Foreign VS American Film Quality Overall

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Shawn_McD, Nov 30, 2004.

  1. Shawn_McD

    Shawn_McD Stunt Coordinator

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    Lately i've been collecting foreign films from other countries, France, England, China, Vietnam, India, Russia...etc.

    I've noticed compared to american films they lack a higher budget for effects, props, etc. Maybe some of the actors arent as charismatic. As of late though, I've noticed the HK/Chinese films have come to equal par with American film, to the point where they are just DIFFERENT. They have good actors, good sets, good budgets. Now once in awhile you get a good gem liek Amelie or something from a country, but typically most of their movies are under the par.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Terms like "American film" and "foreign film" are too imprecise to allow for meaningful generalization. We live in a world in which the major motion picture studios belong to global corporate enterprises, non-U.S. entities often finance big-budget English-language films (either in whole or in part), production of major motion pictures is just as likely to occur outside the U.S. as in, and foreign-language films are more and more being released by the "specialty" branches of mainstream studios.

    A recent example of how blurred the boundaries have become is the ruling by French authorities that A Very Long Engagement can't compete in French film festivals despite being based on a French novel, set in France, made in France by a French director, crew and cast, etc. -- all because it was financed by Time Warner.

    And besides, if budget guaranteed quality, Howard the Duck would be a masterpiece.

    M.
     
  3. Amy Mormino

    Amy Mormino Supporting Actor

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    Some people claim that foreign movies are better than Hollywood ones, but I suspect that there is an equal ratio of crap to mediocre to bad ones in every country. The States just tends to receive the best-received foreign films, so some people think they're better. The Hong Kong film industry tends to be fairly well-funded and attracts a wide audience, so it produces more distinguished films than other countries.

    That said, I do admire how some foreign film industries have set themselves up to compete with Hollywood by offering alternative movies that either delve deeper into native cultural ideas or push the envelope further. The Korean film industry is a good example. Be sure to give Old Boy a show when it comes to the States and see an inexpensive but fresh and uniquely Korean vision.
     
  4. Bob Turnbull

    Bob Turnbull Supporting Actor

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    Though my immediate reaction to that statement was to exclaim (using my inner voice) "That's just wrong!", I don't know what films you've seen, what genres and styles you're looking for and what your general preferences are. I certainly wouldn't be justified in telling you your opinion is wrong.

    Having said that, I think your generalized statement just isn't fair. There's a plethora of amazing foreign language films out there. I find I'm watching more of them lately, simply because I'm trying to "catch up" on what I've missed and because I'm looking for some different approaches. As you mentioned with much of Hong Kong action films, they are indeed very entertaining and vibrant. But look at a film like Run Lola Run (German). Certainly not a big budget, but it's a non-stop ride from start to finish.

    You mentioned that you've collected/watched a number of films from other countries as well. Do you have some examples? Are they mostly in the action genre or spread out? No criticism here, just curiosity.

    For films that don't require the large budgets, you'll find dramas/thrillers/mysteries/comedies that are absolutely on a par with quality American films (of ocurse, depending on your tastes). The quirkiness of a few recent Scandinavian films (Kitchen Stories, Songs From The Second Floor, Noi), the early years of German expressionism (which was very influential to many Hollywood filmmakers), the eerie feel of some recent Japanese horror (Ju-On, Ringu, etc. - many being remade in the U.S.) and on and on. All use creative filmmaking techniques that may or may not require significant portions of their budgets, but lend a great deal of originality to the films.

    As Amy said, you'll probably find an awful lot of crap as well as gold in any language or genre you choose to delve into. But the nuggets are definitely worth it.
     
  5. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    Some foreign directors who come to Hollywood have done more interesting and successful work in their home countries. Like John Woo--although I haven't seen Windtalkers or Paycheck, neither of them looked all that good from what I could tell from reviews and word-of-mouth, especially not Paycheck. And while I thought Face/Off was OK, I think anyone who prefers it to Hard-Boiled, Woo's earlier HK masterpiece, is smoking something very powerful.
     
  6. Andy Sheets

    Andy Sheets Cinematographer

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    That's what friends from other countries that I've had over the years have told me. The problem from their point of view was that because Hollywood films have more marketing money behind them, crap from Hollywood is harder to ignore than crap from everywhere else [​IMG]
     
  7. Shawn_McD

    Shawn_McD Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the comments guys, it may be just being in America we only see the real good stuff. I appreciate all Film, I'd just liek to further state I love the Asian film industry and where its heading.
     
  8. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    Keep in mind some aspects of cinema history.

    1) Italy, France and Germany (to a lesser extent) used to excede the US in terms of popularity, production house quality, and even budgets. Part of the inspiration to make Birth of a Nation such a long film was to compete with the popularity of the Italian epic Cabiria which was very popular and perhaps the first popular film running past 2-4 reels. And I mean popular in the US.

    WWI helped put these industries in a rut, as well as the improved efforts by the US to compete. However, due to the odd inflation situation created in Germany, the Expressionist era featured many films with large budgets and for a short time it was a very good place to get films financed. This produced classics like Nosferatu and Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

    France's Pathe films was also a strong player right from the start.

    2) Studios like Universal often co-sponsered film production globally, especially with studios like Germany's UFA. They also cherry picked the best artists (not just directors, but writers, cinematographers and even actors) to come to America in improve their own studio's quality.

    A film like Metropolis features an incredible amount of interaction between the Germans and US, people spending a year in the other country learning and sharing techniques, etc. The first Best Pix Oscar winner (in the one time only "Artistic Effort" category) Sunrise was primarily a German film made for a US producer (William Fox) who wanted to gain prestige with a more artistic film (mission accomplished).

    So much of what has grown into modern "US standards" is actually built on the backs of foreign artists (like Lubitsch or Lang) or directors partially trained in foreign studios (like Hitchcock).


    3) WW2 again really set film industries in Italy, Germany, and France back. Rosselini made things like Open City on a shoestring budget not because of what cinema meant to Italians, but because of the economic situation.

    4) Before and after WW2 the US fell into the studio system, though Italia Studios had first used a basic version of the concept. Foreign markets were not strong enough, outside of England, to carry such studios to this extent. (might be unfair to a place like Pathe, I'm not sure how strong they were by this point)

    5) US studios always had in their interest the supression of foreign films being distributed as competition in the US market. Keep in mind that during the Studio Era the movie theaters and movie studios were the same company and the studio's job was to keep the company's theaters filled. There was little incentive to promote foreign competition.

    6) Because of the fallout of WW2 you saw movements like Neo-Realism and New Wave that were intended to carry on this low budget style. It became the thing to do artistically because people reacted to the unique look and message the films brought.

    7) Because US films couldn't reach foreign markets during WW2, there was a glut of big studio hits that the US pushed into these markets which further damaged the strength of the national studios in countries like France and Italy.


    So by the 50's and 60's the US (and to a lesser degree England) had a firm grip on the marketplace. That leaves more money to spend on things like Cleopatra.

    But with globalization we have seen, as others pointed out, an intermixing of funding that blurs the boundries, as well as a strong growth with foreign markets. This allows for big budget productions out of foreign markets full of the slick looks and acting stars that are common in the US.


    I would point to films like Kielowski's trilogy Blue, White, Red or the recent action hit Brotherhood of the Wolf as examples of the quality of production you mention. The quality of the film remains tied to the artistic ability, the script, etc, but in terms of "professional look" the films I mentioned are but a few of the foreign films that look like they came out of a US/British studio.


    And then you have things like Bollywood which is big business and does involve lots of money, but which caters to an audience to such a degree that most of the films resemble the B-pictures of the US Studio Era. This is natural since they serve a similar function of being basically accessible, giving the audiences the core items they want, and giving them something to do for a couple of hours.

    Comparing typical Bollywood to Hollywood is culturally unfair because they have different target audiences.
     
  9. Eric.

    Eric. Stunt Coordinator

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    I find your post a bit confusing Shawn.Saying movies from other countries are not up to par with American films i find ridiculous.If anything the reverse is true because otherwise why is Hollywood so obsessed with grabbing the remake rights to every good foreign movie out there.Higher budgets and slicker production values dosen't mean a better film to me.As of this moment if i was to sort thru my top ten movies of the year so far i can tell you that there is probably only three American movies there while all the truly sensational movies i have seen have come from non English countries.
    Thank god for the great original filmmakers that have not sold out to the Hollywood system because they have kept this year alive and truly the greatest year of my life as a film lover.[​IMG]
     
  10. Adam Portrais

    Adam Portrais Stunt Coordinator

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    First off I have to say that I would love to see more topics like this around these boards (as long as we can all share our thoughts in a respectful manner we can "fight" all we want).

    I think that threre is some truth in what Shawn says, but I think that the problem (if you can call it that) lies elsewhere.

    It seems to me (esspecialy in America) that from the, what I like to call "culteral/cinema elete," there is an unabashed love of foreign movies. But I think that often that love is either a put-on or it's misplaced. Today we have tryed to soficticate the hell out of ourselves. If it's not sleek, thought provoking or on the edge it's somehow bad. Many of these culteral/cinema elete can't enjoy a movie to save their lives. They walk into the theater and before they see frame one they have a bad opnion of what the movie is or they sit prepared to pick apart every little thing in it. How can you enjoy a movie if all you want to do is anlyise it and break it down? When did we stop having fun?

    Another thing I have noticed about the cutlural/cinema elite is that nearly any foreign film can do no wrong (of course this is not always the case but look for a "high and mighty" film critic and see how many foreign films he/she has given a bad review to). I belive that often times people think that if someone speaks another language and they have to read that somehow the people presenting it must know more then they do (I mean they are speaking another language). Now some will baulk at this statement but let me say that most who would object to what I have said would never admit to themselves that they actually do feel this way (their own mindset prevents them from doing so).

    If an American film has a plot that is weak, bad acting and doesn't make scence we say "That's crap, how could they make this?" But conversely if a foreign film suffers from the same it's often called "smart", "creative" or "on the edge of brillant filmmaking." Why is that? I think it's the culteral/cinema elite coming on again. "It's foreign and I'm just not smart enough to get what they're trying to say. If it's from another county and I can't understand it it must me great." Again, why is that? If you don't understand it, maybe it's bad filmmaking. Maybe the filmmaker was tying to get something across but failed to (if that happened with an American film, people would bash it to no end). And what about acting? Let's face it, when most of us see a foreign film we don't speak the language of the film we are seeing. Now I don't want to assume anything but how do you know that the acting is good? I know you can see the look on their face but facial expressions only don't account for good acting. If you don't speak the language how do you know their acting is up to par with someone who acts speaking the same language as you do? (don't put me off, I really want to know)

    Don't get me wrong I love a good foreign film just as much as the next guy but I do feel (that even with my lack of knowlege in foreign films) that American films do have better attributes. Do I dislike foreign films? Hell no, I love them. But I think that growing up in America we become acustomed to what we watch and the culture that we observe. We should go out and seek out other types of films from all over the world and learn how other cultures live and what motivates them to make the movies that they do. But remember were you came from and please remember to have fun because no matter what movie from whatever county you are from the whole reason that we go to see movies, be it to laugh, cry or learn it's for entertainment and we should enjoy it.


    Thanks,
    Adam
     
  11. JonZ

    JonZ Lead Actor

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    I think foreign films are just more open to ideas.

    Could a film like Irreversible or Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.. and Spring be made in Hollywood?

    No,which is why we should be thankful for Independent film[​IMG]
     
  12. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Producer

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    I like Japanese animation. Although American productions have started to copy the visual style somewhat, they're still not willing to touch the narrative style, subject matter, &c. Even a supposedly "edgy" American animation like Heavy Metal contains a lot of "ooh, look at us, we're animating naked chicks!" type of material, and there is no real attempt to make a movie out of it. This is not to say that there is not plenty of good American animation, because there is; but much of it leaves me rather cold, or rolling my eyes at the kind of pablum they want to feed children. I have to say I'm not all that fond of French animation either.
    As a side note, Japanese children's programming does not always feel compelled to sidle gingerly around the kinds of things which make American producers uneasy. Smoking, teen sex, the fact that violence actually hurts or kills people -- even a show like Yu-gi-oh will look these square in the eye if it has to.
     
  13. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    1. if i want big-budget action, i'll watch hollywood.
    2. if i want a story, i'll watch foreign

    [​IMG]

    -----

    to touch a little more, i'm *very* thankful for foreign films. i can't think of a better place for movies that have a great plot, engaging characters, etc. for some reason, it just seems that foreign films pull this off better then hollywood. of course that's not a stead-fast rule, just my take on it. i couldn't agree more. my friend used to say that when poor people do weird stuff, it's called "crazy", but when rich people do it they're being "eccentric". [​IMG]
     
  14. Bob Turnbull

    Bob Turnbull Supporting Actor

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    Yep, and I get a great deal of enjoyment (sometimes thought provoking and sometimes pure stupid) from film. All kinds. I'm glad you do too.
     
  15. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Can you give some examples?

    M.
     
  16. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    I don't know how much of a foreign film's 'low budget' or 'less polished' look and feel is actually because their standards are any different than ours.

    Let me offer several examples:
    Tampopo - feels like they made the film that they wanted to make. Unfortunately, the R1 release looks like it was bounced to Umatic once and then dragged through the gutters.. the DVD is terrible!

    Le Bra - the overall picture quality is miles above Tampopo, but the subtitles! Ye gods! What language were they written in?

    Here we have two films that are, in their own rights, gems of cinema. Yet a common American opinion might be, "junk!" because the video release was... mishandled so badly. Why? Different question.

    On the other hand, take Le Bouche. I mention it largely because we had it out again last night (by accident.) Nice movie, excellent video quality. The general video viewer may be inclined to give it a higher overall rating, merely from technical presentation over here.

    Bad dubs can kill a film. A lot of people refuse to 'read' films. Bad subtitles can really hurt, too.

    Beyond all of this, well, then comes some other factors, I think: a lot of the weaker stuff has already been filtered out.

    Now, with respect to Asian cinema, or, at least Japanese and Hong Kong, there is a fundamental philosophical difference that I find... interesting.

    I like the fact that in many Asian films, the good guy is generally flawed, and the bad guy isn't required to be really 'bad.' Our 'hero' might actually be a bad guy, but doing something good because of the situation. And bad things happen to good people, too - and not because the story requires it, but because.. life happenes.

    I think it's getting too late; I'm loosing whatever thread I had...

    Leo
     
  17. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    True, but then would a film like Die Hard be made in France, even if they had the budget?

    And when you think about it a film like Solaris was remade in Hollywood and with very little compromise made toward acceptability. Yes, I understand that it didn't have the languid pace of the original, but it was still a film centered on contemplative introspection rather than action, and it had a very ambigious ending.

    Plus, remember that Hollywood has supported films such as The Hours and Chicago. Chicago is a great example because the anti-heros win, it is both non-Hollywood due to bad girls winning and non-European due to the upbeat, happy ending. I'm not sure foreign artists would have supported a film like that.

    Its been pointed out by several of us in this forum that other nationalities have their own types of films, endings they prefer, etc. For those of us constantly surrounded by US and British efforts, the sensibilities of these foreign films can seem fresh (or offputting if you don't like the difference), but I assure you that from within those markets its general "more of the same old" rather than fresh and creative.



    For me foreign films are not better or worse, but simply different.


    edit - and when you think about it, there is a reason why Jerry Lewis films were so popular in France. Moreso than in the US even. He brought them something that French cinema wasn't and his humor probably played a lot more fresh than in the US where such films are far more common.
     
  18. JonZ

    JonZ Lead Actor

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    Seth,
    I was just saying that alot of people who complain about the formulas and lack or originality in Hollywood always have Independents.

    Mulholland Drive,Memento,Lost in Translation,Requiem For A Dream and so on.

    I dont think one is better than the other either.There are still alot of great films that come out of Hollywood.

    Its like anything else on the market - most of it is crap.
    You just have to find the good stuff[​IMG]
     
  19. Sami Kallio

    Sami Kallio Screenwriter

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    That is true in most cases but there are still quite a few good ones coming from Hollywood. A lot of movies have what we call the "Hollywood effect" that makes most movies alike, and give the audience a polished look and a happy ending. I might be flamed for this but "Saving Private Ryan" could have been a great movie if it wasn't for the way Hollywood tends to tells the story. Maybe they should have had a more rough story to tell as an alternative. I still enjoyd it and it was a good movie.

    Better submarine movie, U-571 vs Das Boot? No comparison, Das Boot by a boatload of depth charges.
     
  20. Marc Colella

    Marc Colella Cinematographer

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    I prefer foreign films to Hollywood films by a mile.

    That's not to say there aren't any good Hollywood film, but they are rare.
    Most of the American films I enjoy are independent.

    There are bad foreign films without doubt, but even so - I find a bad foreign film to be much better and less insulting than a bad Hollywood picture.
    Usually with bad foreign films you can appreciate the effort and it's attempt at being different.
     

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