Foreign films carry many of their native influences into the American filmmaking style. Since the beginning of the film industry, American filmmakers have watched European films and incorporated the ideas that seemed to work into their own films. Some of the most acclaimed directors were inspired by these foreign films range from Welles, to Scorsese and Tarantino.
If you want to see some intriguing arthouse cinema or in one case, Donnie Yen beating the holy hell out of karate class full of black belts, then sit back turn on some Netflix and pop those reading glasses on.
Back in 2003, Korean cinema made waves with the dark, depressing psychological-thriller ‘Oldboy.’ Directed by Chan-Wook Park (The Handmaiden) and starring Min-Sik Choi (Lucy) as Oh Dae-Su, a seemingly normal drunkard who is mysteriously kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years. When he is suddenly released he has only five days to uncover the reason why he was incarcerated. The film was beautifully shot, each frame catching your eye.
The pacing doesn’t slow down a bit as each moment the plot tensely builds up to the climax. One scene that gains plenty of well-deserved praise is a three and a half minute single-shot in which Oh Dae-Su fights through a hallway of henchmen with only a hammer. The scene took three days to shoot and had to be carefully choreographed. The films plot twist puts Shyamalan to shame, you’ll leave the film wanting to get a DNA test with your S/O. ‘Oldboy’ was remade in 2013 by director Spike Lee, of ‘Do the Right Thing’ and ‘Malcolm X’ fame, and starring Josh Brolin, ‘No Country for Old Men’ and ‘Sicario.’ It fell into the shouldn’t waste your time category.
If it’s one subject the French have never been shy to tackle is sexuality, which is why ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ is as brutally honest about it as it gets. The film is directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, and stars Lea Seydoux, ‘Inglourious Basterds,’ ‘Grand Budapest Hotel,’ and Adèle Exarchopoulos. The film is about a high school girl, Adele whose life changes after she meets Emma, a girl with blue hair, who allows Adele to discover herself and grow spiritually, losing and finding herself through love and loss.
‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ is grounded in reality, the actors fall seamlessly into their roles making you forget this isn’t a documentary. It’s almost as if you can feel their joy and pain through the screen. Abdellatif does a fantastic job with the natural lighting and the way the camera is positioned. There’s a voyeuristic feel, like the audience is just a spectator who is watching Adele from afar. The film doesn’t hold back on sexually explicit scenes that aren’t gratuitous, they draw on the raw emotional aspect of it that most films use as a marketing scheme.
Taking a break from the serious side of international films, there is always the ever enjoyable Kung-Fu action films that come from Asia. Such as ‘Ip Man,’ directed by Wilson Yip and starring Donnie Yen, from ‘Rouge One’ and ‘XXX: Return of Xander Cage.’ Being set during the Japanese invasion of China in 1937, the film centers around a wealthy martial artist who reluctantly teaches the art of Wing Chun for self-defense. The Ip Man, would also go on to train Bruce Lee.
Donnie Yen, being the bad*ss that he is, helped heavily with the choreography of the fight scenes which were intense as usual. The film is a fun way to spend a night in with some brews and enjoy watching people go flying in the air because of the pure action-packed ecstasy that is kung-fu films.
Don’t deny yourself some culture next time you’re cruising through the categories on Netflix and take a look at what foreign cinema has to offer.