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…

My Neighbour Totoro

Viewed – 03 August 2013  Blu-ray

A popular entry in the Studio Ghibli back catalog, I am just surprised as a fan I have only just managed to sit down and watch.  The story follows two young girls, Satsuki and Mei who along with their father move to a summer house in the countryside whilst their mother recovers in hospital from an illness.  Whilst there the two girls stumble upon a group of woodland magical creatures, lead by the giant cuddly Totoro.


Beautifully animated as always, but more so due to the lush scenery and colorful characters.  This is a joy to look at from start to finish.  Less interesting is the slow moving, minimalist story that doesn’t have a great deal going on other than keen observations of childhood wonder, innocence and a bit of fantasy.  The character design, especially the woodland creatures is wonderfully odd, and a bus that is basically a large cat with lots of legs turns up, showcasing the Studio’s love of bizarre creations  For a Ghibli movie this is every bit as magical and charming as others, but much simpler and gentle in tone.  We learn little about the creatures or even what is actually wrong with the girls mother, the movie clearly not interested in such details.

I can certainly see why this would be a favorite among younger Ghibli fans, as it doesn’t require much attention from the viewer, and has enough personality and fun to keep them glued.  As a more mature admirer of the famed Japanese studio, I came away pleased that I had seen it, but longing for something with more substance.

The Blu-ray from Studio Canal is very pleasing.  Colors pop and detail is decent.  Sound quality is presented in both original Japanese with subtitles or English dub with very decent voice work (including Dakota Fanning as Satsuki) – and although only in 2.0 stereo I thought the soundtrack here, including a nice orchestral score was very enjoyable,  Extras consist of several short featurettes about the making and the studio with interviews with the creators, including director Hayao Myazaki.  Add to this storyboards and behind the microphone footage of the American dub … and this is an impressive treatment for one of the studio’s most loved creations.


(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5