The MoFo Top 100 Foreign Language Film Countdown

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I watched The Return recently for the Russian HoF. Here's my review for it:

This film would definitely make a short list of my favorite thrillers. It starts off with a super interesting premise and keeps getting better as it rolls along, culminating with an emotionally oblique and complex final act that resonated with me more than anything I've seen in film for a while.

Even though Andrei and Ivan both reacted to their father's abuse with different degrees of seriousness, both their responses were valid reactions to his behavior. Ivan was the more rebellious and concerned of the two. He protested his father's behavior a lot, refused to address him as his father when speaking to him (I found the ending to be a powerful culmination to this aspect), and experienced most of his father's abuse. His response felt like a natural reaction to his father's behavior. By contrast, Andrei protested his behavior less, was fine with addressing him as his father, and, as a result, experienced less of his abusive behavior, as if he was trying not to get on his father's bad side. I also liked that the film didn't go over-the-top with the father's abuse. Yes, he recurrently physically and emotionally hurt both brothers as the film went on, but it also didn't feel like the film was wallowing in the brutality of this (part of this is because some of the father's behavior simply involved him acting strange rather than abusive). I normally don't do well with seeing characters hurt for long periods of time, but I think Zvyagintsev found a good balance for the father's behavior and made their plight engaging to watch.

WARNING: spoilers below
While those elements are compelling though, I was mainly drawn to the mystery of the film in regards to which details were left ambiguous and which ones weren't. Throughout most of the film, the possibility that the father might kill his kids was on my mind. This raised questions on what his motives were and if he actually was their father to begin with. The father threatening Andrei with an axe implied that he did intend to kill them for a second, but the next scene implied otherwise. As he chased Ivan through the woods and up the tower, he didn't yell anything like "I'm going to kill you!" Instead, he tried to reason with him and seemed genuinely concerned for his safety. Obviously, this doesn't excuse the way he treated them prior to that scene, but what's important is that he was arguably trying to protect his son when he died rather than hurt him. Given the possibility of that, I didn't feel relieved when their father fell to his death. Instead, I questioned how I initially viewed him and wondered what would've happened if he made it to the top of the tower (I don't think he would've hurt him). Regardless of what his intentions were though, both outcomes lead to compelling results. If their father did intend to kill them, it's good that he died. If he didn't intend to kill them though, that makes the film a tragedy. Those who felt a lack of closure by the film's open-endedness are experiencing the full extent of the film's ambiguously menacing power. Granted though, if I had to nitpick one small detail, the mystery over what was in the box the father dug up on the island was unnecessary and that sub-plot could've been removed. Every other ambiguous aspect though worked phenomenally.

In conclusion, I'm glad I got to watch this film as it's a new personal favorite of mine. It sucked me in right at the beginning and never let go.

rbrayer's Avatar
Registered User
Didn't realize this started! Seen all the films except for The Return. All excellent, especially the only one I voted for, Paprika

Nice to see Kiki's Delivery Service on here. It's such a beautiful, peaceful, slice of life tale. If I could live anywhere in any movie I've seen, it would probably be the city in that movie. It's neck and neck with My Neighbor Totoro for my second favorite Miyazaki. Like that movie and to paraphrase Roger Ebert's Totoro review, it's "made for the world we should live in, rather than the one we occupy."
Last Great Movie Seen
Blow Out (De Palma, 1981)

I've only seen Kiki's Delivery Service from this group. I probably liked it a little more than Porco, but still didn't really care for it. I'm definitely a bit concerned that such popular animated titles are showing up so low though. It makes me very worried for the remaining animations on my ballot.

My Ballot:
8. Paprika (#100)
25. He Loves Me... He Loves Me Not (One-Pointers)

Setsuko Hara is my co-pilot
Kiki's Delivery Service is a cute film. Cute!
The Return is a masterpiece and Zvyagintsev's best.

O-ho, looks like Nights of Cabiria appears higher after you guys fine-tuned the system so it doesn't include your drunken multi-account votes.

心在你身邊 就算隱形亦有一天遇見

I like Paprika as visual overload. I kind of hold it at arms length, but that's okay, because that's where I keep most of my best friends too.

I've never cared for Kiki. Even worse when I watched it with the English dub, and Phil Hartman was burped out of the mouth of that cat.

Nights of Cabiria is probably my favorite Fellini. I didn't vote for it, because I couldn't decide what my favorite was. So, due to my indecisive hell, Fellini got no votes for me. But that's okay. Life is an unfair misery, and as a result, it only makes sense I put most of my votes on Fassbinder instead.

Haven't seen Porco Rossi.

I've never even heard of The Return. It's important to be just ignorant enough of this world to still discover things. Or so I say so as not to look dumb.

Seen them all so far but nothing yet from my list. That's a high anime ratio, huh. Let's see how this turns out.

edit: all decent movies so far too so good stuff. Happy to be back waiting daily for a countdown update. It feels good.
"Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

Haven't seen any of these.

In order of which ones I want to see:
1. Kiki's Delivery Service
2. Nights of Cabiria (I've yet to see a Fellini)
3. The Return

The Return is phenomenal but did not make my list- another one of his films did though. One of the best directors of the 2000s

Nights of Cabiria isn't a top 5 Fellini film for me
Yeah, there's no body mutilation in it

I've only seen Kiki's Delivery Service from this group. I probably liked it a little more than Porco, but still didn't really care for it. I'm definitely a bit concerned that such popular animated titles are showing up so low though. It makes me very worried for the remaining animations on my ballot.

My Ballot:
8. Paprika (#8)
25. He Loves Me... He Loves Me Not (One-Pointers)
I wouldn't worry about Spirited Away and Fantastic Planet. They'll do just fine

You mean me? Kei's cousin?
Kiki's Delivery Service was my number 5.
Look, Dr. Lesh, we don't care about the disturbances, the pounding and the flashing, the screaming, the music. We just want you to find our little girl.

cricket's Avatar
Registered User
Porco Rosso and Kiki were 2 of my favorite movies from that director.

Liked Paprika ok.

Liked Nights of Cabiria but think I can get more out of it now so I plan on watching it again.

I think I'll have seen at least 75% of what shows up. The Return is the first that I haven't.

Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?
Have seen Kiki's:

Kiki's Delivery Service

Kiki: We better rest here until it's dry.
Jiji: Won't we get in trouble?
Kiki: Not if nobody's finds us.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this previously on recent watches of Miyazaki films, several of which, including this one, I hadn't seen before, but I definitely have a greater appreciation for his style of storytelling than when I was much younger. When I would only appreciate the artwork only.
It's hard to describe but perhaps it has to do with being so much less cynical than I used to be back then and therefore opening up to the innocence of much of his stories.
I definitely found it to be the case here with a young witch seeking to find her own way in her own town. In fact, I was letting out a sigh of enjoyment in the very opening, seeing her laying out in the grass by the water. Those little moments that fill the world building of a Miyazaki film along with the simple lessons of hope and kindness, and allowing inspiration to find you as opposed to chasing after it.

Quite a beautiful thing, that.

I noticed that The Return is in the current Russian HoF and will have to look into it and after enjoying La Dolce Vita so much it has got me wanting to see more Fellini and Nights of Cabiria was one I was considering checking out and, as of yet, haven't had the opportunity to. Glad to see it here though and do like seeing a healthy dose of animation kicking this off. VERY curious to see what else appears later on.

Movies Seen: 2 of 4 (50.00%)
19. Paprika (2006) #100
25. In This Corner of the World (2016) One Pointer
What to do if you find yourself stuck with no hope of rescue:
Consider yourself lucky that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn't been good to you so far, which given your present circumstances seems more likely, consider yourself lucky that it won't be troubling you much longer.

Kiki's didn't even come close to making it into my list, but I've seen a LOT of foreign movies. It's one of Ghibli's more character-focused movies.

#100: Paprika
"I won't claim that I understood all of the dream trippin' stuff, but I enjoyed the film anyway" CR
my review

#99: Kiki's Delivery Service

"I liked it! I found the style of story telling refreshingly un-adversarial when compared to a typical Disney animation story." CR
my review

#98 The Return
"I loved the way it was filmed with longer scene takes and camera shots that were held long enough to give time to reflect on the moments at hand." CR
my review

I'll bear the shame of admitting I've seen none of the top 100 so far just to admit in the old VHS days I had Nights of Cabiria - it sat on my shelf year after year and I never got around to watching it. Maybe somebody who still has a video player plucked it out of the bin and gave it it's deserved viewing. I'll have to go the more modern route.

a ghibli fest, for sure

haven't seen the return
"Фильм призван вызвать духовную волну, а не взращивать идолопоклонников."

I wouldn't worry about Spirited Away and Fantastic Planet. They'll do just fine
I don't mind Fantastic Planet. I actually own it on Criterion blu-ray. It was never in contention for my ballot, though.