Best Foreign Film – 1984

Official Nominations: Dangerous Moves. Beyond The Walls. Camila. Double Feature. Wartime Romance.

As ‘Eighties’ as the domestic categories (and particularly my choices) are this year, the same can’t be said for the Best Foreign Feature category. If Dangerous Moves had been a Hollywood film this year, it would have starred Rodney Dangerfield as the wise-cracking, alcoholic chess grandmaster and Matthew Broderick would have been the wise-cracking young up and comer. There would have been a scene in an arcade, and hot young twenty something actress would have appeared in a bikini at some point. Being a Swiss movie, it’s a tad more serious. It feels like the Chariots Of Fire of the Chess world.

Beyond The Walls is a bit grim, isn’t it? Set in a prison, it’s about the fighting and in-fighting and conspiracy between a group of Israeli and Palestinian prisoners. Camila feels like a Hollywood Biopic – taking a tragic cult figure and blowing up the most salacious and famous moments of their life. It’s done in a considered way, with Camila presented as something of a martyr, a woman who fell in love with the wrong person in the wrong place and time. Double Feature is one of those films about films which Hollywood loves to celebrate. It’s good, but rather than a celebration about the industry it’s about how people can be so dedicated to their craft that they lose sight of their families and struggle to re-connect as they age out of the business.

Finally, Wartime Romance is exactly that – a Russian Romantic Drama about a soldier who re-connects with the nurse he had been obsessed with a decade earlier, who he then has a hand in bringing back to her former confidence and beauty. It’s not great.

My Winner: Camila

Camila (1984) - Not Even Past

My Nominations: The Never Ending Story. 1984. The Company Of Wolves. The Element Of Crime. Greystroke. The Hit. The Killing Fields.

Can we get away with having The Never Ending Story here? I mean, they got away with giving the film that name, so I think we’re good. It was a joint production between Germany and the US… I’ll allow it, just this once. It’s another of those movies which was always on TV when I was young, and another which we watched in School when the teachers couldn’t be arsed. I’ve never been as big a fan of it as others, and I don’t think I’ve ever bothered with the sequels, but it’s fun.

The UK was putting out a fair few decent films in the 80s – not the dreary dramas and unfunny rom-coms we typically see. 1984 was inevitable, and should have received an official nomination while The Killing Fields was of course a huge critical success. The Hit saw Stephen Frears flexing his muscle, making one of the few London Gangster movies I enjoy. Story wise, it’s nothing out of the ordinary, beyond placing a lot of the tropes into a pseudo-road movie and bringing together a great cast – Terence Stamp, John Hurt, and Tim Roth. It follows an ex criminal tout enjoying his retirement thanks to ratting out his old mates, whose past catches up with him.

Greystroke is one of the more enjoyable adventure movies of the era, clearly inspired by the success of Indiana Jones but going its own way, taking the Tarzan stories and bringing them up to date. The Company Of Wolves is a movie I saw when I was very young and one whose images stayed with me for many years until I was able to watch it again. It’s certainly a film of images, given the fantastical, almost nonsensical and secondary nature of its story. It’s basically a re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood, but with a heavily erotic and violent slant, told with grim visual beaty by Neil Jordan. It’s a dense film with stories within stories, the aforementioned startling imagery, and a touch of blood and guts.

Finally, The Element Of Crime is Lars Von Trier’s debut. He’s far from full Von Trier here, but many of the elements (ahem) which would make up his later, more controversial work, is clear to see – the self-deprecating humour, the violence, the stretchy veil between tongue-in-cheek/satire/reality. It’s very strange, but full of ideas.

My Winner: The Company Of Wolves.

Let us know your winner in the comments!

3 thoughts on “Best Foreign Film – 1984

  1. May 23, 2023 / 6:43 pm

    My 10 nominees for Best Film of 1984 (in no particular order) are:

    Sixteen Candles (I’m partial to comedies)   All of Me (I’m partial to comedies)     Broadway Danny Rose (I’m partial to comedies)   The Bostonians  Another Country     The Killing Fields      Greystoke:  The Legend of Tarzan    Amadeus     Country     The Shooting Party 

    Most of these were big, huge box-office hits an Oscar nominees in certain categories, but two of the films I’ve listed are real gems and definitely worth watching (and re-watching as in my case): The Shooting Party (containing a glorious final film performance by lead actor James Mason) and Another Country (containing a terrific debut performance by Rupert Everett). I highly recommend both. I also love The Bostonians.

    Greystoke is a really wonderful movie with a strong supporting turn by the late Ralph Richardson. There is one aspect of the movie, however, which truly bugs the shit out of me: Andie McDowall’s voice has been infuriatingly dubbed throughout the film by Glenn Close. It’s obvious and annoying and almost ruins the film for me. It’s a head-scratcher, as I think Andie McDowall has a lovely speaking voice. They should have just cast Glenn Close in the role to begin with and be done with it.

    And my winner is: The Killing Fields It holds up really well after all these years, and is a film which is highly critical of the U.S. government’s handling of the war in Vietnam and the illegal bombing of Cambodia. As well as being a great human story and exploration of friendship and survival, it’s also a great newspaper story. It’s probably Sam Waterston’s finest moment on celluloid. The music score by Mike Oldfield and cinematography by Chris Menges helps the film immensely to achieve its desired effect.

    You mentioned a film which I’ve never seen but have always wanted to watch (The Hit). I’m going to try to check it out. I’m a big John Hurt and Tim Roth fan.

    Foreign films for 1984? Sadly, I haven’t seen any of the movies you listed, but I’ll give Camila a shot.


    • carlosnightman May 24, 2023 / 12:00 pm

      I find that the 80s was a very strange period for the Foreign Feature category – there were so many emerging talents at this time who were flatly ignored, and a lot of dross nominated instead. There are very few of the Official Nominations that I’d honestly recommend.

  2. John Charet June 1, 2023 / 6:27 pm

    Great post 🙂 I would have to deeply think about this one because their might be that foreign film of 1984 that stands out that might have been overlooked, but The Company of Wolves is still an interesting choice 🙂

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