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The MoFo Top 100 Foreign Language Film Countdown

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Really loved Seven Samurai my second watch, it’s exactly the kind of spectacle I go for and now that I have grown accustomed to Kurosawa”s characterizations, I think it’s awesome. It was never going to beat out Ran for my Kurosawa spot though.

Persona was my #1. I adore Bergman. I credit him, and this movie in particular, with breaking down the barrier of “getting” a movie for me. I still struggle with that knee jerk reaction at times but it was really an obstacle I needed crushed, and Persona has done that. I don’t understand everything being conveyed in Persona, but for me it’s about identity. Who are we, how do we convey that to others? Most importantly, who do we have ourselves convinced we are? Persona struggles with these wholly human endeavors, without ever giving us answers. It’s gorgeous to look at and poetic to listen to. I just watched it for the fifth time the other night because I really wanted to jump back into review writing in time for it to be revealed on the list. I can’t do movies like this justice though, and I don’t think I want to start trying again. I would rather just rewatch one of my favorite films ever. Knew it wouldn’t pull the upset, but overjoyed it finished second.

Persona makes for a great character study, but it's a little too confusing for me. Didn't make my list, and I'm kinda upset that The Seventh Seal just barely lost to it.

Seven Samurai is a character ride of thrills, drama and laughs. So many fantastic scenes. My number 14. And I knew right from the beginning that this would top the list.

My accepted entries.

1. Oldboy (21)
2. The Mirror (86)
3. The Seventh Seal (4)
4. 8 1/2 (9)
5. Spirited Away (5)
6. Metropolis (31)
7. Solaris (12)
12. Princess Mononoke (46)
13. Pather Panchali (47)
14. Seven Samurai (1)
15. The Passion of Joan of Arc (15)
16. Ran (19)
17. La Dolce Vita (27)
19. Wild Strawberries (33)
20. Harakiri (37)
24. M (11)

My whole list:

1. Oldboy (2003)
2. The Mirror (1975)
3. The Seventh Seal (1957)
4. 8½ (1963)
5. Spirited Away (2001)
6. Metropolis (1927)
7. Solaris (1972)
8. Yi Yi (2000)
9. Clo from 5 to 7 (1962)
10. Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (2013)
11. Perfect Blue (1997)
12. Princess Mononoke (1997)
13. Pather Panchali (1955)
14. Seven Samurai (1954)
15. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
16. Ran (1985)
17. La dolce vita (1960)
18. A Separation (2011)
19. Wild Strawberries (1957)
20. Harakiri (1962)
21. Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970)
22. Napoleon (1927)
23. Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion (1997)
24. M (1931)
25. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Had to be that long. It's 30 minutes per samurai. Otherwise, it would've been Six Samurai.
I'll have to keep an eye out for that for future viewings, because I remember that some samurai were given a greater focus than others. Regardless, I just wished that the middle act, whether it was necessary or not, didn't drag. I'll probably revisit it sometime in the future though, as I will eventually do with all films that have a GOAT status, so I'll see if it becomes an easier watch for me then.

Oh well, always a fairly high chance the Faildictions would blow it again at the final hurdle.

Haven't ever seen Persona. Seven Samurai is epic and was certainly in the mix for a spot on my ballot but didn't quite make it in the end.

Seen: 76 (Own: 44)
My list:  

Faildictions ((バージョン 1.01):
10. Det sjunde inseglet [The Seventh Seal] (1957)
9. La Grande Illusion [The Grand Illusion] (1937)
8. Le jour se lève [Daybreak] (1939)
7. Ladri di biciclette [Bicycle Thieves] (1948)
6. Onibaba (1964)
5. Idi i smotri [Come And See] (1985)
4. Stalker (1979)
3. Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi [Spirited Away] (2001)
2. 8½ (1963)

1. Shichinin no samurai [Seven Samurai] (1954)

A big thank you to @Thursday Next for hosting - great job!
NomsPre-1930 Countdown

Fashionably late to every party since 1473!

Guy who likes movies
Persona was second on my ballot. I’ve never been a big fan of Seven Samurai, although I own the Criterion blu ray. Thanks and great job to the lovely and talented Thursday!

Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Great job, Thursday!

I know I'm only scratching the surface, I feel I've thought enough about what Persona means to me to at least open up a discussion. I'm going to shoot the works and put this out as a thread instead of posting it in Movie Tab II. I've noticed a few people listing it amongst their fave movies, even if many of these members seem to be long gone. My main desire in starting a thread is that I don't want to have to keep linking to my original post when I come up with some more specific ideas (perhaps even this week), plus I'm hoping that enough people share their ideas to make it worthy of a discussion. I'm going to try to make this first post as free of spoilers as possible, but this is the kind of discussion which will lend itself to interpretations of specific actions shown in the movie even if their meaning is unclear. In other words, the theme and "plot" are so open to interpretation that maybe there are no spoilers!

Let me get out of the way what semblance of a plot there is here first. I'm not going to go into too many details because that would be spoiling, but I'm going to discuss what I think the "apparent" plot is. Elisabeth (debuting Liv Ullmann) stops speaking in the middle of a stage performance of Elektra, and she's subsequently taken to a hospital where it's determined that she's physically healthy and may be suffering from something psychosomatic. Either way, she still cannot or will not speak. Outgoing nurse Sister Alma (Bibi Andersson) agrees (perhaps against her better judgment) to accompany Elisabeth to a remote island home where the doctor hopes that Alma's personality will draw out the now-mute actress's voice. Along the way, mysterious things happen, which may be fantasy, dreams or reality. In fact, there may be only one woman on the island, but if there is, which one is it?

Most of the discussions which I've seen about Persona seem to start off with the concept that the film is somehow about transference and is crammed with Freudian imagery, especially in the opening, closing and midway sections. Now, I want to keep those interesting, legitimate ideas in the bank account, so to speak, and spend my initial post discussing that I think there is an even more overriding concept found in the film. Most of the mysteries which the film seems to conceal (more than it reveals) involve communication between people. Now, it's true it could be communication between the two central characters in the film, who are set up to be very similar yet utterly different (or perhaps even two halves of the same person). It can just as easily be communication by any artist who is trying to connect with the audience, and the audience's capability of understanding what the artist intends. Here the artists would be writer/director Bergman and his cinematographer, the incredible Sven Nykvist. I want to bring this up because of the way the film begins and ends with the arc light of the film projector coming on and turning off. The film goes out of its way to tell you that it's a movie, but immediately the viewer seems to be confused, if not at what is being shown, then why it's being shown and what its meaning is.

While it's true that the seemingly-surreal images at the beginning concern sex, violence and death, they also produce some stirrings of life. A boy, who seems to be in a morgue, awakens to find blurred images on a white wall of the two lead characters. Later in the film, "both" women discuss (although only one talks) past experiences concerning their "children". I can accept the young boy as either or both of the women's sons, but I can also see him as a young Ingmar Bergman, straining to make out images on a wall which he feels he is unable to communicate with his audience. This way, the meaning of what happens in the film "proper" can be interpreted in more than one way and still work for the viewer. However, I believe that the easiest way for a viewer who finds Persona or most of Bergman impenetrable is to look at the "weird" scenes as a cry from an artist, or any human being, for that matter, for someone to try to understand his/her message, theme, art and accept it on a personal level. Most art is going to be appreciated by the viewer far more readily than how the artist sees it. The artist just hopes that someone can feel what they are expressing. If they can't feel, maybe their "intelligent admiration" will suffice, but a total rejection is often felt like a sharp knife.

Ultimately, I find Persona to be an initially bewildering movie which opens up upon subsequent viewings. I appreciate the various interpretations which have been passed down for forty-odd years. I watched the film for the first time in the mid-1970s at college, and I felt lost at sea, especially when some of my fellow classmates pontificated pretentiously about its "true" meanings. (You must remember that we watched the movie once, in 16mm. No VCRs, no DVDs, etc.) I now realize that my classmates had no more concept of what the film may be about than I did or even do now, although I truly believe I can find many more complex meanings for what happens in the film. For example, it's often stated as fact that the Elisabeth character only speaks once in the film, but I would have sworn that I heard her speak at least twice, and quite possibly three times. In fact, I will also swear that one of the times that Alma is supposed to have spoken, it definitely wasn't her, and if it wasn't her and it wasn't Elisabeth, who was it? Whether you like it or not, maybe we can agree that Persona is a trip.

Looking back at my original post, I must have made enough misstatements of fact to qualify me as a Presidential/Vice Presidential candidate.

Here they are:

1. Elisabeth is not considered to be suffering from anything psychosomatic. It appears to be a personal choice for her not to speak.

2. The doctor says that Elisabeth did "apologize" (apparently by voice) after the incident at the theatre, but she stopped talking again soon enough.

3. They don't go to an island; they go to a seaside home.

4. It's so difficult to determine who speaks during the following scenes: 1) The scene at the table where Alma is either told, or "hears" that she shouldn't go to sleep at the table"; 2) The scene where Alma is ready to throw boiling water on Elizabeth. Who cried out not to do it?; 3. The scene where Elizabeth unequivocally talks. Why did she do it? It was in the hospital, after all. Was it a flashback, a dream or a fantasy?

I also need to know if Elisabeth left her letter unclosed for a reason. Why were the points of this letter shown in isolated paragraphs? Why did Elizabeth's husband not recognize her as being different from Alma? I explained to Sarah that Elizabeth possessed Alma, but it didn't fully explain what was going on in that scene. In fact, Sarah asked me if her husband was blind because he pulled off sunglasses and couldn't seem to know who his wife was, but he did seem to know where to kiss her, so I rejected that idea.

Seven Samurai is my #11.

Cyrano de Bergerac (Jean-Paul Rappeneau, 1990)

Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac is one of my favorite plays and one of my fave movies. There have been some good films based on it. The awesome José Ferrer won his only Oscar for the low-budget, yet high-entertainment, 1950 version. Steve Martin gave one of his best performances and did one of his best scripts for the wonderful Roxanne (1987).

But my favorite version is undoubtedly the French version where Gerard Depardieu gives one of film's most memorable performances. From the opening scene, the play starring the pompous idiot actor, you know you are witnessing something special. First off, even if the film fibs in its depiction of the way the gigantic candelabras are all lit by hand and then pulled up by rope to light the theatre (and I don't know if it does), that's the way I would want to see the scene staged. Depardieu is incredible spouting Rostand's poetry (subtitled in English by A Clockwork Orange's Anthony Burgess), full of so much wit, and then he immediately has to duel AND defeat AND escape from a group of overarmed fops who couldn't possibly recognize a real man.

For me, Depardieu is mindboggling, whether he's being witty, excelling at physical activity, or (especially) pouring his heart out to the love of his life Roxane (Anne Brochet), whether subtly expressing himself as a possible lover to her or heartbreakingly pitching the young soldier Christian (Vincent Perez) she dearly falls in love with at first sight. The balcony scene where Cyrano speaks his heart to Roxane, during a storm, while pretending to be Christian, ranks with the opening scene for virtuosic filmmaking and acting. The film continues with another jealous lover who tries to ruin both Cyrano and Christian, by sending them off to war, but it all culminates in a moving finale where everything becomes very tragic, yet still beautiful.

Jesus of Montreal (Denys Arcand, 1989)

Beautiful, thought-provoking, irreverent, haunting, funny, sexy and deeply moving are all words I use to describe what I consider the greatest Jesus film ever made, Jesus of Montreal. It's set in present-day Montreal where a group of actors get together to put on an updated version of the Passion on the grounds of a Catholic church. The troupe's ostensible leader, Daniel (the incredible Lothaire Bluteau), who is to play Jesus, begins the film recruiting his apostles and before long it becomes apparent that almost everything which is happening in real life is a mirror of the Passion Play and the Gospels, often in strikingly original ways. Director/writer Arcand looks at things from many perspectives so you can never be sure what his personal agenda is, but one thing is for sure and that's if you're a believer, you should be able to put Jesus's life into a more-modern and personal context. If you hate "religious" movies, you will quickly see that this is not a religious film at all, yet it doesn't shy away from showing a powerful Jesus (both Biblical and "actor") who is totally capable of performing miracles which affect people's lives in the here and now. It's a wonderful film which seems to accomplish the impossible by presenting a potentially-polarizing subject in a very inclusive way. I think it can only disappoint the most-fundamentalist of churchgoers, but it will reward those with open hearts and minds. Besides that, it's damn entertaining. Two of my fave scenes are the low-budget special effects presentation of the beginning and ending of the world and the hilarious scene of dubbing a porno movie. However, it's the night-time Passion Play itself, which is so hypnotic and causes Daniel and his followers to get in trouble with the Catholic Church even though it's critically acclaimed and loved by the audiences.

My List

1. War and Peace
2. Z
3. Jesus of Montreal (Did Not Place)
4. Cyrano de Bergerac (1990) (Did Not Place)

5. Downfall
6. Night and Fog
7. Entr'acte (Did Not Place)
8. Pan's Labyrinth
9. Tell No One (Did Not Place)
10. Parasite
11. Seven Samurai
12. Allegro non troppo (Did Not Place)
13. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
14. Letters from Iwo Jima (Did Not Place)
15. The Shop on Main Street (Did Not Place)
16. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Did Not Place)

17. The Celebration [Festen]
18. Underground (Did Not Place)
19. My Father's Glory - make sure to watch My Mother's Castle since it's Part 2 of the same film (They Both Did Not Place)
20. The Marriage of Maria Braun (Did Not Place)

21. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
22. Europa Europa - should have been Olivier, Olivier (They Both Did Not Place)
23. Love Exposure (Did Not Place)
24. Buffet Froid (Did Not Place)

25. Das Boot
It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. - John Wooden
My IMDb page

Whoa! Am I counting right? Is that a 64 point jump from #2 to #1? And also, 22 lists, which is second to Parasite's 23. So that pretty much settles why Seven Samurai reigned supreme.

Anyway, I saw it a couple of years ago and although I really liked it, I wasn't as blown away by it as I expected. I feel like I owe it a rewatch, though, to fully appreciate it, but for the moment, I didn't include it on my list.

Persona, on the other hand, I saw for the first time on the last week of 2018 and was left puzzled by it, but not really sure where I stood. But it was the kind of film that sticks with you and I just couldn't shake it, so about a week or two later, I rewatched it and that's when it sunk (here's what I wrote back then). That's why I had it at #6. I really loved the way it explored the duality between these two characters, both of which are perfectly portrayed by Ullman and Andersson.

Anyway, here is my summary and list, with the ones that didn't make it included...

Seen: 51/100
My list: 14/25

My List  
Check out my podcast: Thief's Monthly Movie Loot!

Guy who likes movies
My complete list:

1. 8½ (1963)
2. Persona (1966)
3. The Seventh Seal (1957)
4. Rashomon (1950)
5. Sundays and Cybele (1962)
6. Throne of Blood (1957)
7. The Color of Pomegranates (1969)
8. Woman in the Dunes (1964)
9. Beyond the Hills (2012)
10. La Strada (1954)
11. Pickpocket (1959)
12. Downfall (2004)
13. The Lure (2015)
14. The World of Apu (1959)
15. Cries and Whispers (1972)
16. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
17. Dreams (1990)
18. Ikiru (1952)
19. The Piano Teacher (2001)
20. Mustang (2015)
21. Rififi (1955)
22. La dolce vita (1960)
23. M (1931)
24. The Passion of the Christ (2004)
25. Autumn Sonata (1978)

Will we be able to see a list with point totals for films that didn't make the top 100?

Thanks to @Thief for the stats breakdowns by country and director.
Speaking of which... here's the final breakdown

Directors with more than one entry
  • Akira Kurosawa (6)
  • Hayao Miyazaki (5)
  • Ingmar Bergman (5)
  • Andrei Tarkovsky (4)
  • Federico Fellini (4)
  • Fritz Lang (2)
  • Werner Herzog (2)
  • Carl Theodor Dreyer (2)
  • Yasujiro Ozu (2)
  • Jean-Pierre Melville (2)
  • Wong Kar-wai (2)
  • Masaki Kobayashi (2)
  • Krzysztof Kieslowski (2)
  • Thomas Vinterberg (2)
  • Henri-Georges Clouzot (2)
  • Takeshi Kitano (2)
  • Bong Joon-ho (2)

Second, country breakdown

Japan = 24
France = 23
Italy = 11
Germany = 10
Russia = 8
Sweden = 6
South Korea = 3
Spain = 3
Hong Kong = 2
Denmark = 2
China = 1
Mexico = 1
Netherlands = 1
Poland = 1
Canada = 1
India = 1
Iran = 1
Brazil = 1

And finally, decade breakdown

1920s = 2
1930s = 2
1940s = 4
1950s = 17
1960s = 24
1970s = 6
1980s = 14
1990s = 11
2000s = 14
2010s = 6
2020s = 0

And seriously, Thursday, thanks for all the work. This was great. But also, thanks to everybody behind the curtain, Yoda, Miss Vicky, etc.

Thanks for putting this together, everyone. It was a lot of fun following it. I can't wait to watch the entries I've never heard of and/or have been languishing in my watchlists.

Here is my list. I bolded the ones that didn't make it.

1. Spirited Away (2001)
2. The Best of Youth (2003)
3. Léolo (1992)
4. Ran (1985)
5. Come and See (1985)
6. Fanny and Alexander (1982)
7. Solaris (1972)
8. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
9. Andrei Rublev (1966)
10. Yi Yi (2000)
11. M (1931)
12. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
13. The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)
14. Seven Samurai (1954)
15. Wings of Desire (1987)
16. L'Atalante (1934)
17. Beauty and the Beast (1946)
18. Le Samouraï (1967)
19. Three Colors: Red (1994)
20. Das Boot (1981)
21. La Haine (1995)
22. Santa Sangre (1989)
23. Delicatessen (1991)
24. Insomnia (1997)
25. Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Last Great Movie Seen
Mad God (Tippett, 2021)

Thursday Next's Avatar
I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Will we be able to see a list with point totals for films that didn't make the top 100?
Hopefully, but I'm not sure what the easiest way to share that would be. Yoda might have some ideas.

I considered voting for Seven Samurai and if I'd gotten around to rewatching it, I very might well have but that didn't happen. Glad to see it wouldn't have made any difference.

I think Persona was the second Bergman I watched and I was really impressed with it. It even made my last all time top 100. I don't think it would still make the cut if I were to redo it now (though Wild Strawberries very well might), but it made my foreign ballot at number 13.

My Full Ballot:

1. Ernest & Celestine (2012)
2. The Skin I Live In (2011)
3. Tokyo Godfathers (2003)
4. Waltz with Bashir (2007)
5. A Town Called Panic (2009)
6. The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)
7. Wild Strawberries (1957)
8. Paprika (2006)
9. The Celebration (1998)
10. The Man from Nowhere (2010)
11. Perfect Blue (1997)
12. Pain and Glory (2019)
13. Persona (1966)
14. Christiane F. (1981)
15. Woman in the Dunes (1964)
16. Aferim! (2015)
17. Onibaba (1964)
18. Your Name (2016)
19. A Separation (2011)
20. My Life as a Zucchini (2016)
21. Persepolis (2007)
22. La Haine (1995)
23. Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
24. Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
25. He Loves Me... He Loves Me Not (2002)

A big thank you to Thursday for all your hard work!

Thursday Next's Avatar
I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Will we get 102-110 tomorrow?
102. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 54 points, 6 ballots
103. Cyrano de Bergerac 54 points, 3 ballots
104. Pierrot le Fou 54 points, 3 ballots
105. Yi Yi 52 points, 3 ballots
106. Funny Games 50 points, 4 ballots
107. Portrait of a Lady on Fire 50 points, 3 ballots
108. Shoot the Piano Player 50 points, 3 ballots
109. The Killer 49 points, 3 ballots
110. Pickpocket 48 points, 5 ballots

A special mention to A Separation which despite being on 5 different ballots only reached #159 with 34 points. I don't think anything else lower than Pickpocket was on more than 4.

A special mention to A Separation which despite being on 5 different ballots only reached #159.
Ouch. Mine was one of those 5 ballots.

When this countdown started, I felt extremely confident that it would make the cut. It's shocking just how short it fell.

The Seventh Seal...I remember the chess game (and its parody in Bill and Ted 2), but haven't seen it.

Plan on seeing Parasite sometime this year.

Some thoughts and love on the ones from my list that didn't make it...

Le Jour se Lève (1939, France)
Talk about recency bias, considering that I just saw this earlier this year, for a Personal Recommendation HoF (was it @Siddon that recommended it?). Anyway, I don't care that it's too soon. I loved it and I'm riding that high (same with Woman in the Dunes). Here's my review for those interested.

The Last Laugh (1924, Germany)
Probably my favorite silent film, or at least on my Top 3. Really tragic story about the psychological and physical "decay" of a doorman after losing his job. It is an impressive masterpiece from start to end, from Emil Jannings' performance to Murnau's use of the camera, which is breathtaking. It always breaks my heart. Here's my Letterboxd review for anyone interested.

Paradise Now (2005, Palestine)
This is a film that really, really stuck with me. Saw it in theaters back then and I just can't shake it off. Really powerful and thought-provoking, and I'm surprised that I don't see it mentioned often. Here's a quick blurb I wrote back when I saw it, but if you haven't seen it, I fully recommend it.

Aniara (2018, Sweden)
I think I've harped enough about this film here already, but if you didn't know I love it, well, I love it. Saw it for the first time about a year or two ago and it's another film that has stuck in my mind. You can read my review here, but I'll just say that I think it's one of the most interesting scifi films I've seen.

Mother (2009, South Korea)
My favorite Bong film. I really love the way he builds this up as some mystery thriller, but really at its core it's a story of the unstoppable and immeasurable love of a mother for her son; a love that she will protect at any cost.

Abre los Ojos (1997, Spain)
My experience watching this film was one of the weirdest I've had. I was at a friends house and we caught it in the middle-to-last act, but were intrigued by it, so we stuck with it... and we were so captivated by it that I think the cable network had it again after, so we sat again and saw it whole again. Been one of my favorite films since. Here's a review I wrote after a rewatch in 2018.

Holy Motors (2012, Germany/France)
Easily one of the most mesmerizing experiences I've had watching a film. Confusing? Yes, but in a way that still carries an emotional punch and, once again, sticks with you. Here's something I wrote about it back when I saw it.

The Lovers on the Bridge (1991, France/Italy)
And here I'm just realizing that I put two Leos Carax films back-to-back. Anyway, this is one that I liked, but didn't think much on first viewing. But then found myself going back to over and over. A really touching and moving love story between two people tormented by their own demons. It's tragic, but it's beautiful at the same time.

Dogtooth (2009, Greece)
This is another one that I saw fairly recently, but what the heck. It really got to me. You can read my review here, but I found it disturbing, tragic, and thought-provoking.

Battleship Potemkin (1925, Russia)
For some reason, I saw this shortly after The Last Laugh, and I thought it was a pretty cool "1920s foreign silent film 1-2 punch". What's really impressive about this one is Eisenstein's skills and use of the camera, particularly during the iconic "Odessa Steps" scene. I would've put it here only for that scene, but overall, it is great. Here's my Letterboxd review from back when I saw it.