La Marche de L’empereur (2005)
March of the Penguins

An independent  language advantage film review by Emmanuel Lainé

After a long summer of feasting, the emperor penguins of Antarctica begin to march inland to the breeding grounds where each of them were born. Walking in a long single line, they all know where they are going, even those making the march for the first time, and when they get there they carefully choose their mates.

From the director Luc Jaquet, ‘The March of the Penguins’ is a new type of documentary, closely related to fiction. This movie describes the long and cruel reality of being a penguin in the harshest environment of Antartica. The impressive scene of the males protecting their eggs against the freezing cold blizzard adds to their reality. It is like some kind of Hitchcock suspense: will the females come back on time to take their turn to protect the eggs?

In a few words, The March of the Penguins is a beautiful movie. It’s moving, and emotionally charged. Perfect for an hour and a half with your family and provides a very simple ecological message. Its simplicity is portrayed by the incredible beauty of the harsh landscape and the survival instinct of an extraordinary species.

In  easy to understand French  with english subtitles , it is  ideal for beginners. This film is also available in English with Morgan Freeman as the voice-over.

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De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté (2005)
The Beat that my Heart Skipped

An independent  language advantage film review by Emmanuel Lainé

At 28 years old, Tom (Romain Duris) is a property developer with a business that is gradually falling deeper and deeper into illegal dealings in order to generate more profit. A meeting with someone from his past will force him to believe that time is still on his side, that he will become someone else, but more specifically, to become the concert pianist he once dreamt of being. Continuing with the illegal dealings of his job, he gets ready for an audition.

‘The Beat that my Heart Skipped’ won best movie at the Cesar awards 2005 and is a typical French movie. The story enables the actors to show their full potential in which Tom (Romain Duris, also in L’auberge Espagnole and Les Poupees Russes), Robert (Niels Arestrup), Chris (Emmanuelle Devos, also in Read my Lips) and Miao Lin (Linh-Dan Pham, also in Indochine) excel. Directed by Jacques Audiard (also Read my Lips), ‘The Beat that my Heart Skipped’ is an astonishing journey into the familiarity of French society through the eyes of a family.

The French language is easy to understand and I’d recommended this film for beginners. In French with English subtitles.

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A la Folie, Pas du Tout (2002)
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Carroll

The title and cover of this French film suggest a beautiful love story set in picturesque France. But be ready for an entertaining, and sometimes morbid, journey through obsessive and unrequited love as Angélique falls in love with her older man, Loïc. Sadly for her, he is happily married and his wife is expecting a baby. An interesting insight into a story told from opposite sides.

Angélique is played by Audrey Tautou of Amelie fame and is accompanied on screen by her love interest played by Samuel le Bihan also in Brotherhood of the Wolf. First film from new Director Laetitia Colombani. In French with English subtitles. Rated 12 in the UK.

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La Pianiste (2001)
The Piano Teacher

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

La Pianiste is a tale of the limits one man is willing to go to be with the woman that he loves and the relationship between teacher and pupil.

Erika (Isabelle Huppert) is a piano instructor at a famous music school in Vienna. She is a highly respected musician but a harsh teacher. She lives with her mother (Annie Girardot) and does not have a husband or a lover in her life. Erika satisfies her sexual appetite by watching extreme porn videos and voyeurism which sometimes involves pain and self-mutilation. She discovers that she has attracted the attentions of Walter ( Benoît Magimel), one of her students. When Walter stands up for one of his fellow students after a recital Erika is angry and storms off to the bathrooms where Walter follows her. Erika approaches Walter in a sexual way and refuses to fully satisfy him unless she can have complete control over the relationship. Once Walter realises what Erika’s control will involve he refuses to go ahead with it. He then decides to turn the tables and give Erika a taste of her own controlling attitude.

This film is shockingly violent in places but also very watchable. You are drawn into the controlling relationship and the messed up characters. You want to understand why these things are happening but are given no explanation. Michael Haneke has directed a film which is very shocking at times but also extremely thought-provoking.

In French with English subtitles.

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Amelie (2001)

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Carroll

Amelie, born of a distant father and an eccentric mother, has been sheltered by her parents. As she leaves home she leads us through her fantasy life while she works as a waitress in Paris. She makes a surprise find and then discovers that she must spend her life helping others find love and happiness. Until she falls in love herself, that is! This movie leaves you laughing, crying, captivated and often perplexed – but after all it is a French film, and a great one at that.

The director of this French film is Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Amelie is played by Audrey Tautou. In French with English subtitles.

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Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)

An independent  language advantage film review by Andrea Martins

The storyline of this film is very intriguing and gripping. Set in 1764, it is based on the legend of a monstrous beast that apparently lived in the Gevaudan region of France. The story follows the investigations of Gregoire de Fronsac (played by Simon le Bihan) and his side-kick Mohawk (played by Mark Dacascos) into the murders of women and children who seemed to have been hunted down and killed by this savage beast. Their investigations lead to several rendez-vous with a beautiful prostitute (Monica Belluci) who helps them to find the beast. The beast, as it turns out, is not all that it appears to be…

This film has some amazing action scenes and some even more amazing martial arts fighting that add to the enjoyment of the story. It is beautiful to watch and although a little ridiculous in places (martial arts in France in the 1700’s?!), it is entertaining and worth watching. I recommend you watch the extras as it gives more information about the legend and the beast.

The (French) language is easy to understand and although you can watch this film with the dubbing switched on, I would recommend that you watch it with the subtitles to have a more complete experience of the Gevaudan legend. In French with subtitles.

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Trois Couleurs Bleu (1993)
Three Colours Blue

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

Three Colours Blue is the first part of Kieslowski’s trilogy and demonstrates the first element of the French Republic – freedom.

It is set in Paris, where Julie (Juliette Binoche), wife of the famous composer Patrice de Courcy (Benoît Régent), must cope with the death of her husband and daughter in a car accident which she survives. During the film, Julie cuts herself off from her past and her friends. She falls in love with Olivier Benoit, her late husband’s helper and she discovers her late husband was having an affair.

In my opinion, this part of the trilogy is the best of the three. I am slightly biased as I love Juliette Binoche and Benoît Régent, but this has got to be one of the best films I have seen this year. I would recommend this to anyone with a knowledge of French (or even without any French) as it is absolutely fantastic. If you are going to watch a French film soon I would definately make it this one.

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Trois Couleurs Blanc (1993)
Three Colours White

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

Three Colours White is the second part of Kieslowski’s trilogy and illustrates the second element of the French Republic – equality.

The first part of the film is set in Paris, where we meet Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski), the main character who is pleading with a judge in a divorce court. He is a Polish immigrant and is getting divorced from his wife, Dominique (Julie Delpy). His divorce leaves him as a beggar. He has a chance meeting with a fellow Pole, Mikolaj (Janusz Gajos) who takes him back to Poland and they set up business together. In Poland, Karol changes and becomes ambitious and focuses on making money with Mikolaj. He uses his new ambition to create a scheme to win back Dominique and ultimately ruins her life with his actions.

The second part of Kieslowski’s trilogy doesn’t let him down. I enjoyed this part a little less than the Three Colours Blue (only due to the cast) but would definitely watch it again and it is great if you want to watch a French film with or without the subtitles.

The French accent is reasonably easy to understand as simple French is used and you can also choose whether you want subtitles or not, which is useful as you may want to test your French out and if you are struggling you can always add the subtitles on later. Overall this film is fantastic; I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to absolutely everyone, regardless of whether you can understand French or not. In French with subtitles.

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Trois Couleurs Rouge (1994)
Three Colours Red

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

Three Colours Red is the final part of a trilogy by Kieslowski.

The film is set in Geneva, Switzerland and follows Valentine Dussaut (Irène Jacob), a young model and Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a retired judge, who meet by chance after Valentine accidentally hurts his dog. The film is primarily concerned with Joseph’s eavesdropping on his neighbours telephone calls and through this the relationship between the two main characters is formed. This friendship is the central theme of the film; along with the concept of fraternity – the trilogy is based on the three elements of the French republic, freedom (blue), equality (white) and fraternity (red).

A parallel story runs through the film, focusing on Valentine’s neighbour Auguste, Auguste’s conversations with his girlfriend, Karin are monitored by Joseph and play an integral part to the film as a whole.

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Delicatessen (1993)

An independent  language advantage film review by Andrea Martins

From the same director of Amélie, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, creates a surreal yet entertaining story of a butcher and his customers living in starving France. The film is set within a tumbledown house where its inhabitants survive via the butcher’s cannibalistic tendencies. For every new assistant that arrives for work and board, dinner is served for the butcher’s inhabitants.

The French is quite easy to understand as the conversations are often one-to-ones – but look out for what can only be French spoken with an American accent at some points!

This was the first film from Jean Luc Godard. In French with English subtitles. Rated 15 in the UK.

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A Bout de Souffle (1959)

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Carroll

This is what you think about when you think of a foreign language movie! A beautifully shot black and white movie with amazing close-ups and intense conversations about life and what it means. Michel is on the run in Paris at the end of the 1950s and you follow his trail, including his love affair with an American in France. So classic is this film, that it was remade in the US in the mid-1980s, but don’t go with that version, stick to the la version originale.

His daughter Julie, changes the chain of events when she falls in love with the next new assistant Louison, a circus performer. Only an underground group of vegetarian freedom fighters can help save both her and her man from her father’s meat cleaver.

This is a very dark but funny film with beautiful staging and cinematography. It shows the small-town France where its inhabitants are neurotic and slightly deranged in their own individual way. It was nominated for the Bafta Film Award in 1993 and won several awards throughout Europe before that.

Beware of the French accent: it’s simple country French which some French learners might find challenging to understand initially. In French with English subtitles.

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Portuguese language film reviews

Cidade de Deus (2002)
City of God

An independent  language advantage film review by Andrea Martins

Cidade de Deus (City of God) is set in a slum in Rio de Janeiro where the lives of many characters sometimes intersect each other through drugs and gun warfare. It is a notoriously violent slum where even the police rarely go and the residents are lucky if they live beyond their childhood. Busca Pé (Rocket) is the narrator of the story, but he is also an example of hope for the other kids who live in the slums. He is too scared to be a hoodlum but also too clever to work in menial jobs. His interest in photography is what draws him back into the slums and records the violence and reality of life there, through the eye of the lens.

This is an entertaining yet powerful film showing real life in the favelas (shanty towns) in Rio de Janeiro. It’s particularly shocking and hard to watch in places and even more disturbing to know that it is based on a true story. It shows clearly what life is like for the people and kids who have to live surrounded by drugs, guns and fear.

This film won several awards including a Bafta, a British Independent Film Award and nominations at both the 2004 Oscars and the 2003 Golden Globe Awards. It shows clearly what life is like in the shanty towns overshot with the music of samba, bossa nova and seventies funk.

The language is particularly difficult to understand even if you understand Portuguese as most of it is in ‘favela’ slang and Brazilian colloquialisms. It’s compelling stuff and definitely worth watching. In Brazilian Portuguese with English subtitles. Rated 18 in the UK.

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Central do Brasil (1998)
Central Station

An independent  language advantage film review by Andrea Martins

This is a very moving story by director Walter Salles. Fernanda Montenegro (1998 Academy Award nominated Best Actress) plays a lonely and troubled older woman who spends her days writing letters for illiterate customers at Rio de Janeiro’s Central Train Station. One of her customers is a mother with a young son, Josue. Both their lives change forever when one day Josue’s mother is killed and Dora (Montenegro) reluctantly befriends the boy.

She agrees to help Josue find the father he’s never known and on their journey across Brazil, they learn a lot more about each other. For Dora, the journey is also a personal one as she finds that she has compassion for the boy and through this finds self-esteem and courage, something that she never thought would happen to her.

This is one of those heart-rending but at the same time poignant films that reminds you of how strong the human spirit can be under adverse situations. The scenery is stunning and the stark difference between life in the city and life in the countryside is shown to great effect.

This Brazilian language film won several awards and nominations ranging from the Best Foreign Language Film at the 1999 Golden Globe to a nomination for the Best Actress in a Leading Role for Fernanda Montenegro at the 1999 Oscars.

Unless you learnt Brazilian Portuguese as opposed to Continental Portuguese, the language might be difficult to understand. In Brazilian Portuguese with English subtitles

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Russian language film reviews

Solaris (1972)

A  language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, Solaris is a Russian film in which a psychologist, Donatis Banionis (Chris Kelvin) is sent to a Russian space station on a mysterious planet Solaris, to investigate trouble with the scientists who work there. This film is a favourite and it is easy to see why. All but three scientists on the planet have either gone insane and killed themselves or killed each other. As Donatis investigates what has happened to the scientists, his wife appears on the planet, which is impossible as she has committed suicide.

Donatis tries everything in his power to get rid of his dead wife but she always manages to come back unharmed. Consequently he discovers it is in fact the planet which is creating these images and manipulating people’s memories as a way of communicating with them.

This film is fantastic, I loved every bit of it and the representation of the different relationships is superb especially between Donatis and his wife. I have yet to see the remake but if it is anywhere near as good as the original then it is a definite hit.

In Russian language with English subtitles.

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The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

An independent  language advantage film review by Andrea Martins

The Motorcycle Diaries is directed by Walter Salles and is based on the journals of Alberto Granado (played by Rodrigo De La Serna) and Ernesto Guevara (Gael Garcia Bernal). It is a story of adventure, discovery and friendship. The two friends leave their home town of Buenos Aires and embark on an eight month journey on a motorbike (the mighty one), which breaks down and consequently the friends then have to hitch rides. Along the way they meet a huge variety of people and begin their own journey of self discovery. They end up working in a leper colony and form friendships with both the doctors and the patients who will have a bigger impact on their lives than they could ever have imagined. The Motorcycle Diaries is a true insight into the life of Ernesto (Che) Guevara and is absolutely amazing. Gael Garcia Bernal is one of Mexico’s most talented actors and his portrayal of Guevara is spine tingling, he never fails to amaze and certainly doesn’t fail this time.

The film is in Spanish and gives a good insight into both Latin American Spanish and the geography and culture of South America.

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Frida (2003)

An independent  language advantage film review by Andrea Martins

This is a colourful and fragrant film depicting the life of the Mexican artist Frida Khalo. It tells the story of the young Frida (played by Salma Hayek), from growing up in early twentieth century Mexico right through to the end of her short life as an accomplished artist. Major events that took place in her life are depicted well: a horrific tram accident that caused her pain and suffering for the rest of her life, her marriage to the then highly acclaimed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera (played by Alfred Molina), a miscarriage and their subsequent tempestuous relationship. The passion, vibrant colours and stunning cinematography portray Frida Khalo’s personality very well using surreal imagery that adds spice!

Although this film is in English, some Mexican language is used throughout the film adding authenticity. It also gives us an insight into Mexican society and culture at that time. With an outstanding cast including Antonio Banderas, Geofrey Rush, Valeria Golino and Edward Norton this is a definite must-see!

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L’Auberge Espagnole (2002)
The Spanish Apartment

An independent  language advantage film review by Sophie Patterson

This is a very student-y comedy drama about the life and loves and friendship of a group of young Europeans sharing a flat for a year in one of Europe’s trendiest cities – Barcelona. It mostly follows Xavier, a young Frenchman who moves in with six very different personalities and tries to get to grips with a new culture whilst dealing with an absent girlfriend, new friends, new experiences and a tempting new attraction all at the same time. It features Audrey Tatou as Xavier’s girlfriend.

Notable for its mix of languages; French, Spanish and English in particular, with even a brief comment on the importance of Catalan for the region, it takes a joyful and light-hearted look at cultural differences, living together and, of course, how to talk to your flat-mates’ parents in a language not your own. Anyone who’s done an Erasmus foreign exchange program will relate to the special bond forged between disparate nationalities over such a memorable year, but either way, you’ll find yourself wishing you could be one of them.

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Amores Perros (2001)
Love’s a Bitch

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

Winner of Best Film at Cannes International Film Festival and nominated for an Academy Award, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu really excels himself in this film of Mexican life and dog fighting.

The film begins with a harrowing car accident which brings together the story of three characters; Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal), a young man caught up in the world of dog fighting and in love with his brother’s wife; Valeria (Goya Toledo), a model who moves in with her lover and discovers that looks are everything; and El Chivo (Emilio Echevarria) a former assassin whose family disowned him and who lives with his dogs as his only company. As the film develops so do the characters and we get a feeling of the desperation that they are feeling.

Amores Perros is a fantastic portrayal of Mexican life and the lengths that people are willing to go for love. It is a tale of Mexican life, loss and love. The Spanish is Mexican Spanish and therefore sometimes difficult to understand but with English subtitles you can even pick up a little Mexican slang, que chido! Definitely a must for all!

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Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)
And Your Mother Too

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Carroll

Y Tu Mama Tambien is one of the great movies to hit our cinema screens from the Spanish language cinema scene. A story of two bored teenagers who take to the road after a family gathering with a new acquaintance, inviting her to the beach. This award-winning film is funny, playful and, well, it deserves its 18 rating!

It has won a number of awards such as the Venice Film Festival in 2001.

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Spirited Away (2003)

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Carroll

Spirited Away has been heralded as one of the must-see children’s films of all time and is indeed captivating for adults and children alike. It is an animated film (that the Japanese seem to be so good at) with Chihiro, a 10-year old in the centre of the plot. She is moving with her family to a new house and on the way her father takes a detour and they end up going for a walk through a tunnel. What happens on the other side of the tunnel in this new world is the result of an amazing imagination. Chihiro has to give up a lot to survive, even her name. However, it can be a bit intense and edgy though – I watched it with my seven-year old and he covered his eyes at many points. To me, it is a cross between Monsters Inc and Harry Potter, without any comedy. If you look closely at the DVD cover you will get an idea of the types of characters you’ll come across in the film.

On the DVD that we watched, it was a double DVD with the film in the Japanese language but it also had an English language version. If you are watching it with younger kids who don’t speak Japanese, I would go for the English version first as I think the ‘scare’ factor is increased if they can’t understand the words and are instead picking up on every nuance of the music soundtrack as they can’t keep up with subtitles.

Winner of the 2003 Oscar for Best Animated Film and the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. It has been the most successful film release ever in Japan.

The Director of the film is Hayao Miyazaki, who also directed Princess Mononoke. In Japanese with English subtitles. Some DVDs in English.

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Princess Mononoke (2001)

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

The film is set in ancient Japan; the story begins with a Curse God approaching a small village and destroying everything that gets in its way. Prince Ashitaka (Billy Crudup) rides out to stop the God and he succeeds in killing it. The God puts a curse on him, which will eventually kill him. The village wise woman tells Ashitaka that he must travel west and find the Forest Spirit who is his only hope for survival. The film portrays his trek to find the Forest Spirit and the encounters he finds along the way.

On his travels the Prince becomes friends with a monk (Billy Bob Thornton) and he comes to the edge of a forest where Lady Eboshi (Minnie Driver) has built a village with a large ironworks. With the creation of her village she has caused a lot of animals to die, leading to near extinction. The animal gods of the forest begin attacking humans who come too near to them and who pose a threat. This is where we meet Princess Mononoke (Claire Danes) who is fighting alongside the animals and will stop at nothing to kill Eboshi.

Princess Mononoke is a Disney film, but when watching it you would not think so. Yes, there is a prince and a princess and of course the moral of man vesus nature but that is as far as the traditional story tale from Disney goes. The film has violent images and a lot of bloodshed, but this helps to tell the story. The visual images of the film are fantastic and Miyazaki really is a genius when it comes to directing. If you enjoyed Spirited Away you will definitely enjoy Princess Mononoke.

Language is Japanese with English subtitles.

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Akira (1987)

An independent  language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

Akira is a Japanese animation. Directed and written by Katsuhiro Otomo, Akira begins on July 16 1988. What seems to be an atomic bomb is dropped on Tokyo, completely destroying the city and WW3 begins. We are taken 31 years later to Neo-Tokyo (a city risen from the ruins of old Tokyo). The city is experiencing problems caused by biker gangs. Tetsuo, a member of a bike gang has a near accident with a young boy. The military capture both the young boy and Tetsuo. They discover that Tetsuo has a psychic ability.

Tetsuo is then used as a test subject to find Akira (the cause of the explosion that destroyed Tokyo in 1988). The military’s plan to find Akira using Tetsuo backfires and Tetsuo becomes a medium for Akira. Tetsuo has incredible powers and begins to go on a rampage that leads to violent and bloody death, nearly destroys Neo Tokyo, and reveals Akira’s secrets which have been buried for over 30 years.

Akira is a fantastic visual film. It verges on a little too much violence at times but this only adds to the impact of the film. Even though it is an animation Akira shows a scary future which is very real. The characters are so well thought out that you cannot help but feel for them even though they are animated. This film is a must although I would not recommend it for children as it is anything but a Disney film. It is very graphic and violent and there are brief scenes of nudity during the film.

A Japanese animation with English subtitles.

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Malena (2000)

A language advantage film review by Andrea Martins

From the writer and director of the award-winning film Cinema Paradiso, this film is the story of a boy’s journey to manhood amid the chaos and intolerance of World War II. Monica Bellucci plays the most beautiful woman in a small town in Sicily who becomes the subject of malicious gossip and jealousies from the men and women of the town. The young boy Renato is the only one who understands her and feels sympathetic towards this woman whom everyone else thinks is a whore and a disgrace.

Through the eyes of Renato we see his sexual awakening and watch him become a mature and independent young man. This is a compassionate yet disturbing film in places. There are some scenes that are distressing, but it is compelling viewing as it evokes the restrained and religious culture of the time and the old Italian way of thinking.

It was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Musical Score.

Some Sicilian is noted within the film but the bulk of it is in Italian that is easily understandable if you’ve been learning it. In Italian with English subtitles.

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Life is Beautiful (1999)
La Vita è Bella

A language advantage film review by Tess Bentall

Set in 1939, Italy. The hero Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni), who has a gift for making people laugh, and his friend Ferruccio come to a new town to stay with Guido’s uncle Eliseo. Guido meets the beautiful schoolteacher Dora (Nicoletta Braschi) by accident. He nicknames her princess. They encounter one another several times by surprise in amusing circumstances. Eventually he wins her heart and takes her away from her disagreeable fiance.

Years later Guido and Dora are happily married and have a young son Giosue (Giorgio Cantarini). Since they are Jews Guido and Giosue are taken to a concentration camp. Dora, a gentile, follows them there voluntartily. In order to protect Giosue’s innocence and to shield him from the dangers and brutality of life during the Holocaust, Guido tells Giosue that they are part of a role playing game where they have to obtain a thousand points by obeying camp orders and coping with camp life in order to win first prize. Will Guido succeed in protecting his son and will the family ever be reunited?

Life is Beautiful is an absolutely adorable film. It is moving, uplifting and extremely amusing. A deserved winner of three Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film, Best Actor and Best Original Score. The film gives the viewer a unique insight into Italian history, the Italian way of life and Italy’s family values. It is also a celebration of the power of the imagination and the beauty of the human spirit. The interaction between Guido and Giosue is delightful. The romance between Guido and Dora is entirely believable and all the more touching when the viewer knows that Benigni and Braschi are happily married to each other off-screen. The key triumph of this film is to make one truly believe that life is beautiful. A joy to watch. Five stars.

In Italian with English subtitles.

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The Postman (1994)
Il Postino

A language advantage film review by Andrea Martins

This is a wonderfully charming story of an almost illiterate man, Mario Ruoppolo, played by the late Massimo Troisi. He decides to leave his life as a fisherman and become a postman on his native island in the Mediterranean Sea. Pablo Neruda, the Chilean Poet (played by the French actor Phillipe Noiret also in Cinema Paradiso) has found a rustic home on the same island after he is exiled in 1952. Mario is in charge of bringing Pablo his packages and mail and their friendship develops over time. Like everyone else on the island, Mario is impressed by the foreigner. In trying to imitate his poet friend, Mario becomes aware of all the beauty around him and discovers love with a beautiful local girl, Beatrice Russo.

Poetry is the connection between the two men, as Pablo helps Mario to woo the lovely Beatrice using poetry. It’s a simple film but gloriously filled with poetry and tango music reminiscent of the Chilean culture at that time. Although the English Director Michael Radford directed this film, he shows well the stunning scenery of the Mediterranean island and the very slow, simple way of life of its people. The Italian language is generally easy, although – at times – it is difficult to understand the ramblings of Mario in his thick Italian!

This film won an Oscar and a BAFTA award in 1996 as well as many other nominations for Best Foreign Film and Best Leading Actor for Massimo Troisi. In Italian with English subtitles.

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Mediterraneo (1992)

A language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

This film is directed by Gabriele Salvatores and set in Greece during World War II. Mediterranneo is a comedy about eight Italian soldiers who are sent to guard a small Greek island. The soldiers ship is sunk and their radio breaks down so as far as the army is concerned the soldiers no longer exist. They start to form a small Italian/Greek community with the locals and their past is soon forgotten. The soldiers’ characters start to change and they begin to adopt the island’s way of life with no desire to return to war.

This film is lovely; a real heart warmer full of passion and romance. A film about human nature, stereotypes and relationships during the war. It’s an Italian love story with a dash of comical genius. Definitely a must for any Mills & Boon fan and anyone who wants to experience an Italian romance with a ray of Greek sunshine.

In Italian with English subtitles.

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Cinema Paradiso (1989)

A language advantage film review by Andrea Martins

This has to be my all time favourite foreign movie. It is the story of a young boy called Salvatore who grew up in a small Sicilian village in the forties and fifties. As an older man and successful film director, he returns home for the funeral of Alfredo, an old friend and his surrogate father, who was the projectionist at the local cinema in the town throughout his childhood. Salvatore remembers his childhood and his friendship with Alfredo. We are taken back in time and into his memories of love and understand why it took the death of his old friend Alfredo for him to return to his home after 30 years.

This film by director Giuseppe Tornatore, who also produced Malena in 2000. It is a film which is stunning, charming and utterly absorbing. It not only vividly shows life in a small village in Sicily during the 1940’s but also shows the passage of time and how progress, industrialisation and technology can change people’s lives and not always for the better.

It won an Academy Award at the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film, five Baftas, a Golden Globe and several other nominations and awards. It is also currently one of the most bestselling dvd’s on This is a definite must-see movie that will have you watching it again and again.

Some Sicilian is noted within the film but the bulk of it is in Italian that is easily understandable if you’ve been learning it for a while. In Italian with English subtitles. Rated PG in the UK.

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Monsoon Wedding (2001)

A language advantage film review by Sarah Carroll

The wedding celebrations unfurl during the rainy season. This film mixes traditional with modern, through great music, dance, colour and a combination of English, Hindi and Punjabi conversations. It traces five stories of love and morality across the globe as everyone descends on New Delhi. You get pulled into the movie, and almost feel like you’re there – or at least wish you could be.

The director of this film is Mira Nair. The film has won a Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival in 2001. In English and Hindi with English subtitles.

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East is East (1999)

A language advantage film review by Tess Bentall

The film is set in Manchester in the 1970s. It tells the story of George Khan (Om Puri),  a Pakistani chip shop owner, his British wife Ella (Linda Bassett) and their seven children whose lives are a constant struggle to reconcile Eastern heritage and the Western culture they live in. Meanwhile, their father is actively seeking arranged marriages for his sons. When Nazir (Ian Aspinall) bails out of his forthcoming marriage on the wedding day, he is considered dead by his father and moves away. This does nothing to diminish George’s enthusiasm to marry off his sons in the traditional Pakistani way and Abdul and Tariq (Jimi Mistry) are next on his list. As the future brides and their parents arrive for tea, an unwelcome sculpture by art student Saleem (Chris Bisson), another of the  sons,  ensures that chaos ensues.

This is a fun film about identity, family life and what happens when two cultures collide. It is an enjoyable comedy. All the characters are well portrayed and the unusual relationship between the parents is explored in an interesting manner.

It has won a BAFTA for best British film and has received many other nominations and awards around the world.   The film is in English but with many conversations in Urdu.

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Die Letzten Tage (2005)
Sophie Scholl

An independent language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

Based on actual events, Sophie Scholl is about a tiny group of German students known as The White Rose, who joined together in their mutual hatred of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. They aired their views by printing leaflets and passing them to German citizens. The film focuses on Sophie (Julia Jentsch), a 21-year-old member of The White Rose.

Set in Munich in 1943, Sophie and her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs), co-founder of The White Rose,  distribute leaflets on their campus. They have until the bell rings but Sophie decides to distribute a leftover stack of leaflets and consequently gets caught, arrested and accused of high treason. Sister and brother are separated and the film primarily concentrates on the interrogation of Sophie by Mohr (Gerald Alexander Held), a Gestapo interrogator who is convinced that Germany needs Nazi policies. Sophie denies everything and is offered a deal by the Gestapo, she must name the other members of the White Rose and incriminate them. She refuses which leads to an appointment with a Gestapo judge (André Hennicke) who sentences Sophie, Hans and another member of   The White Rose, Christoph Probst (Florian Stetter) to death.

Sophie Scholl is tragic yet an insight into what was a tragic and almost unbelievable time for all those involved. Never has a film made me think more. With fantastic direction and superb actors, this film is a definite  must for both history lovers and language film fans alike.

In German with English subtitles.

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Der Untergang (2005)

An independent language advantage film review by Emmanuel Lainé

Berlin, April 1945. The Third Reich is holding its last breath. Berlin is under fire from the Russian Army and Adolf Hitler (Bruno Ganz) is hiding in the depth of his bunker. Those left by his side are his wife to-be, Eva Braun (Juliane Köhler), his secretary Traudl Junge, as well as the surviving part of the Third Reich Army. Together they will live the last few days with Hitler and the downfall of the Nazi regime.

Based on the true story novel by Joachim Fest ‘The last days of Hitler’, this representation of Hitler on the cinema screen has been described as the most unique and truthful experience of the real man. Bruno Ganz (as Hitler) worked for months on mimicking Hitler’s voice and is magnificent in his role, giving the character real substance and authenticity. The last days are a condensed and concentrated description of the falling apart of the Third Reich but where their atrocious beliefs still persist. Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (‘Das Experiment’ – 2002), ‘Downfall’ is the fruit of authentic German cinema making no judgement and without cynicism or arrogance. As Oliver Hirschbiegel said himself: ‘Nobody can forbid German people to talk about their own history, apart from ourselves’. This movie is a definite must-see.

BAFTA winner 2005 Best Foreign Movie. In German with English subtitles.

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Goodbye Lenin! (2002)

An independent language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

Goodbye Lenin! is a film depicting the relationship between love and politics.

The film begins in 1989, a young man, Alex (Daniel Bruhl) protests against the capitalist regime and consequently gets arrested. His mother (Katrin SaÃ?) seeing this suffers from a heart attack and falls into a coma. Eight months later she wakes from the coma completely unaware of the changes that East Germany has experienced. As  any form of shock is likely to make her relapse into her coma,  Alex creates a false Germany where socialism has won and the Berlin wall is still standing. As the film develops so does the lie and consequently turns into a major scam to keep his mother from finding out the truth about the things she believes in so much.

Goodbye Lenin! is a fantastic portrayal of a political love story, showing the protective relationship between mother and son, and how far people are willing to go to protect the ones they love. Goodbye Lenin! was the winner of the Best European Film award at the 2003 Berlin Film Festival.

A must see for everyone, German-speaking or not! In German with subtitles.

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Lola Rennt (1998)
Run Lola Run

An independent language advantage film review by Sophie Paterson

The pounding techno soundtrack adds a good dose of hardly-needed adrenaline to this fast-paced and clever thriller about a girl who has 20 minutes to run – literally – against the clock to get her petty-criminal boyfriend out of some serious trouble. It’s punky, funky, shot like a music video for MTV, and edgy. It’s also told three times; each version hinging on something so very slightly different, thus igniting a new chain of events involving the same characters, incidents, objects and places – and a different set of outcomes. If any film demonstrates how our lives are all woven inextricably together or how our fates are governed by half chance and random moments, this is definitely it. The tagline for the film summarises this: ‘Every second of every day you’re faced with a decision that can change your life’.

The German is not too difficult, particularly as this is not a particularly  talky film. Having said that, some viewers might have trouble with the rapid-fire German young people-speak at the beginning.

In German with English subtitles.

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Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

A language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

Set in the 1940’s in a pre-revolutionary China, Kung Fu Hustle is a film about gangs. In particular the story of a small time thief called Sing (Stephen Chow) who wants to become a member of the ruthless Axe Gang, led by Brother Sum (Kwok-Kwan Chan). A slum called Pig Sty Alley is the only safe area from the gang as it is so poor there is nothing that the gang could take. Sing attempts to extort money from one of the locals but the slum holds a secret and the locals are not all that they appear to be.

Sing attracts the gang to Pig StyAlley which in turn leads to the inhabitants fighting for their lives. The fight between the gang and the neighbourhood unearths some legendary martial arts Masters. Sing must make the decision  between becoming a killer and joining the Axes  and helping the slum and saving the day.

This film is everything rolled into one: action, adventure, comedy, crime and fantasy.Stephen Chow is fantastic and the slapstick comedy is some of the funniest I have seen in a long time. Thoroughly enjoyable, and you can brush up on your Mandarin!

In Chinese Mandarin with English subtitles.

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House of Flying Daggers (2004)

A language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

Directed by Yimou Zhang, House of Flying Daggers is set during the reign of the Tang dynasty in China.  A secret organisation,’The House of Flying Daggers’ opposes the government. Leo (Andy Lau), a police officer sends officer Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) to investigate Mei (Ziyi Zhang), a young dancer whom he believes is part of this secret organisation. Leo arrests Mei and Jin breaks her out in order to gain her trust and lead him and the government to the mysterious new leader of the secret organisation. What consequently happens is a tale of romance and intrigue, of action and adventure.

Before I sat down and watched this film I thought I would hate it. I am not one for martial arts movies but House of Flying Daggers is so much more and has managed to change my view on the martial arts genre. It combines action, adventure, fantasy and romance which in my opinion is a fantastic combination which produces a fantastic film.

Language is Mandarin Chinese with English subtitles.

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2002)

A language advantage film review by Sarah Carroll

A beautiful film from start to finish, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is really absorbing. It is a tribute to amazing martial arts displays as well as a beautifully shot film.

You can see why this film has won so many awards with its combination of language, love, action and adventure. It has won over 40 awards including the Best Foreign Language Film Music at the Oscars and four BAFTAs.

Wonderful as it is, it is best to see it in its original language version, you have to concentrate on the English subtitles unless your Mandarin is fluent, but it is well worth it!

The director of the film is Ang Lee. In Chinese with English subtitles. Rated 12 in the UK.

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Hero (2002)

A language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

It is hard for anyone to say that this film is not fantastic. Directed by Zhang Yimou (who also directed House of Flying Daggers) and produced by Quentin Tarantino, it already has two of the biggest names involved from both the Chinese and American film industries. Jet Li stars in this movie.

Hero takes place in feudal China before the warring kingdoms were united into a single country. The Nameless warrior (Jet Li) has been brought before Qin (Chen Daoming) the King of the northern province to receive a reward for killing three assassins who threatened Qin’s life. The Nameless warrior tells the King how he killed Long Sky (Donnie Yen), Broken Sword (Tony Leung), and Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung). The King challenges his story and tells a completely different version full of conspiracy and mistrust.

The visuals of this film are stunning and contribute largely to what Yimou is trying to achieve through the characters and script. The fight scenes are amazing: the use of colour really adds to the film’s intensity. The only thing to remember when watching this film is to watch it in its original format with subtitles rather than the dubbed English version in order to add authenticity.

The film is in Chinese Mandarin with English subtitles.

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The Oscars 2009

The 81st Annual Academy Awards ® were held on Sunday 22nd February 2009 in Hollywood.   The Oscars ® reached film fans in over 100 countries. The lower-budget, but highly-acclaimed film Slumdog Millionaire, directed by Danny Boyle, won many Oscars ®, including for the Best Picture.   It is in the English, Urdu and Hindi languages. [Read more…]


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Buy a DVD in another language and watch it with or without English subtitles. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll be understanding the film. It would make a great gift too!
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Buy a CD in another language and listen to music in the background. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll be repeating the words and singing in another language. It would make a great gift too!
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World travel books
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Language books
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