Wednesday, June 20, 2012

World Cinema - Cinema From Around the Globe

Many of us love to watch foreign language films. What is your favorite film? From which country? You might love to explore good cinema from all over the world, regardless of the native language. Films from the exotic countries of China, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Japan, Sweden and Spain are the only kinds you think of when you think movies. Those subtitles that so many find too excruciating to watch, add to the aura of your watching experience - in fact they become such a part of you that you think you're hearing English (or whatever), and so you don't even notice them! However it is sad that these great films that are often termed as "art house" or "independent" never receive more than a limited release and many are never played in major cinemas.

Going back some years, the only viewers for foreign films were the same who lined up to see the latest Jean Luc Godard, or Michelangelo Antonioni, or Akira Kurosawa.

Foreign films became less appealing to audiences as the practices and themes of the French New Wave and other "foreign" schools were taken up by American directors, and several of the foreign filmmakers who made an impact, ended up in Hollywood. But are we saying there are no works of genius to see today? Surely not!

If works by Antonioni, Bergman, Fellini, Godard, Renoir, and Truffaut - are timeless today, masterworks by present day filmmakers such as Wong Kar Wai, Almodovar, Kiarostami, Ki-Duk-Kim, Majidi, and Del Toro, amongst many others, are just as winning and will be just as timeless tomorrow. Their films are not necessarily suffused with the kind of skepticism that formed the crux of the films that were released in the 60's - when people dashed in to see iconic films such as La Dolce Vita, Yojimbo and Shoot the Piano Player. World cinema today is a phenomenon that hardly conforms to the definitions set by the predecessors of the genre. Take movies such as Amelie, In the Mood for Love, Pan's Labyrinth, Y tu Mama Tambien, All About my Mother - all these are artistic and lucid films that are permeated with humane subjects such as life, love, death, identity and solidarity.

Watching these films can be an experience of reflection - you watch these with some thought rather than just taking them in. And of course they're great entertainment (as much as you might like to believe they're serious, uninteresting, mind numbing etc etc). Most of all, it is their artistic value that stands as superior, and the diverse cultures they represent make them a lot more interesting than Hollywood offerings. Even commercial foreign films are a lot more interesting owing to the knowledge they impart to us about the culture and background that made them.

While there is a deficiency in media and critical interest in foreign titles, there are few websites that are dedicated to movie reviews to find a foreign film that you may enjoy. Read reviews, pay attention, look at ratings and watch a preview of the movie before you decide to rent it out from a video store (quite a few of them have a shelf or two dedicated to foreign language films), or download it off the internet after having made your own judgment. Take my word on this - like it or not, you will be amazed by the insight these films will give you into the culture and life of another land.

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