Beyond Words - Language Blog

Now Playing: Foreign Language Films at the Theater, July 2010

A monthly feature by Beyond Words, Now Playing highlights some of the best foreign films currently playing at the theater. American attendance at foreign language films dropped exponentially during the last decade, with foreign film ticket sales accounting for less than 1 percent of business at the US box office. We don’t want foreign films to disappear from the American movie landscape– they remain a great way to expose American moviegoers to new languages and cultures. So, we’re providing you with a few plot synopses and trailers. All you need to do is make your way to a local art house and enjoy these films on the big screen.

Wild Grass

Director: Alain Resnais, Language: French
Alain Resnais, one of the towering figures of the French New Wave, demonstrates he still has plenty to say in this drama based on a novel by Christian Gailly. Marguerite (Sabine Azéma) is a successful dentist with a busy practice and an offbeat hobby, flying small airplanes. One day, while running errands, Marguerite loses her wallet, and it’s found by Georges (André Dussollier), a seemingly happy man with a wife, Suzanne (Anne Consigny), and two children (Vladimir Consigny and Sara Forestier). As Georges looks through the wallet and examines the photos of Marguerite, he finds he’s fascinated with her and her life, and soon his curiosity about her becomes an obsession. Georges’ attempts to integrate himself into Marguerite’s life begin to alarm her, and she hires a private security team (Mathieu Amalric and Michel Vuillermoz) to keep him away, but Georges is determined that his new love for her will not be denied. Les Herbes Folles (aka Wild Grass) received its world premiere at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. –© Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

I Am Love

Director: Luca Guadagnino, Language: Italian
This lavish, sprawling drama from filmmaker Luca Guadagnino has drawn numerous comparisons to the films of Luchino Visconti for the grace with which it plumbs the inner-workings of the Italian upper-crust. Edoardo Recchi Sr. (Gabriele Ferzetti) is the aging patriarch of a Milanese clan that has amassed a significant fortune over the years through shrewd investments in the textile business. Edoardo Sr. has a beautiful wife, Allegra (Marisa Berenson), and the two have a reliable and dependable son, Tancredi (Pippo Delbono). Years ago, Tancredi met, fell in love with, and then married a woman named Emma (Tilda Swinton) amid a trip to Russia, and brought her back home to Milan; their children include sons Edoardo Jr. (Flavio Parenti) and Gianluca (Mattia Zaccaro), and artist daughter Elisabetta (Alba Rohrwacher). The family gathers for a reunion at Edoardo Sr. and Allegra’s villa in Milan, but the happy gathering takes a somber turn when Edoardo suddenly dies not long after having lunch with his family. But the death is far from the only pivotal event that occurs that day: Edoardo Jr. also introduces his mother to a chef, Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), with whom he plans to open a restaurant, and Emma finds herself drawn to the culinary artist. Meanwhile, Emma learns that Elisabetta is a lesbian, and though initially startled by this news, she takes the liberation of her daughter as inspiration for her own liberation from confining nuptials. On impulse, Emma travels to San Remo, catches sight of Antonio, and finds herself helplessly drawn to him. Meanwhile, as Emma and Elisabetta undertake their life-changing journeys, all of the men in the Recchi clan outside of Edoardo, Jr. feel bound to profit-driven motives – the commercialism of a class that has long ago shucked responsibility for its workers. This critically-acclaimed film constituted Swinton’s second colllaboration with Guadagnino; they first worked together on the 1999 feature The Protagonists. –© Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

The Secret in Their Eyes

Director: Juan José Campanella, Language: Spanish
Juan José Campanella helmed this crime thriller about judicial cover-ups and corruption in Argentina. Ricardo Darín stars as Benjamín, a former criminal court employee who wants to write a novel about an Argentine case from the 1970s in which a woman was raped and murdered. He confides his intentions to a judge with whom he’s been secretly smitten for years, Irene (Soledad Villamil), but she expresses reservations about the idea, for reasons that eventually become apparent. Meanwhile, flashbacks set up the central story, unfolding in 1970s Argentina. In that narrative, Argentina has fallen under the control of a military junta and a fair trial has become an increasingly uncommon event in that nation’s courts. A woman is found raped and murdered while her husband was at work, and two immigrant workers are essentially forced into confessing to the crime. Benjamín then teams up with his colleague and friend, the lush Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella), and the two go about identifying and tagging the perpetrator of the original crime. Subtle detail in a photograph alerts Benjamin to the possibility that a man named Gómez (Javier Godino) may have been the real culprit, but finding Gómez and obtaining conclusive evidence against him is no simple task. Moreover, as Benjamín and Pablo struggle to have the case reopened, they also find that bureaucracy and power in Argentine government have made this close to impossible. El Secreto de Sus Ojos (aka The Secret in Their Eyes) received its North American premiere at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. –© Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

MICMACS

Director: Jean Pierre Jeunet, Language: French
An underground lair serves as the point of inspiration for this deeply whimsical fantasy comedy (with echoes of Jodorowsky’s Rainbow Thief) from French cause célèbre Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie, The City of Lost Children). The locale is post-9/11 Europe. As arms dealers go head to head with one another in a series of violent skirmishes — suggesting that an apocalyptic cataclysm may be lingering on the horizon — the unfortunate Bazil (Dany Boon) still reels from the long-ago death of his father from a roadside bomb, an event that left him orphaned as a boy. Now employed in a low-paying job as a video-store clerk, and still trying to determine how he fits into the scheme of things, he gets hit by a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting and promptly lands in the hospital. Upon release, he finds himself broke and unemployed. Hope soon crops up, however, in the form of Placard (Jean-Pierre Marielle), an ex-convict living in a scrap dump with a motley group of social outcasts — all of whom welcome Bazil with warmth, compassion, and hospitality. Sure of his place for the first time in his life, Bazil joins forces with them to turn the dump into a lovely underground home, filled to the rafters with extraordinary inventions and sculptures. Soon after, the possibility of revenge against the munitions manufacturers responsible for Bazil’s dad’s death presents itself. –© Nathan Southern, All Movie Guide

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Original source photo provided by The Powerhouse Museum Collection

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