Every Subtitled Film I’ve Seen

I know this doesn’t really fit in with my theme about directors, but there’s at least one director here I’ve seen three movies from, so I figured while I was honoring him I’d throw in the embarrassingly short list of other foreign films. Recommendations, please!

Three Colors: Blue
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Language: French

The French flag has three colors that stand for liberty (blue), equality (white), and fraternity (red).  The following three movies address modern French society focusing on each of these ideals. Each movie is also washed over in their responding color. As for Blue, Juliette Binoche shines in this overbearingly depressing (but surprisingly hopeful) movie about how she copes with the death of her husband and son. The use of music and color is my favorite of the three movies.

Grade: A-

Three Colors: White
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Language: Polish

As opposed to the other two movies, White is primarily a comedy, albeit with strong dramatic elements as well. A Frenchmen connects with a Polish immigrant whose wife wants to divorce him because of poor performance in bed. Critically considered the weaker of the three films but it’s easily my favorite. Not only was I laughing quite a bit, I also found it quite touching and spirit-lifting.

Grade: A

Three Colors: Red
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Language: French

A model discovers her neighbor, a judge, taps into other people’s phone calls purely for his own amusement. Generally considered to the best of the series and it holds a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. My least favorite, however, as while it’s exceptionally crafted and splendidly interweaves characters from all the movies, I found I was unable to connect with it emotionally like the other two.

Grade: B+

[Rec]
Director: Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza
Language: Spanish

Short, powerful horror movie for those who can deal with shaky camera. A reporter goes on a ride-along with the fire department and while on a call to an apartment to help a sick lady, winds up quarantined along with the firemen. Remade as Quarantine in America, though the original is better acted and thus more intense.

Grade: A-

Il Mare
Director: Hyun-seung Lee
Language: Korean

A man moves into his new place and finds a letter in his mailbox asking him to forward mail to the previous owner. He soon learns that he and this woman are separated by two years in the time continuum but are able to communicate through the mailbox. Fun premise, but ends up be very predictable and schmaltzy. Well-shot. I almost prefer the American remake with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. Almost.

Grade: C

Rashomon
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Language: Japanese

Brilliant concept, as we witness a horrific crime from three different perspectives of those involved. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into it. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing, an era thing, or just a personal thing, but despite being very intrigued, I was more or less bored out of my skull from start to finish. Certainly can’t complain about the acting or the camera work, though.

Grade: C

Seven Samurai
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Language: Japanese

A poor village under attack by bandits hires seven samurai to help defend themselves. It’s long, epic in scope, and takes a little bit of patience to get into. But Kurosawa unravels powerful characters, emotionally intense battle scenes, and stunning cinematography.

Grade: A

After Life
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Language: Japanese

After people die, they spend a week with counselors who will help them recreate one memory from their life that get to relive for eternity. Filmed sort of like a documentary. Slow at times, and not as insightful into the human spirit as I would have hoped, but amusing and occasionally poignant. Never feels trite.

Grade: B-

Timecrimes
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Language: Spanish

A man accidentally gets into a time machine and goes back one hour. The consequences of such a short time jump soon become disastrous as he soon finds out. Intriguing, well-acted, and never insults the viewer. Easily my second favorite time travel movie after Back to the Future.

Grade: B+

Y Tu Mama Tambien
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Language: Spanish

A women gets terminal cancer and is left by her husband, so she throws caution to the wind and embarks on a journey of self-discovery, picking up two teenage boys along the way, just for fun. That premise doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enjoyable and heartwarming. A little sexy, a little funny. Beautiful cinematography. Not sure if it was just our copy, but the subtitles were in yellow, and being as this was shot in Mexico, that color often was the same as the scenery itself, which made for some annoying moments that I had to quickly rush to the screen to read what was being said.

Grade: B+

Pan’s Labyrinth
Director: Guilleromo del Toro
Language: Spanish

A beautiful and dark fantasy movie about a girl in 1944 fascist Spain who is sent to live with her stepfather, a captain in the army and kind of a monster. She meets a fairy and a faun who send her on a gruesome quest to prove her royalty and be reconnected with her father, the real king. I don’t typically like fantasy, but I found this extraordinarily moving.

Grade: A-

The Lives of Others
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Language: German

We follow an interrogator for the East German police who is sent to spy on a playwright who is suspected of writing anti-East German scripts. In the beginning, he’s cold and calculated, but slowly begins to become disillusioned with his job and his country as he spies on the playwright. The most moved I have ever been while watching a movie. Donnersmarck hits all the right notes, gets an exceptional performance out of Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler, and leaves us with an absolute perfect ending. My second favorite movie. Flawless.

Grade: A+

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One thought on “Every Subtitled Film I’ve Seen

  1. I’m going to pretend I didn’t see the letter C under Rashomon and move on. I’d suggest anything else Kurosawa has done for the cinematography alone, and everything Jean-Pierre Jeunet has ever done (some is great and some’s just sorta good, but it’s all beautiful). Amelie and City of Lost Children must be seen.

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