Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
One of the most popular and successful of all foreign-language films, the Taiwanese director Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) takes a few decades of martial arts classics, slows them down, puffs them up, and makes them seem acceptable and admirable — basically, it's a martial arts movie for people who have never seen one before. The movie has some long, draggy sequences, and it lacks some of the reckless, inventive fun of the original Hong Kong kung-fu films. But many of the movie's wire-work sequences — choreographed by the great Yuen Woo-ping — are incredible and quite beautiful, and stars Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, and Zhang Ziyi are highly charismatic. Overall, it's an enjoyable film, even if it doesn't quite stack up to classics like A Touch of Zen or Swordsman II. It won four Oscars, for Best Foreign Language Film, Cinematography, Art Direction, and Costume Design. A sequel is on the way!
Show Me Love (1998)
The feature debut of Swedish filmmaker Lukas Moodysson, Show Me Love (1998) is a simple teen romance between two lost, lonely girls. Outsider Agnes (Rebecca Liljeberg) and beautiful popular blonde Elin (Alexandra Dahlstrom) have nothing in common except a feeling of being stuck in the same small town, Amal. (The original title, changed for U.S. release, was Fucking Amal.) Agnes throws a birthday party and no one shows up, except for Elin and her friends, who only came for a joke. On a dare, Elin and Agnes kiss, but it turns out to be an experience that neither of them forgets. The film climaxes not at the senior prom, as usual, but on a prank as the girls are locked in a bathroom together. Their solution, and the conclusion, is rather wonderful. Moodysson's movie is intimate, organic, and heartfelt, and, in Sweden, gave Titanic a run for its money.
For a Few Dollars More (1965)
Sergio Leone's masterful For a Few Dollars More (1965) once again stretches the definition of "foreign film." It was filmed in Italy, by an Italian director, with an international cast and an American star. It was always intended for dubbing into various languages for release, so there's no official Italian-language version. It tells the story of two bounty hunters, played by Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef, who are on the trail of a murderous outlaw. They reluctantly team up, with Eastwood pretending to join the villain's gang and Van Cleef calling the shots. Amazingly, all the characters are clever and cunning, raising the stakes in every scene. Leone's use of space and rhythm is still unmatched in the history of cinema. Ennio Morricone provided the powerful, suspenseful score, and the legendary German actor Klaus Kinski plays an evil thug. For the original American release, all references to Eastwood's character's name, Monco, were deleted so that the film could be advertised as part of the "Man with No Name" trilogy.
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