By hook or by crook the list of foreign films in theaters now as well as rolling out over the next month in various streaming and projection incarnations are in league with the best American film of the year.
Here’s a baker’s dozen titles that deserve a glance:
- Anatomy of a Fall: Awesome courtroom thriller merged with psychological flashbacks that add depth to a murder trial. Applause all around for director Justine Triet’s method of revelation. Kudos to a wonderful standout performance from Sandra Hüller.
- All Of Us Strangers: Even though based on a novel published in the late-80s there’s an otherworldly feeling not unlike The Twilight Zone where Andrew Scott travels between two seemingly normal time periods a few decades apart. To wit, Twilight Zone, Season 1, Ep. 5, “Walking Distance.”
- The Taste of Things: Excellent film (director Tran Anh Hung) about food and the preparation of same, but it’s really about the relationship between two cooks, lovers who are conflicted in their appetites. Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magime headline.
- Godzilla Minus One: Takashi Yamazaki might not be a household name but he has reinvented the wheel with this monster film. The human drama matches the monster dynamics.
- The Boy and the Heron: Next to Spirited Away this is the best Miyazaki. Youngster Mahito moves from Tokyo during WWII to a rural village. The spirits of the nearby forest soon lull him into their world. There’s a lot of parrots and not all of them are nice.
- The Zone of Interest: Jonathan Glazer director extraordinaire delivers an unbelievable reversal of film genres by switching into pure documentary with the coda. The first part celebrates pastoral harmony, and then we get the full meaning. It becomes clear that the family is German and the father is the CEO at Auschwitz.
- Fallen Leaves: Aki Kaurismäki film that tracks the relationship between two very quiet people. Maybe it’s the Finnish air, or the water, but these two while seemingly made for each other occupy lives where they are happiest when moping.
- Society of the Snow: A rugby team in flight on their way to a match in Chile crashes in the Andes at an altitude of over 11,000 feet. Those who survived persevered for over 70 days. Aspects of cannibalism that the survivors used after meager food ran out are portrayed but not sensationalized. Director J. A. Bayona mixes pathos with character drama using the actual location and studio sets.
- El Conde: Pablo Larraín never ceases to amaze. A vampire tale that embraces everything from the French revolution to the dictator of Chile Augusto Pinochet, himself revealed to be the lead character.
- Monster: Dense Kore-eda film unwinds in a manner that only allows discovery after watching. A young boy makes accusations against a teacher. We are left to sort out who is telling the truth.
- Concrete Utopia: South Korean film that tracks the survivors of a devastating earthquake that levels Seoul. Only one apartment building remains standing and the residents try to form a cohesive manner of survival.
- The Teachers’ Lounge: A teacher objects to methods being used to interrogate students stealing money from other students and teachers. When she takes matters into her own hands by setting up a clandestine camera in the teacher’s lounge there’s backlash. A clever ending that seemingly has nothing to do with finding the actual culprit involves a Rubik’s Cube.
- Four Daughters Different kind of doc that blends reality with recreation of the same events. The story revolves around a woman with four daughters. The tone is light at first but gradually, and that’s the key to this film’s appeal, the sum of domination of women by male society increases to absurd proportions.