The MoFo Top 100 Foreign Language Film Countdown

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Here's the likelihood that the remaining films on my ballot have of making this list:

1. Will make it.
2. Late Spring (1949, Ozu) #26
3. Will make it.
4. Never had a chance of making the list. I blame Thief for this
5. Never had a chance of making the list. This time, I blame Citizen Rules for this
6. Will make it.
7. Andrei Rublev (1966, Tarkovsky) #23
8. Probably won't make it.
9. Never had a chance of making the list. This time, I blame, uh (looks through the poster list to find someone to get mad at), crumbsroom for this
10. Le Samouraï (1967, Melville) #30
11. Won't make it.
12. Sansho the Bailiff (1954, Mizoguchi) #50
13. M (1931, Lang) #11
14. Never had a chance of making the list. I blame Thursday Next for not rigging the list
15. Won't make it.
16. The Battle of Algiers (1966, Pontecorvo) #56
17. Wont make it.
18. Won't make it.
19. The Mirror (1975, Tarkovsky) #86
20. Won't make it.
21. Red Desert (1964, Antonioni) #64
22. Won't make it.
23. Vampyr (1932, Dreyer) #84
24. Won't make it.
25. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972, Herzog) #15

WARNING: spoilers below
Btw, I'm not actually blaming anyone. Just being goofy here

LOL, now I'm curious about what your #4 is
Check out my podcast: Thief's Monthly Movie Loot!

I actually don't know if you've seen it, tbh (likely not as it's really obscure and inaccessible), but I'm blaming you for it anyways!

movies can be okay...
Can't believe nothing from Edward Yang is gonna make it.
"A film has to be a dialogue, not a monologue — a dialogue to provoke in the viewer his own thoughts, his own feelings. And if a film is a dialogue, then it’s a good film; if it’s not a dialogue, it’s a bad film."
- Michael "Gloomy Old Fart" Haneke

Setsuko Hara is my co-pilot
Can't believe nothing from Edward Yang is gonna make it.
MoFos can't into Taiwan
"Rarely has reality needed so much to be imagined." - Chris Marker

I have been keeping up with the countdown but have not responded in quite a while. I was out of town on vacation for a week and just generally have been too busy to give this its proper attention. So here comes a big dump of the eleven movies from my list that have placed since I last commented (somewhere back in the seventies on the reveals).

The 400 Blows/Les Quatre Cents Coups
The first foreign film I would have ever seen is Albert Lamorisse's short The Red Balloon (1956), which in my elementary school was one of several films that were screened on rainy days or towards the end of the year as studies were ending to fill the time (Marlo Thomas' "Free to Be...You and Me" was the other most frequently screened flick). And of course I am old enough that it was shown on actual film, through a projector. I'm old. But The Red Balloon has no real dialogue, so though it is a French film there is no French spoken nor subtitles to read. Apart from that the first foreign language film I would have been exposed to is Wolfgang Petersen's Das Boot (1981), which played on cable TV a whole lot when we first got the service in my house. As I recall HBO would play both the dubbed and subtitled versions at different times during the day. However the first foreign language film that I purposefully sought out was François Truffaut's The 400 Blows.

I was in middle school, probably around eleven or twelve years old, and my ever-growing interest in movies had led me to Alfred Hitchcock. In a world before streaming, for several generations that led almost inevitably to the interview book Hitchcock/Truffaut. When I checked it out of the library and began pouring through it and making a long list of Hitchcock movies I had to watch and rewatch I had no idea who François Truffaut was. After reading the book I was intrigued and went to the video store to see which Truffaut movies my local shop might have on Betamax. The only one they had at the time was The 400 Blows. I likely would have rented almost anything they had, but that it was his debut was of course perfect. I fell in love with it right away, likely helped by the fact that I was a moody kid myself, though my specific circumstances were nothing like Antoine Doinel's. Still, I connected with the story and the storytelling and that was the key to unlocking World Cinema for me at a young age. I would return to the foreign film section of video stores regularly after that.

In addition to it being a wonderful cinematic gateway drug The 400 Blows still holds up and remains one of my all-time favorite films. No surprise it was high on my list at number five for twenty-one of its 129 points.

Rashōmon, RAN, and Ikiru
Truffaut may have been my gateway, and he is a filmmaker I certainly love, but the first foreign director I loved the way I loved Hitchcock was Akira Kurosawa. In making these kids of lists and ballots it is always difficult not to fill all of your limited number of spaces with one filmmaker. But when it came to Kurosawa and this ballot I just went for it. I have four of the master's movies on my list, three of which made the collective cut. The fourth will not be in the Top Ten, but that's OK. I knew it had little chance of making it, but I included it just the same. To me Rashōmon is his masterpiece among masterpieces. It was number one on my ballot. Would have liked to see it sneak into the tippy-top of the list with The Seven Samurai, but thirteen is more than respectable for a group list. RAN - was the first Kurosawa I was able to see on the big screen, during its original release. By then I was fifteen and already leaning towards literature as well as film (my degree is in English) and already was familiar with Shakespeare and King Lear, having watched the 1983 television production starring Larry Olivier. Kurosawa's transposing the story to feudal Japan works perfectly, and to see his bright canvas on a gigantic screen was truly awe inspiring. As I grew older and returned to RAN again and again, especially after taking several Shakespeare courses in college and having Lear be my favorite of the plays, my love for it only deepened. It was number four on my ballot. And then there's Ikiru! When first devouring Kurosawa's films as a teenager I am sure I kept putting Ikiru off. After the likes of Seven Samurai, Rashōmon, Yojimbo, Throne of Blood, and The Hidden Fortress I wasn't keen on what was promised on the back of the video box: a modern story about a lonely dying man based on a novella by Tolstoy. But when I finally got around to it of course it opened up Kurosawa more fully and the sentimental story is so perfectly done. It was number eleven on my ballot.

I'll reveal my fourth Kurosawa pick after the group list is complete.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God/Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes
After Akira Kurosawa the next foreign filmmaker I became obsessed with was Warner Herzog. I stumbled onto him through Les Blank's documentary Burden of Dreams (1982), which aired on my local PBS station one night. That led me first of course to actually watch Fitzcarraldo, which is wonderful. I didn't vote for it but I was very satisfied to see it place on the collective list. But it was Aguirre, the Wrath of God that blew me away on first viewing. The legend of Herzog himself is a character as wild as those he tells stories about, but Klaus Kinski's descent into madness and eventually the perfect metaphor of being adrift on a raft full of death and monkeys while professing his invincibility never ceases to make me smile the way only great art can. I have twenty favorite Herzog movies but only put two on my ballot. The other won't place but Aguirre was my mighty number two, contributing twenty-four of its 231 points.

Amélie/Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain
Few movies have connected so perfectly with my senses of romance and weirdness as much as Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie. I already knew and loved Caro & Jeunet's Delicatessen and City of Lost Children and I knew Amélie had broken all kinds of box office records in France, but I was not prepared for how much I went ga-ga for it. The word magic gets tossed around too much when it comes to movies, but to me it fits for this at times hilarious fantasy. It was number three on my ballot.

As much as Jeunet's oddball romantic fairy tale floored me in a sweet way, Denis Villeneuve's Incendies did the same for me with a dramatic punch to the gut. I saw it at a film festival and was instantly in love. To that point I had not seen any of Villeneuve's work, but unsurprisingly to me after Incendies was unleashed on the world he got to start playing in Hollywood. That has culminated thus far with some spectacular big budget Sci-Fi epics in Blade Runner 2049 and the new Dune (2021), but while I love all of his films to date, nothing has moved and surprised me the way Incendies does. That it made the collective list, even somewhere in the middle, makes me very happy. It was my eighth pick. If you haven't yet seen Incendies don't read about it, just go watch it. And you're welcome.

I am not at all surprised that here at MoFo that an Andrei Tarkovsky film is in the Top Ten. What did surprise me, happily, was that not only did Solaris make the cut as well but that it landed at number twelve! Once I saw The Mirror at #86 and Andrei Rublev at #23, I figured Solaris was an also ran. I had it ninth on my list but underestimated its popularity with the rest of you. It was the first Tarkovsky I ever saw and instantly found it hypnotic and moving on first viewing. I love many Tarkovsky flicks and am not shocked to see him get four on the countdown but I love that Solaris finished so high. As much as I love the movie I may be one of the few who appreciates Soderbergh's take on Stanisław Lem's novel almost as much. Different approaches to the material, but powerful to me.

Like many great films Costa-Gavras' Z is both of its time and timeless. You need not know anything about the actual assassination of a Greek politician that the novel and film are referencing under a thin veil of fiction to appreciate the frustration with corruption. Costa-Gavras' style and tone make for a document that will continue to highlight the dangers and apparent inevitability of deceit and injustice capable by governments and courts. I had it as my twelfth pick.

The Lives of Others/Das Leben der Anderen
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (Gesundheit!) was already looking backward a couple decades with The Lives of Others to a fictionalized tale of Communist-era East Berlin, but like Z while its period specifics ring true its themes of suppression, privacy, and hypocrisy are sadly timeless. Von Donnersmarck has some cinematic touchstones too, including most directly Coppola's Blow Out (1981), but the power it achives is all his and his actors, especially the magnificence of Ulrich Mühe as the Stasi snoop who becomes sympathetic to the artists he is charged with surveilling. A great drama executed perfectly. It was sweet sixteen on my ballot.

The Wages of Fear/Le Salaire de la Peur
And finally (for now), at number twenty-four on my ballot was Henri-Georges Clouzot's exciting The Wages of Fear. This was another early find for me on my road of World Cinema. I don't think I even really read the back of the box, but judging from the cover and title I thought it was probably a World War II adventure like The Great Escape (1963). Instead I got something even better. A small group of desperate strangers each hiding in the middle of nowhere for different reasons are drawn to transport volatile explosives by truck over treacherous terrain. The suspense of tension of Hitchcock but a sweaty, manly tale he likely wouldn't have been attracted to as one of his films. Love this one from the first time I saw it. For years I really did not care for Billy Friedkin's 1977 re-make. Partially because I loved the original so much and partially because the VHS transfer of Sorcerer was pretty horrible. It wasn't until the 2014 restoration, which I saw theatrically before getting the BluRay, where I could finally reassess and love it as well. I still prefer the Clouzot original but Friedkin's is damn fine, too.

Those eleven give me fifteen from my list.

1. Rashōmon (#13)
2. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (#15)
3. Amélie (#19)
4. RAN (#18)
5. The 400 Blows (#35)
6. Army of Shadows (#90)
8. Incendies (#61)
9. Solaris (#12)
11. Ikiru (#24)
12. Z (#55)
16. The Lives of Others (#38)
19. The Conformist (#88)
22. Roma (#83)
23. Samurai Rebellion (#79)
24. Wages of Fear (#67)

I only expect two more of my choices to make the Top Ten, which leaves eight of mine that won't make it. C'est la vie!
"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

minds his own damn business
Rashomon completes my Kurosawa trilogy picks. Obviously it's a daunting task, and even among those not on the list - Stray Dog, The Idiot, Throne of Blood, Bad Sleep Well, Dodes'ka-den (his most underappreciated film), Kagemusha, Dreams - it's just too all too rich to condense.

And even though I did allow multiple choices from Lang and Tarkovsky, neither of these happened to be one. Not that they're unworthy of their spots, but only because these are two of the greatest filmmakers ever. All four of Tarkovsky's films from 1965-1980 deserve their place here, and it's unfortunate that personally I would have Lang's Der Mude Tod and his Nibelungen films (as well as a couple of other Expressionist silents) slightly ahead of M.

City of God is great, a fine film. I have no doubt it has a snug place on my top 100 for the Aughts. But in all honestly, if I had limited my 25 to only films from these four filmmakers, I still doubt that God could crack my list.

Yeah, can. Better if it didn't automatically start from the beginning again once it's finished though imo.
NomsPre-1930 Countdown

Fashionably late to every party since 1473!

Yeah, can. Better if it didn't automatically start from the beginning again once it's finished though imo.
I can see if there's a way for it to automatically stop after one run, but it also has a pause button on the lower left corner.

I can see if there's a way for it to automatically stop after one run, but it also has a pause button on the lower left corner.
You expect me to not only click on a link but to then ALSO push a pause button .... sheesh

You expect me to not only click on a link but to then ALSO push a pause button .... sheesh

I should probably be upset with myself for not including any Kurosawa (I don't even know if I included anything from Japan at all...) but it definitely would not have been Rashoman. While I'm not as ambivalent about it as I am with some of his other much loved films (Hidden Fortress, Red Beard), it's one of the big classics of cinema where I'm just left with an appraisal of 'yeah, I guess that was good'

If I had included a Kurosawa, it would have been between Samurai, Throne of Blood, Ran, Stray Dog or High and Low. Some reason this top 5 of mine just ended up cancelling eachother out though.

Also, even if I think I put Rublev on my list, I'm pretty okay with Solaris being above it. There was a brief time I was just as obsessed with it and it is probably my second favourite science fiction next to 2001. But alas I neglected it, and give it to the more revered critical darling because I'm a fraud.

Honestly, I think it's probably my deep love of Rublev's prologue which always makes me rank it higher though. Love that prologue (less dead horses too)!

Also also, just watched Downfall last night. That was something. Wouldn't have cracked the list. But it was one of those films that laid heavily upon me after it had finished. I remember, while in the middle of watching it, thinking it was a really well made and competent film, but nothing felt particularly unique about it. At least not until it was all over, and the whole movie was in my head, curdling, and I just felt the kind of itchy nausea only a really great movie about a really bad thing can provide me with.

I had M and Solaris on my list out of the last reveal. M was my #1, and perhaps because I first saw it long ago as a random pick from the video store and its initial power has never left me. I've seen it a few times more since then, and I can always find more reasons to be wowed by Fritz Lang's classic. (And it's possible had I included silent films on my list, Metropolis might have edged out M for first place.) Solaris is amazing too, and was my #8. My initial reaction to Rashomon was also to be blown away, and it was my early favorite Kurosawa, but having seen more of his films and rewatched Rashomon, I prefer a few of his other films ahead of it now, but it is outstanding. City of God is gripping powerful, but I didn't vote for it. I know I have at least two more of my picks that will show up, but maybe a third, though it would mean the movie placing far higher than I would have imagined.

My List:
1. M (#11)
2. The 400 Blows (#35)
3. Woman in the Dunes (#22)
4. Playtime (#45)
7. Three Colours: Red (#54)
8. Solaris (#12)
9. High and Low (#41)
10. Let the Right One In (#40)
12. The Wages of Fear (#67)
14. Diabolique (#69)
20. Cinema Paradiso (#20)
21. The Cranes are Flying (#28)
23. A Man Escaped (#60)
24. Le Trou (#81)
I may go back to hating you. It was more fun.