Best Foreign Film – 1973

Official Nominations: Day For Night. The House On Chelouche Street. L’Invitation. The Pedestrian. Turkish Delight.

Day For Night saw Truffaut win his Oscar – it’s certainly accessible and one of his most popular films, dealing with the lives of a group of people struggling to make a film and filled with soap opera sentiment with love, secrets, sex, jealousy etc. It’s fine but there’s a better film here. We have another token Israeli nomination in The House On Chelouche Street (these films are incredibly difficult to find) which features a family living with loss and war on their doorstep – a mother trying to cope with grief, with her family growing up and whether or not she should remarry, a son joining a military force and falling in love – it’s one of those films. Nothing really happens in L’Invitation to warrant a nomination, while The Pedestrian sees Max Schell direct a film concerning a war criminal’s past catching up with them and being forced into a trial. My winner is of course going to be Turkish Delight – Paul Verhoeven’s first film of note, and one filled with sex and violence – something he would of course return to with increasing ferocity over the course of his career. Here it is almost tame, but all the more compelling in its realism – there isn’t much satire or fantasy here, just a portrait of a relationship hindered by mental illness and jealousy.

My Winner: Turkish Delight

My Nominations: Turkish Delight. Amarcord. Battles Without Honour And Humanity. Don’t Look Now. Live And Let Die. The Wicker Man

I’m only bringing my winner over to my category so that I have more space for some of the other greats this year. Amarcord gets nominated here – it would win the Oscar next year, Fellini at his most egotistical and self-deprecating getting a bunch of amateurs to tell a semi-real version of his youth. Does Live And Let Die really qualify as a foreign film? In my book it does, and as it is one of my favourite Bond films you’d better believe it’s getting nominated here. To be fair, the average cinema goer is going to want to watch this as a foreign movie over any number of Fellini or Kurosawa or whoever movies. Battles Without Honour And Humanity is Kinji Fukasaku’s first masterpiece – a brutal and damning depiction of Yakuza life over many years. It’s massively influential, at least in terms of Japanese Cinema, and it’s brilliant.

It’s back to The UK for my final two entries. Don’t Look Now actually, famously takes place mostly in Venice – the streets and canals taking on a sinister feel as Roeg’s mesmeric direction twists, confounds, and envelops. It’s one of the more unique horror movies ever – Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie have recently lost their daughter in a drowning accident, something which takes an expected mental toll. They take a trip to Venice and cope in different ways – Christie hangs with psychics and becomes withdrawn while Sutherland becomes obsessed with his work and various visions or appearances including a child in a red coat similar to how his daughter appeared. There’s some great editing here, and of course a shocking finale.

With arguably the most shocking finale of all, The Wicker Man is just as mesmeric and haunting, with a tonne of striking imagery and a bizarre, hypnotic tone which draws you in and keeps you in a haze. It goes without saying that you should see this before the Nic Cage abomination. It follows Edward Woodward as an upstanding, uptight, religious copper investigating the disappearance of a little girl on a Scottish Island called Summerisle. The island appears to be filled with hippy types and everybody either laughs of or hinders the investigation while engaging in various pagan acts which disturb Woodward’s Christian beliefs. I’d loved to have seen this at the time of release and you should try to go into it knowing as little about it as possible. Just know it’s one of the bets horror movies ever.

My Winner: The Wicker Man

Let us know which film you pick as the Best Foreign Film of 1973!

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Best Foreign Film – 1972

Official Nominations: The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie. The Dawns Here Are Quiet. I Love You Rosa. My Dearest Senorita. The New Land.

I said it last year, but this is another whopper for really ‘foreign sounding” foreign film names. When I was in school, we would make up spoof Hallmark movie names (they were always about a baby being stolen or some pseudo legal term like ‘Breach of Contract’ or ‘Where Is Little Boy Blue) and we’d also try our hand at spoof foreign movies too. A lot of these sound like what we would have come up with.

Only The New Land sounds Hollywood, maybe because it follows the adventures of the Swedes we met in The Emigrants as they continue to cope with life in the US. It’s even longer than the original, but just as good – a hard one to recommend for casual fans. This year’s winner is another Luis Bunuel hit, one which is still surreal but perhaps not so much that even today it will find an audience. Russia’s The Dawns Here Are Quiet is a girls only Dirty Dozen, an overlong yet passionate look at a group of women drafted into the military in WWII. The final two films couldn’t be more different – I Love You Rosa, is a meh romance, while My Dearest Senorita is a funny yet bizarre choice dealing with a woman who discovers she is really a man – alarming sexual stuff for the early 70s, but handled well enough.

My Winner: The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie

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My Nominations: Aguirre The Wrath Of God. Fist Of Fury. Last Tango In Paris. Way Of The Dragon. The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie

There was a bunch of other movies I could have included this year, some acclaimed, some all but forgotten, and some cult horror gems. I’ve gone with two films which have stood the critical test of time in Aguirre and Last Tango In Paris and two Bruce Lee classics. I wouldn’t expect anyone to vote for the Bruce Lee ones, especially not against the other two choices, but Way Of The Dragon is going to get my vote – funny, action-packed, thoughtful, featuring a great soundtrack – a film which will entice audiences into foreign cinema more than any other of the nominations, official or otherwise.

My Winner: Way Of The Dragon

Let us know in the comments which film of 1972 you pick as Best Foreign Film!

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!

 

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!