Amph Time Out NY's top 50 foreign films of all times: 33. "The Four Hundred Blows" (1959)

Discussion in 'Archive: The Amphitheatre' started by Nevermind, Feb 20, 2012.

  1. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 14, 2001
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    The top 50 foreign films of all time

    TONY ranks the gorgeous, brainy essentials you've always meant to catch up on.
    By David Fear, Joshua Rothkopf and Keith Uhlich


    50. THE KILLER (1989)

    "Whether you?re an action fan or not, welcome to the most influential foreign film of the past 25 years. Hong Kong genius John Woo would go on to make even crazier cop sagas, but none with a more seismic impact on fully loaded cinema than this breakthrough, opening the door to a new school of kinetic mayhem. Suddenly, Woo?s double-pistol showdowns were everywhere, inspiring the as-yet-to-break Quentin Tarantino and Hollywood at large.?JR"
  2. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    49. THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU (2005)

    "All eyes turned to Romania after this two-and-a-half-hour black comedy premiered at Cannes. A new New Wave was born: Cristi Puiu?s mesmerizing study of an elderly man shuttled among dispassionate health-care providers pulled back the curtain on an incredibly talented generation of filmmakers, raised during the oppressive Ceausescu regime and now making potent, politically charged art. The thrill, and lasting impact, of that discovery is still being felt.?KU"
  3. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    48. THE POWER OF KANGWON PROVINCE (1989)

    "South Korea?s Hong Sang-soo wowed audiences with this woozy, Woody Allen?ish portrait of vacationing urbanites entangled in messy matters of the heart. A student hooks up with a local cop during a trip to the mountains. When the movie switches its focus to an adulterous college professor, you?re left scratching your head?until Hong deftly reveals the connections. This was the movie that jump-started the modern South Korean New Wave, laying the groundwork for everything from Park Chan-wook?s baroque thrillers (Oldboy) to Bong Joon-ho?s subversive genre work (The Host).?DF"
  4. Mastadge Manager Emeritus

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    The Killer -- Never seen it. I only became aware of John Woo when he came to Hollywood, and my reaction to his films there quickly went from apathy to antipathy to the extent that I've never investigated his Hong Kong oeuvre.

    The Death of Mr. Lazarescu -- This one's been in my Netflix queue for a while. From the previews, it looks amusing but not necessarily like Top 50 material. Its inclusion on this list might push me to bump it up mine a bit. Unfortunately I've not been hearing great things about Puiu's most recent film, Aurora, which is apparently a meandering 3-hour slog.

    The Power of Kangwon Province -- Hadn't even heard of this one. I've enjoyed a number of Korean films, but most of them have been thrillers of some denomination or bizarre, offbeat genre mashups -- I've somehow managed to miss the artsy dramas and romantic films.
  5. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    I'm three for three in the 'not-seen-this' department.
  6. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    47. FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI (1998)

    "Few contemporary filmmakers have been as praised by tastemakers as Taiwan?s Hou Hsiao-hsien, and this elegant, elegiac costume drama justifies the fuss. Set in Shanghai?s old-world brothel culture of rich layabouts and loose women, this tale uses a warhorse plot?Will Tony Leung?s businessman dump his concubine for a younger model??as a springboard for Hou?s hazy, slow-and-low approach; you feel as if you?ve taken a few hits off the characters? opium pipes. Sorrow has rarely seemed so enveloping, or so incredibly sensual.?DF"
  7. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    46. THE DECALOGUE (1988)

    "Thou shalt not ignore the ethical toughness of Polish cinema. With this complex, modern-day take on the Ten Commandments, director Krzysztof Kieslowski (Three Colors: Blue) scored his most lasting achievement. Originally made for television, these ten short films found a global embrace as a stand-alone movie event, making gushing fans out of nobodies like Stanley Kubrick and introducing an audience to the rigors of perfectly plotted philosophical inquiries.?JR"
  8. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    45. RUSSIAN ARK (2002)

    "Alexander Sokurov came up with a doozy of a concept for this era-spanning drama: 200 years of Russian history filmed in St. Petersburg?s massive Winter Palace in a single, feature-length shot. Long-take lovers would be proud: There?s not one cut during the movie?s 96 minutes, which makes for an exhilarating sensory experience. Yet there?s an equally profound feeling of melancholy, as if every ecstatic sight we?re witnessing is fleeting.?KU"

    I would absolutely love to see this...
  9. CloneUncleOwen Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2009
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    =D=

    This is one of my favorite Sokurov films; it's just so damn weird. Sukorov himself acts as a narrator/ghost
    character, at times explaining the action/storyline or telling the characters what to do. It's also a beautiful
    film, all shot on location at the Hermitage.

    Caveat: If you're not prepared to watch 96 minutes of unbroken arthouse Steadicam, skip it.
  10. Drac39 Force Ghost

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    Jul 9, 2002
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    Just the scope of the film and the meticulous effort to get it right is enough to make one recommend it. Some of it feels like nothing more than a history lesson but it kind of works really well as a spectacle and so we forgive the films short comings.
  11. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    I like history lessons, but I fear you need to see this on the big screen...
  12. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Who isn't always ready to watch 96 minutes of unbroken arthouse Steadicam?! :p
  13. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    44. WHEN A WOMAN ASCENDS THE STAIRS (1960)

    "To the holy triumvirate of Japanese filmmakers?Ozu, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi?let?s add Mikio Naruse. Although lesser known, his incisive dramas about the struggling working class never fail to move. In this recently rediscovered masterpiece, the great, gorgeous Hideko Takamine plays Keiko, a Tokyo hostess contemplating whether or not to marry. She puts on a dignified mask for her many problematic suitors, but a deep-rooted bitterness seeps through her every smile.?KU"

    I haven't heard of this one, and would like to see it...
  14. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    43. SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE (1973)

    "The strife-ridden regime of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco has provided thematic fodder for numerous films, most recently Pan?s Labyrinth. But the gold standard remains Victor Erice?s astonishing fable about a troubled rural girl (Ana Torrent) whose first encounter with the movie Frankenstein opens up the floodgates of her imagination. It?s impossible to shake many of the film?s stunning images, none more so than Torrent?s is-it-real-or-isn?t-it? encounter with the lumbering monster itself.?KU"
  15. Mastadge Manager Emeritus

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    Spirit of the Beehive is wonderful. Highly recommended.
  16. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    42. YI YI (A ONE AND A TWO?) (2000)

    "Appearing on an avalanche of end-of-decade lists, Edward Yang?s tender triumph, a portrait of a stressed-out, middle-class Taiwanese family, feels like the apex of domestic drama. The movie?s beautiful modulations?from success to failure, blooming high-school love to surly alienation, birth to death?are presented with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of emotional impact. The universality was heartrending.?JR"
  17. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    41. WILD STRAWBERRIES (1957)

    "Sweden?s filmmaking paragon, Ingmar Bergman, paid homage to one of his heroes, actor-director Victor Sjöström, by casting the latter as an aging professor recalling his life during a road trip. His dreamy remembrances (of childhood, first love, an unhappy marriage) are stoked by the people he meets and the places he visits. As far as psychoanalytic cinema goes, there?s none better. Woody Allen agreed: His Another Woman was a closely modeled, female-centered redo.?KU"

    Victor Sjöström is very worthy of a tribute, if you have had the luck to see any of his silent films (esp. "The Phantom Carriage")

  18. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    40. SHOAH (1985)

    "For some, there can?t ever be too many documentaries about the Holocaust. But if the trend feels slightly tired, it?s because there?s no improving on this definitive effort, a nine-and-a-half-hour grand statement that wrecks audiences. Daringly, French director Claude Lanzmann completely avoided archival footage and re-creations, instead boring fully into several first-person interviews with three types of subjects: survivors, bystanders and perpetrators. The cumulative effect is massive and central to an appreciation of evil.?JR"

    Nine hours! Haven't seen it, unfortunately.
  19. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    39. A TOUCH OF ZEN (1969)

    "Most cine-snobs think of martial-arts movies as guilty pleasures fit only for grindhouses; they?ve obviously never seen King Hu?s gorgeous chronicle of a Buddhist kung fu master in love. The undisputed poet laureate of wuxia films, Hu treats his genre material as if it were high art, balancing action and atmospherics in each battle. Ang Lee readily acknowledged borrowing liberally from this film?s eerily quiet fight scenes and balletic bamboo standoffs for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Accept no substitutes.?DF"
  20. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    38. MY NIGHT AT MAUD?S (1969)

    "Can two people talking be cinematic? France?s Eric Rohmer thought so?his incredible body of work hinges on the pleasures and profundities of conversation. This incisive, quietly devastating feature is the one to see, centering on a spirited chat between a stiff-backed Catholic-Marxist (Jean-Louis Trintignant, brilliantly self-righteous) and the free-spirited woman (Françoise Fabian, enticing in both speech and shape) who tries to seduce him.?KU"
  21. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    37. CLOSE-UP (1990)

    "Abbas Kiarostami?s astounding hall-of-mirrors docudrama was a watershed for the then-burgeoning Iranian cinema. Based on a true story, it tells the tale of a con artist who passed himself off as a locally famous filmmaker. Further blurring the lines between fiction and reality, the writer-director enlisted everyone involved in the actual scam to act as themselves. If that sounds like bad reality TV, know that there?s not a single sensationalist moment.?KU"
  22. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    36. YOJIMBO (1961)

    "If film can be seen as a shared international language, then here?s its most thrilling Rosetta stone. To make this Japanese tale of a wandering ronin, director Akira Kurosawa took inspiration from stately John Ford Westerns and Hollywood?s seedy noirs of the 1940s. Having already revised the action landscape with 1954?s The Seven Samurai, Kurosawa would now do so again: Yojimbo, a massive worldwide hit, was (illegally) remade into a little Italian picture called A Fistful of Dollars, thereby launching the careers of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood both.?JR"

    Great, great film. "Fistful" ain't bad, either; this comparison is from the 'Original/Remake' thread:

    "Yojimbo/A Fistful of Dollars

    Yojimbo was made in 1961, dir. by Akira Kurosawa (he also collaborated on the script) and starring Toshire Mifune and Tatsuya Nakadai. Kurosawa has indicated that this film was based--somewhat--on Dashiell Hammett's "Red Harvest" (the nameless man who cleans up a town by setting the gangsters at odds) and the same author's "The Glass Key" (the kidnapping and beating of a character).

    AFOD was made in 1964, dir. by Sergio Leone (he also collaborated on the script) starring Clint Eastwood and Gian Maria Volonte. Because Kurosawa's producers sued, Leone got very disingenuous and claimed that it was based on "Red Harvest" and Goldoni's "A Servant of Two Masters". Because AFOD is very, very obviously based on "Yojimbo", borrowing characters and situations very freely, and merely expanding on them.

    Cinematography: "Yojimbo" is in handsome black and grey; AFOD is in colour, but with a very muted palate, dusty brown, hard black, hot glaring white and blood red (lots of the latter).

    Art Direction: Both very, very good. The dusty village of "Yojimbo" is a real place; the equally dusty Mexican village also. AFOD opens the action rather more, and has the advantage of bleak Spanish landscapes.

    Genre: "Yojimbo" is a black comedy. AFOD is an action picture, though Eastwood still cracks wise.

    Music: "Yojimbo"'s score is jaunty and annoying; AFOD (by Ennio Morricone) features male choruses and non-verbal sound effects. Neither are particularly catchy.

    Cast: Essentially there is only one character in each movie, the Samurai in "Yojimbo" (played with great charm and panache by Toshiro Mifune) and the gunfighter in AFOD (played in a confident, charismatic yet minimalist performance by Clint Eastwood). The rest are archtypes--the really, really bad guys and the oppressed. They all overact in various styles. Mifune and Eastwood do what you ask your star to do. They anchor the films.

    Different Takes: Kurosawa is absolutely contemptuous of the bosses in his film, and takes the mickey out of them in various ways. They look absurd and behave stupidly. The opening street fight is deeply silly, with the giant with the sledgehammer looming over what looks like a mixer at a dentist's convention (at the time, Japanese males apparently shaved their front hair, so that they all look bald). One of the hired thugs wears an open striped robe over his tighty whities. And so forth. The violence is stylized by making it the equivalent of tag--Mifune taps men on the back or arms and they collapse.

    Leone is Italian, so that AFOD resembles an opera more than comedy. The villains are tougher and not silly-looking, though they still behave stupidly, if with guns, so that the stupidity is more serious. For instance, in the burning bordello scene, it never seems to occur to anyone to go out the back, nor does Volonte ever try a head shot in the gunfight scene. The stylization of the violence is done here by excess--the stunt men must have had a competition to see who could dive more gracefully, and do the best death rattle. They do a lot of it.

    Nice touch: In "Yojimbo": The dog strolling through town with a severed human hand in its mouth; the shot showing the elevated feet of the old man, making us think he has been hanged.

    In AFOD: The end of the fight in the cemetery. Also the Catholic iconography (the little boy is named Jesus).

    I Could Do Witho
  23. Champion of the Force Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 27, 1999
    star 4
    That's pretty funny. Irony indeed.[face_laugh]

    I've only seen Fistful, and it's not bad at all (have only seen fleeting parts of it's sequels). Never seen Yojimbo, however I am currently watching and enjoying Samurai Champloo (an anime) and I enjoy the concept of wandering samurai, so I'd be interested in checking it out.
  24. CloneUncleOwen Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2009
    star 4
    [face_thinking]

    As influential as this film has turned out to be over the years, I'm surprised
    that YOJIMBO ranks at #36.
  25. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    35. LA JETÉE (1962)

    "In only 28 minutes, Chris Marker?s dazzling sci-fi romance?set largely within the dreamscapes of a nuclear-war survivor?completely rewrites the rules. (Inception fans, get thee to a Netflix queue.) Almost completely composed of still photographs and narration, the French short begins with the destruction of Paris, then introduces a Vertigo-like bridge to a happier past through a vividly remembered tryst. Decades later, Terry Gilliam would remake this plot as the eerie Twelve Monkeys.?JR"