Seeking beautiful, deep European films like those of Kieslowski
February 4, 2005 3:07 PM   Subscribe

EuropeanFilmFilter: I would love some French/German/Central and East European film recommendations. I'm looking for movies like 'Red' and the 'Double Life of Veronique' by Kieslowski- visually stimulating, beautiful films that aren't necessarily really sweet feel good movies like Amelie. I'm looking for films that you walk away from feeling great because you've seen something beautiful, or they leave you trying to figure out the plot's allegorical meanings, or thinking about the universe, or whatever. (mi)

Good soundtracks are a plus. Films from other countries are welcome, too.
posted by sophie to Media & Arts (42 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I absolutely love Werner Herzog's films (German) from the late 70's and early 80's. "Aguirre, Wrath of God" and "Fitzcarraldo" are two films that are beautiful, poetic, grand, dirty, and, because they feature Klaus Kinski, are completely compelling and frightening. He also made (and is still making) a number of really tremendous documentaries.
posted by billysumday at 3:24 PM on February 4, 2005

Der Himmel über Berlin is one of my favorites. (It's Wings of Desire auf Englisch - one of the lamest title translations ever IMO.) After you see it, check out other stuff by Wenders - he's an acquired taste, certainly, but a terrific auteur nonetheless.
posted by ruddhist at 3:27 PM on February 4, 2005

In terms of beauty and allegory, the renaissance really was in the New Wave of the mid 60's. Try Godard, especially CONTEMPT or UNE FEMME EST UNE FEMME. You'd also probably like the films of Italy's Michelangelo Antonioni, especially RED DESERT. Jacque Demy's THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG is about as visually stimulating as European films come, but it seems like a sweet feel good movie at the beginning, so beware. For visually stunning comedy without that saccharine aftertaste, try Jacque Tati's PLAYTIME. Also check out later Fellini and Bergman (8 1/2 and PERSONA are good places to start).

More recent films? Jumping to Scandinavia, SONGS FROM THE SECOND FLOOR is a masterpiece of framing and production design in the form of an eerie apocalpytic comedy. Bela Tarr's WERCKMEISTER HARMONIES takes place in gritty, rural Hungary, but Tarr makes it as eerily beautiful as the Paris of RED. To get back to France, you might want to try IRMA VEP.

Also, the suggestion for WINGS OF DESIRE is very much seconded.
posted by eschatfische at 3:31 PM on February 4, 2005

Since you like Kieslowski, I'll start out by saying that The Decalogue is one of the most beautiful, if heartbreaking, series of short films I've ever seen. (Have a box of tissues ready for the first one, in particular.) God, what a great filmmaker he was!

Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev isn't for everyone (long, long, long, with not a lot of overt action), but I found it positively mesmerizing. More recent Russian films that resonated a lot with me include Burnt by the Sun, Russian Ark, and The Return.

As for the French, I always figure you can't go wrong with the classics -- The 400 Blows, Jules et Jim, Breathless, etc. And one of the all-time great Italian films is Nights of Cabiria. I'm inexplicably spacing out on German films to recommend, other than to second Wings of Desire. Let me put on my thinking cap and get back to you...
posted by scody at 3:35 PM on February 4, 2005

anything by Michael Haneke, Bruno Dumont, the Dardenne Brothers
posted by matteo at 3:39 PM on February 4, 2005

Les Uns et Les Autres by Claude Lelouch. Get the original version, not the shortened US version called Bolero. It's visually stunning.

Also - Kubrik. See Barry Lyndon for visual lushness.

Also - Bernardo Bertolucci - 1900 springs to mind (with a young Robert de Niro and Gerard Depardieu)

Also, for visual richness - Fassbinder
posted by seawallrunner at 3:40 PM on February 4, 2005

You should check the fantastic recommendations (many by dobbs himself) in this thread started by our resident movie guru, dobbs (now, alas, a MeFi refugee, hopefully temporary). I'd say anything by Godard outside of his mid-'70s Maoist agitprop phase, Bertolucci's The Conformist, Kieslowski's Decalog... well, there's a million of 'em.
posted by languagehat at 3:40 PM on February 4, 2005

oops, I got sidelined by visual richness and forgot you wanted French/Central/German. So nevermind Bertolucci and Kubrik ;)
posted by seawallrunner at 3:41 PM on February 4, 2005

I will third (or fourth?) that most of the stuff from the French New Wave is great, and are the types of films you see and then want to discuss over coffee and key-lime pie.

The 400 Blows, Jules et Jim and Day For Night (all from François Truffaut)

Breathless and My Life to Live (both from Godard)

Last Year at Marienbad (which makes no sense, but is really really fun to watch if you are in the right mood)

The Rules of the Game (not part of the new wave, but a french )
posted by Quartermass at 3:47 PM on February 4, 2005

On the Eastern European front, I would second scody's Decalogue and Tarkovsky recommendations (although I prefer his more personal take inThe Sacrifice). Bela Tarr (and his 8 hour opus Satantango) is also someone to watch out for, although his films can be difficult to find. More recently, some films that impressed me were The Return (reminiscent of Edward Hopper paintings for me) and Uzak (a Turkish homage to Tarkovsky, but visually striking all the same). All of these are thematically a bit distant and somewhat depressing, but contain poetic imagery that are likely to stick with you for a very long time. You didn't ask for Middle Eastern, but the works of Kiarostami are gorgeous, meditative, and like watching a National Geographic documentary unfold.
posted by ch3ch2oh at 3:50 PM on February 4, 2005

Not sure if you've seen them and that's why you asked for more, but films from the Czech New Wave era are wonderful - like Closely Watched Trains, Loves of a Blonde, Fireman's Ball, The Shop on Main Street.
posted by milkrate at 3:53 PM on February 4, 2005

- You already cited Kieslowski: don't forget the 2 other parts of his "Bleu, Blanc, Rouge" trilogy and his Decalogue (originally made for TV).
- Andrei Tarkovsky (Russian) did make extraordinary movies. I'd recommend Stalker , particularly.
- Emir Kusturica: Time of the Gypsies, Underground
- Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov : Luna papa. The heroin of this movie, Chulpan Khamatova, was also in Wolfang Becker's Goodbye Lenin!
- Patrice Leconte (French) has been doing uneven films lately, but Ridicule and Tandem stand out.
- Andrzej Zulawski (French/Polish) : check out L'important c'est d'aimer.
- Pedro Almodovar (Spanish, I know) : any movie, but particularly Tacones Lejanos, and Hable con ella.

Oh, well, there would be Fassbinder (Die Ehe der Maria Braun), Nikita Mikhalkov (Urga, Oci Ciornie), Bertrand Tavernier (Le juge et l'assassin), Pierre Schoendorffer (Le crabe tambour), Claude Sautet (Les choses de la vie), Pavel Lungin (Taxi Blues, Oligarkh), Jacques Doillon (Le petit criminel), Claude Chabrol (La cérémonie) etc.
posted by elgilito at 3:56 PM on February 4, 2005

Mediterraneo and the Hairdresser's Husband are among my top 5 of all time (both directors have many other good films but those are my favs). They are easy to find and accessible to all, but also rich and enjoyable. I also list David Ondricek's Septej and Samotári as favorites, but they're quite tough to find.
posted by milovoo at 4:05 PM on February 4, 2005

Stalker is of course seconded. My favorite film of all time.
posted by noius at 4:32 PM on February 4, 2005

Our local cinema almost always has something good playing. Not that you live around here, but you could see almost anything on their list and feel like it was worth it. This is Central Europe and these are the films our local (Central European) film aficionados recommend. We recently had a run of fine Czech films. Now some American stuff you've probably seen (for example, Miedzy Slowami = Between Words = Lost in Translation). Tonight, I saw Plytki Grób (Shallow Grave) and had a good time.
posted by pracowity at 4:49 PM on February 4, 2005

I second Good Bye Lenin!
posted by borkingchikapa at 4:56 PM on February 4, 2005

I just saw Kontroll and enjoyed it. It's only been released in Hungary, but you can get it as an import for about $15 and the Hungarian release includes English subtitles.
posted by cali at 4:58 PM on February 4, 2005

Response by poster: This is great. I'm moving soon, and I will have access to my old university's library with an expansive film collection- plus I want to start ordering/borrowing movies online. I'll probably print out this thread and start from the top - there are a lot of movies I haven't seen. I appreciate the help, guys!
posted by sophie at 5:23 PM on February 4, 2005

Although I haven't seen anything before he started working in Hollywood, I imagine Roman Polanski fits the bill. The stop motion animation of Jan Svankmajer is at times absolutely stunning, and most of his movies include little to no dialogue.

I'll also second/third/etc Breathless, Day for Night, Wings of Desire, and Stalker.

I wonder why you didn't include Scandanavians and Italians as well.
posted by too many notes at 5:25 PM on February 4, 2005

Ah, yes, I'll also wholeheartedly recommend Goodbye Lenin! Great film. Brush up on the history of German reunification before you see it, though, and you'll get more out of it.
posted by ruddhist at 5:31 PM on February 4, 2005

I love Herzog's films also, specifically Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre the Wrath of God, also Nosferatu and Dieter Learns to Fly [or something like that]. If you decide to go on a Herzog kick, I'd recommend getting those movies as well as My Best Fiend which is a documentary about Herzog and his moviemaking with Klaus Kinski. There's something gritty and real about these movies, very muddy and otherwordly and strange. Aguirre has an ethereal soundtrack by Popul Vuh which really makes the movie excellent and transcendent.
posted by jessamyn at 5:33 PM on February 4, 2005

The Return, the beautifully shot, quietly disturbing and emotionally harrowing debut film of Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev, about two small boys coming home one day to find that their father, who has been away for twelve years and whom they only know through an old photograph, is back and behaving as if nothing has happened. When he tells them he would like to take them on a fishing trip, the boys reluctantly agree, wary of the sinister figure suddenly intruding into their lives, but also hungry for the father figure they have been missing. When the fishing trip is derailed by the father's constant need to "take care of some business", things start to go awry.

Anything by Werner Herzog, especially the hypnotic magical realism of Heart of Glass, and the wonderful "gentle savage" tale Every Man for Himself and God Against All (aka The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser).

And Stalker, of course.
posted by gentle at 5:46 PM on February 4, 2005

I'll add in Cloe from 5 to 7, by Agnes Varda. There's a Criterion DVD, it's a beautiful film.

I wish I had netflix, I'd be adding to the queue.

Also, I really love Michelangelo Antonioni--Blowup and La Notte are two of my favorite movies.
posted by josh at 5:46 PM on February 4, 2005

Response by poster: I wonder why you didn't include Scandanavians and Italians as well.
I'm interested in Italian, Scandinavian, Dutch or other film recommendations from other countries - I guess I didn't want to cast too wide a net. I appreciate any suggestions you have.
posted by sophie at 5:52 PM on February 4, 2005

I will re-recommend the movie I offered up in the dobbs thread -- Before the Rain (Pred dozhdot). Completely fucking stunning cinematography, and a really good non-linear story to boot.
posted by contessa at 6:36 PM on February 4, 2005

I thought you already had asked for films from other countries in your first comment...

My spouse recommends these French-Canadian films: Le Déclin de l'empire Américain, Les Invasions Barbares, Léolo, Jésus de Montréal , Mon Oncle Antoine, Un Zoo La Nuit
posted by ?! at 7:01 PM on February 4, 2005

Breaking the Waves, by Danish director Lars von Trier was beautiful, but so, so, so sad. Brace yourself before watching it.

If you're open to North American fare, I suggest Le Confessionel by Robert LePage and anything by Terrence Malick (just watched Days of Heaven and it's gorgeous).
posted by picea at 7:31 PM on February 4, 2005

In French, The Dream Life of Angels and The Man on the Train are both fabulous.
posted by Pattie at 7:55 PM on February 4, 2005

Great frickin' thread! I enthusiastically second eschatfische's Godard rec -- I was lucky enough to see Une Femme Est Une Femme on the big screen, and it was one of the most vivid and hilarious things I've ever seen. I'd also recommend Breathless, though it's a bit more pretentious and lacks the love of color evident in UFEUF. (It was shot in black and white, after all...)

Jeez, I gotta start watching some of these films y'all have listed.
posted by hifiparasol at 8:51 PM on February 4, 2005

My favorite German movies.

I think Underground is the perfect answer to the question--it does every single thing you ask for. Definitely check it out.
posted by muckster at 9:17 PM on February 4, 2005

One more: DIVA by Jean-Jacques Beneix is fabulous
posted by seawallrunner at 9:27 PM on February 4, 2005

Second Contempt.
posted by Gyan at 9:36 PM on February 4, 2005

Ceux qui m'aiment prendront le train (France,) Uzak (Turkey,) La Ardilla Roja (Spain,) Cold Fever (Iceland,) Morvern Callar (Scotland.) I've enjoyed all those at various times, and they are all quite dreamy/allegorical/visually inspiring. I'd also second a lot written above like Breathless, Breaking the Waves, Wings of Desire and anything by Almodovar (especially Carne Tremula and Hable con Ella - his masterpieces IMO.)
posted by fire&wings at 2:14 AM on February 5, 2005

I just watched Band of Outsiders again for the 100th time. That should fit the bill.
posted by jasonspaceman at 6:50 AM on February 5, 2005

I second Tarkovsky, but my own favorite is The Mirror. Also, Sokurov's Russian Ark is stunning.
posted by languagehat at 7:31 AM on February 5, 2005

Cinema Paradiso is one of my favorites. The last scene leaves me nearly in tears but renews my love of film every time.
posted by Arch Stanton at 8:14 AM on February 5, 2005

Carl Theodor Dreyer...and the big ones mentioned above, like Fassbinder and Herzog. Alain Resnais's Hiroshima Mon Amour is devastating too.

Not exactly what you're looking for but!--the friends who got me into a lot of the above also got me hooked on Ozu. See Late Spring and cry a lot at how deceptively simple and beautiful it is, right down to the last shot. It's the first film that's made me cry in a peaceful kind of way, not a straining wrenching one.
posted by ifjuly at 9:37 AM on February 5, 2005

I enjoyed Un coeur en hiver, Karakter, Jean de Florette/Manon des sources, Pelle erobreren, Burnt By The Sun, Kolya, and L' Homme du train, among others.
posted by rushmc at 9:40 AM on February 5, 2005

Cheers to languagehat's mention of Russian Ark. Great film.
posted by hifiparasol at 11:05 AM on February 5, 2005

Response by poster: Kick ass list! Thank you everyone for your thoughtful recommendations. This is fantastic.
posted by sophie at 3:20 PM on February 5, 2005

It's not a film per se, but Edgar Reitz's Heimat -- all 900+ minutes of it -- ought to go on the list, because it's just monumental. The closest thing I can compare it to, in its scope, and its attempt to portray an entire culture in microcosm, over time, is Roots.

And if Reitz's approach appeals to you, there are two further Heimats, though I'm not sure if they're available on DVD anywhere. (Speaking of which, it tears me up that La Double Vie de Veronique isn't on DVD yet.)
posted by riviera at 3:46 PM on February 5, 2005

Late, but... Nobody's mentioned The Bicycle Thief yet. One of my favorites.
posted by booth at 1:14 PM on February 6, 2005

« Older Anyone have advice on buying a home?   |   What are the limitations of keystroke recorders? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.