by Mark A. Wilson
When I was growing up in Chicago in the early 1960's, one of my
favorite things to do was go with my mother on special occasions
to watch a foreign film at the local "art-house", as it
was called in those days. The Hyde Park Theater, just a few blocks
from our apartment, showed only foreign films, and they ran for
weeks at a time, usually to a full house. Such foreign films as
"Last Year at Marienbad" (French-Italian, 1961), D.H.
Lawrence's "Sons and Lovers" (British, 1960), and Ingmar
Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" and "Wild Strawberries"
(Swedish, 1957), were very popular in our neighborhood during my
childhood, both with adults and adolescents.
Today, the Hyde Park Theater no longer exists. The building was
empty, and the entrance was shuttered the last time I visited my
old neighborhood during the summer of 2003. In it's place, a multi-plex
cinema has opened in the local mall, which shows endless repetitive
versions of "car-chase-and-exploding-building" action
films to mostly teenage audiences. There is no other theater in
this neighborhood, (which includes the University of Chicago campus)
that shows foreign films on a regular basis anymore.
The fate of this particular art-house theater is symptomatic of
a nationwide trend that has seen a steady shrinking of distribution
of foreign films over the past decade. In a recent feature article
published in the New York Times, it was pointed out that foreign
language films (i.e. those that have subtitles) have seen a marked
decrease in both the number of screens they are released on in the
United States, as well as their total share of the annual income
from box office receipts in this country.
Several reasons for this decrease in viewer ship of foreign language
films in the United States over the past decade. The recent New
York Times article discussed some of them. Part of the problem is
a self-fulfilling prophecy, where-in distributors believe that American
audiences aren't as interested in seeing foreign films as they once
were, so they release fewer of them, and put those they do release
on fewer screens for shorter runs. This creates a vicious cycle
effect, in which American audiences have fewer and fewer opportunities
to see foreign films each year, so of course the total income from
foreign films goes steadily down.
Another reason for the decline in foreign film viewer ship in the
United States is that foreign film producers do not have the huge
publicity budgets needed to compete with the new Hollywood mega-studios'
budgets. Clearly, if American filmgoers don't see much publicity
about foreign films, they are not likely to seek out such films
in the few places that still show them.
Whatever the cause, we at Wildcelt believe passionately that foreign
films are becoming an endangered species that deserves attention
from the movie-going public.
To further this cause, this new link will feature reviews of the
best new foreign films, both those playing in theaters, and those
available on DVD or VHS. This link will be dedicated to the proposition
that without the alternative voices and viewpoints which foreign
films offer us, the richness and quality of American culture would
be seriously diminished.
miss this one.....
Sophie Scholl "The Final Days" (2005)
on a true story, "Sophie Scholl" is a thrilling, suspenseful
drama about the arrest, interrogation
and eventual prosecution of a soft spoken, intelligent college student,
who along with her brother and a small group of colleagues took a
stand against Nazism in 1943. Such a movement among intellectuals
was called the "White Rose", an underground organization
made up primarily of college students who sought to bring down the
third Reich. The group secretly met and printed up, then disseminated
leaflets which told of the devastating corruption and atrocities perpetuated
by the Nazi Party.
At the films beginning, Hans (Fabien Hinrichs) decides to turn up
the volume in their movement by distributing propaganda leaflets at
a Munich University while class was still in session. Sophie (Julia
Jentsch), decides to assist him in this dangerous endeavor. Subsequent
to her placement of the leaflets, a janitor becomes suspicious and
soon after both Hans and Sophie are arrested. The siblings are immediately
whisked off to be interrogated by Nazi Inspector, Robert Mohr. The
two are questioned separately, what ensues is unquestionably some
of the most riveting interrogation scenes ever filmed.
Director Marc Rothemund films these tightly composed shots to release
all the emotions being experienced by Sophie during this grueling
exchange. I was amazed to see how with rapid fire delivery Sophie
was able to competently answer all of the Inspectors inquiries, without
breaking a sweat. She handles herself so well that initially it appears
she will be cleared, since brother and sister had previously worked
out matching stories in the event of capture. At times the director
creates the intimacy of a theatrically staged play rather than cinematic
in feeling, which lends to an even more claustrophobic atmosphere
to the film. Even though the events covered in "Sophie Scholl"
, capture, interrogation, trial, all appear short, a mere six days,
we are compellingly drawn into the tragic life of this lovely, idealistic
woman. This is largely due to the remarkable acting talents of Jentsch,
who is required to emote life-threatening emotions with such mercurial
ability. This is a career-making performance. Ultimately, this is
a film that ricochets us back in time to an era that hopefully, will
not soon be forgotten.
"Downfall" Germany, 2005
by Mark A. Wilson
few war films have the power to literally make us feel the sense
of chaos and impending doom that grips the defenders of a city under
siege. "Downfall", about the battle of Berlin and the
final destruction of Adolph Hitler's inner circle in April of 1945,
is one of those rare films
that has such power.
Watching this riveting depiction of the last two weeks of Hitler's
life, you can smell the blood and sweat of the dying German soldiers
as they cry out in agony in a field hospital.And when the Russians
begin shelling the center of Berlin, you feel the thundering impact
of the artillery shells, as they explode in the middle of a street,
sending showers of debris into the air, and obliterating human bodies
their vortex of destruction.
But it is the intimate view of the final days of Hitler's inner
circle, which are so vivid that make you feel you are right there,
experiencing all of the intense emotions as they face the grim truth
of their imminent deaths. You can even empathize with the tragic
murder/suicide of Joseph Goebbels' wife and family, and dread the
moment when Mrs. Goebbels force feeds deadly poisonous pills to
her own children. This is the type of authentic historic film that
has become all too rare in today's Hollywood. Indeed, it was made
appropriately, in Germany.
Downfall stars Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara
directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel...
Caché (Hidden) 2005
film opens with what feels like, the lengthiest static long shot
in film history.At the onset of this unflinching, French thriller,
we discover we are watching a surveillance video-tape that was anonymously
left outside the door of the homes occupants.
Georges (Daniel Auteuil), the affable T.V. host of a popular show
about books, and his lovely wife Anne (Juliette Binoche) who's in
the publishing business, are the targets of this "high-tech"
harassment. As video tapes of Georges life arrive in his mailbox
with alarming frequency, his families ultra comfortable, Parisienne
lifestyle abruptly becomes threatened.
German director Michael Haneke gives us just enough historical background
regarding the "Algerian Massacres", of the 1960's to show
us why Georges must confront his past. Along the journey, Georges
tries to unravel mysterious events, and while trying to discover
the identities of his stalkers he encounters Maji (Maurice Benichou),
a childhood acquaintance, also from his past.
Haneke cleverly eludes to current upheavals in France. He shows
strong parallels between Georges not wanting to follow through with
the shocking but inevitable meeting with Maji, and the recent political
unrest in Paris. There are some incredibly graphic scenes in the
film that are by no means gratuitous. I found them vital in moving
along his characters development.
In the final analysis it was the uncompromising ambiguity of the
film that I found refreshing. Has our society crossed the line with
it's obsession in merchandising voyeurism? This film allows us to
be in the drivers seat, sit back and watch someone else's life be
exposed. Hitchcock would have loved it!
by Chris Margolin
To Be and To Have (2002)
A charming documentary about a country schoolhouse in rural Saint-Etienne
Sur Usson, where George Lopez teaches local children aged 3 to 13
in one classroom. He is dedicated, patient, attentive, and encouraging
to all the students, and they become well-behaved, respectful learners.
Directed by Nicolas Philbert.
Good Bye, Lenin (2003)
A look at East Germany before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
A young man, Alex, coming of age, lives with his mother, sister,
her boyfriend & their baby. His mother, a good Communist, falls
into a coma just prior to the wall coming down. Soon thereafter,
Germany becomes "westernized". Upon awakening 8 months later, Alex
and his family & friends conspire to keep the country's reform a
secret from her, due to her weakened heart. Alex goes to great lengths,
often hysterical, in this difficult endeavor.
Directed by: Wolfgang Becker
Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
An early Ang Lee film, it depicts a widower, Tao Chu, Taiwan's most
famous chef, struggling to accept his 3 daughter's sudden interest
in boys. It is a light comedy with touching depictions of a man
trying to maintain authority over his daughters' lives while they
enjoy freedom, yet realize their obligations to their father and
the new dynamics of a family without their mother.
The Wedding Banquet (1993)
Another Ang Lee film, and another comedy. Wei Tong, a successful
Manhattan businessman is in a perfect relationship with his live-in
lover, Simon. However; his parents don't know he is gay and when
they decide to visit him from Taiwan, he asks for help from his
neighbor, Wei Wei. She agrees to pose as his fiancée. You can imagine
the comedic happenstances that could occur....and do.
Man On The Train (2002)
This is a film about an old gangster who arrives by train in a small
French town where he plans to rob the local bank. After learning
that there are no rooms at the local Inn where he had hoped to plan
his crime, he happens to meet an elderly teacher who offers a room
in his own house. The two very different men slowly begin to build
a relationship and discover that each might have been better suited
for the other's way of life.
Directed by: Patrice Leconte...starring Jean Rochefort and Johnny
House of Flying Daggers (2004)
Everyone's probably heard of this film, and though many scenes are
fantastical (the in-air fight scenes, etc;) the cinematography is
beautiful, special effects amazing, the sound envelopes you and
the story captivates. The color of the bamboo forest is just breath-taking.
Sort of like a video game come to life.
Directed by: Yimou Zhang.
Monsieur Ibrahim (2003)
Teenage orphan, Momo, lives alone in a working class neighborhood.
He befriends the prostitutes on the street, as well as Monsieur
Ibrahim (played by Omar Sharif), a Turkish storekeeper. Gradually,
Ibrahim becomes a father figure for Momo and he learns much about
the meaning of life. Their journey to Ibrahim's home is a wonderful
adventure for Momo. ****A must see********
Directed by: Francois Dupeyron
Shall We Dance (1995)
Definately better than the remake with Richard Gere! A shy and somber
Tokyo office worker, Shohei, notices a beautiful woman in a local
dance studio and he bravely signs up for dance lessons with her.
He quickly realizes he has talent and loves dancing, so much to
the alarm of his wife and daughter. A sweet, funny, touching film.
Directed by: Masayuki Suo.
Il Postino (1995)
The local mailman, Mario, lives on an Italian island and yearns
for the beautiful waitress in the local restaurant there. He is
not handsome, nor young, but falls madly in love with her, even
knowing that she has many other admirers. When Pablo Neruda, the
famous poet, arrives to live on the island, Mario delivers his mail
and picks up lessons on love, life, poetry, & beauty from Neruda.
These things can make any man attractive, he finds out. A wonderfully
romantic & "feel-good" movie.
Directed by: Michael Radford
The Triplets of Belleville (2003)
An animated film from France, directed by Sylvain Chomet. There
are no spoken words at all in this unique movie; just sounds & music.
A lonely boy lives with his grandmother and seeing that he loves
his bicycle, she encourages him to ride, then train for competition.
He becomes a life-long trainer in the sport. Years later, while
riding in the Tour de France, he is kidnapped, and the story escalates
into a wild search for the culprits. The grandmother is helped by
three strange old women called," The Triplets of Belleville" in
a grand adventurous and cunning chase to rescue the bike rider.
Very innovative; great music, and you realize that dialogue is not
a necessity to tell a story.