10 Foreign Films to Watch in 2014

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It’s that time of year when film festival announcements entice us with their competition titles and a larger spotlight on the foreign market offers a breath of fresh air amongst a sea of caped heroes and post-apocalyptic teen tales. We feature ten of those anticipated films, below. Although many of these foreign selections won’t be available on American shores immediately, there are a number of compelling works debuting at fests this year that we wanted to draw your attention to. Keep your eye on these foreign features during the 2014 film season.

Aimer, boire et chanter (Life of Riley)

Acclaimed French director Alain Resnais (Hiroshima, mon amour and L’année dernière à Marienbad) adapts Alan Ayckbourn’s 2010 play, Life Of Riley. Aimer, boire et chanter will make its world premiere at the Berlinale in February. It’s the veteran filmmaker’s third adaptation of Ayckbourn’s work, which includes Smoking/No Smoking and Coeurs — Silver Bear and Silver Lion winners respectively. Ayckbourn’s play centers on a group of family and friends who gather remember the life of one of their own who is dying (he is only talked about and never appears in the play), but a farewell twist shakes things up. The film is described as “an uplifting comedy with some acid moments.”

On the Milky Road

Monica Bellucci will star in Emir Kusturica’s love story set against a war-torn backdrop, On the Milky Road (formerly Love and War). The Serbian director, a two-time Palme d’Or winner (When Father Was Away on Business and Underground), will also appear in the film. The story will be told through his character — a soldier who seeks solitude after the death of his wife (Bellucci). Balkan Inside informs us of the narrative’s structure:

“The film will consist of three segments. The first segment is the story of a snake (recorded in the medieval town Klobuk near Trebinje), the second segment is a story of love (recorded in the town of Trebinje) and the third segment is the story of the monks (recorded in Mokra Gora, Serbia).”

The film is expected to premiere at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

20,000 Days On Earth

Staged, but not scripted, experimental “documentary” 20,000 Days on Earth will present a fictional narrative about Nick Cave’s 20,000th day on Earth and invite us into the musician’s creative process through a series of constructed real-life situations. This is the feature film debut of British filmmakers Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, and the UK doc will be competing for best World Cinema Documentary at Sundance this year. Color us excited to watch Cave visit his therapist, eat lunch with collaborator Warren Ellis, write in his office, and watch Scarface with his sons.

Another UK doc in the music realm to look forward to: God Help The Girl, written and directed by Stuart Murdoch, lead singer of Belle and Sebastian.

A Igreja do Diabo

May we all be as creatively fulfilled as Portuguese filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira (pictured) who is expected to premiere A Igreja do Diabo (The Church of the Devil) this year — the 105-year-old filmmaker’s sixtieth movie. The tale combines “three connected stories set in Brazil following a visit of devil to earth, a case of adultery and the delusions of an ornithologist,” says IMDb.

Mr. X

Also in the World Cinema Documentary lineup at Sundance is Tessa Louise-Salomé’s exciting new film, Mr. X, about French cinema provocateur, Leos Carax (Holy Motors).

“Combining thoughtful interviews with film critics and members of Carax’s cast and crew and moments with the man himself, director Tessa Louise-Salomé paints a compelling picture of the thoughtful Mr. X using her own visual poetry. The most captivating element in the film is the endless insight from Carax’s main actor and virtual double, Denis Lavant, himself both firecracker and unassuming leading man — a perfect alter ego for Carax.”

Wetlands

This provocative adaptation of Charlotte Roche’s equally provocative novel, Wetlands, directed by David Wnendt, stars Carla Juri (Someone Like Me) as the sexually confident Helen as she reclaims ownership over her body (and life) through a series of graphic reminiscences. Brigitte magazine celebrated the novel in their review:

“Thank you, Charlotte Roche. Finally someone who describes our bodies and the things we can do with them the way they really are: warm, moist, intensely fragrant. . . . You might think that in the era of Internet porn sites like Youporn this isn’t necessarily revolutionary. But it is — because the hero is a woman. It’s told from her perspective, felt from her perspective, imagined from her perspective. That makes it different from other bodily-fluid-narratives, behind whose cameras or screenplays are men.”

The Lamb

Debuting at the Berlinale this year is contemporary artist and filmmaker Kutluğ Ataman’s fifth feature. Ataman’s interest in the marginalized populations of his home country, Turkey, the setting of Kuzu (The Lamb — formerly titled South Facing Wall), is well documented. The new film returns to this theme, depicting the anxiety of modern life infringing upon traditional culture. The filmmaker turned to Kickstarter in 2012 for funding, which revealed a lengthy and stunning synopsis (and several fantastic location photos). IMDb currently summarizes The Lamb as follows: “Mother’s fatal joke turns village’s quiet reality into a nightmare.”

Die geliebten Schwestern

A Map of the Heart director Dominik Graf’s new film, the eighteenth-century-set story Beloved Sisters (Die geliebten Schwestern), screens in competition at the Berlinale. The film depicts the love triangle between aristocratic sisters (played by Hannah Herzsprung and Henriette Confurius) and famed poet Friedrich Schiller (played by Florian Stetter) — then an impoverished up-and-comer — which historians have speculated about for years.

Xi You (Journey to the West)

Celebrated Taiwanese cinema figure Tsai Ming-liang cast frequent collaborator Lee Kang-sheng and the remarkable Denis Lavant in Xi You (Journey to the West) — which is all I need to know to want to see this. The story is inspired by a sixteenth-century Chinese literary classic about a Buddhist monk (played by Lee) who endures a long journey to obtain sacred texts. “The plot that Xuanzang travels to the West, crossing the desert all alone, to obtain sacred sutras, really moves me,” the filmmaker said in an interview during press rounds for his monodrama inspired by the same story. “I often try to imagine how the monk feels when he stands in front of the seemingly endless desert.”

Deux jours, une nuit (Two Days, One Night)

Arthouse auteurs Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne feature Marion Cotillard in their latest as a desperate woman who has one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so she can keep her job. The actress had high praise for the directorial duo in an interview with Variety last month:

We’ve just finished shooting. What I can say is that when I began working in the U.S., I started to think that all those amazing, greatest directors I never thought I could work with, suddenly … I realized it was not unreachable anymore. But there were two people for me who were unreachable: Bruno Dumont and the Dardennes Brothers. When my agent told me they wanted me to meet with them, I genuinely thought it was a joke. Then I thought it would be a totally different movie than what they do usually, because they do stories in their hometown.

With all due respect for all the directors I worked with, this experience was the greatest of my life as an actress, so I hope it’ll be good. They push the actors so far in the detail. That’s the relationship that I’d always expected with directors. That was idyllic.