Stamp your cinematic passport this weekend

Caroline Madden, ’Doah Staff Writer
March 26, 2013

With the enormous film industry in the United States, it is often easy to overlook lesser-known foreign films. But by doing so, you are missing out on some truly wonderful works. These are just of few of the excellent foreign films that everyone should see:

“Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006)
Spain, Mexico

936full-pans-labyrinth-poster“Pan’s Labyrinth,” directed by Guillermo Del Toro, is a dark fantasy film — an Alice in Wonderland with a macabre twist.
It takes place in Spain, five years after the Spanish Civil War. It is about a young girl with a cruel stepfather and ill, pregnant mother, who steps into a fairytale world filled with magical, sometimes scary creatures.

Blending fantasy with the horrors of the young girl’s reality, what is fascinating about this film is the many different ways you can interpret it, whether you believe the story is real or not. There are amazing visuals and phenomenal makeup work, enriching a dark but captivating fairytale.

“The Orphange” (2007)
Spain, Mexico

TheOrphanage20074577_f“The Orphanage” is a Spanish horror film directed by Juan Antonio Bayona. It tells the story of a woman who plans to reopen the abandoned orphanage where she lived as a child. However, being back in the orphanage unlocks repressed memories and the woman soon realizes that something is haunting its halls. What stands out about this film is its delivery of terrifying scares without violence, and how in the end, despite the scares, there is a touch of sweetness. With a creepy and gothic atmosphere, “The Orphange” is a simple but highly effective horror film that is worth seeing.

“Lust, Caution” (2007)
US, China, Taiwan

600full-lust,-caution-poster“Lust, Caution” is directed by Ang Lee, who won Best Director for “Life of Pi” at this year’s Oscars. “Lust, Caution” is a Chinese espionage film that takes place in the Japanese-occupied Shanghai during World War II. Tang Wei plays a young, inexperienced girl who is used as a spy to seduce and then assassinate a high-ranking agent of the Japanese puppet government, Mr. Yee, played by Tony Leung. They eventually develop a highly emotional and passionate sexual relationship, which is fueled by the young girl’s conflicting feelings of hate and love for Yee, and her knowledge that she will eventually have to assassinate him.

The cinematography and costumes are exquisite. The relationship between the characters, and the chemistry between the actors who portray them, is fascinating to watch unfold. “Lust, Caution” is another  masterpiece in Ang Lee’s repertoire. It is a taut thriller that also has an incredibly sensual story that is not to be missed.

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (2007)
France, US

mza_3621321074862244302.227x227-75“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” is a French film directed by Julian Schnabel. It is based on the true life story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a highly successful man who is left unable to move or speak after a stroke and only has the use of one of his eyes. With one particular nurse, he develops a way of communicating the alphabet by blinking. Through this, Bauby was able to write the novel on which this film is based.

What strikes the viewer immediately is the adept camera work. Several times during the film, the camera’s lens serves as Bauby’s point of view — we see the world directly through his eyes, reliving a traumatic event with both humor and emotion.

It is a must-see to experience this emotional journey of overcoming tragedy. The lead actor, Mathieu Amalric, should be praised for his amazing performance, as he only was able to use one of his eyes to portray the struggle of this man.
This film is incredibly moving and shows a triumph of human spirit.

“Thirst” (2009)
South Korea

imagesWith “Twilight,” “True Blood” and countless others, it is easy to get tired of the vampire genre. However, the Korean film “Thirst,” directed by Park Chan-wook, gives an original and highly fascinating take on vampires that is both horror and an illicit love story.
A priest, who turns into a vampire due to a failed medical experiment, falls in love with his best friend’s wife. The priest must deal with his newfound lust for blood, and his desire for this woman. The object of his affection, who at first seems impish and shy, eventually becomes demonic and obsessed with the vampire way of life.

This film manages to be funny, brutal, graphic and sexy all at the same time.  It breathes life and fresh air into the genre.
Also, it bears mentioning that Park is an incredible director and “Oldboy” is another must-see, with Quentin Tarinto-esque violence and one of the most insane, amazing and disturbing movie twists of all time.

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