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IPPL Staff

The Italian Straw Hat (1928)

italianstrawThe beauty of a silent movie is its universality; no language barrier comes between you and the delight of the film. The Italian Straw Hat is a French movie whose alternate title pretty much tells the story: The Horse Ate the Hat. Fadinard, a young man on his way to his wedding, has a confrontation along the way when his horse eats the straw hat of a young married lady having a dalliance in the woods with an army officer not her husband. Feeling she can’t go home without the prized hat, the lady and her lover blackmail the young groom into finding a replacement hat.

In the midst of trying to get married, trying to find a hat, trying to keep his relatives from finding the officer and his lady hiding in his apartment, Fadinard has quite a day. The comic timing and antics keep you laughing from beginning to end.
Mary

Force Majeure (2014) R

forceTomas and Ebba, along with their two children, are enjoying a family ski vacation in the French Alps. A controlled avalanche comes perilously close to the outdoor restaurant where they are enjoying lunch. As diners run in panic, Ebba calls for Tomas to help her. Tomas, however, has grabbed his cell phone and fled. No one is harmed and the family resumes their vacation, but Ebba cannot forgive Tomas’ instinct to run and his refusal to acknowledge that he failed to protect his family.

Force Majeure, a well-executed psychodrama, will have you questioning Ebba’s and Tomas’ role in the incident that caused a shift in the family’s dynamics.

In Swedish with English subtitles.
Jamie A.

The Intouchables (2011) R

intouchablesMary P. recommended this very good movie to me. I was a little wary since The Intouchables is in French with English subtitles, but it was enjoyable and easy to relate to. Not extremely serious or comedic, this film is a great choice for many.
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IPPL Staff

Rififi (1955)

rififiAmerican born director Jules Dassin made the French thriller Rififi after being blacklisted in Hollywood. In this masterfully suspenseful heist movie, four jewel thieves plan the perfect crime. They gather the team. They plan. They rehearse. Then they execute the perfectly choreographed theft and getaway--all in perfect silence. But one mistake draws the unwanted attention of a local crime boss and all plans go astray.

In French with English subtitles.
IPPL Staff

The Flowers of War (2011) R

flowersofwarSet in 1937 Nanjing, China, as the Japanese invade and pillage the city during the Sino-Japanese War, The Flowers of War is a heart wrenching but very emotional story of the evils and atrocities of war. Thrown together as a means of survival, Christian Bale, an American mortician, a group of young Chinese school girls, and a band of courtesans hide in an old Nanjing church. With nothing in common, the three groups learn to pull together as death and destruction surrounds them.

Bravery, romance, and wonderful acting from the entire cast make this Golden Globe nominated movie one not to miss.

Even though this movie is listed as a foreign film, it is primarily in English, with small portions in Mandarin.
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IPPL Staff

Love Is All You Need (2012) R

Here’s a perfect movie to watch when you feel like you need a “romantic comedy.”  This sleeper-of-a-movie stars Pierce Brosnan as a wealthy but grumpy widower who travels to Italy for his son’s marriage to a young Danish girl. As the two very different families meet to prepare for and celebrate their children’s wedding, love and hope for a wonderful future materialize. Quirky but warm and funny, Love Is All You Need just might fit the bill.
IPPL Staff

Rust and Bone = De rouille et d'os (2012) R

This is a moving French film about the power of love and loss. Rust and Bone stars Marion Cotillard as Stephanie, a killer whale trainer and Matthias Schoenaerts as Alain, a single father struggling to keep it together. Stephanie and Alain meet one night and later form an unlikely bond after Stephanie suffers from a life altering accident. A beautiful and emotional film that is a must watch.

http://youtu.be/vyAJDL3mTxI
IPPL Staff

I’ve Loved You So Long (2008) PG-13

Kristin Scott Thomas gives an inspired performance in I've Loved You So Long, a French language film about a woman’s release from prison. The story of why she was in prison unfolds rather slowly throughout the film as she resumes her life and her relationship with her sister. The film is a modest, subtle character study and the value of most of it is in Thomas’ handling of the role.

Just a side note: I wondered about the title…it didn’t seem to fit. And found that the phrase doesn't translate very well (original title = Il y a longtemps que je t'aime) but is a line of a French folk song that two sisters played as a piano duet.

In French with English subtitles.
IPPL Staff

Grand Illusion

Grand Illusion (1937)
Three French officers are captured and held as prisoners of war by the Germans in World War I. Lt. Marechal was a mechanic before the war; Lt. Rosenthal is from a wealthy banking family; and Capt. De Boeldieu is from an aristocratic military family. The camp commander, Capt. Fon Rauffenstein, feels a great affinity for Boeldieu, but Boeldieu sees that the world of de Boeldieus and von Rauffensteins has passed.

This POW movie has many scenes we have learned to expect: the camp show, digging a tunnel and depositing the dirt in the garden, and unhappy Russians. The beautiful black and white cinematography, the humor, and the poignancy of each of the men’s stories make this a memorable movie. Missing this movie is strictly verboten!

In French with English subtitles.

For more on the film, check out the articles on TCM.com. And for other films set during WWI, check out our recommended movie list.
Mary

Army of Shadows = L’Armee des Ombres

Army of Shadows = L’Armee des Ombres (1969)
Produced in France in 1969, Director Jean-Pierre Melville’s film was not available in the U.S. until 2007. The “army of shadows” is a group of French Resistance fighters who must use their wits and courage to survive in the Vichy France as they spy on the Nazis and instigate acts of sabotage.

This is not your typical action-packed war drama; instead, Melville focuses on the fighters’ states of mind. In doing so, he captures the moral difficulties the Resistance encountered as they fight a brutal enemy and protect themselves and comrades whose arrests or mistakes placed them in danger.

In French with English subtitles.

For more on the film, visit the Criterion Collection website, plus Rotten Tomatoes and Roger Ebert.
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Mary

The Lives of Others = Das Leben der Anderen

The Lives of Others = Das Leben der Anderen (2006)
A gripping portrayal of East Berlin, The Lives of Others reveals what happens to a society when its citizens are under constant surveillance. Hauptmann, a playwright, has escaped the pervasive spying that’s afflicted most of his friends. This changes when his girlfriend (a famous actress) draws the attention of a party big shot. Hauptmann can no longer remain detached from the events unfolding around him. The agent assigned to conduct the surveillance also finds himself questioning his loyalty to the state.

The film won the 2007 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, plus many other awards. Check out reviews from Roger Ebert and The New York Times for more information.

In German with English subtitles.

IPPL Staff

Spotlight: 1930s Germany

Spotlight: 1930s GermanyIf you have just finished reading In the Garden of Beasts (Erik Larson’s portrait of Germany as the Nazis rise to power and influence), you might like one of the following movie depictions of the same time and place.

Cabaret (1972) is the popular musical starring Liza Minelli as the original “good time girl” who is oblivious to the changes happening around her. Based on The Berlin Stories of Christopher Isherwood.

Three Comrades (1938) is a poignant story of the love between fragile Margaret Sullavan and Robert Taylor. Taylor’s other two comrades are Franchot Tone and Robert Young.  Young, politically active, runs into trouble with the pro-Nazi marchers in the streets.

Mephisto (1981) is a German language movie with Klaus Maria Brandauer, as an actor who sells his soul to the devil in order to keep working in Nazi-era Germany.

The Harmonists (1997) is based on the true story of a successful German singing group that was forced to disband in 1934 because three of its members were Jewish.
IPPL Staff

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) R
I found this to be a fascinatingly complex tale of suspense, but then I didn’t read the book.

It is the story of a computer hacker with a troubled past and a crusading journalist who become the dynamic duo in this Swedish film version of Stieg Larsson’s first suspense novel. The two main characters, each intriguing in their own way, initially occupy separate story lines that converge only because she’s hired to spy on him. The well plotted story becomes a thriller as it takes its time unlocking one mystery only to uncover another.

Be aware that there are some disturbing scenes of violence which can be difficult to view. You have time to watch this film and compare it with the English version arriving in theaters in December.
IPPL Staff

Mother of Mine

Mother of Mine (2005)
This Finnish/Swedish film directed by Klaus Härö received good reviews from the Finnish press and several awards internationally.

Mother of Mine is based on a novel by Heikki Hietamies. During the Winter War (which began with a Soviet offensive on November 30, 1939 — three months after the start of World War II) Eero, like many Finnish children, is sent to Sweden as a refugee. He is forever conflicted because he feels his own mother abandoned him and his adoptive mother has a hard time accepting him.
IPPL Staff

Spotlight: Stieg Larsson Films

Spotlight: Stieg Larsson FilmsGet your money's worth with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. These must-see foreign movies capture the essence of Stieg Larsson’s “best of the bestselling books.” After thoroughly enjoying the Millennium Trilogy, I thoroughly enjoyed the movies. If you have read the books, the subtitles highlight the dialogue making it easier to follow. My only regret is there will not be another book/movie in this series.

Did you know? An American version of the film is in the works starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.