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L'eclisse (#110 of 4)

Choosing the Best Non-English Foreign Language Films

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Choosing the Best Non-English Foreign Language Films
Choosing the Best Non-English Foreign Language Films

In a post over at his site, House contributor Edward Copeland writes:

“Over the past several weeks, I invited (or by extension invited) various people from critics to bloggers to professors and just plain movie fans to submit lists of their top 25 non-English language features so I could compose a list for a survey of all interested film fans to determine a Top 25 list similar to what the AFI does or what the Online Film Community recently did.

I now see how difficult list compiling can be. I set a few guidelines for eligibility: 1) No film more recent than 2002 was eligible; 2) They had to be feature length; 3) They had to have been made either mostly or entirely in a language other than English; 4) Documentaries and silent films were ineligible, though I made do lists for those in the future if this goes well. In all, 434 films received votes, not counting those that had to be disqualified for not meeting the criteria.

I see now why lists can sometimes cause such headaches. We had to decide things such as whether Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns were eligible (We decided no since most people are only familiar with the English dubbed version and the American actors didn’t speak in Italian.) Some people voted for Kieślowski’s Three Colors trilogy as a whole, while others nominated some of the films, but not the others. In the end, all three titles made the cut, though interestingly White failed to receive a single vote for it outside the trilogy votes. Then there were the differences in titles. Thanks for IMDb, which helped me avoid listing the same movie under different names. I also originally planned to have the eligible list consist of films that made at least 5% of all ballots, but soon realized that that would make pretty much every film that got at least one vote eligible, so I opted instead for films that appeared on at least three ballots.

So now the computing has been done.”

To read the list, visit Edward Copeland on Film. The ballot for House publisher Matt Zoller Seitz is after the jump.

The Eclipse: Losing Bergman and Antonioni

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The Eclipse: Losing Bergman and Antonioni
The Eclipse: Losing Bergman and Antonioni

Ingmar Bergman dies in the morning. Michelangelo Antonioni dies at night.

On the same day. In the middle of summer. Now, to most people, these are names from the distant past. Their real heyday in the cinema was at least forty years ago. These were old men (Bergman was 89, Antonioni, 94). More than one commentator has termed their mid-twentieth century, fearing-the-atom-bomb, discuss-our-alienation-over-black-coffee-later modernism as “quaint.” We live in a period where some of those in power have termed the central tenets of the Geneva Conventions “quaint.” Can the term “elitist” be far behind? The other recurring word in these initial pieces is “difficult.” Not easy.

5 for the Day: Antonioni

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5 for the Day: Antonioni
5 for the Day: Antonioni

For a long time I thought I didn’t get Antonioni. I rejected what I saw—a cool, detached intellectualism—as stuffy pretentiousness. I knew something was happening in L’avventura but I couldn’t articulate my anxious distaste. Also, I was bored. So I let it sit, somewhere behind something else in the recesses I don’t dip into every day and went on enjoying Godard, devouring the French director’s 1960s major works to the point that Antonioni wasn’t even a part of my filmic landscape. The snap and fizz of Godard’s cinema, still a joyous one in that early period, got me nervy with excitement: it was a palpable reaction I could easily pinpoint and much the opposite of the migraine-inducing L’avventura.

Deeper into Images

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Deeper into Images
Deeper into Images

“What do we see?” writes Keith Uhlich, in his analysis of a single closeup from the much-debated sex scene in Steven Spielberg’s Munich. “A man in medium close-up, sweat-drenched, crying out in what might be pain. His exposed chest suggests a state of undress and, coupled with the copious beads of moisture dripping down from and flying off of his body, it doesn’t take too much of a leap before we assume the conjugal worst….but what’s most discomfiting is the subject’s isolation, which leads us to the question of who is doing what to whom and why? Put much more crudely: Who, exactly, is doing the penetrating, and to what ends (pun most certainly intended)?”

If you’re bored with print criticism’s general disinterest in filmmaking itself, check out the latest installment of the online movie quarterly Reverse Shot, a stunning issue titled Take One. Its singularity of vision—pun intended, as Keith would say—makes most other movie writing seem trivial and lame. In their introduction, the magazine’s co-editors, Jeff Reichert and Michael Koresky, describe the project as “...a means to an end: getting back to the intrinsic power of the image.”