(Welcome to Pop Culture Imports, a column that compiles the best foreign movies and TV streaming right now.)
In this week’s Pop Culture Imports, we have Akira Kurosawa‘s masterpiece, Ran, on the Criterion Channel, and a few hidden gems on Netflix including a superb German sexual assault drama, a poignant slice of life anime film, the latest cinematic reunion between Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, and a vibrant animated love letter to Ancient Andean culture.
Fire up the subtitles and let’s dive into the best foreign movies and TV streaming now.
Celebrity Culture: Best Foreign Movies and TV Streaming Now
Celebrity Culture: Ran – Criterion Channel
Genre: Epic period drama
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu, Mieko Harada, Peter, Hisashi Igawa, Yoshiko Miyazaki.
Akira Kurosawa‘s adaptation of King Lear is Shakespearean tragedy meets the Japanese theatrical tradition of Noh. Ran is a poetic epic tragedy that has been hailed as Kurosawa’s last masterpiece, and it fully deserves that praise. Kurosawa takes the mythic story of King Lear — in by far the best adaptation of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy — to even greater heights. The film follows an aging warlord (Tatsuya Nakadai) as he decides to abdicate and divide his domain among his three sons. But as his two eldest sons (Akira Terao and Jinpachi Nezu) flatter him with empty compliments, his youngest and favorite son warns that this arrangement will only lead to betrayal and bloodshed amongst the power-hungry family. Enraged by his youngest son’s words, he banishes him, only to see his predictions come to fruition. Shot almost exclusively in painterly wide shots, Ran has the grandest scope of Kurosawa’s filmography — already one chock full of cinema classics. It also has one of the all-time great female villains in the chilling and vengeful Lady Kaede (Mieko Harada), whose Lady Macbeth-style machinations are glorious to witness. Full of beautiful carnage and some of the most beautiful battle scenes put to celluloid, Ran is a stunning, breathtaking triumph of cinema.
Watch This If You Like: Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia, Throne of Blood, Princess Mononoke, pretending you read King Lear in high school.
Celebrity Culture: Alles ist gut – Netflix
Director: Eva Trobisch
Cast: Aenne Schwarz, Andreas Döhler, Hans Löw.
This hidden gem on Netflix comes from Berlin-born writer-director Eva Trobisch, who makes a blistering debut with her first feature film, Alles Ist Gut, which literally translates to “All Is Well.” The title is a mantra repeated by Janne (Aenne Schwarz), a woman who is sexually assaulted by her boss’ brother-in-law and tries desperately to move past it, putting on a stoic facade and diving headfirst into her busy new job as the emotional toll only grows heavier and heavier. Schwarz is devastating in the role, subtly depicting Janne’s repressed anger and slow unraveling as she looks less convinced of herself every time she declares “all is well.” Alles Ist Gut is a searing, harrowing sexual assault drama that deftly tackles its heavy subject matter while quietly dismantling perceptions of rape victims.
Watch This If You Like: Sharp Objects, Ordinary People, All About Nina, character dramas.
Celebrity Culture: A Silent Voice – Netflix
Genre: Slice-of-life drama
Director: Naoko Yamada
Cast: Saori Hayami, Daiki Yamashita, Mayu Matsuoka, Aoi Yuki.
An adaptation of a manga of the same name by Yoshitoki Oima. A Silent Voice is a beautifully animated, subtly told story of deep human connection. Though a tearjerker and teen drama at the outset, Yamada’s uniquely cinematic approach infused the film with such vibrancy and liveliness that it immediately launched her name to the top of the animation industry. A Silent Voice is visual storytelling at its most powerful, following a teen boy who seeks redemption for bullying a young deaf girl from his childhood. It’s a film that exists in the small non-verbal gestures between characters, the changing colors of the sky, lots of shots of cherry blossoms.
Watch This If You Like: Your Name, Stand By Me, The Edge of Seventeen, crying while staring at cherry blossoms.
Celebrity Culture: Everybody Knows – Netflix
Genre: Domestic thriller-drama
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Ricardo Darín, Bárbara Lennie
A domestic drama writ as a psychological thriller, Everybody Knows is the ninth film uniting spouses Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. But the celebrity luster of the couple doesn’t take away from this fascinating, ugly family drama in which a kidnapping unearths long-buried conflicts. Cruz stars as Laura, a Spanish woman living in Buenos Aires, who returns with her teenage daughter Irene and young son to her hometown outside Madrid for a family wedding. However, when her daughter is kidnapped and held for ransom, the tensions escalate in her tight-knit family that draws in her former lover Paco, who has found success from acquiring a large tract of land from her once-wealthy family. Slow-burning and somewhat soapy, Everybody Knows is a subtle character drama anchored by superbly acted performances from Bardem and Cruz, who continue to be at the top of their games.
Watch This If You Like:
Celebrity Culture: Pachamama –Netflix
Country: France, Canada and Luxembourg
Genre: Family fantasy-adventure
Director: Juan Antin
Cast: Adam Moussamih, Vlastra Vrana, Charli Birdgenau.
Pachamama is a lovely spiritual fable that delivers a love letter to ancient South American cultures in a family-friendly way. A blessed 71 minutes long and animated in a vibrant, gorgeous style that recalls a painted mosaic, Pachamama tells the story of a 10-year-old boy named Tepulpaï (Adam Moussamih) living in the Andes mountains sometime in the 1530s, who scoffs at his little village’s ancient ceremony held in honor of Pachamama, the goddess of the earth. But when their country is attacked by Western invaders, he learns that there is greater strength in the strange ceremonies than he knew. Though a simple story, Pachamama is full of rich cultural history and surprisingly mature depths — the shadow of colonization and invasion grows strong toward the end. But it’s a beautifully animated hidden gem that you can’t miss on Netflix.
Watch This If You Like: The Song of the Sea, Ponyo, Moana, watching movies that are less than two hours long!
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