Here we have a list of ten fantastic feature films from across the globe, which either didn’t get the attention they deserved or didn’t make much of an impact outside of the countries they were made in – but each and every one is definitely worth getting your hands on a copy of the DVD!
10. Afterwards/Et Après (2008)
Starring John Malkovich, Romain Duris and Evangeline Lilly, this film disappeared under the radar and was hardly a hit with the critics after its release in France and Belgium in 2009. A gentle musing over the relationship between life and death, and what would happen if we had the potential to change the death fate has planned for us, the film could have gone further in terms of engaging the audience in the actual story. The cinematography, however, is stunning. Pin Bing Lee creates breath-taking views of both the French countryside, and the hustle and bustle of New York City, with the outdoor scenes filmed in Montreal almost sparkling, leaving you unable to take your eyes off the screen. Afterwards is definitely worth a watch for both the cinematography and the gorgeous Evangeline Lilly – her character is quiet and unobtrusive, yet Lilly succeeds in making Claire a character the audience genuinely feels for.
9. Caramel (2007)
This film, written, directed and starring the extremely talented Nadine Labaki, tells the story of four women looking for love and friendship in their daily lives in Lebanon. Featuring a superb ensemble cast, the film explores marriage (and extra-marital affairs), the search for lifelong companionship and the fear of growing old. It is a beautifully shot film, and, while remaining exotic to a western viewer in terms of its cultural references, the story is utterly relatable to the majority of female viewers, anywhere in the world. The story is bitter-sweet, and the film is visually beautiful – from the costumes and make-up, to the sets and the actors themselves, the entire movie is colourful and feels luxurious. Don’t miss it!
8. Tears of the Black Tiger (2000)
After being an instant hit with the critics at Cannes in 2001, this film won several awards in its home country, Thailand, for everything from costume design to soundtrack. It retells the classic Romeo and Juliet-esque love story in a light-hearted and extremely comical way. Parodying earlier styles of Thai film, and of various other genres including the western and romantic comedy, the film is over-the-top, melodramatic and very, very funny. Look out for the sequence in which two ‘enemies’ form a truce and perform a slightly crazed ‘blood brothers’ ceremony – it is one of the film’s most memorable scenes.
7. The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001)
To describe this film in two words, it’s a Zombie Musical. If that’s not enough to intrigue film fans, what is? The Katakuri family set up a bed and breakfast in an old house, but, as their guests begin to die under mysterious circumstances, their new business venture turns into a nightmare, with hilarious consequences. The film is both comical and farcical, and includes everything from song and dance sequences, to karaoke (with the song lyrics appearing on screen) and surreal zombie take-down moments. Not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, but this Japanese film is one of a kind – you won’t have seen anything else like it!
6. He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (2002)
This French thriller stars Audrey Tautou in a role which is about as far removed from the lovely Amelie as you can imagine. Initially playing a seemingly sweet young woman embroiled in an unhealthy affair with a handsome married doctor, the film cleverly plays around with its chronology, to reveal that things are not all what they seem. Examining the entirely differing points of view of its main characters, the film gradually changes into an exciting thriller, with an unnerving ending. We won’t give too much away, but it is safe to say that Audrey Tautou shines, as usual, as the intriguing Angelique.
5. True North (2006)
True North is not exactly an uplifting film, but it is extremely thought-provoking and well worth at least one viewing. The film explores the death of the Scottish fishing industry, alongside the global issue of illegal immigration, when Peter Mullen and Martin Compston’s characters become involved in a people smuggling operation in a desperate attempt to save Compston’s father’s fishing trawler. The claustrophobic setting of the fishing boat intensifies the story, with the men finding themselves involved in a horrific situation, but completely removed from the rules and regulations of civilisation. Watching the film becomes a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but it most definitely leaves you thinking for a long time after seeing it.
4. Wicker Park (2004)
Whether or not you’re a Josh Hartnett fan, do give Wicker Park , an underrated film that pretty much was pretty much forgotten about after its cinematic release in 2004, a chance. When Matthew sees Lisa, the love of his life who had disappeared two years before, he becomes obsessed with tracking her down and getting to the bottom of why she left him without saying goodbye. However, when he finds another woman at her old apartment claiming to be the woman he thought he had lost, the lines between fantasy and reality begin to blur. With a fantastic performance from Rose Byrne as Alex, the film explores the consequences of unrequited love, and the lengths a person will go to to hold on to the people they care about most.
3. Zodiac (2007)
Arguably the most well-known film on this list (being a David Fincher film), Zodiac is a thriller based on a real life serial killer case (which to this day remains unsolved). Spanning across twenty years, the film explores the investigation by both the police, and cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) who becomes obsessed with solving the case. At almost three hours long it is the kind of film you need to be in the mood for, but if the real-crime genre is of interest to you, this is definitely worth watching. Starring Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr., the cast help to keep your attention at all times, regardless of the length of the film. It is intense, and captivating, and Fincher ensures that as much detail as possible is packed into the film.
2. The Enchanted Cottage (1945)
(SPOILERS) This is by far the oldest film in the list, but it is a hidden gem. It tells the story of an ex-GI agent, who has been left horribly burned and scarred, and a classically ‘unattractive’ maid, who are each facing the prospect of spending the rest of their lives alone. The pair begin to get to know and trust one another, however, and as this happens, they each begin to lose their visually ‘unattractive’ qualities, and become extraordinarily beautiful. With clever use of point of view shots, the director allows us to see that it is only the couple themselves who see this transformation – the people around them still see them as looking exactly as they did before. The film is completely fantastical, but is thoroughly enjoyable, and an unusual take on the classic story of true beauty lying within.
1. Elizabethtown (2005)
Not exactly Orlando Bloom’s most successful film, but this flick from Cameron Crowe has one of the best soundtracks EVER. The music fits with the story so seamlessly that you can’t help but be drawn into the narrative, helped by the quirky Claire played by Kirsten Dunst, who lights up the screen every time she appears. The soundtrack really is the main event when it comes to this movie. The penultimate sequence in which Bloom’s character Drew takes a solo road trip across America in memory of his father, whose death and funeral are prominent features of the narrative, is accompanied by bits and pieces of several different songs, which each fit perfectly with the scenery, and the tone of the narrative. The film’s soundtrack would definitely have to feature in the top five movie soundtracks of all time!