International movies are a hidden gold mine for any film enthusiast. First and foremost, this isn’t an anti-Hollywood article, because even Hollywood will churn out a solid blockbuster every now and then. But for anyone who loves films and appreciates a good story (and I’m guessing that’s most of you), there are a bunch of great movies made in different countries that are every bit as fun as anything produced in a big-name studio.
Yeah, I know- You once tried to be open-minded, and let your date drag you to an art house theater where you sat through some slow, boring, and depressing foreign (non-US) movie that was talked up by some film snob who was trying to sound smart. And after you left the theater, you spent a good part of the evening trying to figure out what the hell you just watched. Before long, you ran, not walked, to your Collector’s Edition of Die Hard movies with a burning need watch something that makes sense.
And all the while you resolved never to take advice from another snooty film critic ever again.
I’ve been there. After making it through film school and grad school, I’ve sat through many “weird” foreign films and received many bad stares (and grades) for not seeing those movies as “profound” or “deep” like my brilliant peers who smelled like weed. Admittedly however, film school did teach me one important lesson…that there’s a whole world of movies out there beyond Hollywood. Taking that reasoning one step further, I knew that out of all those foreign movies, there had to be at least some that would appeal even to me (a guy who spent too many hours watching Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Adam Sandler flicks).
And I was right.
With venues like Netflix, Blockbuster Online, and other vendors, exploring world cinema is as easy as pointing and clicking. Granted, some of those movies will definitely be the “weird” types that you won’t understand, but many will be just as fun as the last good movie you watched at the cineplex. After sitting through and reviewing a good number of international movies, here are just a few important observations that I’ve made which apply to almost all foreign films, regardless of country of origin or genre:
Acting is generally very good: Almost all foreign film actors I’ve watched have been very believable in their roles. Even with the movies that I ended up not liking, I noticed they at least had strong performances.
Plotlines are generally more daring: With the exception of independent cinema, most commercial movies here in the US follow, more or less, a predictable pattern and sequence of events. Hollywood often structures the messages and themes of its films through data gleaned from focus groups, polls, or market research. Many foreign studios, on the other hand, are more likely to take a risk and give directors creative latitude in telling their stories. Also, bear in mind that most other countries are a lot older than the US. Therefore filmmakers and other artists from other nations have a lot more history and culture from which to draw upon, which can be an advantage when coming up with new ideas.
Universal themes: With our brains constantly being beaten by the cudgel of Political Correctness in our schools, colleges, and workplaces, there goes a notion that the key to some societal utopia dreamed up by the PC thought police lies with multiculturalism and diversity, diversity, diversity.
However, international movies that you’ll love contain themes that make you forget how different we are and realize just how much we all have in common. They connect with us, even though they’re in a different language and take place in a country you may not have visited. So take a chance and pick out a foreign film or two. Whether you’re into drama, action, comedy, or horror, there’s definitely a foreign film out there with your name on it!
Joe Yang is a freelance film reviewer specializing in foreign films. You can find more of his reviews at his new website: http://www.foreign-films-for-you.com
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