Foreign Language Films Struggle for UK Success

After Polish film “Ida” won the Oscars® Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2015, there has been debate over whether the audience for foreign language films is vastly decreasing in the UK. [Read more…]

Give A Budget Language Gift

Living Language French CalendarWant some new gift ideas?  We all know how money-conscious we have to be nowadays. With this in mind, we have hand-picked our top language gifts on a budget.  Give your friends, families and colleagues a very different gift this year – give them a language gift and let them get their language advantage! Happy holidays! [Read more…]

The Oscars 2010

The 82nd Annual Academy Awards ® were held on Sunday 7th March 2010. The winner of the Oscars ® in the foreign language film category was The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos) from Argentina.  Other nominees are: [Read more…]

Laurel and Hardy … filmed in French & Spanish

Did you know that Laurel and Hardy, the 1930’s comedy movie stars, reshot a number of their films in French, Spanish, Italian and German?

Laurel and Hardy couldn’t speak any foreign languages, so had voice coaching, and often used native language speaking supporting cast members. These language versions helped to boost their popularity internationally. Pardon Us was reshot in all four foreign languages. Chickens Come HomeBlotto and Below Zero were re-filmed in French and Spanish.

Browse our foreign language film section and learn a language with a movie>>

Na’vi – the Language of Avatar

Linguistics expert Professor Paul Frommer, from the University of Southern California, is the man behind the fully functioning alien language in the hit film, Avatar.

He replied to an email from James Cameron looking for a linguist to come up with an alien language and the pair worked together for four years to develop the Na’vi language used in the film.  Professor Frommer spent many hours on the set, helping the cast members fine tune their alien language speaking abilities. [Read more…]

Lions at the Venice Film Festival

The ‘Lions’ will come out again at the 66th Venice Film Festival (La Biennale di Venezia) in Italy between 2 and 12 September 2009. The ‘Lions’ are the Lion Awards given to the films within different categories at this prestigious film event. The Golden Lion is given for Best Film.  [Read more…]

Cannes Film Festival 2009

cannes-film-festival-2009_webCannes: not your average seaside resort but a beautiful, trendy resort on the Cote d’Azur, France no less. The Cannes Film Festival: not your average local film festival, but one of the biggest and most prestigious showcases of the world’s best film-making. The 62nd Cannes Film Festival (Festival de Cannes) runs from 13 – 24 May 2009.   [Read more…]

Multilingual Mamma Mia!

The stage show Mamma Mia! has been seen by more than 30 million people in over 170 cities in 8 languages around the world, including in Dutch, French, German, Korean, Japanese, Spanish and Swedish.   The foreign language productions keep the essence of the English-language version of the show and the songs while adapting them into local languages – and sometimes even adapting the characters.

Read more about Mamma Mia! in other languages>>


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.

To buy The March of the Penguins  and other French language films>>

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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.

To buy The Beat that my Heart Skipped  and other French language films>>

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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.

To buy He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not    and other French language films>>

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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.

To buy The Piano Teacher  and other French language films>>

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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.

To buy Amelie and other French language films>>

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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.

To buy Brotherhood of the Wolf   and other French language films>>

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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.

To buy Three Colours Blue and other French language films>>

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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.

To buy Three Colours  White and other French language films>>

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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.

To buy  Delicatessen and other French language films>>

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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.

To buy  Breathless and other French language films>>

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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.

To buy  City of God  and other  Portuguese language films>>

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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

To buy  Central  Station  and other  Portuguese language films>>

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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.

To buy  Solaris and other  Russian language films>>

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