Foreign films are my favorite. So let’s go on little trip and explore what the rest of the world does with B&W film.
5. La Haine – France (1995)
24 hours in the lives of three young men in the French suburbs the day after a violent riot.
I watched this a long time ago. It was during the time when I was like, “DUDE! Have you seen Boondock Saints and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels? SO legit, right?” While I’ve moved on from Boondocks and Lock, Stock, I still feel the heat from La Haine. I still remember key lines and get flashbacks of key events within the movie. When we think of Paris (prior to current events), we think of romance, quiet cafés, and snobby unicorns wearing berets. But La Haine introduces us to the shady cops, the unabashed youths, even French hip hop. It reminds us that no matter where you go in this world, you’ll find it broken. But even in the brokenness, you’ll find slivers of hope and a desire to connect in deep, meaningful ways. Before you watch it, you should know this movie will not provide you with any answers or solutions or closure.
4. Ida – Poland (2014)
Anna, a young novitiate nun in 1960s Poland, is on the verge of taking her vows when she discovers a dark family secret dating back to the years of the Nazi occupation.
The themes of this film practically explode out of every frame. Yet, they’re so subtle and quiet. The black and white with the desolate winterscapes creates the perfect aura of eeriness, hidden secrets, quiet tension, and post-war Poland. I’m not sure if it’s hope or desperation that keeps Anna-Ida and her aunt so diligent in their search for the truth and self-discovery. Whatever it is, it’s rupturing the seams of right and wrong, good and evil.
3. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – Germany (1920)
A small German village is rocked by a series of grisly murders—which may have something to do with a mysterious traveling “doctor” and his sleep-walking sideshow freak. Or does it…?
The film’s tinting, the distorted scale, the angles, use of space, the dramatic make-up and gestures, the title cards, the score – all of it!- come together to bring you exactly what you would expect from a silent German expressionist film from 1920. From a geeky artist’s perspective, it’s absolutely beautiful. But the creeptastic-ness might leave you feeling wonky and distorted. If you’re into the bizarre and the silent film era, this is definitely your movie. Also, we should be friends.
2. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs – Japan (1960)
Sly, resourceful, but trapped, Keiko comes to embody the conflicts and struggles of a woman trying to establish her independence in a male-dominated society.
Japanese films tend to flirt with restraint, refinement, and symbolism in heart-wrenching ways and this film is no different. I mean, this doesn’t just pull at your heartstrings; this pulls until your heart is ripped out, flung against a wall, and lands on the floor with an anti-climatic plop. As a woman who married and divorced young, I’ve struggled with finding independence and the simple joys of womanhood, often times feeling as if being a woman was more curse than blessing. It’s tough navigating through a male-dominate world without feeling used or devalued. Even in this time, even in America.
1. Little Women (USA) – 1933
My family used to go to Blockbuster almost every Friday night to rent movies. I would get Little Women, at least, once a month. If I were stranded on a deserted island with only a (somehow working) TV/VCR combo and two movies, this would be one of them. This movie will never get old to me. And this is the only Little Women that matters. I mean, Katherine Hepburn (1933) vs Winona Ryder (1994)? Stoppit. Although, I have to say, Christian Bale did a pretty good Laurie in the 1994. This will always remind me of home and family, and that’s why this is my #1.