In Defense of Foreign Films

foreingfilmheadCourt will be closed next week, just so you know. I tried coming up with a clever illustration for my absence, but couldn’t think of a plausible reason courtrooms close. A hostage situation or… a government holiday? So hard to choose. Instead, you get a boring first sentence.

Rather than surfing fan blogs, my week will consist of a stereotypical post-college trip to Europe. I’m like a spoiled rich kid, sans the legion of butlers carting me around like the king of Indiana. That’s what rich people do, right?

Anyway, this week I elected something concerning my future absence.

Europemap

I could have defended all of Europe, but I don’t have the stamina.

So instead of gut-wrenching fansites and poor grammar, I get high-brow elites and cinema snobs pontificating on why foreign films are better than the “trite pabulum” oozing out of Hollywood.

I’m not sure which of those instances I prefer.

Full disclosure: I too am a cinema snob. I found some connection in these snooty bloggers glaring down their noses at Hollywood. I knowingly released a low hiss when I heard The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was getting Americanized, and I am proud of that fact.

My disdain for this film is correct and you know it.

My disdain for this film is correct and you know it.

Despite this, I have many close friends who hate anything with subtitles. They avoid that weird category on Netflix where Akira Kurosawa gets relegated, where French films go to die after being depleted of their manufactured quirkiness.

My disdain for this film is correct and you know it.

My disdain for this film is correct and you know it.

I am hurt by this fact, because these films offer a totally different view of cinema. I could rant here, but I will pull myself back (note: that last sentence was written after deleting 200 words from this paragraph).

If nothing else, it shouldn’t be a separate genre category. There are enough differences between individual foreign films that we cannot lump them together like one of those crazy globs from Katamari Damacy.

Japanese video game references work best as… WHAT THE HECK?

Japanese video game references work best as… WHAT THE HECK?

A comment topic from mubi.com offered an acceptable argument for the foreign film genre, but not a fantastic one.

One commenter argued, “Genrefication is simply about arranging films due to their similarities, and there is only one similarity between Foreign Films, and it is of course the important one: language.”

Is language enough of a reason to categorize? Like popular opinion of 2001: A Space Odyssey, opinions were mixed at best.

My disdain for this film is correct and you know it.

My disdain for this film is correct and you know it.

“While you do a raise a good argument about the foreigness of foreign film possibly being positive,” writes another commenter, “I prefer that we all feel familiar with all types of cinema and not end up lumping everything outside of the US of A into one elusive group.”

Yet another comment: “If an avowed cinephile thought ‘foreign’ was a real genre, I might raise a fit. But for the general public, I think the distinction is fine… But, let me repeat for emphasis: If someone claims to be a lover of movies, and they think that foreign is an actual genre, they need to be beat up with a copy of David Bordwell’s ‘Film Art.’”

Perfect for bludgeoning, second only to any work by George R. R. Martin.

Perfect for bludgeoning, second only to any work by George R. R. Martin.

The distinction between movie fans and cinephiles is important, as many movie-goers don’t care about plot contrivances or tacked-on happy endings. They just want to be entertained, and who can blame them? If nothing else, the vogue fashion of Americanizing foreign films only makes us more aware of the original.

The superior original.

The superior original.

“By remaking foreign movies,” writes Rick Paulas of nerve.com, “Hollywood is actually doing the original a favor. It’s giving the movie another wave of publicity, a second chance to reach an audience it missed out on the first time around.”

With Netflix, all we have to do is add the original to our queues. As foreign films become more accessible, more people will see value in them… maybe. We still have the problem of Transformers blockbusters.

My disdain for this… never mind, it's not even worth the joke.

My disdain for this… never mind, it’s not even worth the joke.

I don’t feel the need to defend foreign films as works of art. There are good ones people should see, if they are truly devoted to cinema as an art form. If people just want to watch movies, then they are free to watch American films (which are not altogether bad, contrary to the belief of many film snobs). I guess I’m defending people who don’t watch foreign films as much as those who do.

Sorry, snobs. I will never be fully on your side. C’est la vie.

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