Popular Movies You’ve Never Seen

The Arts

There’s a gigantic gap between European films and Hollywood product. Although there are a great many popular Hollywood films I love (including ‘Avatar’), there have also been too many that just consist of boringly mindless violence – it’s a law of diminishing returns that leaves you desperate for some kind of intelligent story (I’m a writer, of course I’ll champion stories).

There have lately been a lot of articles about how the old Hollywood system is dying. It makes more money overseas than domestically, and gives an increasingly poor return on its investment. European films have lower budgets and have to try harder. They’re also very good at breaking the mould, whereas Hollywood films are targeted to tight demographic groups, which is why European remakes rarely work.

Of course not all European films are great, but I find more and more of them in my Top Twenty with each passing year. This year I loved ‘Un Prophete’, ‘Terribly Happy’ and ‘Let The Right One In’. We can find more world cinema on DVD now, but there are still huge holes in the catalogue of available movies. Most of these are not art films (those tend to come out on DVD) but just good popular entertainment. While the Spanish ones have subtitles, the French (typically awkward) don’t. Why can’t an enterprising company bring out popular European movies?

Here’s a tiny handful I’ve listed off the top of my head. There are literally hundreds more. Don’t get me started on the Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Indian ones.

‘Ah! Si j’étais riche’
A man wins a fortune and must keep it secret from the wife he’s in the middle of divorcing.

‘Stanno Tutti Bene’
The charming original version of the terrible ‘Everybody’s Fine’; a man visits his children, only to be disappointed by them.

‘Good Morning Babylon’
The story of two brothers who go from Italy to Hollywood to build sets for DW Griffith’s ”Intolerance’.

‘A La Folie…Pas Du Tout’
A romance seen from both sides – and one side is shockingly different from the other.

A boring thirty year-old still lives at home with his cool parents, so they decide to drive him out.

‘Ferpect Crime’
Two salesmen compete for the most sales in one month, leading to a body being disposed of in the store’s furnace…

‘Dr Petiot’
The terrifying true story of France’s worst serial killer, a seemingly well-meaning doctor in WW2 who kills Jews. The image of Petiot on his tricycle, his cape flapping, haunted me for days after.

‘Sexy Killer’
A horror film in which the beautiful victim is actually the maniac, also features brain scientists, zombies and a musical number.

‘Le Boulet’
A prisoner’s winning lottery ticket is in the jacket his warden’s wife has taken on a cross-country rally.

‘Erreur De La Banque En Votre Faveur’
A waiter foils a group of fat-cat bankers while making his neighbourhood rich and getting the girl. Typically of European films, this rom-com takes in issues of May-October romances, internet dating, wealth VS looks, job satisfaction, communism VS capitalism and so on – all with a light touch.

7 comments on “Popular Movies You’ve Never Seen”

  1. There are some great black comedies coming out of former Yugoslavia, but they never make it over here unless one of the characters is a disturbed war veteran…*

    * though actually one of them all too often is.

  2. Maura McHugh says:

    This subject came up at the World Conference of Screenwriters in Athens late last year. European films face a huge liability compared to American/UK/Irish/Australian films because of the language barrier. Translation is expensive, and there are about 23 official languages in the EU. So, most low-budget films in Europe (often funded by government agencies) don’t have the money for translation, or if they do it’s into one language. As English-speakers we have a *huge* advantage over someone, from say, Bulgaria. If a film gets translated it will be into English, and after that the list dwindles.

    I was talking to a guy who specialised in digital distribution of EU films to remote towns and clubs around the EU, and mentioned to him that we need a central EU-funded agency that will annually pick a couple of deserving films from every country and translate them into at least as many languages as possible.

    We need more education about film in schools, too. One person suggested putting screenplays on the school curriculum, just like plays are taught. I think that’s a brilliant idea.

  3. …and on the other hand, we French love English comedies and even see relevant issues in some of the US ones, but despair at the low quality of the local productions. But I suppose there’s a natural triage occuring at the border. I have to say the French comedies you don’t get to see are pretty dire.

  4. Dan says:

    A tip I discovered for finding subtitled French movies on DVD is to order them from Amazon Canada – god bless the Quebecois. I got hold of a subtitled copy of the very funny Gregoire Moulin this way, after years of staring at the Francophone only version on the shelves in FNAC. You’ll need a multiregion DVD player of course, but I’m sure a man of your excellent skills has that covered.

  5. Renita Isgur says:

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  6. admin says:

    I’m on Twitter under Peculiar – and I’ll put up some vids very soon!

  7. Did I already tell you just how I really like every subjects on your site ?

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