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The Flowers of War (2011) R

flowersofwarSet in 1937 Nanjing, China, as the Japanese invade and pillage the city during the Sino-Japanese War, The Flowers of War is a heart wrenching but very emotional story of the evils and atrocities of war. Thrown together as a means of survival, Christian Bale, an American mortician, a group of young Chinese school girls, and a band of courtesans hide in an old Nanjing church. With nothing in common, the three groups learn to pull together as death and destruction surrounds them.

Bravery, romance, and wonderful acting from the entire cast make this Golden Globe nominated movie one not to miss.

Even though this movie is listed as a foreign film, it is primarily in English, with small portions in Mandarin.
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Love Is All You Need (2012) R

Here’s a perfect movie to watch when you feel like you need a “romantic comedy.”  This sleeper-of-a-movie stars Pierce Brosnan as a wealthy but grumpy widower who travels to Italy for his son’s marriage to a young Danish girl. As the two very different families meet to prepare for and celebrate their children’s wedding, love and hope for a wonderful future materialize. Quirky but warm and funny, Love Is All You Need just might fit the bill.

Rust and Bone = De rouille et d'os (2012) R

This is a moving French film about the power of love and loss. Rust and Bone stars Marion Cotillard as Stephanie, a killer whale trainer and Matthias Schoenaerts as Alain, a single father struggling to keep it together. Stephanie and Alain meet one night and later form an unlikely bond after Stephanie suffers from a life altering accident. A beautiful and emotional film that is a must watch.

http://youtu.be/vyAJDL3mTxI

I’ve Loved You So Long (2008) PG-13

Kristin Scott Thomas gives an inspired performance in I've Loved You So Long, a French language film about a woman’s release from prison. The story of why she was in prison unfolds rather slowly throughout the film as she resumes her life and her relationship with her sister. The film is a modest, subtle character study and the value of most of it is in Thomas’ handling of the role.

Just a side note: I wondered about the title…it didn’t seem to fit. And found that the phrase doesn't translate very well (original title = Il y a longtemps que je t'aime) but is a line of a French folk song that two sisters played as a piano duet.

In French with English subtitles.

Grand Illusion

Grand Illusion (1937)
Three French officers are captured and held as prisoners of war by the Germans in World War I. Lt. Marechal was a mechanic before the war; Lt. Rosenthal is from a wealthy banking family; and Capt. De Boeldieu is from an aristocratic military family. The camp commander, Capt. Fon Rauffenstein, feels a great affinity for Boeldieu, but Boeldieu sees that the world of de Boeldieus and von Rauffensteins has passed.

This POW movie has many scenes we have learned to expect: the camp show, digging a tunnel and depositing the dirt in the garden, and unhappy Russians. The beautiful black and white cinematography, the humor, and the poignancy of each of the men’s stories make this a memorable movie. Missing this movie is strictly verboten!

In French with English subtitles.

For more on the film, check out the articles on TCM.com. And for other films set during WWI, check out our recommended movie list.

Spotlight: 1930s Germany

Spotlight: 1930s GermanyIf you have just finished reading In the Garden of Beasts (Erik Larson’s portrait of Germany as the Nazis rise to power and influence), you might like one of the following movie depictions of the same time and place.

Cabaret (1972) is the popular musical starring Liza Minelli as the original “good time girl” who is oblivious to the changes happening around her. Based on The Berlin Stories of Christopher Isherwood.

Three Comrades (1938) is a poignant story of the love between fragile Margaret Sullavan and Robert Taylor. Taylor’s other two comrades are Franchot Tone and Robert Young.  Young, politically active, runs into trouble with the pro-Nazi marchers in the streets.

Mephisto (1981) is a German language movie with Klaus Maria Brandauer, as an actor who sells his soul to the devil in order to keep working in Nazi-era Germany.

The Harmonists (1997) is based on the true story of a successful German singing group that was forced to disband in 1934 because three of its members were Jewish.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) R
I found this to be a fascinatingly complex tale of suspense, but then I didn’t read the book.

It is the story of a computer hacker with a troubled past and a crusading journalist who become the dynamic duo in this Swedish film version of Stieg Larsson’s first suspense novel. The two main characters, each intriguing in their own way, initially occupy separate story lines that converge only because she’s hired to spy on him. The well plotted story becomes a thriller as it takes its time unlocking one mystery only to uncover another.

Be aware that there are some disturbing scenes of violence which can be difficult to view. You have time to watch this film and compare it with the English version arriving in theaters in December.

Mother of Mine

Mother of Mine (2005)
This Finnish/Swedish film directed by Klaus Härö received good reviews from the Finnish press and several awards internationally.

Mother of Mine is based on a novel by Heikki Hietamies. During the Winter War (which began with a Soviet offensive on November 30, 1939 — three months after the start of World War II) Eero, like many Finnish children, is sent to Sweden as a refugee. He is forever conflicted because he feels his own mother abandoned him and his adoptive mother has a hard time accepting him.

Spotlight: Stieg Larsson Films

Spotlight: Stieg Larsson FilmsGet your money's worth with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. These must-see foreign movies capture the essence of Stieg Larsson’s “best of the bestselling books.” After thoroughly enjoying the Millennium Trilogy, I thoroughly enjoyed the movies. If you have read the books, the subtitles highlight the dialogue making it easier to follow. My only regret is there will not be another book/movie in this series.

Did you know? An American version of the film is in the works starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) R
If you read the bestselling book, you must see the Swedish movie! It follows the story line closely and gives us a glimpse into journalist Mikael Blomkvist’s search for Harriet Vanger. She disappeared more than forty years ago when she was 16 years old. Her family assumed she was murdered, but her Uncle Henrik Vanger doesn’t believe it and asks for Blomkvist’s help. He enlists the young computer hacker Lisabeth Salander to work with him. Lisabeth’s background is opened for a peek at a young girl on her own who is tortured mentally and physically by her court appointed guardian. She does fight back, which makes you cheer for her despite her bizarre characteristics. The story has twists and turns and you will not draw a deep breath until the very end! Don’t miss it.

I’ve Loved You So Long

I’ve Loved You So Long (2008) PG-13
This is a poignant tale about a woman, Juliette, (Kristin Scott Thomas) who is released from prison after fifteen years and goes to live with her younger sister, Léa, and her family.  In the beginning of the film, Juliette is guarded, stiff, and unemotional. People are uncomfortable around her when they learn about the crime she was convicted of.  Gradually the real Juliette emerges.

Thomas was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance.  The English Patient was another excellent film she starred in.

In French with English subtitles or dubbed in English.

Bread & Tulips = Pane e tulipani

Bread & Tulips = Pane e tulipani (2000) PG-13
Bread & Tulips is a charming and quirky Italian film about an overlooked housewife who impulsively vacations to Venice and, with the help of a wonderful cast of supporting characters, finds herself. Part comedy, part romance, part fairy tale, this colorful film will leave you smiling!

In Italian with English subtitles.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) PG-13
A truly amazing film about the human spirit. The scenery is beautiful and the filming extraordinary. Jean Bauby, the French editor of Elle magazine, suffers a stroke and suffers from “locked-in” syndrome. He is trapped in his own body (which is useless) but his mind still functions normally. He is paralyzed except for his left eye. By blinking one letter at a time, with the help of his caregiver, he writes a memoir.

Based on Bauby’s 1997 memoir of the same name. Check out the Salon.com article to find out which parts of the movie are based in fact.

In French with English subtitles.

A Very Long Engagement = Un long dimanche de fiançailles

A Very Long Engagement = Un long dimanche de fiançailles (2004) R
This French movie based on a novel of the same name is the troubling, poignant and often darkly humorous story of Mathilde (Audrey Tautou) as she searches for the truth about her fiancé during WWI. Was he the coward he was labeled? Five men, including her fiancé, were condemned to death for shooting themselves to escape the front lines. Did he survive an almost sure death in the no man’s land between the French and German lines?

In French with English subtitles.

Amelie = Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain

Amelie  = Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (2001) R
Amelie is a young woman with a keen imagination and an active fantasy life. She works in a cafe where she steps into the lives of others around her to help them out…in her uniquely whimsical and romantic way.

In French with English subtitles.