Blue is the Warmest Color (or La Vie d’Adèle), a French film about a lesbian love story, made waves as one of the most critically acclaimed pieces of cinema this year.
The drama received praise for its gritty portrayal of a same-sex relationship (and some criticism for its provocative sex scenes) while also maintaining a level of artistry as only the French can. It also proved that — regardless of how much Leonardo DiCaprio kills it in the latest film the Hollywood Machine churns out — foreign films have sometimes got it goin’ on.
So, maybe you’re looking to increase your culture capital. Ha. Maybe you and your significant other are trying to up your movie-watching game. Maybe you’ve already browsed most of Netflix and need some new picks. Whatever it is, take a look at these seven foreign love stories — guaranteed to spice up your screen time.
1. Turn Me On, Dammit! (2011)
Stars: Helene Bergshom
Plot: I made the mistake of watching this for the first time with someone I liked. I figured that my knowledge of totally, like, hip, indie movies would impress him. Yeah, no. Turn Me On, Dammit! is a brilliant and hilarious film, but you should not watch it with someone you don’t know very well. The storyline focuses on a Norwegian teenager, Alma, who is really, really horny — so horny, in fact, that she resorts to having phone sex (much to the embarrassment of her mother, who catches her) and propagating rumors about her love life that involve her male classmates. With fantasy sequences and sex scenes so outlandish that you know this film could not have possibly been made in the U.S., it’s best to post up and watch this with someone who will not make you feel awkward when the goin’ gets goin’.
2. Breathless (1960)
Stars: Jean-Paul Belmondo (le swoon), Jean Seberg
Plot: Jean-Luc Godard is the darling of French New Wave Cinema, and Breathless is his magnum opus — introducing new filming techniques like jump cuts and traveling shots for the first time. This film focuses on the doomed relationship between Patricia, an American actress, and Michel, a French conman whose resemblance (and preoccupation with) to Humphrey Bogart is uncanny. With plenty of existential and feminist commentary, this one is a doozy. But the ending is wholly unexpected — Hollywood should take a cue.
3. XXY (2007)
Stars: Ricardo Berlin, Valerie Bertucelli
Plot: Alex is 15, and she is intersex, born with both male and female genitalia. Her parents do their best to protect her — moving her to a small seaside village where few people know about her background and researching various medical operations. As if adolescence isn’t already difficult enough, Alex has to deal with prejudiced townsfolk, her sexuality, and deciding how she wants to identify. This one is a tearjerker, but the ending will leave you with plenty of feel-good vibes.
4. Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959)
Stars: Emmanuelle Riva, Eiji Okada
Plot: Hiroshima, Mon Amour is the original Lost in Translation, made before Sofia Coppola was even just a bundle of cells in someone’s nubile uterus. Though Hiroshima, Mon Amour doesn’t deal with the same themes of ennui and millennial despair, it revolves around two lovers who meet, fall for, and leave one another in a matter of days. They help one another overcome past traumas, realizing what they want is not what they have. Ultimately, however, their feelings for one another are brief and impossible. Watch this one by yourself. Keep a box of Kleenex around.
5. Dumplings (2004)
Stars: Miriam Yeung
Plot: After watching this film in high school, I couldn’t eat meat for several weeks. The main character in Dumplings grinds up unborn fetuses — which she takes from local abortion clinics as well as other sources — into her meat, which she then adds to her dumplings! This, of course, is key for preventing aging. This film is visceral. It keeps you guessing — wondering what crazy antics she and other characters will resort to so that they might stay young and relevant. It makes your stomach churn. And you will never think about dumplings the same way. Watch this film with someone who is willing to let you claw the skin off their arms during the scary scenes — of which there are many.
6. Let the Right One In (2008)
Stars: Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson
Plot: Twilight has forever ruined the vampire love story genre in literature and film (Anne Rice is somewhere fumin’). But before there were sparkly vampires and thinly veiled S&M references infused with Mormon sensibility, there was Let the Right One In. The film chronicles the burgeoning relationship between a young boy and a mysterious new classmate — who is just as capable of tenderness as she (he?) is tearing apart someone’s throat. Recently, there was an American remake (Let Me In), but it doesn’t compare to the Swedish original — which you should only watch with someone you more-than-kind-0f-like.
7. A Woman is a Woman (1961)
Stars: Anna Karina, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean-Claude Brialy
Plot: Another magnificent piece of work from Jean-Luc Godard, this film is a personal favorite. I’ve watched it about 67 times, forcing friends and significant others to join me (not liking it is a deal-breaker). A Woman is a Woman details the love triangle between a stripper who is upset with her boyfriend (for not wanting to have a child with her), that boyfriend, and his best friend. In this film, Godard uses bold visual experimentation and frequently breaks the fourth wall to make the story and the characters seem quirkier…and there is no way to finish it without falling completely in love with Anna Karina.