Foreign-language films are heiss,
heet, quente, chaud, caldo and caliente. Thank the staggering success
of a personal, low-budget indie released earlier this year
in Aramaic and Latin (though it might be worth noting that
few distributors have thus far leapt upon any kind of dead-language
While the blockbuster-by-any-standard $128
million American gross for 2000’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” set
a record for foreign-language releases, “The Passion
of the Christ’s” unprecedented $370 million
was even more persuasive, suggesting that subtitles no
longer represent a significant barrier to U.S. box office
“Passion” was not this year’s only foreign-language
triumph. The last weekend in August saw Chinese-language
hit “Hero” score a heroic $18-million opening;
on Oct. 1 it vaulted past the $50 million mark (pretty
good for a film originally released in China in 2002!).
Warner Independent Pictures, meanwhile, is hoping for very
big things from “A Very Long Engagement,” the
latest French-language effort from the team that brought
Not every foreign effort is a hit, of course,
but even if one discounts the extraordinary achievement
of “Passion,” few
would dispute the growing popularity of non-English-language
cinema among American audiences. Here’s a look at
some of the subtitled titles likely headed for U.S. shores
over the coming year.
“Kung Fu Hustle” is an actioner, set in 1940s Canton,
about a hapless would-be gangster who – anxious to
overcome his inability to wield a knife and join the notorious
Axe Gang – inadvertently becomes the greatest Kung
Fu master of all time. Stephen Chow (“Shaolin Soccer”)
directs from a screenplay by Tsang Kan Cheong, Chan Man
Keung and Chow (“Shaolin Soccer”). Chow (“Shaolin
Soccer”) co-stars with Wah Yuen, Yuan Qiu and Eva
Wong. Sony Pictures Classics plans a 2005 release.
“Brothers” is a drama depicting what happens when
a married – and long-presumed-dead – officer
in Denmark’s military returns home from a U.N. mission
in Afghanistan to find his irresponsible younger brother
has moved into his house and assumed many husbandly duties.
Susanne Bier (“Open Hearts”) directs from a
screenplay by Anders Thomas Jensen (“The King is
Alive,” “Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself”).
Connie Nielsen (“Basic”) stars in her first
film from her native country with Ulrich Thomsen (“Max”),
Nikolaj Lie Kaas (“The Idiots”), Bent Mejding,
Solbjørg Højfeldt, Sarah Juel Werner and
Rebecca Løgstrup. IFC’s American release date
is momentarily MIA.
“High Tension,” a thriller set in the isolated French
countryside, is about a university coed who finds herself
trying to rescue her girlfriend from a murderous kidnapper.
Alexandre Arcady directs from a screenplay by Arcady
and Alexandre Aja. Cecile De France (“Around the World
in 80 Days”), Maiwenn Le Besco (“The Fifth
Element”) and Philippe Nahon (“Irreversible”)
star. Also known as “Haute Tension,” it’s
rated NC-17 for strong graphic violence. Lions Gate nervously
awaits a first-quarter 2005 release.
“Le Grand Role,” set in Paris, is a black comedy about
a washed-up actor who must convince his seriously ill wife
that he has been cast by a famous American director in
a Yiddish version of “Hamlet,” fearful that
less-good news might weaken her health further. Steve Suissa
directs from a screenplay by Daniel Cohen, Sophie Tepper
and Suissa. Based on the novel by Daniel Goldenberg, it
stars Stéphane Freiss (“Alias Betty”)
as the actor, Bérénice Bejo (“A Knight’s
Tale”) as his wife and Peter Coyote (“Bon Voyage”)
as the famous American director. François Berleand
(“The Transporter”) also stars. First Run is
still casting about for a release date.
“Kings and Queen,” intertwines the stories of two former lovers.
She is an unmarried mother who suddenly finds herself forced to care for her
dying father. He is a gifted musician trying desperately to escape from a mental
hospital. Arnaud Desplechin (“My Sex Life”) directs from a screenplay
by Desplechin and Roger Bohbot (“Since Otar Left”). The drama stars
Mathieu Amalric (“My Sex Life,” “Alice and Martin”),
Nathalie Boutefeu (“Son Frere”), Catherine Deneuve (“8 Women”),
Emmanuelle Devos (“My Sex Life,” “It’s Easier for a Camel”),
Maurice Garrel (“Son Frere”), Valentin Lelong, Noémie Lvovsky
(“It’s Easier for a Camel”), Jean-Paul Roussillon and Magalie
Woch (“It’s Easier for a Camel”). Wellspring is planning a
“Look At Me” is an ensemble drama about a young woman who resents her homely
appearance, her famous author father’s inattention and her young, beautiful
stepmother. Written and directed by Agnès Jaoui (“The Taste of Others”),
it stars Jaoui (“The Taste of Others”), Marilou Berry, Laurent Grevill
(“The Good Thief”), Jean-Pierre Bacri (“The Taste of Others”),
Virginie Desarnauts (“Jefferson in Paris”), Keine Bouhiza, Grégoire
Ostermann (“Lucie Aubrac”), Serge Riaboukine and Michèle Moretti
(“Who Killed Bambi?”). Sony Pictures Classics gives us our first
glimpse Feb. 25.
“Nathalie” is about a Parisian wife who, believing
her husband unfaithful, hires a prostitute to seduce him.
Anne Fontaine (“How I Killed My Father”) directs
from a screenplay by Jacques Fieschi (“How I Killed
My Father”), Francois-Oliver Rousseau and Fontaine.
Emmanuelle Beart (“8 Women”), Fanny Ardant
(“Elizabeth,” “8 Women,” “Nathalie”),
Gerard Depardieu (“Bon Voyage,” “Nouvelle
France”), Wladimir Yordanoff (“The Taste of
Others”) and Judith Magre (“Jesus of Montreal”)
star. Wellspring promises a March 18 release.
“Wild Side” is a drama about
a transsexual prostitute who, having returned home from
Paris to nurse her dying
mother, contemplates the events of her own life. The “Come
Undone” team of writer-director Sebastien Lifshitz
and screenwriter Stephane Bouquet reunite. Stephanie Michelini,
Yasmine Belmadi, Edouard Nikitine and Josiane Stoleru (“Cyrano
de Bergerac”) co-star. Wellspring sets it free in
Germany’s Academy Award entry “The Downfall” examines,
from the perspective of Adolf Hitler’s secretary,
how the Führer spent his final days in a Berlin bunker.
Based on the book “Inside Hitler’s Bunker” by
Joachim Fest and the memoirs of secretary Traudl Jung,
it was directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (“The Experiment”)
from a screenplay by Bernd Eichinger. Bruno Ganz (“The
Manchurian Candidate”) stars as Hitler, Alexandra
Maria Lara as Traudl Junge, Corinna Harfouch as Magda Goebbels,
Ulrich Matthes (“Aimee and Jaguar”) as Joseph
Goebbels, Juliane Köhler (“Aimee and Jaguar”)
as Eva Braun, Heino Ferch (“Run Lola Run”)
as Albert Speer, Thomas Kretschmann (“Resident Evil:
Apocalypse,” “Head in the Clouds”) as
SS Gruppenführer Hermann Fegelein and Ulrich Noethen
as Heinrich Himmler. Negotiations for a domestic distributor
were reportedly ongoing.
“Schultze Gets the Blues” is a comedy from writer-director
Michael Schorr about a suddenly unemployed accordion player
whose taste in music undergoes a sudden and unexpected
change. Horst Krause stars in the title role opposite Harald
Warmbrunn, Karl Fred Müller, Ursula Schucht, Hannelore
Schubert, Wolfgang Boos, Leo and Loni Frank. Paramount
Classics lets it play Feb. 11.
“Twin Sisters,” a drama set in 1920s Europe, is about
the drastically different lives of twin sisters, one raised
by a wealthy aunt in Holland, the other raised on a German
farm by her poor uncle. It’s based on the novel by
Tessa de Loo. Ben Sombogaart directs from a screenplay
by Marieke van der Pol. Thekla Reuten (“Everybody’s
Famous!” “Rosenstrasse”), Nadja Uhl (“Shattered
Glass”), Ellen Vogel, Gudrun Okras, Jeroen Spitzenberger
and Roman Knizka co-star. Miramax doubles down the first
quarter of 2005.
“Kontroll,” an actioner set in the Budapest subway
system, follows a young ticket inspector, a mysterious
young woman and a brutal killer in a race against time.
U.S.-born Nimród Antal directs from a screenplay
by Jim Adler and Antal. It stars Sándor Csányi,
Zoltán Mucsi, Csaba Pindroch, Sándor Badár,
Zsolt Nagy, Bence Mátyási, Gyözö Szabó,
Eszter Balla, Lajos Kovács, György Cserhalmi,
Zsolt László, Balázs Mihályfi,
Péter Scherer and János Kulka. ThinkFilm
has ticketed a second quarter 2005 release.
“God’s Sandbox” is a romantic drama, set on
a Sinai beach, about a beautiful tourist from the West
who falls for the son of a Bedouin sheik. Doron Eran directs
from a screenplay by Hanita Halevy and Yoav Halevy. Meital
Dohan, Razia Israeli, Juliano Mer, Orli Perl and Sami Samir
star. Indican has yet to set a release date.
“Nina’s Tragedies” is a comedy-drama, set in
Israel, about a young man who falls for his own aunt. Written
and directed by Savi Gavison, it stars Ayelet Zorer, Yoram
Hattab, Alon Abutbul and Aviv Elkabeth. Wellspring relates
to us a February release.
“Good Morning Night” is a drama about a conflicted
young woman who aids in the 1978 kidnapping and murder
of Italian prime minister Aldo Moro. Based on the book
by Anna Laura Braghetti and Paola Tavella, it was written
and directed by Marco Bellocchio. Maya Sansa (“The
Best of Youth”), Luigi Lo Cascio (“The Best
of Youth”), Roberto Herlitzka (“It’s
Easier For A Camel”) and Giovanni Calcagno star.
Wellspring wakes it in February.
“The House Keys” is Italy’s Academy Award entry, a drama about
a father who travels to a Berlin rehabilitation center to meet his severely disabled
15-year-old son for the first time. Gianni Amelio (“Lamerica”) directs
from a screenplay by Sandro Petraglia (“Lamerica”), Stefano Rulli
and Amelio. Kim Rossi Stuart (“Pinocchio”) stars as the father, Andrea
Rossi as the son. Charlotte Rampling (“The Statement”), Alla Faerovich,
Pierfrancesco Favino, Manuel Katzy, Michael Weiss, Ingrid Appenroth, Dimitri
Süsin, Thorsten Schwarz, Eric Neumann, Dirk Zippa, Barbara Koster-Chari,
Anita Bardeleben and Ralf Schlesener co-star. At press time, bidding was reportedly
underway for U.S. distribution rights.
“Night Watch” is a fantasy thriller set in a present-day Moscow where
the forces that rule the day and night, respectively, battle. It has already
grossed an amazing $15.7 million in Russia (where the average ticket price is
$2.70). Based on the novel by Sergei Lukyanenko, it was directed by Timur Bekmambetov
from a screenplay by Bekmambetov and Lukyanenko. Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir
Menshov, Valeri Zolotukhin, Mariya Poroshina and Mariya Mironova star. Fox Searchlight
is reportedly planning a July U.S. premiere.
“Saraband” is the sequel to 1973’s “Scenes
From A Marriage,” this time about a lawyer who decides
to visit the ex-husband she left 32 years earlier – a
man mired in the difficulties of his new family. Returnees
from “Scenes” include writer-director Ingmar
Bergman (“Fanny and Alexander”), as well as
actors Liv Ullman (“Mindwalk”) as Marianne
and Erland Josephson (“Faithless”) as Johan.
Newcomers to the series include Börje Ahlstedt (“Best
Intentions”) and Julia Dufvenius. Sony Pictures Classics
plans a fall 2005 reunion.