Most Entertaining Foreign Films of The Last Decade
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This is a list of the foreign language movies that we enjoyed the most over the years starting from 1997 – 2006. Almost all of these have gone on to become cult classics and have had a certain degree of success beyond the boundaries of their own countries. There might have been other more entertaining foreign language movies released during the same period that our readers might have enjoyed more. We may not have even seen some of them and would definitely like to know about them. So please feel free to contribute your own list in your comments.
5. Kung Fu Hustle (China - 2004)
We selected this movie to be in our list because it is very seldom that a madcap comedy is universally accepted by both critics and public alike. The movie absolutely gets you with its hilarity and leaves you with a silly grin on your face almost throughout its length (when you are not rolling over in your seats that is).
It is about a group of poor people living in a rundown neighborhood called the Pig Sty Alley in 1930s Shanghai. They are ruled over by a domineering landlady who always has a cigarette in her mouth. Shanghai is terrorized by the Axe Gang who does not give much attention to Pig Sty alley because they are too poor. But because of the actions of two aspiring gang members, the Axe Gang storm the alley bringing them into conflict with the people in the alley (some of whom have a few kung fu masters with extraordinary powers).
The sequence of events that follows is a mild excuse to completely loose all perception of reality. The director Simon Chow pulls out all the stops and doesn’t let small things like the gravity or any of the other laws physics stand in the way of hilarious action sequences. None of the actions sequences are real and are made deliberately over the top with the aid of CGI effects. But it lends a riotous humor to the entire proceeding. The movie is also spoof on other more famous movies with parodies of everything from Spiderman to the Untouchables to the Matrix to the Roadrunner being highlighted. A good watch anytime… any number of times.
4. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (Taiwan - 2000)
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This Ang Lee film is the exact opposite of what Kung Fu hustle was all about. It was this movie that changed the way martial arts movies are shot and viewed. The movie has a method to its action and none of it is madcap or over the top. Yes it does have stunts which seem to defy the law of physics but it is more operatic than anything you might have ever seen before.
The story is about the life of its three main characters; Li Mu-bai, Yu Shu-lien and Jen Yu in 18th century China. Li Mu-bai seeks to avenge the murder of his master. He is so obsessed with vengeance that he has even put on hold his love for Yu Shu-lien. Yu Shu-lien has been a warrior all her life and now seeks to settle down. Jen Yu is the daughter of the local governor, destined for an arranged marriage. But she has a secret love affair with a dacoit and yearns for a life of adventure and mastery in martial arts.
The movie is about all three characters trying to search for something which they do not have. The movie is able to highlight the human emotions beyond all the action and the protagonist’s desperation for another life. They are all trying to break free from some bond or the other that is tying them down to their current life. Even the action sequences are graceful and aesthetic to the core. The chase sequence over the roof tops and fight sequence on top of trees is especially unforgettable.
3. Amélie (France - 2001)
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Amélie came at a time when feel good movies were being overused and were becoming over emotional. But Amélie got it just right and makes your heart brighten up for a whole day. This quirky, charming tale of a lonely and mischievous young girl in Paris will definitely touch even the most hardest of hearts.
Amélie as a child grew up without knowing love or affection and was lonely on most parts. Her loneliness helps her to cultivate an active imagination. After she grows up the news of Princess Diana’s death completely changes her life. It causes her to notice a little boy’s box wedged under a loose tile in her apartment. She tries to return it to its owner making a deal with herself in the process: if she finds him and it makes him glad, she will devote her life to goodness. She continues to do good for others after seeing the positive effect of her deed on the man. However she finds herself lonely and sad. She has a chance at happiness when she meets a young man called Nino. Whether she will be able to overcome her shyness and find love forms the rest of the movie.
Amélie is a movie of instant gratification and it is difficult to not fall in love with the title character. The most exciting part of the movie is that Amélie never chooses to help others in a direct way. She leaves clues and mysteries for them to solve and find their own happiness. The other striking feature is Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet exaggerated treatment of the visuals. Overall it is a great movie watch on a rainy night with your lover.
2. Life is beautiful (Italy - 1997)
The greatness of Life is Beautiful is its theme itself. It is about smiling in the face of adversity and going on when there is no hope of success. It is a timeless tale of hope and courage directed by it main lead Roberto Benigni.
Life is beautiful is a movie of two parts. The first part is about Guido’s courting and subsequent marriage to Dora. This is definitely much lighter and comical than the later half. It serves nothing more than to entice a few laughs and to set the background for the main characters. But the second half completely changes the mood and occurs five years after Guido’s and Dora’s marriage. Guido and his son are whipped off into concentration camps in fascist Italy as they are Jews. His wife too follows suit despite her not being a Jew due to her desire to be near her family. From then on the movie is about how Guido tries to protect his son from the terrible realities at the labor camp by claiming that it is all part of an elaborate game.
Life is beautiful is poignant and charming at the same time. Guido is able to keep up the ruse of the game in part due to his own enterprise and in part due to his son’s innocence. He shows tremendous courage and heart in creating an environment conducive to his son even when all hope is lost. He fights the cruelty with the only weapon he has: laughter. It is the touching tale of a father’s fight to make his son’s life as beautiful as he can.
1. City of God (Brazil - 2002)
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City of god is the name of a slum in Rio de Janeiro. And after watching this movie we feel that it is the most undeserving name given to his place. The events that we see in this movie mostly take place over a few decades in this slum. The absolute godlessness in the events and life of the slum shock you enormously.
It is the story of two boys growing up in the City of God; Rocket and Little Dice. While both of them grows up among violence and are witnesses to absolute brutality from a very young age, they both take different paths in their life as they grow up. While Little Dice becomes Little Zeke, the head of one of the most violent gangs in the neighborhood, Rocket goes on to pursue his passion for photography and eventually becomes a photographer for the local newspaper.
The most impressive aspect of the movie is its narrative style. The movie starts off near to the end of the story and goes of in different tangents before culminating at the same point from which it started off. The other thing that really hits you is the sheer violence and brutality of the movie. What makes it even more poignant and sad is the fact that criminals and gang members are very young boys who are barely into their teen. The movie by Director Fernando Meirelles is both shocking and mesmerizing at the same time.