I like on those film groups on Facebook when someone asks the question of what people’s favourite foreign film is, there is always someone who names an American film. You look at their name and realise that the person is from another country so American is foreign to them. This leaves us wondering what to call them? Non-English speaking films? A bit long-winded.
Anyway, I just wanted to crudely outline my experiences with these non-English films. Which ones have impacted me the most. Easiest way to do this is by country. For the sake of convenience, I am only going to concentrate on a few key countries. Ones that I have seen the most movies from. These are: France, Spain, Sweden, Japan and South Korea. Today’s post is on French films. Notice I put the titles in English. Not because I think this is right but it is easier to find the films this way if you are looking for them and in some cases the names are not even the same as what they are in the original language.
The French story starts with the very well-known, Three Colours: Blue. Although my sister was learning French in school so I had seen French films before that. Probably too young to see some of them. It’s not untrue to say that the French were much open as regards nudity. Happy days for a teenaged boy. Honestly, I suppose my experiences with French cinema in the beginning were focused on how pretty the actresses were. My favourite was Irene Jacob, who was in Three Colours: Red. It became a favourite of mine. I haven’t seen it for a long time. I must rewatch it. I remember it was one of the first films I recorded from television with our brand new VCR player which recorded in stereo. Wow. I guess soon after I discovered one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen in my life The Double Life of Veronique which is a 1991 French-Polish-Norwegian drama film directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski who also directed the Three Colours trilogy. There were a few more films but I don’t remember them well. I guess I will think of them when I have finished and published this post. In any case, none had the impact as of the ones mentioned.
That was in the 90’s. Around 2011 I got into a phase of watching a load of subtitled films. Realising how much I was missing. I was into horror and French cinema had a new or recent brand of extreme horror. Very graphic and brutal stuff. Being told something is extreme when you are into horror just makes you want to watch it. I will talk more about why I like horror in another post. Anyway, I subjected myself to Martyrs, High Tension, Frontiers, In My Skin and Inside. Martyrs from 2008 is the most disturbing but maybe the best since the concept behind the story and the ending are very memorable. In My Skin had the biggest emotional impact. It is more a drama really where a woman struggles with anxiety. The others were good but not so meaningful. More about gore and scares. Now I should also mention Irreversible. I watched it a few years before that and then rewatched it. It’s dark and hard to watch but quite brilliant. It’s also hard not like Vincent Cassel and Monica Belucci. These are probably not the kind of films you watch many times unless you have something wrong with you.
In the last year I have seen two more French films that both stand out. Betty Blue (1986) which I think is a masterpiece. I loved that! And Blue is the Warmest Colour. It seems I returned to the colours again. That latter film is such an involving and honest film. That moment when Adele and Emma first go to the park and almost kiss while saying good bye. How to do intensity in film. Note to my photographic self: Using the evening sun to backlight a tightly-framed kiss, definitely works.
In my next post I will talk about my experiences of Spanish films, which includes one of my favourite films of all time, in any language.