International Sensibilities: Foreign Films I

Scottish – Local Hero 1983 Written and Directed by Bill Forsyth. A charmer without being cloying. “Mac” MacIntyre (Peter Reigert), an executive of Texas based Knox Oil, is sent by eccentric mogul (and astronomy buff) Felix Happer (Burt Lancaster) to buy an entire town in Scotland for its prime location as a refinery. Locals are all for it, each with his/her own big plans, but negotiation takes time because of single, colorful holdout.

At first stiff and fussy, Mac begins to settle in, liking what he finds. Characters include a gregarious Soviet fishing captain and a marine researcher with webbed toes (Jenny Seagrove), who thinks the spot will be turned into an oceanographic observatory. Eventually Happer himself arrives to see what’s holding things up. He finds an unexpected connection and changes plans. Amazon Prime

Danish – Babette’s Feast 1987 based on Isak Dinesen’s short story. Two old maid sisters were raised by a religious father who rejected every suitor. (We see them as lighthearted young women.) With his passing, they oversee what’s left of a small, conservative congregation. Babette (Stephane Audran) unexpectedly shows up at the door with a note from an old suitor asking for refuge from revolution in Paris.

The refugee agrees to work as housekeeper and cook for free, raising the level of both. Fourteen years later, Babette wins a lottery entitling her to a great deal of money. Instead of going back home, she arranges an extravagant/elaborate feast, after which… This is a chef’s cinematic paradise. Plan to dine directly after. Amazon

Italian – Cinema Paradiso Written and Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore 1988. Sensitive/deeply human. With Jacques Perrin, Philippe Noiret, Leopoldo Trieste. Just after WWII, eight-year old Salvatore, nicknamed Toto, develops a great love of film by sneaking into his town’s one, raucous cinema. He makes friends with projectionist Alfredo who mentors him in life, movies, and how to run the projector. A tragic accident burns down the theater and blinds Alfredo.

When it’s rebuilt the boy becomes its projectionist. We see this all in flashback as well as Toto’s widowed mother, denizens of the town, a young man’s love, and something of the path he takes. Now a successful filmmaker, Salvatore returns for Alfredo’s funeral. Netflix

Dutch – Antonia’s Line 1995 Written and directed by Marleen Gorris. Way ahead of its time, this film was described as “a feminist fairytale.” If sisterhood moves you, this is a fine example – without polemics. After WWII, Antonia and her daughter, Danielle, return to the rural town in which she was born to shepherd her mother through dying.

The independent women live outside tradition/norms, friending and attracting others who don’t fit. Therese arranges to have a child out of wedlock eventually falling in love with the girl’s tutor, Lara. There’s rescue, a rape, revenge, a curse, nurturing, and four generations of strong women. Netflix and Amazon Prime

Irish – The Secret of Roan Inish written/directed by by John Sayles. OK, not an Irish made film, but definitely steeped in its culture and lore. After the death of her mother, young Fiona (Jeni Courtney) is sent to live with her grandparents in an Irish fishing village. Her grandfather is a weaver of tales, several of which center on selkies, seals that shed their skins to become human.

The girl hears rumors that she’s descended from one these creatures who spirited away her infant brother, Jamie. She and her cousin secretly boat to their abandoned  ancestral cottage and make it habitable, hoping if the family returns, so will vanished seals. Enchanting. Not sugary. Amazon Prime

German – Franz 2016 Directed and co-written by Francois Ozon. Deft, moving. It’s 1919. Visiting her pacifist husband’s grave (Franz carried an unloaded gun), Anna (Paula Beer) talks briefly to Adrien (Pierre Niney), a Frenchman who also arrives with flowers. He tells Anna that he and Franz were schoolmates.

She invites him back to her in-laws’ home where he raises their spirits and establishes a relationship with the family. Anna opens her heart. Unable to maintain pretense before such kindness, the veteran admits he killed Franz in battle. The widow turns her back, plummeting into despair. Adrien moves to Paris. Eventually, Anna’s mother in law encourages her to go find him. The ending is unexpected. Amazon Prime

Or anything by Director/Writer Werner Herzog, especially his iconoclastic documentaries.

About Alix Cohen (1162 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of nine New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.