Thursday, September 20, 2007

Michele's Top 5 French Flicks

The other Riders have occassionally posted movie reviews and favorites so I figured I'd take a stab at it. I don't have any current favs, though, so I thought I'd talk about my favorite movie genre, the French flick. I'm a Francophile, so I love anything set in France. Whether historical or contemporary, I do love me some French-spoken dialogue. And the French are absolute genius at costumes. There are movies I see specifically for the costumes. It's called a costume-orgasm, and yes, there are a few on my list. So let's start!

In no particular order:
1) LES PACTE DES LOUPS (The Brotherhood of the Wolf) 2001 - If you love action/adventure, romance, historical settings, horror and funky kung-fu-like fight scenes, you must see this movie. It follows the French werewolf legend of the Beast of Gevaudan, but puts an interesting twist to the beast. Samuel Le Bihan plays the lead, a naturalist/taxidermist who hunts the beast, and Mark Dacascos (currently hosting Iron Chef) plays his American Indian friend (I don't recall the tribe). The fight scenes with Dacascos are awesome, and frequent. Your menfolk will get a kick out of this movie, even if it is sub-titled. My hubby gave it a thumbs up, and he hates subtitles. But that's the beauty of action movies; more action, less dialogue, not so many sub-titles to read. A minor romance carries the plot along, and I'd be remiss not to mention Vincent Cassel's portrayal of the villain. Cassel has the bad boy down pat, and the final fight sequence at the end will have you looking up this amazing actor's backlist of movies. Costumes? Subtle, but exquisite. Monica Bellucci, as a prostitute/spy gets some interesting 18th century dresses (backless, anyone?) If you've never watched a French movie before, I recommend this one, as it appeals on so many levels. This one did very well for US release.

2) FARINELLI (1995) - Okay this one rates very high on the costume orgasm scale. It is about the 18th century castrato, Farinelli, and his rise to fame. Every other scene is a brief stint featuring sexy Stefano Dionisi singing countertenor arias on stage, and the costumes--oh man! Satins and silks and brocades and feathers and swan hats and shoes to make Manolo weep. Castratos were the rock stars of the 18th century, and this movie plays up the fandom, the drugs, even the tag-team sex (discreetly filmed). You know, I don't like opera, but I bought this soundtrack because it is simply a gorgeous listen. The castrato was venerated for his voice, and it is very high for a male. For the soundtrack, and the movie tracks they digitally altered a female soprano's voice. If you're interested in the time period, want to hear some awesome music, or are just in it for the costumes, go for it.

3) DISTRICT B13 (2006) - A contemporary action/adventure with a simple plot and again, more action than dialogue, so don't fear inviting your menfolk to watch this one. My 17-year-old watched it in the theater with me last year and he loved it (and he's another subtitle-phobic; heck he's a teenager. Foreign movies? Not.) The idea is that twenty years in the future Paris has become a virtual war ground with the volatile District B13 walled off because that's where the most violent live. Government plots to blow the entire district away, that is, if they can get away with it. The lead actor reminds me of a French Vin Diesel. He's athletic, humorous and plays the cop role with a wink. He pairs with David Belle, an exile from the district. Belle isn't an actor; he's actually the founder of the extreme running sport, parkour, and they feature a lot of parkour in this movie. Oh, and abs, baby, abs! It's fast-paced, smart, and has a touch of humor, and while the milieu is set around drugs and gangs and cops against criminals, you would think it could get sleazy real fast. But it doesn't. They film stays fast, fun and action-packed. Another must-see if you like action, or even buddy-cop types of movies.

4) LA FEMME NIKITA (1991) - The TV series was based on this movie. The series rocked. But it doesn't compare to the original movie. Anne Parillaud excels as the convicted criminal who is given a new identity and trained as a spy/assassin. This belligerent pixy of a hard-*ss learns manners, defense skills and how to kill without conscience. You'll cheer for her as she's forced to swim or sink. One of my favorite French actors, Jean Hughes-Anglade has a small role. This one has some violence, but if you like strong female roles, it's worth the watch.

5) MOLIERE (2007) - Just saw this one a month ago. It follows 17th century playwrite, Moliere as he begins his career. It is a comedy of errors, and I believe, loosely based on one of Moliere's more famous plays, Tartuffe. It was absolutely hilarious, and if you want a good laugh, watch for it to show up in video stores in a few months. Not so many costumes changes, as this was middle class gentry sorts, but excellent all the same.

Bonus) LA REINE MARGOT (Queen Margot) 1994 - I call this one the Blood, Sex and Vincent Perez movie. A close look at the few days before, during and after the massacre of St. Bartholomew, when the Catholics slaughtered the Hugenots. Assaults, poisonings, beheadings and all-out war ensue. It is a bloody pic. But the costumes rate high on the scale. And the acting. Whew! Amazing. Again, Jean Hughes-Anglade shows up. He plays the immature, and perhaps slightly insane king Charles IX, and man, does he own this movie. As well Virna Lisi, who plays Catherine de Medici, the king's mother, will knock you over. Vincent Perez provides some eye-candy (and a quick glimpse of man-parts; erm, but sorry, the parts are bloody due to, well, er, battle), and Pascal Greggory is another interesting actor who plays Henry III (Anjou) and has an interesting almost incestual relationship with his sister. As you might guess, this is one twisted tale, but it is beautifully filmed and while it'll make you gasp in horror, it'll also have you drooling over the costumes and questioning the power of religion wielded cruelly.

Now, tell me about your favorite foreign movie!


Anonymous said...

like water for chocalate
couching tiger hidden tiger

Helen Brenna said...

Wow, has this added to my to be seen list. I haven't seen any of these movies - hate subtitles.

My favorite foreign movies are little British or Irish flicks that are very tame compared to these, though I love, love, love action. Compared to the titles you've got here, my foreign pics don't even seem foreign. Movies like Frankie with Gerard Butler. Truly, Madly, Deeply with Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson. Waking Ned Devine, don't know the actor's names.

All character movies.

Oh, except Run, Lola, Run was a great German movie I saw years back. The heroine from that movie was Matt Damon's love in the Bourne movies.

Debra Dixon said...

You know I've never seen the Nikita movie! This made me go put it in my queue at NetFlix.

Great reviews.

You know, I mind subtitles for the first 5 minutes and after that it's invisible. The only think I dislike about subtitles for "real" is that I can't do handwork and watch a foreign flick. You have to keep up with the subtitles! Looking down causes lots of rewind.

Betina Krahn said...

I don't mind subtitles if the rest of the movie is good. The most fascinating movie I've seen of late is THE LIVES OF OTHERS-- the German flick about the East German Stasi operative who turns out to have some humanity in him. GREAT performances. Those Germans really know how to do tortured humanity.

And for something TOTALLY DIFFERENT: MOSTLY MARTHA, another German film on which Catherine Zeta-Jones's NO RESERVATIONS was based. Very touching.

Also for Japanese drama deluxe and a costume and color fix that will stay with you for days: CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER. Sumptuous costumes and photography-- with lots o' violence and intrigue.

And of course-- one that got a lot o'praise, but that I personally wasn't sure about: LA VIE EN ROSE, a bio-pic about the singer Edith Piaff. The singing was fabulouos, but frankly I didn't like Edith very much; I don't care what she went through. Interesting French perspective on things, however.

Betina Krahn said...

Oh. . . PERFUME. . . saw it just last night! Stars Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman in an English-made, non-subtitled movie. It's set in 18th century France, but the dirty part of France, not the silky, romantic part. Sorry Michele.

About an eighteenth century serial killer and one hell of a story. Icky in so many places it's unbelievable that they put it on film! And the ending is strange deluxe. But for a study of the making of a serial killer, and a primer on how perfume was originally made, it's fascinating!

Michele, see it and tell me what you think! I'm dying to talk with somebody about it.

Michele Hauf said...

Oh, Betina, as soon as I saw they made Perfume a movie I've been trying to stay as far from the theater as possible! I know how gross the book was, so I think the movie would really freak me. And you've just given me the icky quotient, so now I know I can't force myself to see it. I can't do serial killer stuff, ever. Silence of the Lambs scarred me, I tell you!

But I will have to pick up MOSTLY MARTHA.

Oh and Waking Ned Devine rocks! Love that show, and the soundtrack is another I have on my iPod. And Run, Lola Run was pretty good too. Lots of...running. :-)

Another thing I forgot to mention about foreign movies, no dubbing! Watch them with the subtitles. It's just wrong to watch a movie dubbed in English when you should be hearing some awesome foreign accent.

Michele Hauf said...

Yes, LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE was another lush, gorgeus film. Spanish, yes? What a great, fantastical tale.

Betina Krahn said...

Oh, and I almost forgot VOLVER with Penelope Cruz! Really, really interesting movie! Spanish and delicious. Mixes murder and ghosts and food and family secrets. Lots of "woman" themes. I loved it!

Christie Ridgway said...

Love the recs, Michele! Thanks.

A couple of years back I watched the original Mariachi movie, El Mariachi (subtitled, it's in Spanish) and I loved it loved it loved. My teenager and his best buddy were watching and I assumed they thought I would go along my merry way, but I sat with them for the whole thing and then started it over to watch again. The next two, with Antonia Banderas and Johnny Depp (in English) were also good, but the first is the best.

All this poor man wanted to do was being a mariachi, like his father, like his grandfather, but he's in the wrong place and the wrong time and a legend is born...

Playground Monitor said...

I'm not much for non-English foreign films. But there are a few from the UK that rock. One's already been mentioned -- Waking Ned Devine. And another is Saving Grace with Brenda Blethan. And who didn't love The Full Monty?


Michele Hauf said...

Christie, EL MARIACHI rocked! I have all three movies, and I still can't convince my family to watch the first one for the subtitles. But really, it is the best. And while I love that Antonio was in the second one (sexy!) I just think they nailed it in the first one.

There's a new Spanish flick coming out soon that I've marked to go see if it comes to our area. LADRON QUE ROBA A LADRON. I looks like poor man's version of Ocean's Eleven. You can watch the trailer here:

Michele Hauf said...

I think I typed that link wrong. The last letter should be an 'n'

Kathleen Eagle said...

PERFUME was kinda freaky, Michele, but fascinating. Incredible concept, I thought. I can see the book doing even more with the sense of smell, but I haven't read it. I had to laugh when I read your post, though. You like vampires!

Kathleen Eagle said...

I liked so many of the movies mentioned here. If we count British as foreign, I'll put in a plug for DEATH AT A FUNERAL, which we just saw in the theater (so it's new!). It's the funniest movie I've seen in a long time. So well written, with that great British timing and wackiness. I saw NOISES OFF on stage in London, and was so disappointed with the movie version, but I could see DEATH AT A FUNERAL as a play. Anyone know whether it started that way?

Anyway, if you need a really good laugh, see DEATH AT A FUNERAL.

Michele Hauf said...

Death at a Funeral is definately on my list!

And I like vampires who don't kill. Big difference from the horror-movie sorts of vamps. They gotta be romantic, I guess. Weird, I know. Serial killers. Uggh. I just don't like to put that stuff into my brain.

Anonymous said...

Hello everyone,
I am one of Kathleen's fans (Hello Kathleen!) and I am a French woman. Just to tell you Michele, that 'Farinelli' is also one of my favorite movies...So I am happy that you mentioned it as one of your favorite French films.I have got both the dvd and the soundtrack at home!
I haven't seen "The Perfume" on a screen but I have read the book by Patrick Süsckind and it's very interesting even if freaking.....

Betina Krahn said...

Hey, everyone-- (Heads-up, Michele!)-- the movie EASTERN PROMISES starts tomorrow. It stars Vincent Cassel, Vigo Mortensen, and Naomi Watts, and it is getting great reviews. It was filmed in London and has a lot of Russian spoken in it. . . so I thought I'd put in a reminder, since we're talking "foreign" films!


Michele Hauf said...

Eastern Promises is on my list. But yet another movie I suspect is going to be violent and maybe a little icky. Vicent Cassel played Russian in BIRTHDAY GIRL with Nicole Kidman. Anyone see that one? Good little flick.

So glad to hear from another Farinelli fan! An excellent movie.