5 Favourite Non-English Movies · TMP

this post is part of Thursday Movie Picks, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves

This week on Thursday Movie Picks the topic was Non-English Movies. I’m doing a straight favourites list, though I’ll admit, it was hard to leave so many great films out of this list. Contemporary ones such as Jagten, or The Hunt (2012), Force Majeure (2014), and Ah-ga-ssi, or The Handmaiden (2016); or classics like Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) and Persona (1966), to name only a few. Disclaimer, you’ve likely heard me talk – more than once – about most movies on this list! So, perhaps unsurprisingly, in it you will find two classics and three modern movies; and out of the five films, three are French productions, the remaining two being Chinese.

5 Favourite Non-English Movies

· thursday movie picks ·

Belle de Jour (1967) Favourite Non-English Movies

05. Belle de Jour (1967)

directed by Luis Buñuel
starring Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel and Michel Piccoli

Being this my first ever movie from Buñuel, Belle de Jour was a kind of shock that I’ve learned to appreciate more and more in subsequent viewings. As its official synopsis so simply puts it, it’s about a frigid young housewife decides to spend her midweek afternoons as a prostitute. With that plot, and this being Buñuel, this is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea – but if it sounds like something you’d enjoy, you’ll find in Belle de Jour a provocative, even disturbing, but nevertheless stunning film.

La Haine (1995) Favourite Non-English Movies

04. La Haine (1995)

directed by Mathieu Kassovitz
starring Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé and Saïd Taghmaoui

Kassovitz’s La Haine may look like an odd pick standing next to the other four, but even though it is their polar opposite, it can stand on its own perfectly fine. In this french 90s film we follow around three friends for 24h, in the aftermath of the violent riots over the killing of a young man by a police officer, allegedly motivated by racism. The three friends represent three different oppressed minorities: Vinz who is a Jew, Saïd who is Arab, and Hubert who is black. Shot in gorgeous black and white, La Haine is violent and real, and incredibly important to this day.

La Pianiste (2001) Favourite Non-English Movies

03. La Pianiste (1967)

directed by Michael Haneke
starring Isabelle Huppert, Annie Girardot and Benoît Magimel

or: The Piano Teacher

Starting to feel like I should’ve included a content warning in the post intro but, this is as weird as it gets so consider yourself warned as of now. Simply put, Erika (Isabelle Huppert) is a piano teacher and a masochist. When one of her students takes an interest in her, and she reveals what she needs from him, it doesn’t go over well. With notoriously controversial director Michael Haneke at the helm, we navigate through Erika’s deviancy, and her troubled relationship with her mother, in an unflinching, entrancing ride.

Lust Caution (2007) Favourite Non-English Movies

02. Se, Jie (2007)

directed by Ang Lee
starring Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Wei Tang and Joan Chen

or: Lust, Caution

With Ang Lee is usually hit or miss for me, but oh boy, when he hits it… it’s perfection. Lust, Caution is such a hit, but fair warning, not entirely beloved by everyone. Though how someone could not fall head over heels for this one is beyond me. There’s romance, there’s politics, there’s danger and suspense; amazing leads, and a director with a confident, solid vision.

Set in Japanese occupied China, Lust, Caution tells the story of Chinese university student Chia Chi (Wei Tang), assigned to seduce and murder Japanese special agent Mr. Yee (Tony Leung). I’ll leave you to experience all the twists and turns, but needless to say, feelings complicate things. The film is based on a book which I’ve read and loved – sadly, it’s a short story, but the movie’s 2h40 running time somewhat makes up for it.

In The Mood For Love (2000) Favourite Non-English Movies

01. Faa Yeung Nin Wa (2000)

directed by Wong Kar-Wai
starring Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Maggie Cheung and Ping Lam Siu

or: In The Mood For Love

I guess you could say I have a thing for asian movies. More specifically, the ones starring Tony Leung. I’ve said it many times and I’ll keep repeating myself every time his name comes up, because this man has an insane onscreen presence. Oddly, he absolutely thrives when he’s silent, wether he’s quietly desperate (Happy Together), desolate (In The Mood For Love), menacing (Lust, Caution), or kicking ass (The Grandmaster).

But alas, this isn’t about Leung (maybe some other time?), but about what was in fact the first movie I saw where he had a starring role. In In The Mood For Love, Su (Cheung) and Chow (Leung) are neighbours living in an apartment building, in 1962 Hong Kong. They find out their spouses are having an affair together, and they’re often left alone.

The two fight the overwhelming sadness and loneliness with each other’s company, reenacting the affair platonically, until they eventually begin to develop feelings for each other. I urge everyone to see it, even if you don’t typically like Wong Kar-Wai, as this is actually quite different from most of his other films. It’s easily one of the most poignant films I’ve ever seen, and without a doubt one of the most visually stunning.

Have you seen any of these movies? Let me know your own favourite non-english movies!
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  1. August 20, 2018 / 8:03 PM

    The only film in that list I haven’t seen is La Haine as that’s been on my watchlist for years and I hope to see it as a possible Blind Spot for next year.

    • August 29, 2018 / 1:20 PM

      100% recommend, it’s a great movie and I think you’ll like it.

  2. August 21, 2018 / 5:00 PM

    The Piano Teacher is SUCH a disturbing movie but oddly it’s one of his most accessible ones

    • August 29, 2018 / 1:21 PM

      Well yeah, I guess you’re right actually 😂

  3. August 21, 2018 / 6:09 PM

    I’ve only seen Lust, Caution on this list, but I’ve always meant to watch The Piano Teacher but just never got around to it.

    Also another reminder I need to see Happy Together

    • August 29, 2018 / 1:23 PM

      You should watch both! Obviously I love The Piano Teacher, but Happy Together is great, too. Even if I’m not a fan of that… grungy, coked up 90s look. At all. 😅

  4. August 25, 2018 / 9:41 AM

    Interesting picks! Haneke has an amazing filmography. Force Majeure is one of my favorites of the 2010s. I should watch more Luis Buñuel!

    My top 5 non-english films (today) might be:
    La Dolce Vita (1960)
    Hunger (aka Sult) (1966)
    Double Life of Veronique (1991)

    • August 29, 2018 / 1:25 PM

      Thank you, Chris. Force Majeure is such a good movie. I’ve only seen La Dolce Vita from your list, but I love it.

  5. September 8, 2018 / 7:18 PM

    LOVE this list. I rewatched La Haine two days ago, and that is one hell of a film. I adore its tenacity. And I love your praise for Lust, Caution. That movie should’ve received far more acclaim.

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