Below find a short list of foreign films that will rival any to be found on the usual year-end “ten best” lists.
Most of the films on the list are personal favorites of mine. I must confess that I have a preference for “feel good” films. For example, I understand the greatness of Italian neo-realist films but find them almost unbearable to watch. Also, I avoid films where the emphasis is on violence and eroticism.
Although I am a great fan of American films, I believe that foreign films provide an opportunity to see and understand other cultures. In addition to being great stories with great characters, they can open up a window to other worlds. For example, the Iranian film “a Separation” offers a window into contemporary Iran that we will never find in our own media.
“Bon Voyage”: a combination love story and chase adventure set in France amidst the chaos of the German invasion at the outset of WW II. It stars Isabelle Adjani, and Gregoire Derangere with famed French actor Gerard Depardieu in a supporting role.
“Too Bad She’s Bad”: A 1958 Italian comedy that stars a young Sophia Loren, an unknown Marcello Mastroianni, and famed movie star and director Vittorio de Sica. “She” is the Italian ‘anatomic bomb’ Loren, stealing hearts as a lusciously larcenous petty thief. Mastroianni is the naïve young cabbie who tries to set her straight, while de Sica, as Loren’s smooth con man papa makes sure his not so little girl stays on the crooked and narrow.
“A Separation”: a film from Iran that won the 2012 Golden Globe Award for best foreign film. The story of an Iranian husband and wife who split up over his decision to stay and care for his aging father instead of leaving the country with his family. But his fateful choice to hire a stranger to do most of the care taking breeds unexpected consequences.
“The Way” : a powerful and inspirational story about family, friends, and the challenges faced while navigating through life. Martin Sheen plays an American doctor who travels to France after receiving the news of the death of his estranged son. Rather than return home, he decides to embark on the historical pilgrimage route to Spain’s Santiago da Campostella to honor his son’s desire to finish the journey. The film was directed by Sheen’s son, Emilio Estevez.
“Le Doulos": a French crime thriller by famed director Jean-Pierre Melville, stars stone faced young Jean-Paul Belmondo as enigmatic gangster Silien who may or may not be responsible for squealing on his gangster friend Faugel, played by Serge Reggiani. Shot and edited with Melville’s trademark cool and featuring masterfully stylized dialogue and performances, Le Doulos is one of the filmmaker’s most gripping crime dramas.
"Divorce, Italian Style": stars Marcello Mastroianni as Sicilian aristocrat Baron Ferdinando Cefalu who longs to marry his nubile young cousin Angela. One obstacle stands in his way: his fatuous and fawning wife, Rosalia. His solution? Since divorce is illegal, he hatches a plot to lure his spouse into the arms of another and then murder her in a justifiable effort to save his honor.
“Run Lola Run”: the story of two star-crossed lovers who have only minutes to change the course of their lives. After receiving a frantic phone call from her boyfriend, Lola has only twenty minutes to save his life. Franka Potente plays Lola in this film from Germany.
"Joyeux Noel": the story of a spontaneous Christmas Eve truce declared by Scottish, French and German troops in the trenches of World War I. Enemies leave their weapons behind for one night as they band together in brotherhood and forget about the brutalities of war.