1. THE LIVES OF OTHERS (2006).
In 1984, East Berlin, an agent of the Stasi (secret police), whilst conducting surveillance on a writer and his lover, finds himself becoming increasingly absorbed by their lives. Before seeing this film, I had little knowledge of everyday life in East Germany during this period. This was a real eye-opener for me. I didn’t quite realise the extremes the Stasi went to, in order to ensure its civilians remained true and proper to its society’s values. This film provides some truly remarkable performances and is a real thought-provoker. It was certainly worthy of the Oscar. A must-see.
This is the story of France’s equivalent to John Dillinger, Jacques Mesrine, before he was labelled Public Enemy N°1. For the unknowing, Jacques Mesrine was a prolific bank robber/womaniser who boasted to being untouchable. Despite being caught and incarcerated a bunch of times, he continued to escape and pursued a journey of blood and destruction. He consequently became infamous and a real icon in France. Vincent Cassel once again can’t be touched in his art.
A married couple is terrorised by a series of surveillance videotapes left on their front porch. Michael Haneke strikes again in his ability to scare the living shit out of me without really presenting a threat. There were times when I wouldn’t blink, shift myself or pick up my drink for fear that I may have a heart attack at any time. There is one scene in this film that had me absolutely alarmed, and there is one scene that had me begging for sunlight. This was my first experience with this director and certainly wasn’t my last.
Two con artists try to swindle a stamp collector by selling him a sheet of counterfeit rare stamps (the “nine queens“). My first of two Argentinian films in this list, this is a classic ‘who is conning who?’ tale. With a great soundtrack, a truly warming ensemble of characters, as well as the mystery, this was the film that put the Argentinian film industry on the map for me. If you can work out from the off who the ‘real’ con-artist is, you are a genius!
A retired legal counselor writes a novel hoping to find closure for one of his past unresolved homicide cases and for his unreciprocated love with his superior – both of which still haunt him decades later. I took a punt on this film after its surprising win at the 2010 Oscars and it was well worth it. Ricardo Darin (Nine Queens) demonstrates why he is the biggest actor in Argentina with a truly cool and collected performance in an electrifying thriller. I loved this film. I hope this is the start of things to come in Argentina.
With no legal means left to him, a high school teacher devises a daring plan to rescue his wrongfully imprisoned wife from jail. There is not much more to say about this film other than it is exactly what a romantic thriller should be. The chemistry is unequivocally genuine and compelling. This is France’s answer to True Romance. I really wish there were more films like this.
A horrific car accident connects three stories, each involving characters dealing with loss, regret, and life’s harsh realities, all in the name of love. I do confess to only thoroughly enjoying two of the three stories, but these two are enough. The story of the woman in the apartment searching for the dog…pfff! The story of the dog-loving loner, who pays his way through assassinating and fucking up dudes…wow! For anyone looking for a gritty, real-life thriller/drama, this is your film. Oh, and the old loner/killer is a badass like no other!
Pediatrician, Alexandre Beck, misses his beloved wife, Margot Beck, who was brutally murdered eight years ago. He was the prime suspect. When two bodies are found near where the corpse of Margot was dumped, the police reopen the case and Alex becomes a suspect again. The mystery increases when Alex receives an e-mail showing Margot older and alive. Everything starts to unravel beautifully. Rumours are circulating that Ben Affleck is in line to do what Hollywood does best – ruin a little foreign gem. Why can’t they leave them the fuck alone!
Sebastian, a young man, has decided to follow instructions intended for someone else, without knowing where they will take him. Something else he does not know is that Gerard Dorez, a cop on a knife-edge, is tailing him. When he reaches his destination, Sebastian falls into a degenerate, clandestine world of mental chaos behind closed doors, in which men gamble on the lives of others men. This modern classic is proof that it really doesn’t take a ridiculous budget to make a film powerful enough to stay with you. This is the simple story of a man who finds himself way out of his depth. I don’t know if people actually find themselves getting into situations like this. God forbid this shit should even exist. A real tour-de-force.
Written by Conley Low