Found in Translation

By Chris Breitenbach

According to some polls, average American film-goers shy away from movies with subtitles. But we know that Skokie Public Library patrons are above-average! So here are 10 accessible (and wonderfully entertaining!) foreign films for those ready to adventure forth into the bounty of goodness that is World Cinema.

  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

    2001 by Ang Lee

    US film-goers flocked to this ethereal, wildly entertaining martial arts film. Its $128 million in US ticket sales is more than double its closest foreign language competitor (Life is Beautiful), though what makes this film literally soar are the gravity defying martial arts choreography of master, Yuen Wo-Ping.

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  • Amelie

    2002 by Jean-Pierre Jeunet

    The go-to film for the foreign film novice, this French rom-com was a huge international hit when first released in 2001. And it’s easy to see why--it’s a wildly inventive, cotton candy of a film, popping with vibrant color, impish humor, winning performances, a lilting score and, in the end, one of the most charming on-screen kisses ever to grace celluloid.

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  • Yi Yi

    2001 by Edward Yang

    The final film by the great Taiwanese director Edward Yang, Yi Yi is perhaps my favorite film of the last 20 years. Ingeniously weaving the parallel subplots of a modern Taipei family, Yi Yi begins with a wedding and ends with a funeral. But it’s never morose, and though 3 hours in length, it’s impossible not to be overwhelmed by a film with as much grace, wisdom and humanity as you’ll find coursing through Yi Yi.

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  • Together

    2004 by Lukas Moodysson

    Set in a mid-70’s Swedish commune, Together begins on a rollicking, somewhat prickly note. But give it a few minutes and it begins to ooze a shaggy sunshine charm that’s irresistible. It’s often laugh out loud funny and never afraid to revel in the messy complications of relationships. An exquisitely big-hearted film that’s very hard not to love

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  • Volver

    2007 by Pedro Almodovar

    Really, just about any film by the great Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar can be recommended, though why not start with this later effort starring Penélope Cruz? Like any great director, Almodóvar is a master of design, his sets bursting with technicolor and his plots playfully veering from soap opera like fireworks to searing drama. What ties most of his films together is his abiding love and interest in women, perhaps never more so than with Volver.

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  • Summer Hours

    2010 by Olivier Assayas

    This one has Juliette Binoche in it! Who doesn’t adore Juliette Binoche, surely one of the most recognized of international movie stars, unafraid of starring in small, niche art films as well as bloated Hollywood blockbusters. This is on the smaller side of things, an ode to home as place and what it means to lose something that both shelters and anchors us.

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  • The Kid with a Bike

    2013 by Jean-Pierre Dardenne

    The Dardenne brothers from Belgium (and the maker’s of this film), don’t do light and fluffy. There’s nothing escapist about their amazing run of films, planted firmly in the gritty European realist tradition. But their films have a crazy momentum to them, and while frequently gut-wrenching, they have a tendency to sneak up on you and overwhelm you with their profound sense of grace and dignity.

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  • Le Havre

    2012 by Aki Kaurismaki

    This is probably the warmest, feel-good film ever made about the heart wrenching, very real issue of so-called illegal immigration. In fact, it has a folksy, fairy-tale quality about it, confronting one of the world’s thorniest, seemingly intractable problems with a beguilingly crafted sweetness and light. Which isn’t to say it’s pure hokum. Or that it’s purely escapist. But it will definitely sneak up on you and overwhelm you with its sense of righteousness and generosity.

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  • The Great Beauty

    2014 by Paolo Sorrentino

    Winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2015, The Great Beauty is a decadent, sumptuous and downright giddy ode to the senses, an elegiac acknowledgment of the fleeting quality of beauty. That the film takes place in Rome, that magnificent eternal city, helps with all this. By the film's final credits you’ll be yearning to stroll the Via Veneto, the great lost love of your life in one hand and a melting gelato in the other, both of you wide awake to the moment and its possibilities. Great art will do that.

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