Do American movies seem stale to you? Are there moments when you want nothing more than to read subtitles? It’s a big, cinematic world out there filled to the brim with non-American films. With 2013’s “Nairobi Half Life,” and “Fanie Fourie’s Lobola,” Kenya and South Africa’s movie industries are on the rise. South Korea is still experiencing a renaissance. Thailand’s industry is growing along with China’s. Argentina and Colombia are coming into some serious economic growth thanks in part to films like 2012’s “Elefante Blanco” and “La Sirga.” But until those movies make it onto DVD, here are five foreign flicks to sate your appetite.
Werckmeister Harmonies: February 1, 2001
Director: Bela Tarr
A gigantic tractor-drawn trailer holding the stuffed carcass of a whale and other assorted medical oddities rolls into a bitterly cold village on the Hungarian Plain. The man behind the display, The Prince, drives the villagers to violence and the riots spare no one. “Werckmeister Harmonies” is unrelenting and nihilistic. It’s incredibly shot and acted, each scene is impeccably crafted. It’s a movie that requires patience and concentration. Those who finish it will be thoroughly rewarded.
The Clone Returns Home: January 10, 2009
Director: Kanji Nakajima
An astronaut, Kohei (Mitsuhiro Oikawa, “Casshern”), is pushed into signing an agreement to clone his body after death. He dies in space soon after and his clone is awakened. This patient meditation on life, death and Japanese philosophy is devastating at numerous turns. The world is hauntingly still and distant. Every emotion seems distant from the person feeling it and propelled by an impressive, haunting score. “The Clone Returns Home” feels like a nostalgic trip back to a place of tragedy.
I Wish…: June 11, 2011
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
After being separated from his brother, Ryunosuke, during a divorce (Ohshiro Maeda, “Link”), 12-year-old Koichi (Koki Maeda, “Kamen Teacher”) begins to believe that if he makes a wish at the exact time and place that two bullet trains pass each other, he can bring his parents back together. “I Wish…” is delicate and heartwarming. Real life brothers Ohshiro and Koki have indelible chemistry on-screen. “I Wish…” revives that innermost part in a person that yearns to go back to a simpler time, a childhood filled with beginnings and not ends.
Blue is the Warmest Color: October 9, 2013
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Young Adele’s (Adele Exarchopoulos, “I Used to be Darker”) life is changed when she sees Emma (Lea Seydoux, “Grand Central”), a mysterious woman with blue hair. Quickly, her desire is awakened and the two embark on a passionate journey through love and loss. Finally, a movie that shows a lesbian relationship in an honest and less romanticized light than something like “Chasing Amy.” The movie’s beautiful and resonant for couples around the world, regardless of sexuality. Its NC-17 rating is well deserved, but the emotional fallout of the film far outweighs any controversy that arises from the film’s 10-15 minute sex scenes.
Sankofa: May 28, 1993
Director: Haile Gerima
Country: Burkina Fasoj
A conceited Black American fashion model, Mona (Oyafunmike Ogunlano) goes on a photo shoot in Africa. A man the locals call Sankofa (Kofi Ghanaba) begins to curse her mercilessly saying, “Return to your past!” She is then transported to the days of slavery, forced to endure the physical, psychological and spiritual horrors there. It’s hard to describe the kind of emotions “Sankofa” bombards the viewer with. It’s relentlessly brutal in its portrayal of chattel slavery. Where many slavery movies focus on the physical and psychological torture of slaves, “Sankofa” also brings in the spiritual abuse. If any movie should be the “definitive” slavery movie, “Sankofa” is a more than worthy contender.