Some people have problems with subtitles in movies. Not me. 5 minutes into the film, and I don’t even notice that I’m reading subtitles any more. They become invisible to me, and somehow I just know what they’re saying. It’s magic.
Some foreign movies you can see either with subtitles, or dubbed into English. I’m thinking The City of Lost Children. Ron Perlman even dubbed his part into English. And all the dubbing kind of works. But what you end up missing out on is the fantastic acting of the original children. The dubbers just can’t do them justice! And it’s not the dubbers’ fault. It’s just an inherent limitation of the medium of dubbing. So whatever you do, when you watch The City of Lost Children, definitely go with the subtitles if you don’t speak the French.
What I love so much about foreign films is exactly that they’re foreign to me. I didn’t see the trailers for them, or the TV commercials. I have no idea what they’re going to be about. And because they may not be following the Hollywood formula, I have no idea where they’re going. They might go anywhere! At the last second there might be this bizarre turn and suddenly everything falls off the chessboard but the kings and the rooks… I am almost never disappointed because I really have no expectations…
For instance, I was watching this one movie, El Bola. I came into the thing a little late, so I didn’t know what the title was. Everybody looked French, so at first I assumed that’s what they were speaking. Then I started recognizing Spanish words, and I realized it was Mexican. They go to the mountains in one scene. It looked just like Southern California. The granite had the same pink color. Then I realized that they didn’t have Mexican license plates on their cars. They looked more French. Finally it dawned on me that these people weren’t Mexican, but Spanish. No wonder I thought it was a French movie! And Spain looks a lot like California!
The movie it about these 2 kids getting to know each other and their families and hanging out at the train tracks with their buddies and stuff like that. Finally in the last 10 minutes, the whole movie changes course and comes into focus. There had been plenty of hints before this of where it was going, but with everything else going on, you just don’t notice. So, Whammo! And there it is, and it was over. What a great movie! It was all one long setup, and the climax was quick and paid it all off.
Had it been a Hollywood movie, I would have known where it was going within the first 7 minutes. As it was, I was lost till the very end. And then I found myself walking thru the Great Egress, and I was happy.
Sometimes a foreign films seems really familiar. Like The Thief, a joint Russian/French film. Maybe it’s because of the trains, but I kept thinking of Doctor Zhivago. With maybe a little Fanny and Alexander thrown in. It takes place after WWII, instead of around WWI, but if you’ve seen one WW haven’t you really seen them all? The child acting is once again amazing. It was fascinating to see what the Russians and French thought of Stalin and beyond. Someone on IMDB pointed out that it was allegorical too, and the top of my head exploded!