December 24, 2015

Cinema 2015: Top 10 Modern Foreign-Language Films

It is that time of the year when I look back at my journey as a film-buff, and choose the films that were the highlight of my movie-experience. Here I present the first of my 'favourites' lists, naming the top ten modern films not in English language. I have considered close to 40 films for this list, movies released in 2011 or later. 

Following are my top ten in alphabetic order. It is good to see as many as nine countries represented here. I also recommend you click on the titles and watch their trailers to witness the glorious variety of modern world cinema:
  1. The Assassin (2015/ Taiwan) by Hou Hsiao-Hsien: A difficult watch. But a masterful cinematic expression. It can be a text book on a film-maker's approach to use time in order to transport the viewers into the film's world. Won Best Director at Cannes 2015.
  2. The Brand New Testament (2015/ Belgium) by Jaco Van Dormael: I have already recommended this, my favourite film of the year, as a must-watch-before-you-die. Has been shortlisted among top 5 and top 9 foreign-language films at the upcoming Golden Globes and Oscars respectively. Beating 'Son of Saul' may be tough, but I'll cheer for this Belgian gem!
  3. Force Majeure (2014/ Sweden) by Ruben Ostlund: One of the most compelling films of recent times centred around a married couple and the conflicts they face between them. I totally loved it. The film had won the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes 2014 and then made into top 5 and top 9 at Golden Globes and Oscars but lost to 'Leviathan' and 'Ida' respectively.
  4. Like Father, Like Son (2013/ Japan) by Hirokazu Koreeda: The oldest film on this list is actually one of the most universally accessible. Extremely endearing and moving, this Japanese film had won two major awards at Cannes 2013. Strongly recommended to one and all!
  5. My Mother (2015/ Italy) by Nanni Moretti: The inimitable Nanni Moretti's latest is again a poignant, personal story that will find resonance with the universal audience. His trademark pacing contrasts with a generous sprinkling of light humour, making it an unassuming cinematic piece, the craft of which is difficult to decipher and describe, but which creates a lasting impact.
  6. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014/ Sweden) by Roy Andersson: This Venice 2014 winner was also Sweden's official entry at the Oscars this year but it failed to make it to the top 9. However, it is definitely among the finest works of cinema in the recent times. The third part of Andersson's "Living"-trilogy, this comic anthology of unconnected stories can be difficult to watch alone. But try watching it with a group of cinephiles and you will have real fun!
  7. Right Now, Wrong Then (2015/ South Korea) by Hong Sang-soo: This film again can be enjoyed more easily when watched with a crowd. The top prize winner at Locarno this year, and also one for Best Actor, it has a unique structure and an inventive collision of genres. A very strong authorial voice as well.
  8. The Second Mother (2015/ Brazil) by Anna Muylaert: The fourth film in this list that deals with parenthood or its problems. Winner of Audience Award at Berlin and acting awards at Sundance, this beautiful, lovely drama is an easy recommendation - almost everyone will like it. It was Brazil's Oscar-entry this year and one of the strongest contenders, but could not make it to the Top 9.
  9. Victoria (2015/ Germany) by Sebastian Schipper: The latest wonder in world cinema, this crime-drama is just one shot of more than 130 minutes, thus creating a new record in "long take". The cinematographer, Sturla Brandth Grovlen, rightly won a special prize at Berlin for his work on this. But the film is more than a technical accomplishment. It is something that grows on you the more you think about it and is definitely one film that will improve on multiple watches. I'll most likely recommend it as a must-watch once I watch it for the second time.
  10. Wild Tales (2014/ Argentina) by Damian Szifron: The craziest, gutsiest film for me this year, 'Wild Tales' is also currently featured in IMDB Top250. An anthology of six separate stories on humans going wild in extreme life-situations, daringly written and impeccably directed and performed, this film too almost made it to my must-watch list. It was also among the top 5 at Oscars last year but lost to 'Ida'. If you want to be blown away by something outrageously shocking, this is the film for you! Watch, and then watch again.
Honorable Mention: 'Aferim!' (2015/ Romania) by Radu Jude, 'Arabian Nights' (2015/ Portugal) by Miguel Gomes, 'Goodnight Mommy' (2014/ Austria) by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, and 'No' (2012/ Chile) by Pablo Larrain.

P.S. Click here for the 2014 list.

P.P.S. I just noticed that not a single film out of these fourteen is from France. I am almost certain that it's an extremely rare instance! :)

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