Movies with Michael: An introduction to foreign films

Movies with Michael: Foreign films for beginners

Michael Gendron helps us find the fun in foreign films and subtitles.

Our January New Years movie Resolution continues. We’ve learned to give into the charms of rom-coms, and faced our fears of horror, but now for something I know a lot of people find even scarier….subtitles. The Lift’s movie expert Michael Gendron helps find the fun in foreign films.

The American Friend

Easing into things, to begin, with one of my favorites from German director Wim Wenders, The American Friend. Beyond being stunning, fantastically written, and wonderfully acted–I like this as an entry point to world cinema because it has a lot of things that are familiar to American audiences, like actor Dennis Hopper playing that talented Mr. Tom Ripley and the fact that a decent amount is in English with rest being in German or French. A thrilling tale of art forgery, hitmen, and bromance. Hopper and the great Bruno Ganz just play off each other so well as their relationship slowly evolves. The American Friend is currently available to rent on digital platforms or you can pick up the The Blu-ray from Criterion to see Robby Müller’s cinematography really glow.

Police Story

Up next, we’re taking a trip to 1980s Hong Kong with Police Story from writer, director, and star—the one and only Jackie Chan. While you may have seen this dubbed into English before, the original Cantonese language version has never been more accessible to western audiences. Jackie Chan stars as a cop assigned to body guard duty who jokes, jumps, and punches his way through arguably the greatest action comedy of all time. From the opening hillside shantytown car stunt, to the mesmerizing final fight through a mall and everything in between….you’ll never be able to stop thinking – 1. “How did they do this?” and 2. “Why were they allowed to do this?” You can see Jackie Chan cheat death yourself by streaming it on Max or the Criterion channel or by picking it up on Blu-ray or UHD.

Another Round

We’re heading to Denmark for our next movie 2020’s Another Round. Four school teachers and friends join in an experiment where they try to maintain a constant blood alcohol content of .05% to stay at their best selves. Star Mads Mikkelsen is most familiar to American audiences in more villainous roles in movies like Casino Royale and the TV show Hannibal, but here he’s just an incredibly real guy who feels he’s getting boring in middle age. His relationship with his friends feels so lived in. Infectious, funny, charming, warm, and sobering, its one of my favorites from the last few years. Another Round is currently streaming on Hulu or you can grab the Blu-ray.


For my last pick, I wanted to go with one of the old masters, but who? Ingmar Bergman? Akira Kurosowa? Jean Renoir? All would have been great choices, but nothing is quite as inviting as spending a year with the population of an Italian seaside town in Federico Fellini’s Amarcord. Fellini has such clear affection for these characters from his magically remembered past, that you somehow end up feeling nostalgic for them too. A farcical, sentimental, and at times bittersweet journey that brings to mind those classic Beatles lyrics

All these places had their moments

With lovers and friends, I still can recall

Some are dead and some are living

In my life, I’ve loved them all

Amarcord is currently streaming on Max and the Criterion Channel and is available on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection.