For the fourth list in my Silver Screen Streak Movie Challenge, David Conrad wants me to work my way through his Flickchart's rankings of BAFTA's Foreign Language Film Nominees. The BAFTAs are the British equivalent of The Oscars (named after the British Academy of Film and Television Arts) and because they are voted for and presented by people with snooty accents, they are generally considered more sophisticated than Hollywood when it comes to foreign language films. Actually, the BAFTAs tend to draw their foreign language nominations from the same small pool of submissions as do The Oscars, so there’s a lot of overlap, making most of the films/filmmakers represented here known quantities to different degrees.
I’ll watch the first two movies from each list, giving each participant the chance to avoid an instant exit and maybe even earn some free passes.
The first two movies on this list are:
Queen Margot (1994), dir.: Patrice Chéreau — I watched La Reine Margot when it was first released on VHS in the mid-1990s in a shorter cut. Aside from an intense performance from the great Isabelle Adjani, I remember little. I’m looking forward to watching the full 158-minutes in all their bloody glory.
The Sacrifice (1986), dir.: Andrei Tarkovsky — I’ve come a long way on Tarkovsky. Since suffering through Stalker in film school over 20 years ago, I can say that I almost like The Mirror, Solaris and Andrei Rublev. At least, I appreciate some of Tarkovsky’s poetic imagery, but his overall style, with its hushed tone, tends to put me to sleep. The Sacrifice is almost two-and-a-half hours long, so I’m predicting five naps during this one.
If those first two movies fare well enough on my Flickchart, I'll continue on through the following, as long as they entertain me.
Buena Vista Social Club (1999), dir.: Wim Wenders — I’m generally uninterested in music documentaries (and especially skeptical of those that spur soundtrack-buying frenzies among baby boomers). Even when I’m a big fan of the artist. I’d rather listen to the songs than try to focus on a loose or non-existent narrative revolving around concert footage or behind-the-scenes minutiae. I do like Cuban jazz, so the music itself shouldn’t be an obstacle; it remains to be seen if director Wim Wenders can find something interesting inside this subject to justify the hype.
Life and Nothing But (1989), dir.: Bertrand Tavernier — I have some vague memory of this movie’s release, but, while I did watch Tavernier’s two preceding movies, Round Midnight and The Passion of Beatrice (both of which have since fallen down the memory hole), I’m pretty sure I never saw this one.
Colonel Redl (1985), dir.: István Szabó — This is the biggest mystery on this list. I’ve heard of a couple of director Szabó’s other movies (his 1981 Mephisto has attention-grabbing marketing images), I’ve never heard of this one and don’t recognize Szabó's name. Apparently he’s something of an Elia Kazan-figure in his native Hungary, after it was discovered that he had been a secret informer for the Communist government. I’ll try not to hold that against his movie.
The Return of Martin Guerre (1982), dir.: Daniel Vigne — I’ve seen the English-language remake, starring Richard Gere and Jodie Foster, but never, I think, this French original. I prefer both French actos, Gérard Depardieu and Nathalie Baye, to their Hollywood counterparts, so the big wildcard here is director Vigne, a man with scant other film credits but quite a career in dubious series television (“Stargate,” anyone?).
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), dir.: Pedro Almodóvar — Almodóvar is one of the great darlings of international film, but, while I can appreciate his production design, his movies rarely thrill me in the way that others seem to respond to them. This one was his breakthrough movie in terms of gaining wide acclaim outside of Spain. If my streak through this list continues past the #13 mark, there are a few more from Almodóvar laying in wait for me.
La traviata (1982), dir.: Franco Zeffirelli — Everyone knows Zeffirelli from his Shakespeare adaptations, like the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet that gets shown in high schools with a few seconds of boob cut-out, or The Taming of the Shrew with real-life Hollywood couple Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, or Hamlet starring Mel Gibson. Zeffirelli’s most prolific genre, however, is filmed operas, which take up over half of his 40+ credit filmography. This is supposedly the best.
House of Flying Daggers (2004), dir.: Yimou Zhang — This one has been in my queue for years, just waiting for me to find an excuse to pick it over something else. Yimou, of course, after more than a decade of art-house dramas, directed the gorgeous wuxia epic Hero starring Jet Li, Maggie Cheung and Zhang Ziyi. He re-teams with Ziyi here, along with Hong Kong action superstar Andy Lau.
Swann in Love (1984), dir.: Volker Schlöndorff — All I know about Swann in Love is that it’s a Marcel Proust adaptation from the guy who, a few years earlier, directed the crazy man-stuck-in-a-child's-body war epic The Tin Drum. I’m in.