A Shift in Taste...

Aaron Hose

Grip
Joined
Nov 10, 1999
Messages
17
You know, guys (and gals)...
I was sitting at home last weekend, thinking... why do I get suckered into, what is, essentially, the same kind of Hollywood movie, over and over again? Sure, I like to be entertained. But the fact of the matter is, "the formula is getting old." It's at a point now were I get sick to my stomach every time I see a trailer for the latest "action film with Matrix-style fight choreography" (cases in point: The One and The Musketeer). There was a time when I could not wait for Friday night, when I would be one of the first in line to catch that week's blockbuster release. Nowadays it's more like "Oh no... not another one of 'those'..." I mean, just look at this year's releases. Is there one, single, great movie that has been out there?
Sure, there were a number of very good ones... A.I. and Baby Boy come to mind. However, those were the only two Hollywood films that stood out (and B.B's budget wasn't even all that high). The two best films of the year so far IMO, Memento and The Road Home were smaller scale films ('TRH' being a foreign film that was made two years ago!) I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've started to (finally!) realize the superior quality of smaller films. Not just the smaller films, but foreign films as well.
About two weeks ago I discovered that my town had a quaint little video store that carried everything from obscure, cult horror classics to big-budgeted Hollywood films. And you wouldn't think that such a place existed for home video. I mean, believe it or not, but they have their films sorted out "by director" and "by country." So needless to say, I've been doing TONS of catching up on World Cinema. And the more films I rent from this store, the less I care about standing in line for the next "$100 million movie."
I had been waiting for an opportunity like this for a while now. There were so many great things that I had heard or read about so many of these "highly acclaimed films," that it was frustrating that I may never get a chance to actually see any of them unless I lived in one of the bigger U.S. cities. Well lucky for me.
Here are some of the films that I've seen in the past week:
The War Zone (uncut version) (*****/*****!!!)
Ju Dou (****/*****)
Farewell, My Concubine (****/*****)
Romance (***/*****)
To Live (****/*****)
Gates of Heaven (***/*****)
King of Masks (****/*****)
The Story of Qiu Ju (***/*****)
The Emperor and the Assassin (****/*****)
And the list just keeps growing. What baffles me is that there aren't a lot of foreign films discussed on this forum. From time to time I see one or two threads pop up, but generally it's all about reviewing or discussing the lastest Hollywood release. And that's all good. To each his own. But I'm just saying... it's very refreshing to see members like Edwin Pereyra, Holden Pike, and Mark Pfeiffer (and others whose names I can't quite remember right now), who have repeatedly expressed interest in "non-Hollywood cinema." I especially applaud Edwin's latest thread on "independent & foreign films" for paying close attention to the "forgotten and ignored" filmmakers. It's people like these-under the great leadership of Ron Epstein- that make visiting this most enjoyable forum part of my daily routine.

- A.
[Edited last by Aaron Hose on August 21, 2001 at 01:49 PM]
 

Mark Pfeiffer

Screenwriter
Joined
Jun 27, 1999
Messages
1,339
Aaron,
Glad to see you're finding some of these films. I started watching more of these types of films while in college. The local library had (and still has) a great collection, and that gave me easy, and free, access to a lot of things I might not have been so adventurous to watch if I was shelling out three bucks each time.
I have been a film critic for over four years now, and oftentimes these films are the ones that make seeing Tomb Raider, Say It Isn't So, American Outlaws, and others worth it. There was a really horrible stretch of mainstream films in the late winter and spring, and believe me, if it hadn't been for Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival, DVDs, and stuff like Memento, I would have gone crazy. (It also doesn't help that the last year or so of big releases have mostly stunk. I was hoping for mediocrity sometimes, but many aren't even providing that.)
Probably the "influential" films for me, as far as those that started to skew my tastes, would include Metropolitan and Barcelona (written and directed by Whit Stillman); Blue, White, and Red otherwise known as Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy; Pulp Fiction; Stranger Than Paradise; Ruby in Paradise; and The 400 Blows. (The only one of these I've reviewed on the site is Stranger Than Paradise. Sadly most are not available on DVD yet.)
Contrary to what many people believe critics think, I still would like for the big Hollywood pictures to be terrific. Unfortunately many of them haven't been recently, although one only need look back to Three Kings, American Beauty, Fight Club, and some of the others that were out in the fall/winter of 1999. The studios took some chances, and while not all of these were enormous successes, they have been given time to find audiences on video.
I'm running kind of long, but one more thing and I'll stop. I saw Brother, the new Takeshi Kitano film this morning. I was struck by the fact that it could be a small success with some elements of mainstream audiences if they had the opportunity to see it. It's not a great film, but for those people who like violent, hard boiled movies, I don't think it would disappoint. Problem is that it has no stars (sorry Omar Epps, you don't count, especially with your small role) and thus will never hit the multiplexes. It has only a limited ability to be a "hit" in the arthouses too. I don't doubt the clued in audience will come see it the first weekend or the second, if it lasts that long, and then it will be gone before others have a chance to find it. You have to be active in seeking out these kinds of movies because they're not going to find you.
Anyways, now that I've probably gone off topic, I'll wrap up by saying thanks for paying attention to what I have to say. (The only way I know people "hear" me is when I get feedback like this or get recognized around town.) It is gratifying to know that people value my opinion, whether they agree or not. What often drives me is letting others know about great films they may not be aware of, just like other critics or people on this forum have opened my eyes to films I haven't seen.
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Read my reviews at www.dvdmon.com
Most recent reviews: Diary of a Chambermaid: The Criterion Collection, Another Woman, September, Shadows and Fog, Alice, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Gray's Anatomy
Most recent column: One Hundred and Counting
 

Gary Tooze

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2000
Messages
3,055
What baffles me is that there aren't a lot of foreign films discussed on this forum...
Great to hear you say this... congratulations on expanding your film selections... Many of us who have discussed Foreign Films in the past ( Pascal, Jung Woo, DonaldB, Al Brown, myself etc. ) feel that our posts were getting absolutely no, or at least very little, response... we have a small ListServ group that you may be interested in joining ( contact me... we have up to 30 messages a day ), and alot of us have found a regular home at http://[email protected]
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Edwin Pereyra

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Oct 26, 1998
Messages
3,500
Aaron, thanks for the kind words. I myself have only scratched the surface as far as foreign films are concerned. Gary’s link to Pascal’s foreign film DVD releases is indeed, a great resource.
My “own shift in taste”, if you will, only began not too long ago. I take the time to research really obscure films, watch them, then read various comments by film scholars and historians. Sometimes, I don’t agree with them but that is all part of the learning process and having different tastes. It is only in the past few months that I’ve started posting here my thoughts on some of these films after spending more time studying them.
With the AFI Challenge in its last four months, it was time for me to tackle another challenge thus the creation of the Film Greats series. The films that are to be profiled weekly in that series will, for the most part, be lesser-known films but highly regarded by some. Once in a while, I will throw in some high profiled films into the mix. The next four films have already been chosen with my comments on them already started.
quote: What baffles me is that there aren't a lot of foreign films discussed on this forum.[/quote]
I can certainly attest to that. My last choice film, http://www.hometheaterforum.com/uub/Forum9/HTML/007396.html But that’s alright. Some of my posts are meant to inform not so much to be responded to sometimes.
But there is also Jung Woo’s http://www.hometheaterforum.com/uub/Forum9/HTML/004369.html
[Edited last by Edwin Pereyra on August 21, 2001 at 04:24 PM]
 

Aaron Hose

Grip
Joined
Nov 10, 1999
Messages
17
Well, this whole "shift" of mine had been happening gradually, but was fast-tracked by my recent involvement in a film that has been in development for about 4 years now. It's called Village in the Clouds, and is a documentary about a young Taiwanese-American who was brought up in the ways of the West, and who after the sudden death of his mother decides to take a trip to Taiwan to discover his cultural roots. And what he discovers is far beyond what he had imagined... a culture on the brink of disappearing forever.
I am one of two producers working on the film, and when shooting starts I will don the hat of director of photography. I have been working closely with the director and the subject of the documentary for about a year and a half now, and can honestly say that I have developed a growing appreciation for other cultures, especially those from the orient. The subject and his wife have taught me some very compelling stuff about Chinese and Taiwanese tradition. We hope to have the finances in place within the next two years and the film completed by 2003. Thank God we are starting to get some good feedback... we were recently placed on the "List of Finalists" for The Roy W. Dean Los Angeles Film & Video Grant", with a chance to win over $20,000 in services and goods. That would certainly make our shoot a whole lot easier.
One of the films that really skewed my taste was, oddly enough, not even a foreign film, but rather one that was overlooked by many critics... Wayne Wang's The Joy Luck Club. I have only recently seen it and can honestly say that it has become one of my all-time favorites. Since my first viewing of it, my interest in foreign films has increased ten-fold. Now, add the fact that I myself was brought up in a foreign country, and you get a better idea of where I'm coming from.

- A.
[Edited last by Aaron Hose on August 21, 2001 at 04:49 PM]
 

Randall Dorr

Second Unit
Joined
Dec 11, 2000
Messages
267
If I can make a few recommendations:
Breaking the Waves. My All Time Favorite.
(It was on both Roger Ebert's and Martin Scorsese's top ten lists for the 1990's.)
Insomnia. Great film from Norway with Stellan Skarsgard.
The Night Porter. Not a horror film, but damn horrific all the same.
And anything by:
Lars von Trier
Alejandro Jodorowsky
Werner Herzog
Andrei Tarkovsky
Krzysztof Kieslowski
Guy Maddin
Atom Egoyan
Jan Svankmajer
Michael Powell
Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Alejandro Amenabar
 

Gary Tooze

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2000
Messages
3,055

Christian Behrens

Supporting Actor
Joined
Mar 2, 2000
Messages
714
Location
SF Bay Area
Real Name
Christian Behrens
Yes, speaking of foreign films: was "The Closet" (Le Placard) discussed here at all yet? I didn't see anything. But I thought it was hilarious...

-Christian
[Edited last by Christian Behrens on August 22, 2001 at 05:25 PM]
 

Dave L

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Jan 20, 2000
Messages
101
Also saw "The Closet" last weekend. Very funny at times with some pointed illustrations of how people's perceptions change when they think they know something about a person that they didn't know before. Suddenly he walks differently and he looks at people differently. Reminded me a bit of a diversity training film I saw in which the same scene and same lines were played first by a white man, then a woman, and then a minority. Viewers had completely different takes on each scene based only on their own prejudices.
Depardieu was excellent as was Auteil. Took me awhile to remember that Auteil played opposite Juliette Binoche in "The Widow of St. Pierre" earlier this year. Nice range for an actor, as convincing in the drama as he was in the comedy.
I'm sure there are quite a few HT people who like and would like to discuss foreign films. Just need to find a way to flag the discussions.
 

Tom Rhea

Second Unit
Joined
Jul 31, 2000
Messages
292
>>My last choice film, My Life As A Dog , a foreign one, generated no responses. Zero, zilch, nada. But that’s alright. Some of my posts are meant to inform not so much to be responded to sometimes.
 

SteveGon

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2000
Messages
12,251
Real Name
Steve Gonzales
I can certainly attest to that. My last choice film, My Life As A Dog , a foreign one, generated no responses. Zero, zilch, nada
I know the feeling! Not one person responded to my thread on Icelandic director Fridrik Thor Fridriksson. Is he really that obscure?
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Bruce Hedtke

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jul 11, 1999
Messages
2,249
I wish I could shift my taste. No arthouses around here, only cineplexes and you are right, it gets very tiresome to watch only the big-budget Hollywood films with no chance to see reissues or independent films...well, not no chance, but a very greatly diminished one. I was pretty much floored when Memento actually showed up here. But that took write ups in movie mags and strong consumer attendence to get it here. What about seeing something coming out of Shooting Gallery or even, god forbid!, foreign cinema? I generally don't like larger cities but this is one instance I wish I could have that perk. But, I have been a foreign film fan for quite awhile now. I may not have been able to see as much as someone who is "dedicated" because of time and work, but if I have a choice, it's no contest. I almost always choose a foreign film to watch.
Bruce
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Gary Tooze

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2000
Messages
3,055
SteveGon, I disagree with your statement.
Emmanuelle Beart should come and live with me in Troy, Ohio USA
This is incorrect. Emmanuelle, the 2nd most beautiful woman in the world, should be residing with myself in Toronto, Canada ( we have a better film festival than Troy ! )
..and she should bring Maggie Chueng with her over from Paris...
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[Edited last by Gary Tooze on August 24, 2001 at 11:52 AM]
 

SteveGon

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2000
Messages
12,251
Real Name
Steve Gonzales
This is incorrect. Emmanuelle, the 2nd most beautiful woman in the world, should be residing with myself in Toronto, Canada ( we have a better film festival than Troy ! )
The 2nd most beautiful woman in the world? Such blasphemy! This is the ultra-babe goddess of the universe we're talkin' about! And if Emmy (as I like to call her), DID come to live with you, what would your wife say? You are correct in that Toronto has a better film festival than Troy - heck, we don't even HAVE a film festival! We do have a couple of crappy theaters but it doesn't really matter - if Emmy did come and live with me, we wouldn't be leaving the house much...

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"Death's at the bottom of everything, Martins - leave death to the professionals!"
"Mind if I use that line in my next Western?"
 

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