For the past year, I’ve been seeing someone who is big into watching foreign films. It started with French New Wave and has expanded into much more, and I am lucky enough to have him share this with me. Some of the films (I like to call them “films” as opposed to “movies.” Sounds more artistic) are a bit difficult to get through but they each leave you feeling something afterward, which is what good art must do.
L’Avventura (1960), directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
This is the first of three films by Antonioni, starring Monica Vitti. The film begins on a yacht where a group of wealthy Italian couples is sailing to a small, deserted island. The focus in the beginning is on the character of Anna, a snobbish rich girl who is bored with her fiance, but it is Vitti’s character that steals the show. After Anna disappears from the island, her best friend Claudia and her fiance Sandro search across Italy to find her, only realizing that they are attracted to each other instead. The film is shot across beautiful and desolate expanses in Italy and Antonioni shows viewers how the life of the rich is full of so much boredom that they try to excite themselves with physical attraction only to be bored again.
Frances Ha (2012), directed by Michael Baumbach
While this isn’t a foreign film, it definitely doesn’t have the typical storyline of a Hollywood hit. The title character, Frances (Greta Gerwig), struggles to find her place in life as she reaches almost thirty with a dying career in dance. Her best friend Sophie has moved out and left her to find a way to live in expensive New York City. The film makes you fall in love with quirky and awkward Frances as she discovers herself and finally finds a place of her own.
Blue is the warmest color (2013), directed by Abdekkatif Kechiche
Like most great French films, Blue is the Warmest Color is hailed for the intense lesbian sex scene that takes place multiple times in the film. However, this film is a beautiful look into friendship, sexuality, and coming-of-age. The story follows a young girl as she looks for sexual satisfaction, only to realize that they place to find it in a blue-haired artist that opens her world but also leaves her in the void. A wonderfully emotional film, with a stark look at two strong female leads.
L’Astrangale (2015), directed by Brigitte Sy
Based on the real-life biography of Albertine Sarrazin, L’Astrangale starts out with a woman who escapes from prison by jumping off a wall only to be rescued by Julien (Reda Kateb). The movie recounts the romance between Sarrazin and Julien as well as Sarrazin’s background as a prostitute, bisexual lover, prisoner, and poet. The film is shot in black and white and has very distinct moments of film noir, which demonstrate emotion and art in biography.
Betty Blue (1986), directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix
Fucking crazy. That’s the only way I can describe the title character, Betty. However, for all her wild arson and stabbings, the viewers come to sympathize with this misunderstood woman. As her lover follows her through wild adventures and emotional episodes, we fall more for this character and her wild ways. The film is a look at the emotions that both form and bruise relationships and the helplessness we can feel when someone is mentally suffering.
Now Voyager (1942), directed by Irving Rapper
Also not a foreign film, but still a great flick to watch. The movie stars Bette Davis as Boston heiress Charlotte Vale– a woman trapped into depression and anxiety by her over-protective mother. The movie seems to be three movies in one as we watch Charlotte go from a psychiatric ward to a cruise and then back home. During her adventures she falls in love with Jerry (Paul Henreid) and ends up taking care of his young daughter, who reminds her a lot of herself. The film shows the transformation of a woman as she realizes her own bravery.
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