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My European Cinema picks

Posted on: July 14th, 2013 by Rena Phuah (2 Comments)

I am not a film critic but my definition of a European movies is: Not shot in Hollywood, no familiar Hollywood faces and not in English language.

I am a big big fan of European movies. There is something captivating with the actors, the language, the culture, the landscape and the stories. Powerful, emotional and beautiful. Above all, they stir my emotions like no other.

I have seen many many European films and there are so many more on my list. Here are my favorite movies, filmmakers and why:

(WARNING: Very image heavy. Some images may be quite graphic)

Pedro Almodovar (Spain) is one of my favorite director of all time. He is known for his complex story-telling, melodrama and  the use of strong colors. His theme revolves around families, relationships and Spanish identities. One thing that you have to remember about Almodovar’s movies is that you can’t never guess or expect what will happen to the rest of the movie.

Broken Embraces (2009) is my favorite movie from Almodovar starring his long-time muse, the inimitable Penelope Cruz, who shines like there is no tomorrow in this movie. It is a movie about a film director and his relationship with an aspiring actress.

Penelope Cruz in Broken Embraces

Penelope Cruz in Broken Embraces

Penelope Cruz in Broken Embraces

Penelope Cruz in Broken Embraces

Penelope Cruz in Broken Embraces

Penelope Cruz in Broken Embraces

 

Bad Education (2004) is a very compelling story of a young actor and his long-time friend who experienced child abuse. Gael García Bernal is just magnificent in this movie.

Gael García Bernal and Fele Martínez in Bad Education

Gael García Bernal and Fele Martínez in Bad Education

Gael García Bernal in Bad Education

Gael García Bernal in Bad Education

 

Other favourites: All About My Mother (1999), The Skin I Live In (2011), Volver (2006)

Penelope Cruz in Volver

Penelope Cruz in Volver

 

Elena Anaya and Antonio Banderas in The Skin I Live In

Elena Anaya and Antonio Banderas in The Skin I Live In

 

Elena Anaya and Antonio Banderas in The Skin I Live In

Elena Anaya and Antonio Banderas in The Skin I Live In

 

Michael Haneke (Austria/Germany)

Haneke’s works are beautiful, compelling, painful and bleak at the same time – but that is why I am a fan of him (Kim Ki Duk has similar style as well). One of my goal in life is to watch all of his movies.

The Piano Teacher (2001) is most the unforgettable – the story about a S&M relationship between the icy-cold Erika Kohut (played by the talented Isabelle Hupert) and the handsome Walter Klemmer (Benoît Magimel).

Isabelle Huppert and Benoît Magimel in The Piano Teacher

Isabelle Huppert and Benoît Magimel in The Piano Teacher

I also highly recommend The White Ribbons (2009). It is powerful, creepy and haunting even though there is no element of horror or gore.

Christian Friedel and Leonie Benesch in The White Ribbons

Christian Friedel and Leonie Benesch in The White Ribbons

 

Pusher I (1996), Pusher II (2004), Pusher III (2005)

Nicolas Winding Refn‘s Pusher trilogy is just what he does best – the ups and downs of the criminal world. Gritty, violent, cool and well executed.

I respect NWR not only for his movies but he also has an eye for very talented actors such as Mads Mikkelsen (he appeared in Pusher I and II), Tom Hardy in Bronson (2009) and Ryan Gosling in Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013)

Mads Mikkelsen in Pusher II
Mads Mikkelsen in Pusher II

Amélie (2001)
Who does not like this movie? Just perfect in every sense.

Mathieu Kassovitz and Audrey Toutou in Amélie

Mathieu Kassovitz and Audrey Toutou in Amélie

 

Irreversible (2002)
Gaspar Noé’s masterpiece. Extreme, violent and unforgettable. For me, I am not sure if he can top this up again. Not even with Enter The Void (2009) which is just so-so for me.

Monica Belucci in Irreversible

Monica Belucci in Irreversible

 

City of Lost Children (1995)
I love, love this movie, it is imaginative, visual and endearing. I really enjoyed Ron Perlman‘s performance as the lovely gentle giant. Highly recommended.

Judith Vittet and Ron Perlman in The City of Lost Children

Judith Vittet and Ron Perlman in The City of Lost Children

 

Don’t Move (2004)
This is the movie that officiated my love and respect for Penelope Cruz. A beautiful story about a love between a street prostitute and a married doctor. Her performance here is impeccable.

Sergio Castellitto and Penelope Cruz in Don't Move

Sergio Castellitto and Penelope Cruz in Don’t Move

 

Biutiful (2010) is one of the most beautiful, bleak and heartbreaking story ever. I don’t usually shed tears I remember crying a lot and was actually sad for a few days just thinking about the movie. Javier Bardem deserved an Oscar for this. About a struggling single father who has been diagnosed by prostate cancer. A movie by the same director of Babel, Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Javier Bardem in Biutiful

Javier Bardem in Biutiful

 

The Sea Inside (2004)
An inspirational movie and a real-life story of Spaniard Ramon Sampedro’s tireless fight for euthanasia starring Javier Bardem and again, I cried. So, I have concluded that Mr Bardem is the only one actor that reduced me to tears.

Lola Dueñas and Javier Bardem in The Sea Inside

Lola Dueñas and Javier Bardem in The Sea Inside

 

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
A very visual and beautiful movie by the very talented Guillermo Del Toro. A story about a world of fantasy created by a child to escape her cruel stepfather.

Ivana Baquero in Pan's Labyrinth

Ivana Baquero in Pan’s Labyrinth

 

La Vie En Rose (2007)
There is no words for Marion Cotillard‘s performance as Edith Piaf here. She deserved an Oscar for a very difficult role.

Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose

Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose

 

The Door (2009)
A Danish thriller about the consequences of turning back the time. Starring another one of my favorite, Mr. Mads Mikkelsen.

Mads Mikkelsen in The Door

Mads Mikkelsen in The Door

 

Nobody Else But You (2011)
The french name for this thriller is absolutely adorable, “Poupoupidou”. A bit under the radar, this is a story about a murder of a small-town star. A lot of reference to Marilyn Monroe, beautifully shot, nostalgic but with a lot of humor at the same time.

Sophie Quinton in Nobody Else But You

Sophie Quinton in Nobody Else But You

 

Taxidermia (2006)

A Hungarian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for Academy Awards 2008. If you are into dark humor and grotesque, I recommend this.

A scene from Taxidermia

A scene from Taxidermia

 

A Christmas Tale (2008)
About a dysfunctional family that has a history of mental illness. Catherine Denevue is as beautiful as ever. But I think Mathieu Almaric stole the show, and I believe that he is one of the most talented French actor today.

Mathiue Amalric and Catherine Denevue in A Christmas Tale

Mathiue Amalric and Catherine Denevue in A Christmas Tale

 

8 Women (2002)
A talented cast, a musical and a comedy. Musical is usually not my thing but this is a delight to watch. By Francois Ozon who directed Swimming Pool as well.

The talented cast of 8 Women

The talented cast of 8 Women

 

MR 73 (2008)
I haven’t seen the prequel, but this one stays with me for a long time and actually made me depressed everytime I watched this. About a very tortured cop (played by Daniel Autiel) and his mission to solve a grisly crime. I enjoyed anything to do with cops, crime and serial killers so watch this if this is up your alley.

Daniel Auteil in MR 73

Daniel Auteil in MR 73

 

Maytyrs (2008)
I don’t remember having a nightmare after a movie for a long time, the last one was Freddy Kruger and Poltergeist (when I was 8 or 10) but Martyrs gives me the creeps for many many nights. There was a lot of publicity due to the nature of the movie but also a lot of mixed reviews. Worth watching if you can bear all the torture and violence.

A movie poster of Martyrs. This is the "safest" image that I could find. The rest are too graphic.

A movie poster of Martyrs. This is the “safest” image that I could find. The rest are too graphic.

(all images from Google)

What are you favorites?

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2 Responses

  1. Dustin says:

    Rena:

    Love your list. I’ve been neglecting some of Almodovar’s new offerings but I do love his older stuff- Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown, Live Flesh, Matador, What Have I Done to Deserve This? and so on.

    I gotta check out The Door, since I am too a big Mad Mikkelsen fan.

    You have a very eclectic taste in films. Some very edgy, strong stuff. I like that. Please keep this up and add more films. I’ll be sure to visit from time to time.

    Best,
    D

    • Rena Phuah says:

      Thanks for the comment, Dustin.

      Yes, I like eclectic movies especially if they are unique and visually striking (hence, the newer Almodovar movies). I also tend to hunt for movies starring my favorite actors/actresses such as Mikkelsen, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem etc

      I am so inspired by your post so my goal now is to hunt for movies by Ingmar Bergman, Andrei Tarkovsky and Wenders.

      Thanks again!

      x

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