story of a young boy in a Russian orphanage who is desperately seeking his birth mother. When a couple visits the boy and decides to adopt him, he runs away to find his mother on what little knowledge he has of her. It’s a delightful, heart-warming film. 

Mother (1926)
Director: Vsevolod Pudovkin 
Pudovkin’s silent adaptation of Maxim Gorky’s novel about the 1950 revolution and the impact a workers strike has on one family. 


Japanese Cinema

Tokyo Drifter (1966)
Director: Seijun Suzuki
A yakuza boss decides to go straight, but needs the help of one of his followers when a rival gang decides to restarts the gang wars. Seijun Suzuki was really the pioneer of these early yakuza films. 

Woman in the Dunes (1964)
Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara
To me, this film is experimental in its slow-paced story but is still visually stunning and Teshigahara is a landmark director in Japanese cinema. The film is about a young  man who is essentially kidnapped by local villagers and imprisoned in a hut with a young woman who lives in the sand dunes and spends all her time trying to keep the sand from caving in on the house. It is really interesting how this plays out since it is nothing like you would expect. 

Tokyo Zombie (2005)
Director: Sakichi Satô
This film is so funny, entertaining and offbeat. It’s about a landfill that eventually turns people into zombies and centers on two friends who are trying to outrun the zombies and stay alive. 

Survive Style 5+ (2004)
Director: Gen Sekiguchi
Even though this film is made up of various different stories that don’t seem to have any connection at first, it is one of the most unique and entertaining films I have seen. Really, if you can find this film anywhere you must hold onto it. It reminds me of the films by Hiroyuki Tanaka.

Monday (2000)
Director: Hiroyuki Tanaka aka Sabu
A man wakes up in a hotel room, with no idea what he did over the weekend and pieces his memory together with evidence he has on him of what happened. You’ll be amazed, confused, and entertained as what he did unfolds before your eyes. This film is hilarious, and I would expect nothing more from the director. 

Drive (2002)
Director: Hiroyuki Tanaka aka Sabu
Drive, follows in the same comedic vain as Monday. It’s about a man suffering from migraines who gets carjacked and ends up befriending the men who try to rob him. 

The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (2003)
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Takeshi Kitano’s version of the blind swordsman series, and what a version it is. Full of action, interesting editing and sound techniques and a huge musical number at the end. Make no mistake, this is a great film. 

Takeshis’ (2005); Glory to the Filmmaker! (2007); Achilles and the Tortoise (2008)
Director: Takeshi Kitano
I grouped these three films together because they are part of a trilogy of Kitano films that  explore, in avant-garde and experimental ways, the nature of art, cinema and storytelling. They are far different from Kitano’s yakuza films and signal a change in his persona as a director as he moves away from the action films and more toward art films. 

Café Lumière (2003)
Director: Hsiao-hsien Hou
Hou directed this Japanese film as an homage to filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu. In it, he explores the modernity of Japan through the transit system. 

Tokyo Story (1953)
Director: Yasujiro Ozu
A story about life, family and the positive and negative aspects that go along with that. 

I Was Born But… (1932)
Director: Yasujiro Ozu
Ozu’s silent film about two brothers who learn about life and maturity as they navigate the realm of childhood and adulthood, trying to remain respectful of their father’s embarrassing ways to please his boss. 

Stray Dog (1949)
Director: Akira Kurosawa
A policeman loses his gun, then finds out it is being used to commit crimes. A fine story about morality, conscience, and taking responsibility for one’s own actions.

Seven Samurai (1954)
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Kurosawa’s epic about a band of out of work samurai who lead and protect a village against attacking bandits.

Roshomon (1950)
Director: Akira Kurosawa
A crime occurs in a forest, and the police have three possible suspects with three very different stories of how the crime occurred and who is responsible. Extremely great directing, camera style and editing – it remains as one of my favourite Kurosawa films.

Sisters of the Gion (1936)
Director: Kenji Mizoguchi
Mizoguchi’s haunting tale of the struggle of two sisters trying to survive as Geisha’s.

The Pornographers (1966)
Director: Shohei Imamura
A surreal film about a man who makes a living by directing pornographic films and the complications that weave their way into his life. 

Death by Hanging (1968)
Director: Nagisa Oshima
After sentenced to death, a Korean man survives his execution and the prison guards try to figure out how that could have happened. A great experimental film with moments of surrealism. 

Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Mamoru Oshii’s epic anime film about futuristic cyborgs and advanced technology. The animation alone is one reason to watch this film, plus the story is extremely inventive and orginal. 

The Sky Crawlers (2008)
Director: Mamoru Oshii
This is an anime film about young adults who are recruited as fighter pilots. It is a very dense story with a lot going on in the film and the ending will surprise you. 

Still Walking (2008)
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
A man reluctantly returns to his parents house with his family for a reunion. They are honoring the memory of the son that passed away years ago. What follows is a wonderfully moving film about family relationships and tradition. 


Chinese Cinemas (included here is any film made in a Chinese language)

Red Sorghum (1987)
Director: Zhang Yimou
A young woman and her lover take over a winery business but when the Japanese come to destroy the sorghum fields to make roads, the winery workers attempt to revolt against their rule. 

In the Mood for Love (2000)
Director: Wong Kar-wai
This film is visually stunning and I would expect nothing less from Wong Kar-wai, who weaves a tale of adultery and love in the 1960s. 

2046 (2004)
Director: Wong Kar-wai
This film is intended as a sort of sequel to In the Mood for Love. It is more experimental, with many stories and futuristic imagery because it is the director’s vision of the main character’s (played by Tony Leung) novel. It’s a very great film, and not at all as confusing as it may sound. 

Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
Director: Zhang Yimou
This film is set in 1920s China and follows the story of a young woman (played by Gong Li) who, when her father dies,  is forced to marry a man who already has three wives. Zhang Yimou’s visual symmetry is what makes this film spectacular, and sets the stage in terms of style, for his later films. 

Hero (2002)
Director: Zhang Yimou
Before China kingdoms were brought together, they were divided. And the King of Qin wages a war to conquer all of the kingdoms and bring them under one rule. Naturally, there are those opposed, so they send in their best assassin to stop the King of Qin and what ensues is stunning visual images of different accounts of what happened. Zhang Yimou has to be one of the best visual directors out there. 

House of Flying Daggers (2004)
Director: Zhang Yimou
A secret organization called the House of Flying Daggers opposes the government rule, so officer Jin (played by the wonderful Takeshi Kaneshiro) is sent to investigate claims that a dancer named Mei (Ziyi Zhang) is part of that group. The only problem is both Jin and his superior Leo (Andy Lau!) fall in love with Mei, which puts their mission in jeopardy. Watch for the incredible colours and images that make up this beautiful film. 

Chungking Express (1994)
Director: Wong Kar-wai
I love this film, and all the actors in it. The editing and style are what define Wong Kar-wai, with its slow motion streaks of action and neon lighting. Chungking Express is just charming, you need to see this one. 

Perhaps Love (2005)
Director: Peter Chan
This is a musical, well it has musical numbers in it and is about a filmmaker directing a film that resembles the real lives of the actors in it. Takeshi Kaneshiro stars in this highly enjoyable and entertaining film about love and loss. If you don’t like musicals you should probably see this anyway – it’s that good. 

Comrades: Almost a Love Story (1996)
Director: Peter Chan
Two people living in Hong Kong form a friendship and their paths always cross but love seems to be missing, until they really ’see’ each other. 

Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
Director: Stephen Chow
I was blown away when I saw this film. Stephen Chow is so inventive and creative – he mixes kung fu with a loony tunes quality and the result is the epitome of entertaining! It is a must see for everyone.  

Infernal Affairs (2002)
Director: Wai-keung Lau & Alan Mak
You might know this film from the Scorsese remake The Departed. It is very different from Scorsese’s version which is nice to see because it still retains its originality that way. The film is about one undercover cop trying to catch a mole in the police department who happens to be working with the gang leader the undercover cop has befriended. The ending will surprise you! it is no where near Scorsese’s film. 

Tokyo Raiders (2000)
Director: Jingle Ma
The yakuza are after a woman’s fiancee and she has no idea why. A private investigator with a penchant for trench coats and martial arts decides to help her find out the truth while keeping ahead of the yakuza, in this entertaining and action packed film. 

A Better Tomorrow (1986)
Director: John Woo
John Woo is the pioneer of heroic bloodshed films where guns have replaced traditional martial arts. This film is remarkable and its no wonder why fans wanted to start dressing like Chow Yun Fat’s character.

Bullet in the Head (1990)
Director: John Woo
Great acting weaves this dramatic tale about three friends who flee Hong Kong only to end up in Vietnam in a POW camp. The atrocities they go through test the limits of their friendships when they meet up years later. 

Hard-boiled (1992)
Director: John Woo
A shoot-out in a hospital against gang leaders. This film is action packed and highly entertaining, you’re sure to like it. 

Yellow Earth (1984)
Director: Chen Kaige
A communist soldier is sent to the countryside to collect folk songs for the Party. There he meets a family, and learns the songs the Party told him about were not ones of happiness but of suffering and toiling. His presence there alters the lives of the peasant family and slowly changes the young daughter’s perspective about her own life. 

Farewell, My Concubine (1993)
Director: Chen Kaige
Two friends in the Peking Opera, have known each other their whole lives and only begin to drift apart when a woman comes between them. The costumes for this film are amazing as they are reminiscent of Chinese Opera. 

Once Upon a Time in China (1991)
Director: Tsui Hark
Jet Li plays Wong Fei Hung – a Chinese martial arts master resisting the influence of the West. This film has some of the greatest martial arts sequences I’ve seen.

A Summer at Grandpa’s (1984)
Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien
This film follows the daily life of a young brother and sister as they spend their summer at their grandfather’s house. A wonderful film about childhood. 

A Time to Live, A Time to Die (1985)
Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien
Semi-autobiographical aspects from the director’s life wade through Hou’s film about a family whose generational gaps not only widen the gap between family members but also with respect to cultural heritage. 

Dust in the Wind (1986)
Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien
The challenges of love and family are portrayed in this film about two young lovers from small mining towns, who move to the city to support themselves and their families. 

Three Times (2005)
Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien
1966, 1911 and 2005 are the three different settings for three different love stories each played by the same actors. 

Platform (2000)
Director: Zang Ke Jia
This film follows a group of performers and show how their lives and content of their plays change with the changing government structure. 

City on Fire (1987)
Director: Ringo Lam
Ringo Lam is the contemporary of John Woo but is somewhat overlooked. This film is probably his most well known since its  story is similar to Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. It’s about a policeman infiltrating a gang of thieves and the bond he forms with one of the gang members. 

Yi Yi (2001)
Director: Edward Yang
Edward Yang chronicles the everyday life of an ordinary family in Taipei. It is a fascinating and dramatic story. 

Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
Director: Ang Lee
Ang Lee tells the story about a father who has lost the sense of taste, and how he tries to raise his three daughters, each of whom is becoming increasingly independent. 

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Director: Ang Lee
A stolen sword and a fugitive set the stage for Ang Lee’s martial arts epic. The pure fantasy aspect of the martial arts renders the film visually beautiful with great performances from all the actors involved. 

Drunken Master (1978)
Director: Yuen Wo-Ping
Jackie Chan brings his own style of martial arts to this comedic kung fu film. In it, he plays a martial arts student who learns Drunken Fist King Fu in order to stop an assassin. 

The Killer (1989)
Director: John Woo
John Woo’s ballet of bullets. This film has brilliant imagery to cover the story about an assassin who accidentally blinded a singer, so he accepts on last job hoping to put his earnings towards helping the singer. Chow Yun Fat is remarkable, as always. 


Korean Cinema

R-Point (2004)
Director: Su-chang Kong
A South Korean army base in Vietnam receives a radio signal from a group of soldiers presumed dead. They head in to investigate and what they find there is nothing they have ever imagined. 

Sword in the Moon (2003)
Director: Ui-seok Kim
This epic film is set in 17th Century Korea and follows the story of two brothers, also imperial guards, who are separated and turned against each other. The film is reminiscent of the martial arts style of Crouching Tiger with its fantasy appeal, and magnificent swordplay sequences. 

The Host (2006)
Director: Joon-ho Bong
A mysterious creature has appeared in Seoul’s Han River and begins attacking people. One father has his daughter taken by the creature and his whole family must help to try to get her back. What nobody knows, is the reason the creature is there and what it actually is. This film is spectacular!

Daytime Drinking (2008)
Director: Young-Seok Noh
A young man has just broken up with his girlfriend and his friends suggest a weekend away from the city for him to cheer up. What follows is one hilarious journey of misadventures that take the man all over Gangwon Province in search of his friends. This is a very original film, and extremely entertaining!


Hungarian Cinema

The Red and the White (1968)
Director: Miklos Jancso
Jancso’s films can be an acquired taste. They are highly experimental and avant-garde – he challenges the conventions of cinema so if that interests you then you should definitely see some of his films. This film is Jancso’s surreal take on war – this one centers on the Hungarians who helped the Bolshevik ‘reds’ defeat the ‘whites’. His film shows us all of the terrors and horrors of war and how chaotic it can be. 

Mephisto (1981)
Director: Istvan Szabo
This film follows the career of a popular stage actor in pre-WWII Germany. He becomes a favourite among the Nazi Party and must keep up his appearances even though all of his friends think otherwise and have fled from the Nazis. 


Danish Cinema

The Green Butchers (2003)
Director: Anders Thomas Jensen
This film is hilarious. It’s a black comedy about two friends who decide to start their own butcher shop and have quite the idea of how to get people coming into their store. Really, you must see this. 


African Cinema

Borom Sarret (1966)
Director: Ousmane Sembene
This is a short film by Sembene and it focuses on the day of one cart driver and the social divide that existed in Senegal in 1966. 

Black Girl (1966)
Director: Ousmane Sembene
In this film, Sembene tells the story of a young girl who is employed as a governess to a French family, but when the family moves from France to Dakar the girl is given less responsibilities and reduced to being a maid for the family. This is a very intricate film about social structure, and race relations. 

Yeelen (1987)
Director: Souleymane Cisse
Although I don’t care for the animal sacrifices in this film, it stands as a popular African film and the overall story is pretty good. It is about a young man with magical powers who enlists the help of his uncle to defeat his sorcerer father. 

Mapantsula (1988)
Director: Oliver Schmitz
This film from South Africa is about a young man caught up in the gangster lifestyle and pulled into the anti-apartheid struggle. He must then choose between what’s best for his country and what’s best for himself.

Bab El-oued City (1994)
Director: Merzak Allouache
In 1989 Algiers, a young man whose sleep is constantly interrupted by the loudspeaker outside his room that broadcasts the Imam’s word, finally decides to take it down. This action is inferred as going against the Imam wand the Islamists decide to put the city under their control. 

Ali Zaoua: Prince of the City (2000)
Director: Nabil Ayouch
Out of Morocco comes a film about four young street kids who leave a gang, but then fear reparations for leaving the gang. The all have dreams of their own that could soon be shattered if the gang finds them. A great film about maturity and childhood.

My Voice (2002)
Director: Flora Gomes
A very unconventional story about a young woman whose mother has always told her that everyone who sings in their family dies because of it. When she moves to France and becomes a singer, she knows she must tell her mother eventually so she decides to go back home and stage her own funeral. A very delightful and entertaining film! 

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