One of the Oscar categories often neglected by the American public is the Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film. While the Academy has definitely awarded some films that have not held up with time, there are more than a few that still stand out today. This year's list is particularly strong with the Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi's latest film The Salesman up for Best Foreign Film. However, due to the travel ban instituted by President Trump Farhadi won't be attending the ceremony. You can see his latest film at the Plaza Frontenac Cinema this weekend.
The first title on our list is the 1962 winner for Best Foreign Film and comes from France. Sundays and Cybele was just recently re-released by the Criterion collection, and now is the perfect time to watch this provocative film about the relationship between a young girl and a disabled veteran from the French Indochina War. The veteran Pierre is suffering from amnesia and quite lonely until one days he meets a young girl named Cybele, and the two strike up a friendship. Cybele is often neglected by her father so Pierre pretends to be her father, and every Sunday takes her out of the orphanage so they can spend time together. Eventually, Pierre's nurse suspects that something is wrong as do other friends and neighbors, and their suspicions ultimately lead to a confrontation. The great drama is beautifully filmed and has been rewarded with a meticulous restoration by the Criterion company.
Federico Fellini won the Academy Award for Best Foreign on multiple occasions, but Amarcord stands out as possibly the most personal film he produced. The film is the story of a young boy named Titta growing up in a small Italian village during the 1930's and the rise of Fascism. This hilarious film lampoons the frivolity of Italy as a country at the time. It also takes aim at the Catholic church as Titta rebels against its oppressive dogma and experiences his first sexual awakenings.
The Swedish director Ingmar Bergman's films have won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film on multiple occasions. This was his last film to do so, and it was supposed to be his final film. The film tells the story of a young brother and sister in early 20th century Uppsala, Sweden who are living a happy life until their father dies. Their mother remarries a local bishop who is also a widow. The bishop is however vastly different from Fanny and Alexander's father, and is instead a cold and domineering man who rules the children's lives with an iron fist. Despite the depressing subject matter the film possesses a warmth and humanity not often found in many of Bergman's films.
Pedro Almodovar remains of Spain's most widely recognized filmmakers, and this might be his greatest achievement among a great list of films. All About My Mother revolves around Manuela, an Argentinian nurse, who lives in Madrid and is a single mother. On her 17 year-old son's birthday he is hit by a car after chasing an actress for her autograph. After losing her son Manuela agrees to allow her son's heart to be transplanted to another man. Manuela then leaves Madrid and goes to meet the father of her child, who was never told he had a son. While the plot may sound melodramatic, Almodovar does not allow the film to wallow in sentimentality, and instead treats his characters, and their unconventional families with dignity.