Movieline Magazine
100 G

(in two parts)

by Movieline Magazine

100 Greatest Foreign Films
by Movieline Magazine
(part 2, in alphabetical order)

Part 1 | Part 2

51. Lola Montes (1955), aka The Sins of Lola Montes, W. Ger./France, directed by Max Ophuls
Near death, the great 19th-century adventuress and courtesan Lola Montes sold herself to the circus as an attraction. This movie uses her circus act as a framework, and so Montes appears in tableaux from her life, allowing flashbacks to the past. This leads to a superb portrait of the struggle between love (or liberty) and confinement (or destiny). The last film--in CinemaScope--by the unrivaled Max Ophuls.

52. M (1931), Germany, directed by Fritz Lang
Fritz Lang's famous prenoir creeper is one of the earliest and most profoundly compassionate serial killer thrillers ever made. Sixty years before Hannibal Lecter, Peter Lorre gave us a classic self-loathing, compulsive child slayer.

53. Masculin Feminin (1966), aka Masculine Feminine, France/Sweden, directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Jean-Luc Godard's disarmingly sweet, intimate and blazingly smart exploration of The Mating Game. Even if the name Godard makes your temples pound, this movie can charm its way right up your leg.

54. Metropolis (1927), Germany, directed by Fritz Lang
Lang's antiquated vision of a dystopia ripped up at the roots by class warfare may not be sophisticated politics, but the sci-fi images of mob conduct and architectural madness remain unsurpassed. It's been plundered so often that even if you haven't seen it, you've sort of seen it. So really see it.

55. Le Million (1931), France, directed by Rene Clair
Rene Clair loved prettiness, song and music, comic confusion and Paris--they are all here in this delicious confection about young lovers in search of a winning lottery ticket.

56. Murmur of the Heart (1971), aka Le Souffle au Coeur or Dearest Love, Italy/W. Ger./France, directed by Louis Malle
Louis Malle's sunny, beautifully controlled comedy about the sensual coming-of-age of a 14-year-old, jazz-obsessed boy radiates the knowing, worldly sensuality of a good Colette yarn. The controversy at the time of the film's release about the theme of "incest" was pure flapdoodle--this is not what the movie's about. Still, Lord help sons if all mothers were as gorgeous and blithely sensual as Lea Massari.

57. Napoleon (1927), France, directed by Abel Gance
An eye-roasting epic of the type even David Lean never made. Abel Gance used every filmmaking trope in the book and then invented a few of his own. Keep an eye peeled for surrealist nutcase Antonin Artaud as Marat.

58. Night and Fog (1955), aka Nuit et Brouillard, France, directed by Alain Resnais
Yes, you've heard already--the concentration camps were a bad thing. But Alain Resnais's documentary on Auschwitz is only 31 minutes long--so you can make time.

59. The Night of the Shooting Stars (1982), aka La Notte di San Lorenzo or The Night of San Lorenzo, Italy, directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's wonder-working fable about a platoon of Italian peasants in the last days of WWII escaping their ravaged village in the night and searching for the liberating American forces. Filled with those lyrical, meaning-packed moments you could grow old, die, and turn to dust waiting to see in American movies.

60. 1900 (1976), aka Novecento, France/W. Ger./Italy, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
This is Bernardo Bertolucci's War and Peace. Robert De Niro, Gerard Depardieu, Dominique Sanda and Donald Sutherland amid Italy's political vomitings from the beginning of the century to the ill-fated rise of communism, all shot like a Flemish painting and laid out like a Parmesan wedding banquet.

61. Nosferatu (1922), aka Nosferatu - Eine Symphonie des Grauens or Nosferatu, The Vampire, Germany, directed by F. W. Murnau
F. W. Murnau's film of the Dracula tale was the first of its kind and is still the scariest, moodiest vampire film ever made. The original surrealists loved the famous title card that read, "When he crossed the bridge, the phantoms came to meet him." The bald, rat-faced Count Orlock is played by an actor named "Max Schreck," which in German translates as "maximum terror." Who this man really was is still a mystery.

62. La Notte (1961), aka The Night or La Nuit, France/Italy, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Antonioni's examination of the pathology of modern marriage, lust and alienation, all beheld in the space of a day. Jeanne Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni are the couple, and here is moviemaking as layered and complex as the best modern fiction.

63. Pandora's Box (1929), aka Lulu or Die Buechse der Pandora, Germany, directed by G. W. Pabst
Minor Hollywood actress went to Germany and became the supreme femme fatale, Lulu, in an adaptation of two of Franz Wedekind's plays. G.W. Pabst directed. Who she? She Louise Brooks--still undefeated champion of the lethal look.

64. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), aka La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, France, Carl Theodor Dreyer
Danish giant Carl Dreyer recreates a medieval tug-of-war between ignorant orthodoxy and human grace, almost entirely in close-ups. As Joan, Maria Falconetti will never be forgotten; look out for Antonin Artaud again as a sympathetic priest.

65. Persona (1966), aka Masks, Sweden, directed by Ingmar Bergman
An actresss (Liv Ullmann) stops speaking, on stage. In her breakdown, she is cared for by a nurse (Bibi Andersson). The nurse talks, acting up for the actress. Slowly, the characters become interwined, dependent, in love and full of enmity. This is Ingmar Bergman's most lucid analysis of the psyche that has to be an actor or audience, and both.

66. Pierrot le Fou (1965), aka Crazy Pete, France/Italy, directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Jean-Luc Godard's bitter homage to Hollywood, to painting, to the novel, to the South of France, and to his own wife, Anna Karina, who was leaving him when he made this film. This is Godard's adventure film--film noir in the blaze of noon. Godard deconstructed film in the '60s, and in ignoring him now we have all agreed to be blind, stupid and uneducated.

67. Playtime (1967), Italy/France, directed by Jacques Tati
Jacques Tati's Monsieur Hulot finds himself in the ultimate modern city. No one ever conceived or built sight gags with more care, and so these wondrous comic spectacles clash intriguingly with the determined, organized and humorless insanity of the city.

68. Raise the Red Lantern (1991), Taiwan/China/Hong Kong (UK), directed by Zhang Yimou
This color-drenched melodrama of a young concubine serves as a lesson in social order, love, resignation and the kinship of women. Zhang Yimou's film is part of the recent flowering of Chinese cinema, and Gong Li, his actress, is established here as one of the great stars.

69. Ran (1985), France/Japan, directed by Akira Kurosawa
Akira Kurosawa should have retired after this awesome transcription of King Lear (mixed with a little Macbeth), which, thank God, jettisons the texts and just tells a helluva story. The battle scenes will unhinge your jaw.

70. Rashomon (1950), aka In the Woods, Japan, directed by Akira Kurosawa
Four strange people in feudal Japan tell self-serving versions of the same incident: the rape of a nobleman's bride by a lusty outlaw and the subsequent death of the nobleman. A classic about no less a subject than the slipperiness of truth. Hollywood's remake was titled, aptly, The Outrage.

71. The Red and the White (1967), aka Csillagosok, katonak, Hungary/USSR, directed by Miklos Jancso
Bolsheviks and counter-revolutionaries battle it out in the hills along the Volga. Abstract and monolithic, and I mean that in a good way. Hungarian Miklos Jancso makes movies without characters but with crowds you can actually identify with. The power struggles of history are played out in mesmerizing, long, uncut tracking shots. A steamroller movie--it's visceral antidote to the easy homilies and melodrama of most antiwar films.

72. The Red Desert (1964), aka Il Deserto Rosso, France/Italy, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
It's Monica Vitti again on the verge of a nervous breakdown in Michelangelo Antonioni's painterly study of social disintegration, Italian-style. Depending on your mind's state, the movie's harrowing evocation and inspection of despair could soak into your bones, promote hilarity or send you scrambling for the nearest bottle of Prozac.

73. Repulsion (1965), UK, directed by Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski's jittery thriller takes a clinician's delight in documenting the process of a lonely, exquisitely beautiful manicurist (Catherine Deneuve) going nuts in her apartment. Queasiest moments: the dead rabbit, the hands coming out of the walls, and Deneuve slashing a guy to kingdom come. With its cool, crazy Chico Hamilton score, this is first-class Grand Guignol, tailor-made to watch with someone you love to grab.

74. Rocco and His Brothers (1960), aka Rocco e I Suoi Fratelli or Rocco et Ses Freres, France/Italy, directed by Luchino Visconti
Or, Why I'm Glad To Have Been an Only Child. In Luchino Visconti's sprawling saga (surely an influence on The Godfather), fate uproots and urbanizes a peasant mother and her five sons, most of whom go to hell in a handbasket in the big city. Tragic, wrenching, operatic.

75. La Roue (1923), France, directed by Abel Gance
Napoleon is Abel Gance's best known film because it has been restored and given a new musical score. But La Roue is at least as good, a love story about a locomotive driver. It's over-the-top, sentimental, yet it shows the passion of story, imagery and cutting in those early 1920s when the motion picture was the new craze.

76. The Rules of the Game (1939), aka La Regle du Jeu, France, directed by Jean Renoir
The working definition of tragicomedy (an un-American form based on the notion that nothing ever means only one thing). Europe in 1939. The edge of disaster as seen through the mishaps of a country house party. Jean Renoir directed and starred, playing the good-natured but bumbling friend to all and the helpless trigger of tragedy. Nearly 60 years later, this movie is years ahead of film today.

77. Sansho Dayu (1954), aka Sansho The Bailiff, Japan, directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
In 11th-century Japan, an exiled governor's wife gets sold into prostitution, his son and daughter into slavery. Director Kenji Mizoguchi knows no superior in using image and composition to express emotional profundities. If there is anywhere in film a sequence more throat-catching than the one in which the long-suffering son is reunited with his martyred mother, who is too far gone to remember him, bring it on.

78. Senso (1954), aka The Wanton Contessa, Italy, directed by Luchino Visconti
Luchino Visconti loved the 19th century--clothes, decor, opera, aristocratic ways, foppish men and doomed women--and all are in the tale of a fatal love between Farley Granger and Alida Valli.

79. The Seven Samurai (1954), aka Shichinin No Samurai or The Magnificent Seven, Japan, directed by Akira Kurosawa
A Japanese village of the 16th century is threatened by bandits. The villagers hire seven samurai. It starts to rain. Akira Kurosawa filmed it, and battle, swordplay, action and spectacle have never been the same again.

80. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1964), aka Tini Zabutykh Predkiv or Shadows of Our Ancestors, USSR/Ukraine, directed by Sergei Paradjanov
A Ukrainian epic set in the Carpathian Mountains, this landmark movie directed by Sergei Paradjanov feels like it was actually shot deep in the pagan, premovie past.

81. Shame (1968), aka Skammen, Sweden, directed by Ingmar Bergman
The Bergman movie for people who hate Bergman movies--no symbolism, no spiritual agony, just a very real husband and wife (Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann) trying to stay alive when war suddenly explodes right into their front yard (the country this takes place in is unspecified). What happens when you find a dead paratrooper hanging from a tree, and the woods near your house are in flames? A great war film for people whose country has never been invaded.

82. Shoah (1985), France, directed by Claude Lanzmann
Yes, you've been told this before--the concentration camps were a wicked thing. Still, Claude Lanzmann's documentary is only 8 1/2 hours, so you've got the time. So many lost theirs.

83. Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), aka Sommarnattens Leende, Sweden, directed by Ingmar Bergman
Ingmar Bergman, in an uncharacteristically Mozartian mood, sends in the clowns as pairs of mismatched lovers spark, misfire, scheme, wreak emotional havoc and, in the end, reconfigure. An elegantly witty, deeply moving work of tragicomic art, it inspired Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music. You may find its scalpel-like Scandinavian irony preferable to the self-satisfied Gallic schematics of La Ronde.

84. Solaris (1972), aka Solyaris, USSR, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
A forgotten space station's crew is haunted by their dead loved ones. In making this film, which includes the most heartrending antigravity scene in film history, Andrei Tarkovsky reinvented science fiction.

85. The Spider's Stratagem (Strategy) (1970), aka La Strategia del Ragno, Italy, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
The atmosphere is so cryptic and the behaviors so furtive in Bernardo Bertolucci's take on a Jorge Luis Borges short story that you find yourself as baffled as the hero investigating the 30-year-old slaying of his antifascist father. The star is a cipher, but Alida Valli supplies more than presence, even if she seems startled to realize she is no longer the sleek enchantress of The Third Man or The Paradine Case. The whole thing is so gorgeously color-drenched you may want to paint your walls in homage.

86. Spirit of the Beehive (1973), aka El Espiritu de la Colmena, Spain, directed by Victor Erice
Why aren't there more great movies about kids? Kid actors, for starters. This wonderfully insular movie about the power of imagination, a companion to Forbidden Games, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Night of the Hunter, presents dolefully radiant, poised Ana Torrent as a young girl who runs away from her village home in search of the Frankenstein monster after seeing the Boris Karloff movie for the first time. Torrent's resemblance to the little actress drowned by Karloff in the original only adds to the weirdness.

87. Strike (1924), aka Stachka, USSR, directed by Sergei Eisenstein
Sergei Eisenstein was a graphic artist on a par with Picasso, and a member of the experimental theater groups in the new Soviet Union. All these talents led him to film the new means of reaching the public through image, montage and symbol. And so for a few years Soviet cinema was on fire with its enthusiasm for an art of all the people.

88. Throne of Blood (1957), aka Kumonosu-jo or The Castle of the Spider's Web or Cobweb Castle, Japan, directed by Akira Kurosawa
Noh meets Shakespeare. Akira Kurosawa's samurai take on Macbeth is spooky, elemental, visceral. The bloodcurdling finale features Toshiro Mifune pierced, St. Sebastian-like, by arrows.

89. Through a Glass Darkly (1961), aka Sasom I En Spegel, Sweden, directed by Ingmar Bergman
A family vacations on a Swedish island, but the grown daughter (the astonishing Harriet Andersson) is a borderline schizo who has visions of God as a giant spider. Bergman goes for the throat.

90. Tokyo Story (1953), aka Tokyo Monogatari, Japan, directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Ozu's quietest, most devastating left hook, in which an elderly couple discover there's no room for them in their self-involved children's busy lives. Where other directors babble like brats, Ozu whispers like a wise man.

91. Tristana (1970), Spain/France/Italy, directed by Luis Bunuel
Luis Bunuel reunites with his belle de jour, Catherine Deneuve, in this less-famous, equally perverse mediation on sex, Catholicism, obsession, aging, Franco-ism and amputation. Deneuve is an implacably obscure object of desire both for her elderly guardian and for a young, studly suitor. The claustrophobic, Hollywood-spoofing perfection of the photography, sets and costumes only heightens the surrealistic kick.

92. Two English Girls (1971), aka Les Deux Anglaises et le Continent or Anne and Muriel, France, directed by Francois Truffaut
A young Frenchman goes to England and meets two sisters (both passionate, creative and tragically inclined). His love for them lasts over the years, as he shifts from one to the other. This is Francois Truffaut's most subtle work, pieced together out of fragments, but with underlying emotional patterns rising to the surface. With Jean-Pierre Leaud, Kika Markham and Stacey Tendeter. One of the great testaments to the elusiveness of happiness.

93. Ugetsu (1953), aka Ugetsu Monogatari or Tales of a Pale Moon After the Rain, Japan, directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
Kenji Mizoguchi's gentle but breathtaking medieval Japanese ghost story. Two fortune-seeking fools launch out into a chaotic world where chance, vanity and cruelty twist their destinies. The film is so ethereal and mysterious that every scene seems to take place in the corner of your eye.

94. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), aka Les Parapluies de Cherbourg or Die Regenschirme von Cherbourg, W. Ger./France, directed by Jacques Demy
Jacques Demy was the last filmmaker anywhere who made movies about nothing but the pleasure and grace of the medium. This is a love story in which all the dialogue is sung (to music by Michel Legrand). Enchanting, ravishing, and with Catherine Deneuve in that blush of youth that signaled the fairy princess. Demy is dead now, but surely he was the man who could have filmed Stephen Sondheim.

95. Vampyr (1931), aka The Vampire or Vampyr, Ou L'Etrange Aventure de David Gray, France/Germany, directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer
Dreyer does a vampire movie, more or less, and comes up with the equivalent of a choked nightmare endured with sleepwalking across the bottom of a stagnant lake. Jeepers. Creepers.

96. Viridiana (1961), Mexico/Spain, directed by Luis Bunuel
Luis Bunuel's scathingly funny, surrealist tale of a religious novice (Silvia Pinal) violated by her horny uncle (Fernando Rey) is a field day for lapsed Catholics. The Spanish master seldom wielded his impeccable technique, his anticlerical, antifascist savagery or his withering view of sexuality to such devastating effect. Favorite moment: the orgy of beggars staged as an obscene parody of the Last Supper.

97. Weekend (1967), France/Italy, directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Godard's apocalyptic vision of modern society, where life is one long traffic jam and a fender dent is reason enough to blow away the road hog who put it there. Cannibalism, Marxists, Emily Bronte sex--what more could you want?

98. Wings of Desire (1987), aka Der Himmel Uber Berlin, W. Ger./France, directed by Wim Wenders
Quotidian life in a wall-divided Berlin as seen through the eyes and ears of sympathetic angels in overcoats. A great, priceless gift to filmgoers, however shamelessly ripped off for that R.E.M. "Everybody Hurts" video, not to mention City of Angels.

99. The World of Apu (1959), aka Apur Sansar or Apu Sansat, India, directed by Satyajit Ray
The concluding part of the Apu Trilogy, in which the boy has grown and gone to the big city, Calcutta, and is married. Then comes tragedy and recovery. With this trilogy, Satyajit Ray made India a filmmaking nation for the rest of the world, and helped to show Western audiences the potential for a life of the spirit in the observation of a camera.

100. Zero de Conduit (1933), aka Zero for Conduct, France, directed by Jean Vigo
Jean Vigo's notorious, semisurreal paean to schoolyard anarchy. Four wild kids rebel against their boarding school's oppressive rules and end up provoking a full-scale revolution. A graceful, hilarious testament to the snot-nosed preteen in all of us.

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