foreign films

Chinese Film ‘King of Masks’ Focuses on Themes of Love, Tradition and Redemption

Gabriella Tutino

The film, set in 1930 Sichuan, follows a street performer who is versed in the Sichuan opera art of changing silk masks quickly; this skill earns him the name ‘The King of Masks.’ After one of his performances he is approached by another Sichuan opera artist, Master Liang, who is known for his transformations and stage-acting as a woman (his most popular role being The Living Bodhisattva). Master Liang asks the King to join his troupe.

Abderrahmane Sissako’s ‘Timbuktu’ Is a Spellbinding Political Film

Angelo Franco

With ardent subtlety of shifting tones, a number of seemingly unconnected subplots, and breathtaking imagery, director Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu is challenging and oftentimes unbearably honest, which is precisely what makes this film a beautiful and sensational piece of political art, never at the expense of every accolade it boasts and justly deserves. 

‘German Doctor’ Sheds Light on Nazi Atrocities and Josef Mengele’s Life After WWII

Mark Goebel

The film, Argentina’s selection for the foreign language category at this year’s Academy Awards, is chockfull of well-thought out Nazi symbolism and does a solid job conveying in a subtle way the unremitting perversions that were part and parcel of Mengele’s genetic experiments at Auschwitz. The actors all do a superb job of playing unsuspecting, knowing, or conniving, depending on their role in the film.

Predictable Themes of Ennui, Infidelity Plague Tedious 'In Secret'

Kaitlyn Fajilan

Though "putrid" isn't quite the word to describe this Charlie Stratton adaptation of Zola's classic (though it does boast one or two bloated corpses), there is sense of overripeness to the film, a tinge of déjà vu in that we've seen this story played out countless times before and already know how it is going to end. Elizabeth Olsen (of Martha Marcy May Marlene fame) plays the parentless Thérèse, whose overbearing aunt, Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange), forces her into an engagement with her only child, the sickly and decidedly humdrum Camille (portrayed by Tom Felton). 

Dangerous Delusions Unravel in ‘The Last Elvis’

Angelo Franco

In his directorial debut, Armando Bo (who co-wrote the script with Nicolás Giacobone) uses the seemingly oversaturated Buenos Aires celebrity-impersonators scene to explore the depths of character of one man, Carlos “Elvis” Gutierrez, who is struggling to match his fantasies with the hard realities he faces.   As far as he is concerned, Carlos is the King, not only on stage among impersonators but in his mind as well.

Bourgeois Power Struggles Dominate Lea Frazer’s ‘Notre Univers Impitoyable’

John McGovern

A recurring theme in Shakespeare is the elusive nature of symbolic identities, particularly their relationship to gender. Many of his plays feature gender-bending moments, with characters that dress differently in order to expose the superficial differences between them. This theme runs throughout Notre Univers Impitoyable, and its disjointed narrative plays out two different scenarios involving the power couple of Victor and Margot. 

Fernando Trueba's New Film Searches for the Artistic Ideal

William Eley

"So, the best we can do is to remain in a small corner eating some potatoes… while there is some left," thus states the artist in Fernando Trueba's latest feature The Artist and the Model.  This aforementioned declaration, or, perhaps, exhalation, summarizes well the central thesis of this mesmeric, black and white masterpiece:  war is an interruption, an impediment in the way of beauty and its purveyors.  

Foreign Films That Didn't Make the 2012 Oscars Cut

Peter Schurmann

This year's favorite for the Best Foreign Language Oscar depicts a couple battling an emotional separation and the theocracy that governs them. Set in Tehran, the film's warm reception in the United States says more about us -- and our unease with the wider world - than it does about Iran. Asghar Farhadi's “A Separation” vindicates our view of Iranians on some level, which is likely why it resonates with the Academy. But what about the films that don't? The past year saw a slew of movies that made waves with audiences in their home countries for reasons that have nothing to do with us.

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