January 01, 2019

Cinema 2018: Top Modern Foreign-Language Films

For this list I have considered the films (not in English or Indian languages) I watched for the first time in 2018, but not those which are more than five years old. About 40 movies were considered and here are my top ten, in alphabetic order:

  • 'Border' (2018/ Sweden) by Ali Abbasi: Winner of the Un Certain Regard Award at Cannes, this unique love-story is tender and disturbing in equal measures. Sweden's official entry to the Oscars (not shortlisted in top nine), the film is directed by an Iranian filmmaker and going by this and the description of his first film ('Shelley'/2016/Denmark), he looks like someone we must follow in the years to come.
  • 'Climax' (2018/ France-US) by Gaspar Noe: A musical-horror that you will never forget, like almost all of Noe's films, 'Climax' won that Art Cinema Award at Cannes. The film itself is a bad-trip, very difficult to watch, and not something you recommend to everyone. But if you can endure it, it is a delightful treat.
  • 'Faces Places' (2017/ France) by Agnes Varda and JR: Close to 90 years old Varda, one of the most reputed French filmmakers of all time, collaborates on this beautiful, funny and moving piece of non-fiction work with the mysterious French photographer and artist, JR. This is something I can recommend to everyone. Watch it and feel good about this world.
  • 'Grave (Raw)' (2016/ France-Belgium) by Julia Ducournau: This first feature by writer-director Ducournau had had a great festival run in 2016, starting with the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes but I could watch it only in 2018. Blending horror and coming-of-age genres, it is an engrossing and fun film, if you can sit through its graphic scenes.
  • 'The Guilty' (2018/ Denmark) by Gustav Moller: Another first-feature, the film is being remade in the US with Jake Gyllenhaal. Starting with audience awards at Rotterdam and Sundance, the film eventually became Denmark's official entry to the Oscars and has made it to the top nine. It will remind you of 'Locke', and is more thrilling than the British film.
  • 'The Insult' (2017/ Lebanon) by Ziad Doueiri: After working in the camera team of several movies in the US, including some of Tarantino's best works, Doueiri is now a screenwriter and director telling entertaining and powerful stories from the Arab world. 'The Insult' was nominated for an Oscar, but lost to 'A Fantastic Woman'. Actor Kamel El Basha won the Best Actor at Venice when it premiered there in 2017.
  • 'Nocturama' (2016/ France) by Bertrand Bonello: This crime drama is on Netflix and for several months I did not pay any attention to it. There is something wonderful at display here, despite the pace and structure that may frustrate some of us. If you can, do not read anything about the film, not even the description Netflix has on its link. Do not watch the trailer. And try to finish this in one sitting. It might surprise you.
  • 'One Cut of the Dead' (2017/ Japan) by Shinichiro Ueda: Talking of surprise! This zombie-comedy is the discovery of the year, and will always remain one of my most favorite films. I only wish you could watch it in a theater, with hundreds of others. Films like these keep big screen, community-viewing alive. Films like these remind us how special cinema is, or can be.
  • 'On Body and Soul' (2017/ Hungary) by Ildiko Enyedi: 63-year old Enyedi had won Camera d'Or at Cannes for her first film 'My Twentieth Century' in 1989. She went on to make four feature films in the 90s, with 'Simon, the Magician' (1999) receiving most acclaim. And then she took eighteen years to make her next feature - 'On Body and Soul'. It is the only film I watched twice this year, so impressed and moved I was with its craft. That it is made by a senior, female film-maker, with such an interesting filmography - I discovered only later. The winner of Golden Bear at Berlin, the film was also nominated for an Oscar. Her next is based on Hungarian author Milan Fust's novel, and stars the French actress Lea Seydoux and the Norwegian actor Anders Baasmo Christiansen.
  • 'Roma' (2018/ Mexico) by Alfonso Cuaron: The entire world is talking about this film, which for me might be the best film released in 2018. What more can I say? Don't be surprised if the film wins more than the Foreign-Language Oscar in February.
Honorable Mention: 'The Giant' (2016/ Sweden-Denmark) by Johannes Nyholm is a film I discovered thanks to my MUBI subscription. And I will never forget it. Part sports drama, part fable, the film elates and devastates you. This is the first feature by its director, whose next film 'Koko-di Koko-da' will be playing at Sundance this year. The wait has begun!

1 comment:

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