List

Hidden Gems, Foreign Edition

By Cecilia Cygnar

Flicks in other languages that you might have missed!

  • The Band's Visit

    2008

    This warm, touching film will warm your heart. A very small Egyptian band heads to Israel for a concert, and no one is there to meet them. While looking for a bus, they meet a charming shopkeeper who offers to take them in for the night since the bus won’t run until the next morning. Perfectly acted in just the right tone, this film shows how friendships and platonic love can be therapeutic. A sweet type of film not made often enough these days, sadly.

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  • Shower

    2000

    A charming, sweet film about a father who runs a bathhouse in Beijing and his two sons, one with a mental disability and the other, Da, a stoic businessman. The movie revolves around Da’s coming to terms with his father’s ill health and his brother’s dependence on their father. Da moved away years ago and had not introduced his father and brother to his new wife. His character’s transformation in this film is the highlight, even though it is a subtle transition from detached to loving son. I’m not big on foreign films, yet this film is so special that I watch it often. It’s a beautiful story of compassion, acceptance, and emotion--a timeless tale about a man who comes of age a little later than most to open his heart to his family.

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  • He ni zai yi qi: Together

    2003

    When a father tries to force early success on his musical prodigy child, he soon realizes what his child needs most is his love. On its own, the storyline provides meaningful and poignant scenes and makes a heartwarming film. Weave the use of music into the mix and the film becomes even more powerful and stunning. But, at the true heart of this film is the relationship between the old man and the child. This film proves that no matter what expectations we set for our children, we never stop loving them even if they don’t achieve all that is expected. A meaningful film for anyone who at one time was someone’s child—meaning a film for all.

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  • Tell No One

    2009

    An excellent thriller based on a Harlan Coben novel of the same title. A husband and wife are vacationing at their wooded cabin when the wife is mysteriously taken and murdered. The film begins years after the wife's murder, showing the husband as a man who has not been able to let go. This obsession with his wife's murder is increased considerably after he receives some video suggesting his wife might be alive. Most thrillers really do not know what to do with the ending. The ending of Coben's book was good. But, the filmmakers decided to try something different, and the ending surpasses the one Coben wrote for the book. So, they succeeded in accomplishing two coups...changing the ending of a novel for the better and writing a strong, definitive ending for a thriller.

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  • The Valet

    2007

    From the writer and director of The Closet, this film is another success in the grand tradition of some of the classic French farces (La Cage aux Folles). The main character is a nerdy guy who's unsuccessful in the love, looks, and job departments (he's a valet). Coincidentally, he gets photographed next to a supermodel. Because of a series of comic circumstances, he and the model must "pose" to be lovers and even live together so it appears their proximity in the photograph is legit. Both actors, the valet (Gad Elmaleh) and the model's real but married lover (Daniel Auteuil), are just perfect in their roles, especially Auteuil, who is one of France's most talented actors in both comedies and dramas. It's a short movie that you want to go on and on since it's almost too good to end. While you're at it, check out The Closet too. It's also a must see!

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  • The Chorus

    2005

    A charming film for the whole family about a school for unruly children in post-war France and the man who makes his way into his students’ hearts through music. Incorporating elements from many other teacher-student films (Heaven Help Us, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Dead Poets Society, etc.), The Chorus is able to be endearing without being too corny and hokey. As with many other teacher-student films, there always is a hard-nosed disciplinarian. Here, the school is being run by an evil headmaster. When the new prefect, Mr. Mathieu, arrives on the scene, he and the headmaster immediately clash, but the prefect hangs on and helps the children reform with the help of his musical background. Sounds corny, I know, but the script takes its time and doesn’t ever force anything onto the audience. None of the emotions the children feel toward Mathieu and vice versa seem strained or unnatural. And the way the story is book-ended by present-day scenes only adds to the film’s charm, especially with the way the ending comes together and pleasantly surprises.

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  • Coco before Chanel

    2009

    What was Coco Chanel like before she became the name behind an empire? Was she always interested in fashion? Did she grow up wearing haute couture? Does she know how to sew or is she just the visionary behind the clothing empire? Coco, born Gabrielle, was abandoned at a young age by her father to an orphanage. From that rocky start, in adulthood, she found herself working as a cabaret dancer at a less-than-respectable bar. There, she meets a man who will change her life...taking her into his life and his home. The major problem I had with this film is that it moves from her opening a modest but elegant millinery shop (Coco's start was in making hats for herself and friends) in Paris to models wearing her designs parading down the runaway. I know that the point of this film must have been her pre-success life, but how she went from hats to evening gowns still mystifies me. That aside, this is a wonderful film that really captures the early essence of this remarkable woman.

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  • Priceless

    2008

    A little bit of French Kiss mixes with the screwball elements of The Valet and The Closet for a fun, wild romp in this romantic comedy set in the French Riviera. Audrey Tautou stars as a woman looking less for love and more for money in a beau. Being devastatingly beautiful helps her snag some rich gentlemen, but it also snags her a bartender, whom she mistakes for a wealthy playboy, and he does little to correct her misperception. From there, the two set about together trying to out-do each other in the "rich" love department. The bartender, who was hilarious in The Valet, is played by comic French star Gad Elmaleh. Between Tautou and him, they make the movie. His expressions of terror and her naivety make for a highly entertaining film.

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  • OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

    2008

    This is a French spoof of spy films…such as Jason Bourne and especially James Bond. Very akin to the Pink Panther or the Austin Powers films, OSS 117, being French, is even bawdier and more “colorful” than Austin Powers ever tried to be. Jean Dujardin plays a Bond-esque spy who, like the Pink Panther’s Inspector Clouseau, gets embroiled in more messes than seem humanly possible. If something can go wrong, it does. When OSS 117 is trying to look suave, you know something is going to happen to make him look like a fool. When OSS 117 is close to catching a bad guy, you know something or someone is going to get in his way. Like Clouseau, OSS 117 is not afraid to get up, dust himself off, and keep trying. As a spy trying to be suave, Dujardin is flawless. If he had a British accent, he would easily be in the running to be Bond after Daniel Craig. Very much like suave Cary Grant in the early screwball movies he did with Katharine Hepburn (Bringing Up Baby, Holiday), Dujardin succeeds in looking both debonair and clumsy at the same time.

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  • Sarah's Key

    2011

    This is an excellent film about a little known piece of World War II history...the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup. Based on the 2007 bestselling novel by Tatiana de Rosnay, it tells the story of one family who is taken away in 1942 during the Roundup and, in the present, one journalist who is determined to get to the truth. The film does a great job of capturing the right mix of emotions. Sarah’s Key takes the grisly historical element and twists it with a modern time filled with hope and love. Kristin Scott Thomas once again balances perfectly between both French and English to stand out as one of the more versatile actresses working today. The surprise here is the young girl who plays Sarah, Mélusine Mayance. Sarah is a demanding role, and Mayance succeeds in capturing the right amount of hope and anguish in Sarah’s troubled young face. A must see movie for all.

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  • The women on the 6th floor

    2011

    A fun romp of a movie that involves class distinctions being shattered! Highly entertaining cast, who are all involved in all sorts of shenanigans. Sassy and clever!

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