5 Foreign Film Recommendations

Its been a long time since I provided my loyal readers with another list of 5 Foreign Film Recommendations and I know that I am more than well overdue. As many of you may know, I just adore the artwork of foreign creatives, so I always attempt to view projects from outside of America as often as I can. Since beginning my Senior Programming and Exhibition Internship with the Austin Film Society, I have been fortunate enough to enjoy some incredible movies from all over the world on the biggest screens possible, but I know that everyone doesn’t have that luxury. Thankfully, movie lovers don’t always have to find a local art house theater to see foreign films. Streaming services have a grand collection of foreign films that you can watch from the comfort of your home.  Today, I will be sharing a couple of those films with you, in addition to some of the other outstanding foreign films I have seen recently and over the years. I truly hope that you check them all out. Happy reading and watching!

1. Mother (2009)

Mother 2009
Image courtesy of Alternate Ending: Kim Hye-ja as Mother in Mother (2009).

5/5| Crime| Thriller| Korean| 2hr 9m

Director: Bong Joon-hop
Screenplay: Bong Joon-ho, Park Eun-kyo
Cinematography: Hong Kyung-pyo

There really is nothing like a mother’s love. I saw Mother (2009) a couple of months ago during Netflix’s “Netflix and Chills” promotion (brilliant marketing btw) and I have been thinking about it ever since. This haunting South Korean tale follows a woman simply known as “Mother” (Kim Hye-ja) who must clear her mentally challenged son’s name after he gets accused of murdering a young girl. Seems like a pretty straight forward premise right? Wrong. This movie is filled with twists and turns that will leave you picking your jaw up off the floor by the time the credits roll. With gorgeous visuals and an engaging soundtrack, Mother seemed like the perfect choice to start off this list of enchanting foreign film recommendations. You can watch this movie right now on Netflix.

2. Shoplifters (2018)

Image courtesy of Film Society Lincoln Center: Sakura Ando, Miyu Sasaki, Kairi Jō, Lily Franky, Mayu Matsuoka and Kirin Kiki as Nobuyo Shibata, Yuri Hojo/Juri/Lin, Shota Shibata, Osamu Shibata, Aki Shibata and Hatsue Shibata in Shoplifters (2018).

4.5/5| Crime| Drama| Japanese| 2h 1m

Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Screenplay: Park Joo-suk
Cinematography: Kondo Ryuto

Who says you can’t choose your family? This question is the whole point of Shoplifters. I was fortunate enough to catch this film at AFS Cinema during the thick of its awards season theatrical run and it was simply paralyzing. By the end of the film, I could not move. As everyone exited the theater, I sat in my seat and relished in the story that had just unfolded and I am still digesting it all to this day. Shoplifters opens with Shota (Kairi Jō) and Osamu (Lily Frankly) stealing from a local grocery store in a fashion so smooth, it gives the Ocean’s 8– Sandra Bullock-department store con a run for its money. However, this is in no way that kind of movie. Shot in a naturalistic style, Shoplifters often feels like documentary of a makeshift family, living in an extremely low class neighborhood of Japan, whom are just trying to survive.

3. Train to Busan (2016)

Image courtesy of Asian Movie Pulse: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-Seok, and Choi Woo-shik as Seok-Woo, Sang-Hwa, and Young-Gook in Train to Busan (2016).

5/5| Action| Disaster| Thriller| Korean| 1h 58m

Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Screenplay: Park Joo-suk
Cinematography: Lee Hyung-deok

Train to Busan may be one of the best zombie apocalypse movies that I have ever seen. In 2016, this South Korean smash hit took the film industry by storm and quickly became one of the most talked about horror films in various foreign countries and Hollywood, respectively. The industry was so impressed with the success of Train to Busan that now James Wan, horror aficionado, is set to be remaking it. However, I am positive that it will come nowhere close to the sheer perfection of the original. This South Korean triumph has a relatively simple premise that is executed in a rather highbrow fashion: While a businessman and his daughter are taking a train to Busan Metropolitan City, a woman infected with the zombie virus makes her way onto the crowded transport and quickly begins infecting everyone inside. Obviously, all hell breaks lose that will have you shouting at your television or laptop. You can watch this amazing thriller right now on Netflix.

4. Cold War (2018)

Image courtesy of YouTube : Joanna Kulig as Zuzanna “Zula” Lichoń in Cold War (2018).

4.7/5 | Drama| Polish| French| 1hr 28m

Director: Paweł Pawlikowski
Screenplay: Paweł Pawlikowski, Janusz Głowacki, Piotr Borkowski
Cinematography: Łukasz Żal

There were a couple of gorgeous black and white movies that came out last year, but with all the praise of Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece, Roma (2018), sweeping the conversation, the average cinema lover seems to rarely hear of the critically acclaimed Cold War. This film serves as a reminder of just how how rich and visually stunning black and white movies can be, especially on huge screens. I was fortunate enough to catch the last showing of this post-war Polish drama at AFS Cinema and I am so glad that I did.  Cold War tells the destructive love story of Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and Zula (Joanna Kulig), whom are successful musicians that rise and fall from fame after being forced to become apart of the world of communist propaganda following WWII. We watch their swoony, impossible relationship unfold in various European countries over the course of about 15 years. With an ending that feels just, Cold War is a nearly perfect movie. While it certainly may not be for everyone, I feel that the cinematography is so transcendent that it is worth checking out anyways.

5. Audition (1999)

Image courtesy of Filmotomy: Eihi Shiina as Asami Yamazaki in Audition (1999).

3.5/5| Thriller| Horror| Japanese| 1hr 55m

Director: Takashi Miike
Screenplay: Daisuke Tengan
Cinematography: Hideo Yamamoto

Freshman year of college I went through a phase where I successfully attempted to watch at least one-to-two films a day that I had never seen before. It’s safe to say that out of all the films I watched, none of them were as grotesque and downright terrifying as the Japanese horror film, Audition. Considering the fact that I have always been partial to audition montages, I was originally drawn to this film for that reason among others, but nothing could’ve prepared me for this joyfully torturous viewing experience. Audition tells the story of Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), a widower who is looking to find new love. After his friend, Yasuhisa Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura), sets up an “audition” for potential girlfriend (and eventual wife) candidates, Shigeharu meets and becomes enchanted by Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina). Asami seems perfect in every way except one, she is batshit crazy, which Shigeharu learns way too late. I highly recommend this wild ride. I guarantee you won’t forget it easily.

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