Feature Foreign Films to pick up July 3, 2009 Movies.ie gives you an easy guide to some great foreign language alternatives to pick up next time you’re at the video shop. Foreign films have never been more accessible for the mainstream cinema audience – we no longer have to make the trek to arthouse cinemas or specialist DVD shops to see films not in the English language. Despite a few break-out hits over the last few years however, the majority of cinema-goers would choose the Hollywood blockbuster over the foreign film! We know that on a Saturday night the prospect of having a good old read at the cinema may seem slightly off-putting but if you’re a fan of great movies you’re really missing out on a lot of gems. With that in mind, movies.ie gives you an easy guide to some foreign films to try next time you feel your hand reaching for the Hollywood option in the DVD shop. Picking up The International? Try instead: The Lives of Others (Germany) Hollywood thrillers haven’t really been all that thrilling lately have they? Watching Clive Owen run around Europe on the trail of some bankers (I know they’re unpopular but they’re hardly scary now are they?) wasn’t exactly edge of the seat stuff. You want a properly scary shadowy organisation? The Live of Others has the Stasi! The film is set before the fall of the wall in East Germany and follows a Stasi agent monitoring a subversive writer and his friends. As he follows their lives he begins to become enthralled with them and even envy them; a dangerous obsession for all involved. Picking up The Strangers? Try instead: Ils/Them (France/Romania) Hollywood cinema has produced countless rubbish remakes of European and Asian horror over the last few years. Though The Strangers isn’t a direct remake of this French/Romanian production, you could be forgiven for thinking it was. Isolated house? Check. A couple being terrorised by mysterious childlike figures? Check. Also both of them are “inspired by true events.” Now to suggest that what the audience is seeing on screen actually happened is a widely used device in horror but in the case of Ils, this is actually the case which makes it all the more disturbing – especially the shocking final act. Picking up Rachel at the Wedding? Try instead: I’ve Loved You So Long (France) Both of these films show us families trying to come to terms with a tragedy in their past and how they deal with the guilt and recriminations that accompany such an event. However, while I’ve Loved You So Long is involving and moving, Rachel at the Wedding is, well…a little annoying! It has one of those new Hollywood families where everyone is just a little too hip and quirky to be likeable. Anne Hathaway does her best in the role but Rachel is too bratty and immature to warm to. Kristin Scott Thomas on the other hand is wonderful as the woman returning to her family after serving a fifteen year jail sentence. Picking up Valkyrie? Try instead: Female Agents (France) Despite the incongruities of seeing Tom Cruise walking around in a Nazi uniform and the fact that we all knew what the outcome of the film would be (shock horror they don’t manage to assassinate Hitler!), Valkyrie somehow managed to be edge of your seat stuff with excellent performances all round. Thanks to Mr. Cruise, Valkyrie got great box-office but the similarly excellent Female Agents may have passed many by. It tells the story of a group of female resistance fighters enlisted to rescue a captured British geologist in the run up to the D-Day landings. A great story, beautifully shot and a refreshing change to see the part women played in World War II. Picking up Vicky Cristina Barcelona? Try instead: Volver Everyone agrees that the best thing about Woody Allen’s tribute to Barcelona is the performance of Penelope Cruz; so why not skip the pale imitation and go directly to the source? Volver was the last pairing of Cruz with her mentor Almodovar; a director who clearly influenced Woody Allen in his little trip to Spain. Cruz is luminous as usual in the story of two sisters and their relationship with their (perhaps) deceased mother. If you pick Volver you get a lot more Cruz and a lot less Johansson for your money!