World Cinema: Not Just in English

As American moviegoers, we often like to stay in our comfort zone of what is familiar to us as far as our cinema experience goes.

Whether you enjoy action, comedy, or romance, you probably are watching American movies with American slants and messages that are in accordant to mainstream American culture.

So naturally, we have a bias when it comes to viewing something that was made in Hollywood over a movie that was made in Bollywood (India).

Language barriers can also be a turn off because honestly who wants to read during an entire movie?

But sitting down and getting past the subtitles of a foreign film can be beneficial in seeing the world from a different perspective.

It also gives another country a chance to tell their side of the story artistically and world events that you may not have heard in their historical context.

Watching a foreign flick could also give you an appreciation for aesthetics and different filming and editing techniques, as in the chaotic camera movements that symbolize Cuban frustration and struggle in the events leading up to Castro’s revolution in I am Cuba (Soy Cuba), which was ironically shot by Russian Director Mikhail Kalatozov.

Yet, melodramatic films like these can also serve as evidence for propaganda under the guise of “national cinema,” leaving the viewer to question where truth is consistent and where it is stretched in not only foreign films, but those made in the U.S. as well.

But if you’re not in a world cinema class like I am and do not have time to delve into great imported cinema here are a few recommendations:

Photo credit: Anthony Estrada 3 Iron, (Empty House)
Photo credit: Anthony Estrada 3 Iron, (Empty House)

1. 3 Iron (Empty House) (2004), is a Korean romance film about a young man who tapes menus to door knobs and lives in unoccupied dwellings while the owners are gone or are on vacation. American audiences will be glad to know that this is a heavily visual film (Not a lot of subtitles in this one).

2. Stalker (1979) is a Russian science-fiction/quest that follows a “Stalker” (guide) as he leads a writer and a scientist into the “Zone” where a man’s most inner desires can come true.

3.  Rome, Open City (1945), is an Italian war drama that gives insight of Rome during Nazi occupation in 1944.

4.      Red Tent (1969), an Italian/Russian co-production that demonstrates the national pride and attention that surrounded the fatal 1928 Italian expedition to the North Pole. This film was made in Russian, Italian and English and even features Sean Connery (James Bond himself) to entice American moviegoers, though possibly due to Cold War tensions was overlooked.

5.      I Am Cuba (1964), a Russian/Cuban co-production as mentioned above, is about the Cuban revolution against Batista, but also features highly noted long camera shots before cuts are made.  

Though, these movies are influenced by the magic of Hollywood, it is interesting to see how other countries express themselves with the medium. Which can be just as ambitious and entertaining as any American-made film.

Horror for Halloween

With Halloween just around the corner, what better way to celebrate this beloved childhood holiday than with a bowl of candy and a great selection of horror movies. Now if you’re not a horror movie aficionado like I am, you may have some trouble selecting a horror movie that best fits you.

Horror is comprised mostly of films following two formulas: Generic and innovative.

Let’s talk about the generic horror films, which follow this horror movie formula:

• Shallow characters: Construction Horror blogger Jason Meredith says most generic horror films do not spend a great deal of time with character development, there is however one that “stands out as an obvious protagonist, probably the one who won’t do recreational drugs, won’t have premarital sex,” or didn’t want to go on whatever adventure with the rest of the characters. “More than often it will be a female protagonist who has deeper personal issues than the rest of the gang,”  Meredith states.

• Illogical and predictable events: There is a certain level of stupidity that goes into a generic horror film. These events include characters splitting up or engaging in sexual activity when there is clearly a threat nearby. Although obviously illogical, these events allow audiences to get ready for the next scary moment.

• Over the top special effects: “You will see dismemberment, mutilation, gouging and fountains of blood when walking in to see one of these movies,” Meredith said. However, in generic horror films, “the formula doesn’t want to threaten its audience, the blood and carnage is often exaggerated to such an unrealistic level that blood will spray like Icelandic geysers, making the viewer turn their heads and go ‘Awwhhh that was gross!’ and laugh once again at the mayhem unfolding on screen.”

Movies that follow the generic formula are:

horror film scene
Photo credit: Rain Rannu
  1. “A Nightmare on Elm Street”
  2. “Halloween”
  3. “Friday the 13th”
  4. “Hellraiser”
  5. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”
  6. “Scream”
  7. “Hostel”
  8. “Saw”
  9. “Captivity Creative Commons”

Now let’s check out the innovative horror movie formula:

• Special effects are realistic: The fountains of blood that are custom to generic horror films do not appear in innovative films. The gore is real and is not usually accompanied by any comic relief. Meredith says, “a fair amount of innovative horror films will keep the violence off-screen as long as they can, to have you make up the disgusting deaths in your own head.”

• Character Development: There is a good amount of time spent on giving you the backstory of the protagonist, so when they meet their impending demise or suffering you will feel more of a loss and fear.

• Logic and reality: Unlike generic horror films there is common sense involved when the characters make their decisions. Even when they do everything right they still suffer; Meredith says will “force you to take the onscreen terror outside the theatre with you. To have you looking over your shoulder as you walk home.”

• Unpredictability: Since these movies do not follow the generic patterns of other horror films, audiences are unaware of what may happen. Some movies goes as far as to eliminate the use of a soundtrack in order to get rid of the sound cues used to tell the audience how they should feel prepare for.

Movies that follow the innovative formula:

  1. “Night of the Living Dead”
  2. “The Exorcist”
  3. “Jaws”
  4. “The Blair Witch Project”
  5. “Alien”
  6. “The Eye”
  7. “The Ring”
  8. “The Grudge”
  9. “Cloverfield”
  10. “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”
  11. “Rosemary’s Baby Creative Commons”
  12. “The Shining”