(Welcome to Pop Culture Imports, a column that compiles the best foreign movies and TV streaming right now.)
In this week’s Pop Culture Imports, the French would gladly die for love…and liberty, equality, and a good apartment building. This week’s column is dominated by films that come from the land of baguettes and biting social satire. Some of the best foreign movies and TV streaming now include Luis Buñuel’s surrealist masterpiece, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s bizarre post-apocalyptic black comedy Delicatessen, Roman Polanski’s psychological horror film The Tenant, as well as two collaborative Netflix titles that give refreshing spins on anime and the crime drama.
So, let’s do as Bong Joon-ho says and overcome that one-inch barrier of subtitles to watch the best foreign movies and TV streaming now.
Best Foreign Movies and TV Streaming Now
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie – Criterion Channel
Genre: Surrealist comedy-drama
Director: Luis Buñuel
Cast: Fernando Rey, Paul Frankeur, Delphine Seyrig, Stéphane Audran, Bulle Ogier, Jean-Pierre Cassel.
For the entirety of Luis Buñuel‘s surrealist masterpiece, a rich group of upper middle class friends keep trying to dine together, only to get thwarted by increasingly bizarre events. At first, it’s a simple mistake of a wrong date, then it’s a discovery of a dead body, an assassination attempt by a female Latin American terrorist, an entire army unit that descends upon the house for drills, and finally a series of fractured dreams (some of them dreams within other people’s dreams) that bring forth the group’s greatest fears. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is as exasperating as it is enthralling, an absurdist class satire that makes the perfect chaser to last year’s slew of “eat the rich” films. Buñuel’s film could indeed be called the original “eat the rich” satire, by ironically not allowing its characters to eat the entire time.
Watch This If You Like: Being John Malkovich, Sorry to Bother You, eating the rich.
Scissor Seven – Netflix
Genre: Action-comedy anime series
Producer: Zou Shasha
Cast: Yixuan Duan, Xiaofeng He, Guangtao Jiang
With Netflix’s abundance of anime series, it’s easy for new shows to get lost amid the cacophony. But Scissor Seven, a hand-drawn Chinese anime about an amnesiac who decides to become a freelance hired killer, cuts its way through the noise with its offbeat, zany sense of humor and thoroughly unique style. Originally titled Killer Seven, it aired on Chinese TV in 2018 before making its way to Netflix this year with a new SEO-friendly title. Unlike many Chinese animes that attempt to mimic the photorealistic beauty of prestigious Japanese anime, Scissor Seven‘s broad, cartoony style calls to mind the elastic animation of Looney Tunes and the foul-mouthed and self-aware humor of South Park. While it’s not groundbreaking by any means, at 16-minute runtimes per episode, Scissor Seven breezes by in all its irreverent, hyperviolent glory.
Watch This If You Like: Deadpool, Harley Quinn, Aggretsuko, South Park, foul-mouthed talking birds.
Delicatessen – Amazon Prime
Genre: Post-apocalyptic black comedy
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro
Cast: Dominique Pinon, Marie-Laure Dougnac, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Karin Viard, Rufus, Ticky Holgado.
Full of disturbing gallows humor and an aggressive visual style that bombards the senses, Delicatessen is an grotesque dystopic romance that is better off seen before dinner. Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marco Caro’s film takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where food is in short supply and grain is used as currency. As a result, the meat eaters of the world have resorted to cannibalism, sustained by a malicious butcher and landlord Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfusc) who lures in victims by putting up ads for jobs and killing the unsuspecting employees to feed to his tenants. But when his daughter falls in love with the latest victim, a former clown (Dominique Pinon) who charms half the tenants, Clapet goes on a murdering spree that wreaks destruction on the entire building. Delicatessen is probably best known as the film whose director accused The Shape of Water of plagiarism, but it’s a truly weird and original film worth watching — if you have the stomach for it.
Watch This If You Like: The City of Lost Children, Brazil, Amelie, going vegetarian.
Giri / Haji – Netflix
Country: Britain, Japan
Genre: Crime thriller
Director: Julian Farino, Ben Chessell
Cast: Takehiro Hira, Kelly Macdonald, Yosuke Kubozuka, Will Sharpe, Masahiro Motoki, Justin Long, Charlie Creed-Miles.
Yakuza wars! Seedy bars! Enigmatic characters with secrets! Giri/Haji (subtitled Duty/Shame) takes all the typical elements of a cop drama and gives it an international twist — taking a hardened Tokyo detective (Takehiro Hira) whose brother had died after getting involved in the yakuza, and dropping him in the middle of a London murder investigation. Created by Joe Barton (Humans), Giri/Haji is an international co-production between the U.K. and Japan, airing on BBC Two in October before making its way to Netflix this month. With deference made to both the Japanese and U.K. sides of the story, Giri/Haji feels like a truly unique crime thriller, aided by occasional experiments in format (from dynamic animated segments to the use of widescreen aspect ratio). Giri/Haji follows Detective Kenzo Mori (Hira) who heads to London to find his long-dead brother, who may be responsible for a killing that is about to start a Tokyo yakuza war. Kelly Macdonald also stars as a shy British detective and the counterpart to Mori’s hardboiled detective.
Watch This If You Like: The Killing, Twin Peaks, Broadchurch, when it goes all the way to the top!
The Tenant – Amazon Prime, Hulu
Genre: Psychological horror
Director: Roman Polanski
Cast: Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas, Shelley Winters.
The last film in Roman Polanski’s loose Apartment trilogy, following Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant is a moody, Kafkaesque psychological horror film that presents the most terrifying monster of all: bad neighbors. Polanski stars as a quiet and unassuming Polish immigrant who rents the apartment of a woman who had recently committed suicide, and slowly begins to suspect that his neighbors and landlord are trying to drive him to do the same. A film that will touch a raw nerve for anyone who has lived in a building with nosy, uptight neighbors, The Tenant is a claustrophobic thriller that touches on every theme from xenophobia, to sexual repression, to the sinister nature of assimilation. The result is a somewhat cluttered film whose elements don’t always necessarily come together, but The Tenant is still a wholly unnerving thriller.
Watch This If You Like: mother!, Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, Rear Window, hating neighbors.
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