Monsieurs and Señoras

Do foreign films exist anywhere besides America? I wonder sometimes if it is only their not being American that makes them foreign. If “Hollywood,” being so big and prolific, has driven a wedge between movies and foreign films. If a South African sees an Icelandic film, would he call it a foreign film or just a film? As long as the subtitles are spelled correctly, does it matter?

I’ve become a passive fan of foreign films. To be more accurate, I am a fan of French and Spanish films. Probably because I have seen more films from those countries than from other countries. (Not counting Great Britain, Australia and Canada, of course, but Americans can hardly count those three as foreign countries. Foreign countries are the ones where people talk funny.) But probably also because there is a sensibility about them that I admire.

It’s not an exclusive relationship. I loved The Host. Not because I have a particular interest in Korean filmmaking. I would have liked the movie just as much probably if it had come from Germany. Maybe.

But it had a sewer monster! And good special effects. That’s just cool. Turns out, it was also a very good movie.

I saw a Finnish film once. It was called Passing Clouds. It was 1997. I only remember the title because I wrote it down in my travel journal. I also wrote: “Robotic acting. Subtle humor doubtless missed in the subtitles. Good movie about the Finnish economic recession and the triumph of the human spirit. Well, that’s what the ad said.”

Again, not so much interested in Finnish sociology. It probably had more to do with my being in London and wanting to do something européen. I don’t want to discount the Finnish ouevre with one sweep, mind you. I’m sure it’s not to be missed. But I feel like I’ve done my part for the Finns for now.

I just find myself continually drawn to French and Spanish movies. Of course, who can resist Pedro Almódovar, and all the delightful Spanish women who come with him? Carmen Maura, Cecilia Roth (who is actually Argentinian), Penelope Cruz (only if she is in a Spanish-language movie).

However, I’ve always thought Antonio Banderas was a little overrated. (Though it could be his marriage to Melanie Griffith that I am subconsciously objecting to.)

I’ve gotten into Frenchmen Louis Garrel and Melvil Poupaud. I never went for Juliette Binoche or Audrey Tautou, though their movies are fine, of course.

Maybe I’m just drawn to Spanish actresses (over actors) and French actors (over actresses). That would be totally superficial and sexist. But I think I’m OK with that. There must be something to it. Sexually liberated French male characters. Tough, and a little insane, Spanish female characters. There’s something for a gay man to grasp on to there, right?

There are exceptions, of course. I thought Marion Cotillard was brilliant in La Vie en Rose, and I love Catherine Deneuve in anything, and neither of them is Spanish. I have never much cared for Gerard Dépardieu, and he is most definitely French.

Maybe I just need to expand my horizons a little bit before I become incurably cliché. Can anyone recommend any good German or Japanese flicks?


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the untallied hours

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