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Category:    Home > Essays > Foreign FIlms > Restoration > Classics > Large Frame Format > Ten Great Foreign-Language Films That Should Be Issued In Blu-ray Disc Now!

Ten Great Foreign-Language Films That Should Be Issued In Blu-ray Disc Now!



Despite so many of the greatest films ever made being in other languages, many people in the U.S. (and I bet vice-versa in other parts of the world, despite how popular Hollywood fare is) do not want to watch anything with subtitles.  Why?


Besides the poor presentation of so many imports, picture and sound wise, as well as cinematic illiteracy even in our colleges, there is the myth of pretension that we have seen from hit beer commercials to other gags and assumed attitudes.  Some in Hollywood who want their product to dominate also would like to keep it that way enough, even when the studios import.


In real life, different countries that have cinemas produce all kinds of films, some are innovative, some are forgettable, some try to imitate Hollywood and some are innovative groundbreakers.  With Blu-ray the cream of the crop in High Definition playback, there is a new opportunity for many to discover and rediscover some great films because they will be able to see and hear them with fidelity that rivals the local arthouse.  It is amazing that hardly any foreign films have been issued in either format in nearly two years.


The following choices are not the typical obvious film school world cinema favorites, though some of them would fit that.  Instead, this list only includes widescreen productions, by-passing hundreds of key classics and offers favorites and/or rarities that are the kind of films that are as substantial as they are visually superior.


Yes, classics from big names like Pasolini, Rossellini, Chabrol, Tarkovsky, Fassbinder, Eisenstein and Lang, the later two of whom did not like widescreen to begin with, are not included.  What is here are films long overdue for release in general, are landmarks and are not just dramas, but films of all types and genres.  By passing on obvious choices and emphasizing the often underappreciated, as well as little-known, we hope you will find this list as valuable as the previous ones:



Akira (1988) – Long after computer animated features have become commonplace and some have even been good, Katsuhiro Otomo’s masterwork proves that America may have created the art form, but they are not the only one’s who can pull it off.  The film also proves that hand drawn animation can go a few rounds with its younger CG sister anytime and is far from dead.  The tale of bike gangs in Neo-Tokyo and strange happenings about to take place has aged extremely well and is a must-see.  The new edition may not have a ton of extras, but in Japanese, it is now the definitive edition of the film on Blu-ray:




The Bride Wore Black (1967) – Francois Truffaut’s followed the great director’s film of Fahrenheit 451 as he permanently switched back to French in this brilliant thriller about a newlywed (Jeanne Moreau) who instantly becomes newly widowed and intends to do something about it.  Not a simple revenge thriller, it is one of the greatest of all Hitchcockian-styled thrillers not by the master himself, complete with a powerful score by Bernard Herrmann.  Raoul Coutard’s cinematography is amazing and the use of color superior.

J’Taime, J’Taime (1968) – The greatest time travel film you have never seen, the only thing more complex that the actual chronological layout of Alain Resnais’ film is the complexity of the characters, their lives, mortality and experiences.  So much so that no one since has attempted to either remake or rip-off the film, while it has never seen a U.S. home video release of any kind.  It is just screaming for the high definition treatment and Science Fiction fans in particular would love it.


Lola Montes (1955) – One of the earliest, most innovative and groundbreaking uses of the widescreen scope format, Max Ophuls’ last film helped to put CinemaScope on the map worldwide and is from one of the few director’s Stanley Kubrick ever publicly expressed admiration for.  In it, a beautiful woman in the circus circuit (Martine Carol) manages to affect the men around her (played by no less than Peter Ustinov, Oskar Werner, Anton Walbrook) in ways that are as vibrant as they are cold, split by the gaudiness of the somewhat fake world they inhabit.  This film was being restored until the director’s son Marcel Ophuls objected by not being consulted and had the “restoration” (in what is now old HD) halted.  UPDATE: Criterion has issued a Blu-ray and though we did not review it.


Love Film (aka Szerelmesfilm/1970) –Istvan Szabo’s starkly honest film about male/female relationships is one of the smartest, most mature and most striking films ever made on the subject, as we witness a couple fall deeply in love only to see the ways this can and cannot last.  An amazing achievement, it remains far ahead of its time and Szabo’s greatest film, including some of the strongest, most vivid cinematography you will ever see in such a film by Jozsef Lorinc and a carefully thought out score by Janos Gonda that includes impressive (and impressive choices) of Classical pieces like nothing outside of Kubrick’s work.  On Blu-ray, it would be almost impossible to turn away.


Made In U.S.A. (1966) – One of Jean-Luc Godard’s boldest film has never been issued in the U.S. as writer Donald E. Westlake won an injunction against it as an unauthorized adaptation of one of his novels, but since we first posted this list, the film was issued in the U.S, after Westlake’s death and is now a Criterion DVD release.  It is still a clever enough political/detective/Film Noir where the famed director shows his growing political Maoist side before it overtakes him, but inadvertently shows the early beginnings of neo-Conservatism in the U.S. with Anna Karina as Paula Nelson (in the male detective role, reflected in her Avengers Spy look) along with actors as top political figures and Marianne Faithful singing As Tears Go By.  In Techniscope and EastmanColor, a strong Blu-ray release of this film would be a revelation and we’ll see how good the Blu-ray and DVD looks in the meantime.


PlayTime (1967) – Hollywood produced more and more great large frame format films that anyone else (followed by The Soviet Union, with far less success) but up there with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Lawrence Of Arabia is Jacques Tati’s all-time comedy masterpiece featuring his existential hero/cloud Monsieur Hulot.  A group of American tourists arrive in ultra modern France and so does Hulot, both of whom are in for a crazy time as Tati brings on his most hilarious clash of people and technology in the peak of his Hulot films.  Not a hit in its time, it has finally been restored and though I was not very happy with Criterion’s two U.S. DVD releases, they issued a Blu-ray that made all versions obsolete.  You can read more about it at this link:




Here is the import Blu-ray version from BFI in England:





The Red Desert (1964) - Michelangelo Antonioni went from commercial filmmaking to being a major Italian Neo-Realist figure.  After a set of stunning black and white classics in the genre, this was Antonioni’s first full color film and wow, did he go all out.  This included painting entire walls and buildings to get the desired color instead of settling for second-best with bad lab work (which we still see today, even if it is digital) as Monica Vitti plays a woman increasingly disconnected with the world around her.  DVDs have been few on this one and hardly stay in print.  A solid version on Blu-ray disc would fare better.  Also, previous releases have been monophonic, but some posters boast it as having something called ElectroSound150.  If such a mix exists, especially if it is stereophonic, that would help make for a fine upgrade and restoration of a film that deserves it.  Since we wrote this, BFI has issued it in England and Criterion finally issued a Blu-ray in the U.S. that we covered at this link:





Super Inframan (1975) – Quentin Tarantino has put The Shaw Brothers back on the map, but outside of their best Martial Arts Cycle films of the 1960s and 1970s, no film they have backed endures more than Hua Shan’s zanily directed Superhero-battles-monster/villain fest that is as much satire as it is dark commentary in its original Hong Kong version.  This has been recently restored like many of the Shaw titles and in High Definition, would fit perfectly with Blu-ray discs already issued of Spider-Man, Batman and Superman.  What would this list be without a genre film anyhow?  You can read more about it at this link:





301/302 (1995) – No Korean thriller, or any other Asian thriller in decades, can touch Chul-Soo Park’s tale of two very different female residents who befriend each other at first, until the issue of food comes between them.  One has major issues eating anything, the other could land a series on Food Network as a cook.  Then things get slowly, increasingly bizarre.  Shot in the rarely-used-but-amazing Agfa Color film stock, this would quickly become a Blu-ray disc favorite for anyone who saw it.  You can read more about it at this link:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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