The Tab Guide to Foreign Film

Communists, soft-core porn, and Johnny Depp’s wife: FRANCESCA HILL shows you the friendly face of Foreign Film.

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Of the many burdens which artsy MMLers bear (Foucault, unemployment and essays about “transgressing liminal space between Self and Other” being choice examples), the inability to ever find people to watch films with ranks pretty highly. 

Friends scurry away complaining of migraines and hair that urgently needs washing. Doors slam, curtains close, and DVDs of comedy films starring Jonah Hill are clutched to chests in fear.

But, gentle reader, do not panic. For I am here to show you five classics of international cinema that anyone and I mean ANYONE can watch. It’s not all philosophising and prolonged awkward silences and heartbreaking social commentary. I mean, there is a lot of that, but there’s also more to it. For one thing, there is often a lot of gratuitous nudity. So it’s not all bad.

So here we have it: Foreign Cinema fit for the Mainstream.

Days of Glory

There’s a general assumption that Hollywood makes the best war films, and it’s one that really needs challenging. This 2006 film about the role of North African troops in liberating France from Nazi occupation is spectacular, heartbreaking and easy-to-watch all at once. Its release was closely linked to changes in the law bringing the pensions of colonial veterans into line with those of mainland French soldiers. This is a Big Film dealing with some Big Themes.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Everyone on the planet already knows about this franchise, but it’s still going in here because there is no excuse to watch any American remake of ANYTHING, EVER. It’s cultural barbarianism. No, not even if it has Daniel Craig in. I understand that he’s got a nice jaw line, but still no. Noomi Rapace is a totally kick-ass bisexual punk hacker, and the whole trilogy is definitely worth watching.

Goodbye Lenin

A favourite amongst lovers of German cinema, this is beautifully funny and poignant at the same time. The ever-cute Daniel Brühl goes to extraordinary lengths to convince his mother they still live under a communist dictatorship. In reality, the Berlin Wall fell a few months previously whilst she was in a coma, and he just doesn’t want to upset her. Awkward.

And Your Mother Too

This is a film for the boys. Two teenagers go for a road trip with a hot older woman they picked up at a family wedding, and it all spirals into a surreal mix of sex, drugs, Mexican villagers, and wild pigs. Probably don’t watch it with family members. And you may have to turn the sound down at regular intervals or your neighbours will think you have a serious porn addiction.


The French don’t have a good reputation for comedy. But they have a great reputation for hating Americans, and so when they decided to make a Hollywood-style RomCom with Johnny Depp’s then-wife and beat said Americans at their own game, it actually turned out pretty damn well. The performances are great, and the script is hilarious, with some brilliant manipulation of cliché. Your girlfriend will love it. You might even love it too.