Actors go to movies all the time. They can deduct the price of admission but not the popcorn. Serious actors are serious about the movies. It’s part of their work experience. Their laboratory. Naturally, if you see lots of movies, you begin to form opinions. Informed opinions.
That’s my ramble to re-introduce you to Lars Beckerman, a buddy who has spent more than 20 years of his adult life working in Hollywood as actor, writer, producer, etc. Here is his take on foreign films worth seeing again. And more.
DON’T FEAR SUBTITLES
By Lars Beckerman
I haven’t yet seen the new French film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly but from what I hear from people whom I trust…it’s ‘brilliant!’ Last year it was Spain’s Pan’s Labrynth, a film I did see that proceeded to haunt my psyche for weeks. Not a film I would recommend to the faint of heart. So for those of you who pay no attention at all to foreign cinema, you are spared some creepy fare. However, some of the most memorable films of the past several years have been foreign and you are cheating yourself by not adding them to your menu. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve recommended a foreign film to a friend who replies “No thanks, I hate reading subtitles.” I get that. Nonetheless, you should not let this phobia rob you of a great cinematic treat.
I’m not about to ask you to go sift through the numerous Fellini films that film historians insist are classics. Nor am I going to urge you to head to your local video store and ask the slack jawed clerk to recommend a “good foreign flick.” Who knows where that might lead you. I’ve done the heavy lifting for you and assembled a group of foreign films that you deserve to see.
Three can’t miss tear-jerkers that every film lover must see: Cinema Paradiso (1988), Life is Beautiful (1997), and Central Station (1998).
Three German films that rock: Run Lola Run (1998), The Lives of Others (2006), and The Edukators (2006).
Two Spanish films that sizzle: Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001) and Tie Me Up Tie Me Down (1990).
A French combo that will break your heart: Jean De Florette (1986) and Manon of the Spring (1987).
One Chinese film that set new standards for action: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000).
If, after watching some of these films, you still have no patience for subtitles...do not go to dubbed versions of any film. That would be like putting on your favorite album and then settling for a bad cover band.
Most actors in Hollywood spend the first half of their careers paranoid and hyper neurotic; looking around with glazed eyes, always expecting someone to tap them on the shoulder and ask them to ‘please wait in the hall;’ and the second half convincing themselves that their opinions are somehow more important than yours and the platform your patronage has provided them commands them to glibly lecture or condescend to the public. So when John Cusack monologues his ‘activist’ script via satellite (Wow, he must be important!) it wreaks of delusional arrogance and ultimately cowardice. Acting like you are concerned and deeply troubled by the military industrial complex and evil profiteering contractors is so much less impressive than actually sacrificing something of yourself for the men and women and families that do the heavy lifting in our armed forces. Making flimsy, heavy handed films financed by the marketability of your image made possible by the free market capitalist system you supremely thrive in probably feels like a contribution to the American dialogue on this War - but is it? Compared to what people like Gary Sinise, Jon Voigt and Tom Selleck are doing? Quietly going out and generating events that directly impact the effectiveness and morale of our troops and their families. They don’t ‘act’ concerned, they make a difference.
In hopes of ending on a light, movie related note. I recently revisited an old Brando film called The Young Lions. Not one of Brando’s most notable or even memorable performances (although, as usual, he is exceptional). First and only time he starred opposite Montgomery Clift. A film that also showcases the legendary Dean Martin and the enigmatic Maximillian Schell. But those aren’t the real reasons for you to rent this 1958 two-and-one-half hour World War II epic.
Now I’m going to have to ask our female readers to leave the room.
The women in The Young Lions are exquisite! Hope Lange, Barbara Rush and May Britt. I would put this collection of Hollywood hotties up against any recent studio film in terms of sizzle and sophistication. Let’s put it this way, if Maxim Magazine was around in the late 50s they would have run a cover story titled The Women of The Young Lions Uncaged!!! How’s that for multi-generational cross pollination?