Doan Courant

The semi-whenever newsletter for one of the many Doan Families.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Foreign film

Most people I know don't watch many foreign films. I don't know why they don't. They may not like reading the subtitles. They may think they are too obscure. They may just not like foreigners. Whatever the case, they should give some of these foreign films a chance. I like films no matter where they are from. Some of my favorite films are from other countries--Rashomon, Japan; Jules and Jim, France; Wild Strawberries, Sweden; L'Avventura, Italy. All of these films are great, though Rashomon and L'Avventura are a bit challenging. I don't expect most people to watch these films. That being said, there are a couple films that I think people should attempt to see. They are very good.
Last night I watched Au Revoir, Les Enfants (translated: Goodbye, Children). This is a very touching and tender film. It takes place in a Catholic boarding school in France during WWII. It is the story of how one young man, named Julien, becomes friends with another young man, named Jean. The story is very simple, and is told in a very straightforward manner. It is not sentimental or contrived. It is based on an actual experience in the life of writer/director Louis Malle. Nearly all the characters in the film are interesting, whether it be the monks or the other students, or Michael, the kitchen-worker. None of them are stock-characters or stereotypes. The story proceeds rather slowly. Much of it is a look at the life of these boys at this school. Toward the end, some events transpire that you would not expect. This is a very good film, and I hope at least one person watches it.
Another very touching film is The Son. This film came out a couple of years ago. It is another French film, though the setting is in Belgium. The story is about a man who teaches carpentry to disadvantaged youth. A few years previous, he son had been killed by a juvenile in a botched car-robbery. That young man, now released from the detention center, comes to the school where the father teaches. He gets enrolled in the man's class. The father knows who this boy is, but the boy doesn't know that the teacher is the father of the boy he accidentally killed. The story proceeds very slowly and deliberately. All the time you think you know how the father is going to act, but he constantly does what you wouldn't think he would do. This is not a straightforward revenge story. It is an insightful psychological study of grief. It is at times very heartbreaking, and at times very tender. You would never guess the final outcome. When it occurs, you are both satisfied and amazed. This is a very powerful film. There is not much dialog in the film, so there is not much to read.
I highly recommend both of these films. They may be hard to find. I know you can rent them through Netflix or Blockbuster Online. Other than that you may have to buy them.

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