Best Foreign Film – 1971

Official Nominations: The Garden Of The Finzi-Continis. Dodesukaden. The Emigrants. The Policeman. Tchaikovsky.

Look at the names of those movies and their countries of origin – just look. Isn’t this just the most cliché list of ‘Best Foreign Film’ sounding films ever? It’s a strange year for the category, given that the first two choices above were actually released in 1970 and the third would be nominated for actual Best Picture the following year. The Garden Of The Finzi-Continis is a terrible title but a decent film following a group of Jewish people as fascism is rising in Italy – they manage to avoid and largely ignore the turmoil in Europe by being enclosed in their vast, wealthy manor but inner struggles and turmoil begin to surface as the outside world becomes increasingly dangerous. Dodesukaden I covered in my 1970 nominations – one of Kurosawa’s strangest films, while The Emigrants is a fine, but long movie about a bunch of Swedes moving to the US in the 1800s – the journey, the hardships etc. It’s basically The Animals Of Farthing Wood. The final two choices are typically odd – The Policeman is an occasionally funny film about a shy and morale policeman who is trodden on by everyone but eventually gets some notice, while Tchaikovsky is about dinosaurs (a biopic of the composer).

My Winner: The Garden Of The Finzi-Continis

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My Nominations: The Big Boss. Bleak Moments. A Clockwork Orange. The Devils. A Fistful Of Dynamite. Get Carter. Red Sun. Bay Of Blood. Wake In Fright. Walkabout.

A whole host of alternatives to choose from this year, so I’m not picking any of the Official nominations. Most of these I talked about in the Best Film category too, so I’ll skip those ones. Bleak Moments was Mike Leigh’s stunning, well acted,  low budget debut while The Devils is Ken Russell and Oliver Reed up to no good again, making one of the most controversial films ever. Naturally it is tame by today’s standards but due to the mixture of sex and religion it is still deeply conflicting. A Fistful Of Dynamite is on the other end of the spectrum – another enjoyable spaghetti western by Leone which is not spoken of as highly as his other epics. It’s a problematic film but still one with great entertainment value and Leone’s vision. Get Carter is one of the great British films and one features one of Michael Caine’s best performances – a gritty, no nonsense thriller with a lack of pretense and a sense of inevitability. Red Sun is an odd film which has never received the cult status it deserves – Charles Bronson trading blows and quips with Toshiro Mifune should be enough to sell it to anyone, but throw in Capucine, Ursula Andress, and Alain Delon in a plot about bandits and samurai – all directed by Terence Young. Finally, A Bay Of Blood is a confusing mess, but set up a lot of rules for horror films to come and was a benchmark in blood-letting.

My Winner: A Clockwork Orange

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Let us know in the comments which film of 1971 you would pick as Best Foreign Film!

 

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Best Foreign Film – 1970

Official Nominations: Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion. First Love. Hoa-Binh. Paix Sur Les Champs. Tristana.

Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion was a worthy winner this year, a film which was touted for a remake starring Pacino and Walken – a lost classic no doubt. Gian Maria Volonte is a very bad cop – he has just murdered a woman and out of boredom, curiosity, and general psychopathic tendencies, he becomes involved in the case to mess with evidence, plant clues, and lead the rest of the force along by a leash. It’s twisting and turning and definitely a film with politics and satire which would have translated well in America. First Love is a straight adaptation of the Russian short about a teenager’s obsession with the girl next door and the secrets he unravels. Good cast but an ordinary enough film. Hoa-Binh is a French movie about a boy growing up in Vietnam in the war – it’s timely and non-judgmental aside from the obvious War Is Bad mantra, while Paix Sur Les Champs is about young love and old hate. Finally Tristana is another film watchable mainly because of the cast as we follow a young orphan who tries to live her own life but struggles to find freedom – I make it sound worse than it actually is but you’ll only watch if you’re a Bunuel or Deneuve fan.

My Winner: Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion

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My Nominations: Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion. The Wild Child. Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders. Dodesukaden. The Conformist. The Garden Of The Finzi-Continis.

Only the official winner converts to my list. The Conformist is here too  – you already knew that. The Garden Of The Finzi-Continis is an interesting look at how some people can choose to ignore or manage to avoid full scale horror for more personal issues, and then how the two worlds collide. The Wild Child takes a subject which always inspires a morbid yet natural curiosity – that of a child abandoned by human civilization and raised entirely in ‘the wild’ – and gives us a dark and touching film, with Truffaut writing, directing, and why the hell not, starring. Dodesukaden is a strange one for Kurosawa – a film with multiple characters and stories converging on a town built in a dump (junk yard in US?) and was a critical failure, but it is funny, offbeat, and still showcases Kurosawa’s singular eye. Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders is one of the most bizarre horro movies you’ll ever see, but one of the most unique and daring too – it’s basically ‘girls go crazy when they hit puberty’ – but this leads to a myriad of vampires, witches, and wacky adventures. Go ahead and remake this, Hollywood, I dare ya. No seriously, I’d really love to see an up to date version of this.

My Winner: The Conformist

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Let us know in the comments what your favourite foreign film of 1970 is!

Best Foreign Film – 1969

Official Nominations: Z. Adalen 31. The Battle Of Neretva. The Brothers Karamazov. My Night At Maud’s.

Another interesting selection, with one clear winner from my perspective. Bo Widerberg’s Adalen 31 is a retelling of true events in Sweden when five small town workers were killed during a protest. It’s exactly the sort of film The Academy loves but they tend to focus too on whatever the issue is with too heavy a hand; fortunately this is watchable and remains prescient. The Battle Of Neretva is an impressive and entertaining war film which is memorable for starring a number of familiar faces (Orson Welles, Yul Brynner), The Brothers Karamazov is yet another version of the book, while My Night At Maud’s feels very much like a play, minimalist and only concerned with dialogue and discussion – interesting, but it doesn’t stand a chance alongside Z.

My Winner: Z

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My Nominations: Z. Burn! The Damned. Eros + Massacre. Fellini Satyricon. The Italian Job.

Costa-Gavras’s Z is the only copy and paste this time around, joining a host of controversial and entertaining entries. The Damned still has the power to unnerve and worry the viewer now, while The Italian Job is more fun than most comedies today. Burn! is essentially a forgotten movie, odd given that it features Brando as a man trying to serve Britain’s colonial ends by exploiting a slave uprising – it’s weird, but good. Over to Japan then for the beautiful and sometimes surreal loose biopic of Sakae Osugi, an anarchist during the later 19th and early 20th century. Yoshishige Yoshida’s film deserves to put him alongside more known directors like Kurosawa and Oshima, but it is one which has never found an audience in the West. Finally Fellini Satyricon would see the director get nominated at the following year’s Academy Awards, a bizarre and dazzling work.

My Winner: The Italian Job

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Let us know in the comments which Foreign Film of 1969 gets your vote!

Best Foreign Film: 1968

Official Nominations: War And Peace. The Boys Of Paul Street. The Firemen’s Ball. The Girl With The Pistol. Stolen Kisses.

Bondarchuk’s War And Peace picked up the win this year, one of the most expensive, important, and successful Russian films ever, but perhaps an odd choice given that it was not reviewed without negative criticism. At over seven hours long it certainly feels faithful, but a number of ill casting choices and dated scenes hinder it for modern audiences. The Boys Of Paul Street is another faithful adaptation of the classic coming of age story, while Monicelli’s The Girl With The Pistol is a whimsical and hopeful take on some dark subject matter. Truffaut gets one of his biggest successes in Stolen Kisses, but my winner is one which was selected by me for 1967 – Forman’s amusing and unnecessarily controversial The Fireman’s Ball.

My Winner: The Fireman’s Ball

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My Nominations: The Bride Wore Black. The Devil Rides Out. Death By Hanging. If… Je T’Aime Je T’Aime.

An entirely different list of foreign films this year, starting with Truffaut’s stormy The Bride Work Black. One of Truffaut’s most accessible works it is another which seems well ahead of its time. Dealing with similarly dark subject matter, If… sees Malcolm McDowell leading a cast of young actors through a surreal, counter-culture tale of school carnage while The Devil Rides Out is a Hammer take on Rosemary’s Baby with the action set in England a few decades previous, filled with atmosphere, tension, and hippy era Satanism. Back across the channel to France with Resnais’s Je T’aime Je T’aime, a bizarre and disjointed film about time travel, love, and life as disjointed as its main character, while in Japan the unsettling and funny Death By Hanging poses some serious questions about justice, ethics, and consciousness.

My Winner: The Devil Rides Out

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What is your favourite Foreign Film of 1968? Let us know in the comments!

Best Foreign Film – 1967

Official Nominations: Closely Watched Trains. El Amor Brujo. I Even Met Gypsies. Live For Life. Portrait Of Chieko.

An unusual year for the Foreign Film category in that none of the nominations are instantly recognizable to the general viewing public when compared against some of the other releases this year. Closely Watched Trains, the official winner, is a worthy mixture of comedy and WWII era drama, a coming of age story which celebrates both lethargy, innocence, and the unlikely hero. El Amor Brujo, an adaptation of the ballet of the same name is a peculiar choice while I Even Met Gypsies is a grim but watchable look at Romani life. Live For Life is a little overlong and bland for a Lelouche effort while Portrait Of Cheiko was Nakamura’s last important film.

My Winner: Closely Watched Trains.

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My Nominations: Belle De Jour. Le Depart. Le Samourai. Weekend. Oedipus Rex. Samurai Rebellion. Firemen’s Ball.

None of the Official Nominees make it over to my list this year, a list which includes Milos Forman’s controversial satire Firemen’s Ball – a film which would make it to the official list the following year. The most well known film here is Belle De Jour, arguably Bunel’s best work, and a film which also courted controversy with its attitude towards sex and relationships. The little known Belgian comedy Le Depart warrants a closer look while Le Samourai has been examined and re-examined endlessly thanks to its depth of charm and influence. Godard’s Weekend is a film which remains bizarre to this day a film which gets progressively stranger as the central couple’s lives slowly unravel into utter chaos, while Oedipus Rex is a largely faithful cinematic version of the classic tale. Finally, Samurai Rebellion sees Toshiro Mifune on top form as a feared, loyal swordsman who turns his back on his Lord when his family is put at risk.

My Winner: Belle De Jour.

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Which Foreign film of 1967 do you think deserves the crown? Let us know in the comments!

Best Foreign Film – 1966

Official Nominations: A Man And A Woman. The Battle Of Algiers. Loves Of A Blonde. Pharoah. Three

It’s another stellar war for World Cinema in the 60s, with at least three all-time classics in the official nominations and with Europe taking all the positions. A Man And A Woman was the official winner, Claude Lelouche’s tender romance drama captivating audiences with its acting and imagery. On the complete flip-side, Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle Of Algiers  is grimy, gritty, but shot in an equally stunning style, using locals rather than trained actors and shot in a modern-documentary style, portraying conflict as bloodying the hands of all who take part. Milos Foreman’s Loves Of A Blonde is significant as the Director’s first film, but stands on its own as an interesting, frank take on aimless love and crumbling society. The two remaining nominees are of a lesser pedigree, but interesting nonetheless – Aleksandar Petrovic’s Three is a peculiarly affecting look at death in three forms, while Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s Pharoah is a decent mini epic on the life of Ramses XIII.

My Winner: The  Battle Of Algiers

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My Nominations: The  Battle Of Algiers. A Man And A Woman. Blow Up. Farenheit 451. The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. Masculine-Feminine. Persona. The Sword Of Doom. Is Paris Burning?

As I mentioned earlier, this was a magnificent year for world cinema, and many greats were ‘snubbed’ – England/Italy’s Blow Up, France’s Farenheit 451, Is Paris Burning, and Masculine-Feminine, Sweden’s Persona, and Japan’s The Sword Of Doom veer between classic and cult gem. Towering above them all is The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. I’ve spoken about a few of these already in the Best Picture category, so moving on to Godard’s Masculine-Feminine – it is another seminal piece of 60s French Cinema, famous for its explicit nature, unusual structure, and pop-culture dedication. Is Paris Burning is arguably France’s greatest WWII epic, with a terrific ensemble cast and gorgeous black and white cinematography. Keeping with B and W of course is Bergman, and with Persona he crafts another controversial piece – largely a series of monologues and conversation between two women, interjected with dreamlike imagery. Finally, Kihachi Okamoto’s The Sword Of Doom is one of the more brutal Jidaigeki films whose protagonist is wholly unlikable, selfish, yet engaging as we follow him from one murderous encounter to the next.

My Winner: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

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What is your choice as the Best Foreign Film of 1966? Remember, under my rules this doesn’t have to be a film which is not in the English Language, but simply a film made outside of the US. Let us know in the comments!

Best Foreign Film: 1965

Actual Nominations: The Shop On Main Street. Kwaidan. Marriage Italian Style, Dear John, Blood On The Land.

The Shop On Main Street deservedly won the award this year, a brutally honest depiction of occupation and tragedy. De Sica’s fiery drama Marriage Italian-Style would have been a more obvious choice as winner, but missed out in a difficult group. Japan’s official entry Kwaidan is a timeless tale of horror featuring a collection of classic creepy tales, directed with flair and featuring a variety of bizarre expressionist images and chilling scenes. Dear John apparently gets a nomination because of some nudity while Greece’s Blood On The Land tells a story of hardships in turn of the century Greece amongst the poor.

My Nominations: Kwaidan.

My Nominations: Kwaidan. Marriage Italian Style. Alphaville. Pierrot Le Fou. Red Beard. For A Few Dollars More. The Ipcress File. Sword Of The Beast.

Two films make it over to my selections, joining a few more recognisable films. Alphaville remains striking, a unique (even now) sci-fi detective thriller, while Pierrot Le Fou, another Godard selection, is an experimental version of Bonnie And Clyde meets Badlands meets Easy Rider. Kurosawa’s underrated Red Beard is his finest humanist tale since Ikiru. Staying in Japan, and Hideo Gosha crafts one of the finest rebel Samurai movies of the era, packed with violence and a subversive take on loyality using flashbacks and various injustices to blur the line between good and evil. For A Few Dollars More may be the weakest of the Dollars trilogy but still packs a memorably violent punch and proving more twists on what good old US Westerns were known for, while The Ipcress File gives a suitably British, downbeat alternative to the more explosive Bond series.

My Winner: Kwaidan

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Let us know in the comments what your favourite foreign film of 1965 is!