Ten from another place

Thought I would express on here my love of foreign cinema, and although I don’t get to watch as much as I would like, there have been some real gems over the years.  It is sad whenever I mention foreign (or world) cinema to anyone who isn’t exactly a cinefile, they immediately say ‘Is it subtitled?’ to which my answer is normally ‘yes’ and their reaction is to be instantly put off.  It makes me sad.  However if such things don’t bother you all that much, then the list below has some good titles to check out…

Tell No One

tell no one

Based on the novel by Harlan Coben this mystery thriller follows the story of a Doctor mourning the death of his wife, who one day contacts him via email.  A great cat and mouse whodunit with ruthless villains and a storyline that keeps you guessing to the end.  A great on foot chase and superb use of U2’s ‘With Or Without You’.

Chung-king Express


Discovered this during my ‘have to watch everything Hong Kong related’ phase back in the 90’s.  Yet in complete contrast to the John Woo action movies I had become addicted to, this was a sweet love story about different people and how their lives have an effect on one another.  Beautifully filmed by cinematographer Christopher Doyle to clever, multi-layered direction by Wong Kar Wai.

Howl’s Moving Castle


Hayao Miyazaki … surely no need for explanation here.  I think this magical, highly imaginative fantasy based on the children’s book by Diana Wynne Jones and with glorious hand-drawn animation … is a joy.  I may even go as far as saying it’s my favourite Studio Ghibli movie, with a little less Japanese oddness compared to the more famed Spirited Away.



Stop reading this if you have seen the lacklustre remake ‘Quarantine’ starring that woman out of Dexter … this is a majorly scary, hand-held camera / found footage horror in the style of The Blair Witch Project but so much better.  Superb, fast-paced direction from Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza – the sequel is pretty awesome too.

Sympathy For Mr Vengeance


The second movie I had seen by acclaimed director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Stoker), and making up the first part of his famed ‘vengeance trilogy’.  This harrowing tale of human organ trafficking, revenge and a deaf & dumb protagonist trying to save the life of his ill sister, is raw, very violent and powerful.  Made me think a lot afterwards about right and wrong etc.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo


Kind of an obvious one and in my opinion superior to the recent remake and also its two sequels.  A mystery involving a missing woman, a cool computer hacker with a troubled past and a disgraced journalist.  Excellent, career making turn from the wonderful Noomi Rapace.

Let The Right One In


Based on the controversial novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist and with superb, understated direction from Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), another that is superior to the remake and with a touching love story at it’s heart between two lost souls.  One of the finest horror movies of the last decade.

The Killer

the killer

The movie that put famed action director John Woo on the map.  Chow Yun Fat as a charming hitman who accidentally blinds a singer in a club during a hit.  Danny Lee is the tough cop out to catch him but discovers more than he expected.  Superb action sequences with Woo’s trademark slow-motion gunplay, and a touching story of guilt and redemption that went on to shape much of Woo’s career.

Betty Blue


One of my all time favourite foreign movies.  A tale of free-spirited Betty and her struggling-writer boyfriend during a wild road trip.  It’s French, its full of sex and nudity and became a cult favourite during the late eighties.  Béatrice Dalle is magnificent and extremely sexy in the lead role.

Pan’s Labyrinth

pan's labyrinth_edited

Guilermo Del Toro may be more known overseas as the man behind the Hellboy movies, but on his own turf he makes intelligent, often hauntingly beautiful movies most notably this acclaimed fantasy that crosses real world horrors of civil war with the imaginary world of a girl’s imagination.  Beautiful imagery, great special effects and strong performances makes this a true classic.

If you’re one of the crowd that just don’t do movies in a foreign language, can’t abide subtitles etc … I really urge you to give at least one of the titles above a day in court.  World Cinema can be braver, more daring and just as well made as anything from the states.

Those more than familiar with these types of movies … what are some of your favourites?  Any recommendations?  Leave your comments below…


Chung-king Express

Viewed – 14 Feb 2009  Blu-ray

I’ve always loved this film.  I recall catching it late night on TV around the time that all things Hong Kong movie related got me all moist (Jackie Chan, John Woo, Jet lee).  Yet this offered something different from a bullet-ballet or wire-enhanced kung fu, this had heart head and shoulders above the rest.

Directed by Wong Kar Wai, one of the most celebrated auteurs to come out of the far east, this follows two very similar stories about unrequanted love, break up and loneliness.  Now that may sound a bit depressing, but in-fact this is one of the most uplifting films I have seen with a quirky sense of humour and an abstract, unconventional style brought to life by cinematographer Christopher Doyle.  Starring such far eastern star names as Takeshi Kaneshiro, Brigitte Lin, Tony Leung Chui Wai and Fay Wong, there’s a charm and an innocence to this that just feels so fresh and different.  Bridget Lin’s shady blonde-wigged femme-fatale is an instant cult icon (sadly her last screen role) and Fay Wong’s sparky, free spirited waitress is a joy every time she’s on screen dancing to The Mommas & The Poppas ‘California Dreaming’.  On that note I’ll also mention the use of music in this film is fantastic, from Indian bangra to American jazz and a perfect rendition of the Cranberries ‘Dreams’ by Fay Wong, who is also one of Asia’s biggest music stars.  Sheer bliss.

The Blu-ray from Artificial Eye offers a clean and vibrant picture, which although pleasing to the eye offers little of the format’s fine detail, but the DTS Master Audio is very strong with the music especially impressing.  Extras-wise we have footage of cinematographer Christopher Doyle revisiting key locations from the film, a very informative introduction from Quentin Tarantino, an interview with director Wong Kar Wai, and a trailer.  Not too shabby.

Verdict:  5 /5