The Case for Foreign Films

Hollywood is great. America has been blessed to have the premiere movie-making destination in the entire world right in it’s own playground, California. We’ve been generously supplied prolific directors, fantastic film series, and memorable characters. However, there is a world of film outside of Hollywood that hardly gets the recognition it deserves.

Many Americans are blind to the plethora of “foreign” films that exist. To put the quotation marks around foreign into perspective, a film like “The Avengers” would be in the foreign films section in another country, or perhaps the “American films” section. Cinema is still considered an art form in many different places of the world, and not just a machine that cranks out Fast and Furious and superhero movies every other year.

One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about foreign films is the inclusion of subtitles, or the fact that one would require subtitles to watch a movie when you could, you know, just watch it in English. Those people, I personally have decided, lack a certain amount of creative spirit in them. You know, the people who proudly proclaim they haven’t read a book since high school, or only listen to mainstream pop radio? There is just something inherently repelling to me about someone who cannot appreciate a foreign film simply because “they don’t speak English.”

A popular fad recently has been to “remake” a foreign film, but, obviously, in English, and with a cast of mostly white people. These films are usually a huge miss. Just take a look at Oldboy, 2013, a remake a la Spike Lee of a cult-classic Korean film. Take it from Peter Travers from Rolling Stone, “What’s onscreen feels squeezed, truncated and curiously embalmed. It’s got no kick to it… Oldboy just lies there like old news that’s not worth a second thought.” The remake scored a grand total of 41% on rotten tomatoes.

Meanwhile, the original holds almost double that score at 80%. Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal said it was “Shakespearean in its violence, Oldboy also calls up nightmare images of spiritual and physical isolation that are worthy of Samuel Beckett or Dostoyevsky.” Yes, the cast consists entirely of South Korean actors. Yes, it is, in fact, entirely in South Korean, no English. I’ve watched the film multiple times and have had no problems keeping up with the subtitles.

There are things in life you just have to get from the source. Yes, you can go to Target and get a few sushi rolls, but wouldn’t it be better if you just went to your favorite sushi bar instead? Sure, you can order takeout from some place like Pei Wei, where all the cooks aren’t even Asian, or you could go to that little hole in the wall golden palace place next to the gas station. Authenticity starts and lives at the source.

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