Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Polyglot’s Guide to Foreign Films, Part 1: How to Select a Film

Selecting a foreign film to watch is trickier than picking a movie in your native tongue.  My virtue of it being in another language, a foreign film places greater time and intellectual demands on its viewers than the traditional (trite) Hollywood fare.  As such, it is especially important that you make an informed choice when selecting a film. 

Here are some suggestions for helping you pick a foreign film to fit your personal taste.

Stick to Your Interests: When you’re looking for a film that will pique your interests, it is best to start with a culture that you already have an affinity for or a film in a language you studied in high school or college.  If you start investigating films that are connected to your pre-existing interests, you are more likely to have an affinity for the movie and to actually finish the movie!

Ask Your Friends: Ask among your friends if there are any foreign films they have seen and enjoyed.  Your friends know you (duh) and they could tell you if the film would be to your taste or not.  If you are able to get a buddy’s assessment early in your search, you will save yourself a lot of time in the long run. 

Netflix Recommendations: Say what you will about the service, Netflix’s “Taste Profile” and “Recommendations” pagers are a quick way to get recommendations based on what you have watched and rated in the past.  Granted, the recommendations are not without fault (mine says I’d love The Human Centipedeum NO!), but it is a good place to begin or continue you search.

Browse Through the Criterion Collection’s Catalog: Criterion is one of the world’s leading distributors of classic and contemporary films.  You can search the Criterion website for films of interest and limit your query by director, country, and decade.  Some of criterion’s films are also available in VOD for Hulu Plus subscribers.

Read Reviews: Once you have found a couple of contenders, I suggest reading some reviews (sans spoilers) and user ratings on the Internet Movie Database.  If you are particularly sensitive about certain issues, IMDB will help you identify them before you encounter them on screen.

Warning: Don’t Rely on Best of Lists: Entertainment magazines and niche sites love to compile lists of “best” films.  While many films on these lists are well regarded by critics and audiences alike, their inclusion on a list doesn’t mean that you will enjoy the movie yourself.  If you consult a “Best” list, make sure to do some more digging before you watch.

Do you have any tips for selecting foreign films to watch?

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