Thursday, April 17, 2008

Good foreign flicks

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.
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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.

Enjoy.

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.

Good. Thanks.

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?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lars is good.
I saw The Diving Bell and it is wonderful.
Even spicier when you know that the wife helped with the script. So the film indicates that the mistress did not visit the hospital, when, really, he died in her arms.

Ken Martin said...

Thanks for the great recommendations. I've seen many of these films and I agree the ones I've seen on your list are great. I'm going to print out your list and go find the others to watch.
I would add to your list a few more, including the romantic Amelie starring Audrey Tautou, the romantic thriller Diva, and Amores Perros, an edgy tale with a Cain-and-Abel twist starring among others a younger Gael Garcia Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries, The Crime of Padre Amaro).

Lars said...

Ken, I also enjoyed AMELIE, Tatou is a gem, also very good in A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT. DELICATESSEN is another French film I love, however these films cross over into that semi-artsy French genre that I think scare mainstream viewers away from foreign films. Maybe not. AMORES PERROS and CITY OF GOD are brilliant films, but very graphic and unsettling in moments. I have not seen DIVA, will rent immediately. Thanks for the rec. Very much looking forward to DIVING BELL. I also highly recommend LA VIE EN ROSE, the Pilaf film that won Marion Cotillard the oscar. Outstanding performance.

Just finished watching THERE WILL BE BLOOD a second and then third time. Still submit that it has huge flaws, but elements of it are mesmerizing and the overall achievement of the film is great.

Lars

Max Fischer said...

Rejoice the return of Lars and his real droll! Excellent tally of foreign language films, many of which will be added to my Netflix que.

I must say though, his momentary digression into the political dichotomy of Hollywood liberals wasn't entirely without segue, however just enough of an ambush to add to his urgency. I recently saw John Cusack being interviewed by the ever fawning (drooling, perhaps?) James Lipton and was utterly disgusted by Cusack's inability to recognize that his audience consisted of acting students and not Move On boot campers. Serve me up some good grief with a side of UGH, please.

News flash for you, Johnny C. You were the affable sidekick in 'Sixteen Candles' when we first met and I will always hold you to that high esteem, similar to that I have for Sean Penn for his brilliant portrayel of Spircoli in 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High'.

More acting and less talking, please. It makes me want to take in a foreign language film to get away from it all.

dino martin peters said...

hey pallie, thanks for you kind words 'bout our Dino...."Young Lions" shows the world what a stellar and multi-talented actor that our Dino really is.

Escaped Waco Alive said...

Lars is a mighty fine writer. But I found all the flying around fighting scenes in "Slouching Tiger, Dipso Dragon" awfully absurd. Yes, I do accept Chris Reeves in blue tights and red Jockey shorts worn outside his tights as believable, but, hey, I was brought up that way...you know, "Truth, justice, and the American way" and all that. In full agreement about "Young Lions." Brando was great (as was Martin). Brando does a great German. If you've not seen "Morituri," run, don't walk to your local DVD rental establishment (a really diverse, artsy store 'cause this movie ain't gonna be at the top of the teens viewing list). Cut. That's a print.

Lars said...

I watched MORITURI years ago and don't remember it being that good, I'll track it down and give it another watch. I am a huge Brando fan. To that point, I was one of only a dozen public citizens allowed in the courtroom the day he took the stand and testified in his son Christian's murder trial. Privvy to 45 minutes of unedited Marlon Brando on the witness stand. Some say it was his finest performance. Sad to be sure, as his his saga and overall legacy. But what an actor.

A couple of Brando titles that are often overlooked but are personal favorites of mine: REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE, THE FUGITIVE KIND, ONE EYED JACKS, and his first film THE MEN. Also check out THE FRESHMAN if you want a good laugh.

Now I'm going to have to submit to Mr. Phenix my TOP 20 films list; you will not be surprised to find ON THE WATERFRONT and A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE to be numbers 1 & 2.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a big fan of most of those Lars liked that I have seen, but The Young Lions is, in fact, an incredibly powerful film...Kinch

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