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How foreign is now?

Submitted by Commandrea on December 17, 2024 – 12:59 amNo Comment

There’s a perception of foreign films, mainly perpetuated by the very people who make films, that most people don’t really see foreign films (or docs for that matter) so much as the film du jour, the action thriller starring the hot star of the moment. Foreign films, on the other hand are usually difficult to understand, and hard to fathom: in other words the perfect recipe for a cinematic experience.

In the current film The Fighter the protag Mark Wahlberg takes Amy Adams to a foreign film on their first date. Not because it’s some awesome film but because of exactly the fact that it’s a foreign film and nobody he knows will be there. He’s embarrassed for having lost a championship fight and rightly knows it’s a lonely place to go in a working class suburb of Mass.
The film they’re seeing, since The Fighter is set in the early 90s, is Belle Epoque.

This particular film played in Houston at the Worldfest Houston Film Festival with the director in attendance the same month he picked up the Acadmey Award for Best Foreign Film for the film. At first Walhberg pronounces the film “belly ep-i-cou” while Adams incorrectly corrects him with “bell epic.” Perhaps not oddly The Fighter’s director David O. Russell has previously made fringe movies and art films like I Heart Huckabees or Spanking the Monkey. A typical Russell mainstream movie would be Three Kings. In a sense, this whole foreign film ethic is something Russell is commenting on since he then shows Wahlberg asleep during Belle Epoque while Adams looks visible pissed at having to watch the movie awake. Note that Belle Epoque was one of the first films to play domestically that featured then unknowns Penelope Cruz, Arianda Gil and Maribel Verdu.

Coming out of the film Adams comments in her thick Massachusetts accent: “That’s the movie you wanted me to see? There wasn’t even any good sex in it. I had to read the whole fuckin’ movie. Some guy from a road crew recommended it to you – a fuckin’ subtitled movie?” That pretty much sums up the attitude of most people towards foreign films.

With that in mind lets take a look at the players in the Houston Film Critics Society choice for best foreign film of 2024. This Saturday at 4 pm. the HFCS will present a one-hour awards program  at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston followed by a wine and buffet reception. Among the nominees in the Best Foreign Film category are - Biutiful (Mexico); Carlos(France); The Secret in Their Eyes (Argentina); Mother (South Korea) and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Sweden). Hope to see you there. The food at the reception is from Central Market and the wine is provided courtesy of Worldfest Houston.

- Michael Bergeron

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