Unfiltered: My Top Ten Foreign Films
I’ve often struggled with the question of how to find meaning in my Flickchart rankings. I obsessively compile them and look over them repeatedly, but I also want to know how to use them to learn more about my own movie-watching tendencies.
Toward that end, on my own blog, I’ve begun a project to examine my top ten films using certain filters. Not necessarily the filters Flickchart makes available, such as my favorite comedies of all time or my favorite horror films of all time, though I will probably do those eventually as well. What I really want to do is choose a category that interests me, then drill on down through my rankings to see the first ten that satisfy the criteria of that category. Some of these may be excessively quirky categories — I won’t give any examples here, in order to keep the element of suspense in place when they eventually come up.
One overriding rule: no editing the results based on whether they would publicly embarrass me or not. Over there, I call this series “Flickchart Tuesdays.” But that hardly makes sense as a title on a blog devoted entirely to Flickchart. (Plus, I don’t know if they will actually run on Tuesdays here on the Flickchart blog.) So I thought of the title “Unfiltered” instead. Not only does it get at the idea of examining your list through a filter, but it also means I’m not filtering the results so that they make me look like the most enlightened film fan you’ve ever met. If I’m looking at mobster movies and Mickey Blue Eyes comes up before The Godfather, I’ll tell you that. (It doesn’t, but then again, I haven’t seen Mickey Blue Eyes.)
Today I’m going to explore my top ten foreign films, based only on my current rankings in Flickchart. (For the purposes of this post, I’m observing the same rules as the Academy does — they have to be foreign language films.)
As I said, the rules are that I’m not even going to vet out my topic before I start writing. I’m just going to choose a topic, then go into Flickchart and see what comes up, however embarrassing the results may be.
1. Run Lola Run (1999, Tom Tykwer). I believe this movie actually came out in 1998 in Germany, but my first opportunity to see it was 1999, where I ranked it the #1 movie I saw that year, so I continue to list that as its release year. Nothing but love for this movie: wild, passionate, devoted love. Flickchart: #16.
2. The Bicycle Thief (1948, Vittorio di Sica). A classic, for good reason. I am now kicking myself that I’ve seen this only once, and it was a good 20 years ago now. Every time I see The Player I’m reminded that I need to see this again. And every time I see Reality Bites. (Let’s see if anyone gets that reference.) Flickchart: #26.
3. The Seven Samurai (1954, Akira Kurosawa). This was in my top ten overall in my previous incarnation of Flickchart, before I re-ranked my films based on the By Title ranking system. The current ranking is probably more accurate — but never fear, Seven Samurai, being in my top 40 overall is massive praise from me. It’s just a shame I can’t sit through it more often, it being a girthy 204 minutes. Still, I’ve watched it twice, and am immeasurably richer for it. Flickchart: #38.
4. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007, Cristian Mungiu). I love movies about abortions! Actually, I love movies made with unforgettable technique (every other shot in this film is an impressive long take), brilliant acting and plenty of substance, and the so-called “Romanian abortion drama” qualifies. So much so that it’s my fourth favorite foreign-language film of all time. Flickchart: #65.
5. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007, Julian Schnabel). More incredible technique and an incredible, moving story. There’s just so much life in this film about a man who can only move one eye. And so much great acting by that man (Mathieu Amalric). I’d watch this movie again and again … even if I had only one eye. Flickchart: #69.
Can I just pause here for a moment to note my diversity? Five films, five languages: German, Italian, Japanese (hey, those World War II Axis powers can make movies), Romanian and French. There should be a Spanish film coming soon … maybe next? Like I said, I don’t know — I’m figuring it out as I write!
6. Let the Right One In (2008, Tomas Alfredson). Okay, not Spanish, but how about Swedish? My favorite vampire movie of all time may be slightly inflated at this ranking, but my oh my is this filmmaking at its best. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about. Flickchart: #71.
7. Cinema Paradiso (1990, Giuseppe Tornatore). Okay, Italian repeats before we get our first Spanish-language film. There are few movies out there that celebrate the love of cinema more wonderfully than Cinema Paradiso. A simply joyous film. And the ending always gets me. Flickchart: #87.
8. Waltz With Bashir (2008, Ari Folman). Wow, I did not expect an animated film to make the list … though now that I think about it, there could have been a couple contenders. This visually trippy memory piece, where Folman (as himself) interviews veterans about their remembrances of the night 3,000 Palestinian refugees were massacred in Beirut, is simply outstanding. Sounds heavy, but the animation is so wonderful that it leaves you feeling lively. Flickchart: #108.
9. The Wages of Fear (1953, Henri-Georges Clouzot). This should count as multiple languages, because multiple languages are spoken in this film about the impossible task of transporting tons of sensitive explosives across rough terrain in Central America, via truck. Just saw this for the first time about two years ago, and it floored me. Flickchart: #133.
Still no Spanish-language films. Well, I’m going to make it my habit in these posts to list 11-20, without any commentary. Maybe we’ll find one in there.
11. The Professional (1994, Luc Besson). Flickchart: #147.
12. Lemming (2005, Dominik Moll). Flickchart: #148.
13. The Lives of Others (2006, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck). Flickchart: #163.
14. Delicatessen (1992, Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Marc Caro). Flickchart: #174.
15. Oldboy (2003, Chan-wook Park). Flickchart: #176.
16. The Seventh Seal (1957, Ingmar Bergman). Flickchart: #179.
17. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001, Alfonso Cuaron). Flickchart: #187.
Praise Jesus. Finally a Spanish-language film.
Does this count? Hell yeah. It was in Japanese.
Most surprised not to see on there: Amelie (2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet). I know I’ve backlashed some against this movie in recent years, mostly because Audrey Tatou has kept playing Audrey Tatou year in, year out in the decade since Amelie was released. But I still predicted it would be in my top 20. (I looked ahead, and it would have been #25.)
Breakdown of languages in top 20: French five, Swedish three, German two, Italian two, Japanese two, Korean two, Spanish two, Hebrew one and Romanian one.
Only repeat director on the list: Ingmar Bergman.
I realize it would probably help you to know what other films I’ve seen and haven’t seen – only by knowing what I’m excluding do you know if I’m crazy or not. Then again, when talking about personal tastes in movies, there are no real rules.
Thanks for reading this personal indulgence. Then again, what is Flickchart if not quintessentially personal?
Back with more soon…
(Editor’s Note: Since this article first appeared, Flickchart has added a “Foreign Language Film” genre, which you can use to rank and filter your own best-of lists.