Pop Culture Imports: 'Céline and Julie Go Boating,' 'The Artist,' 'Cinema Paradiso,' and More
(Welcome to Pop Culture Imports, a column that compiles the best foreign movies and TV streaming right now.)
Right now, in another life, the Cannes Film Festival would be showing hundreds of attendees the most prestigious arthouse films in the world. But since we’re not living that life, why not brush up on some international classics from the comfort of your home? Pop Culture Imports is here to provide you with all your subtitled needs, whether it’s a surreal French New Wave comedy or the latest Netflix K-drama. Or you might not even need subtitles at all, but just a love for cinema at its most nostalgic. Whatever you desire, let’s fire up those subtitles and get streaming.
Best Foreign Movies and TV Streaming Now
Céline and Julie Go Boating – Criterion Channel
Genre: Surrealist comedy
Director: Jacques Rivette
Cast: Dominique Labourier, Juliet Berto.
The film that famously inspired Desperately Seeking Susan, Jacques Rivette’s dreamy surrealist French New Wave masterpiece Céline and Julie Go Boating wears its own inspirations on its sleeve: Lewis Carroll’s fantastical adventure, Alice in Wonderland. But despite its labyrinthine plot and a Russian nesting doll of narratives within narratives, Céline and Julie Go Boating is an infinitely watchable deep dive down the rabbit hole. Much like the Lewis Carroll classic, Céline and Julie Go Boating follows a curious young woman who follows a stranger unwittingly dropping objects — first a pair of sunglasses, then a scarf, then more. As the bored librarian Celine (Juliet Berto) chases after this free-spirited bohemian Julie (Dominique Labourier), she becomes more fascinated by the woman. The two soon strike up a pseudo-romantic, codependent relationship, with the pair of them moving in together and spontaneously switching identities. But the lackadaisical nature of the first half gives way to an even more trippy second half, which drops Celine and Julie in a murder mystery melodrama through the use of psychotropic candies. Despite its pretentious sheen, Céline and Julie Go Boating plays like a chill hangout movie that lazily switches genres and tones at the drop of a hat. But it’s so fun to watch Berto and Labourier work their onscreen magic — in some cases, literally, as Labourier’s Julie is a stage magician — that you barely even notice when the third hour of the film flies by.
Watch This If You Like: Big Fish, Desperately Seeking Susan, Mulholland Drive, stage magic.
The Artist – Netflix
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo.
The Artist has somewhat fallen out of favor in film circles since it won Best Picture at the Oscars in 2011. But despite all the criticisms that have been levied at Michel Hazanavicius’ black-and-white silent film — it was a gimmick, it was self-congratulatory Hollywood nonsense, it was overly simplistic — The Artist is still a delightfully charming ode to a bygone era. Starring Jean Dujardin as a matinee idol in 1920s Hollywood, The Artist follows Dujardin’s George Valentine as he discovers and falls in love with a bright young ingenue named Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). But as Peppy’s star begins to rise, George’s begins to fade. Yes, we’ve seen everything in The Artist before, and yes, the film plays on our nostalgia for the glamour of classic Hollywood, but the charisma of its leads (Dujardin in particular gives an all-timer performance that should’ve landed him the lead role in every major Hollywood movie to follow) and an adorable little dog makes The Artist a wonderful trip down cinematic memory lane.
Watch This If You Like: La La Land, A Star is Born, Singin’ in the Rain, cute dancing dogs.
Cinema Paradiso – HBO Go
Genre: Coming-of-age period drama
Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Cast: Jacques Perrin, Philippe Noiret, Leopoldo Trieste, Marco Leonardi, Agnese Nano, Salvatore Cascio.
Was there ever a more lush and emotionally rich ode to cinema than Cinema Paradiso? None at least that have as beautiful a score as the one by Ennio Morricone, whose majestic music transports you away to a small Sicilian village where a young boy’s love for the movies becomes the driving emotional force of Giuseppe Tornatore’s gushing love letter to cinema. One of the most popular Italian films of all time, Cinema Paradiso follows young Salvatore Di Vita (Salvatore Cascio as a child, Marco Leonardi as a teenager, Jacques Perrin as an adult) as he comes of age in post-World War II Italy. A mischievous young boy who avoids schoolwork and his duties as an altar boy, Salvatore loves nothing more than spending time at the village’s lone movie house, Cinema Paradiso, where he befriends the curmudgeonly projectionist, Alfredo, who eventually teaches him how to run the projector. A sprawling coming-of-age story riddled with the pains of tragedy and the ecstasy of first love, Cinema Paradiso is nostalgia transformed into a two-hour feature film. While a little sentimental at times, its a wonderful depiction of the pure, unadulterated joy of cinema.
Watch This If You Like: Hugo, The 400 Blows, Pain and Glory, nostalgia.
Extracurricular – Netflix
Country: South Korea
Genre: Crime K-drama
Director: Kim Jin-min
Cast: Kim Dong-hee, Jung Da-bin, Park Ju-hyun, Nam Yoon-soo, Choi Min-soo, Park Hyuk-kwon, Kim Yeo-jin.
Extracurricular is Risky Business for the rideshare era, if Risky Business dropped its ’80s comedy antics and became a gritty crime drama that actually leaned into the consequences of teen prostitution. The rare lean K-drama (I have a fondness for the genre, but it tends towards melodramatic bloat), Extracurricular is more electric and current than most of its contemporaries. The premise sounds like the stuff of soap: Extracurricular follows a genius-level high school student (Itaewon Class‘ Kim Dong-hee) who runs an online prostitution ring to make ends meet, but is blackmailed by a fellow student who discovers his scheme. Gritty and unflinching, Extracurricular is an addicting crime drama that is a step apart from most other K-dramas you’ll find on Netflix. As nice as their production values have become and as global a phenomenon as they are, K-dramas are still heavily indebted to their cheap soapy predecessors and rarely intersect with the tonally sharp, comically violent Korean cinema that is so beloved on the world stage. But Extracurricular does. Balancing taut suspense with dark, offbeat humor with a dash of social commentary, Extracurricular makes a great intro to K-dramas for those looking to scratch that Parasite itch.
Watch This If You Like: Risky Business, Bad Genius, Skins, teens doing bad things.
Into the Night – Netflix
Genre: Apocalyptic sci-fi thriller series
Creator: Jason George.
Cast: Pauline Etienne, Laurent Capelluto, Stefano Cassetti, Mehmet Kurtulus.
Into the Night starts with a really, really silly premise: the sun is killing people. But somehow, this Belgian apocalyptic sci-fi series manages to turn a premise that sounds like an SNL comedy bit into a taut apocalyptic thriller. A midnight flight to Moscow from Brussels begins to board its first-class passengers — an odd, diverse assortment of rich jerks, influencers, nurses, and conveniently, a former military helicopter pilot — when it is hijacked by a frantic man (Stefano Cassetti) claiming to be with NATO. The frightened passengers and pilot are held captive by the armed man, who demands that they fly west or risk being killed by the sunrise. The first episode of the six-part series plays out like a tense terrorist thriller, until it slowly dawns on the passengers (pun intended) that the man is telling the truth. The series doesn’t get too flashy with its oddball premise, wisely keeping the story simple: continue flying west, as the airplane is chased by the ticking time bomb that is the rising sun, while contending with unruly passengers and slowly depleting fuel. Think Speed on an airplane.
Watch This If You Like: Lost, The Leftovers, Flashforward, airplanes.
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