(Welcome to Pop Culture Imports, a column that compiles the best foreign movies and TV streaming right now.)
This week’s Pop Culture Imports is filled with classics, old and new. That includes Jackie Chan’s beloved martial arts classic series Police Story, Sylvain Chomet’s award-winning animated film The Triplets of Belleville, and the new anime classic Attack on Titan. Joining them on the list of best foreign movies and TV streaming now are the gripping Argentinian psychological thriller The Son and a quietly moving romantic K-drama One Spring Night.
Fire up those subtitles, and let’s get streaming.
Best Foreign Movies and TV Streaming Now
Police Story 1 and 2 – Criterion Channel
Country: Hong Kong
Genre: Crime-martial arts action
Director: Jackie Chan
Cast: Jackie Chan, Bill Tung, Brigitte Lin, Maggie Cheung, Lam Kwok-Hung, Chor Yuen.
Police Story is Jackie Chan at his peak. As the director and star of this crime-action comedies, Chan had incredible control over the high-flying stunts and acrobatic fight choreography of the Police Story franchise, and the first film still contains one of his most impressive ones yet — a sequence in which Chan nearly dies sliding down a pole and into a glass ceiling. But more than just witnessing the daredevil spectacle that would launch Chan into international fame as one of the world’s best martial arts performers, Police Story has Chan at his funniest, his most charming, and his most dashingly handsome. (Reader, there is a scene with a naked butt that made me audibly gasp.) Police Story stars Chan as Chan Ka-Kui, a noble Hong Kong cop who finds himself frequently clashing with the Triad and battling against a corrupt bureaucracy. The first Police Story is far and away one of Chan’s best films, but Police Story 2 makes for a breathtaking double feature filled with goofy slapstick, martial arts mayhem, and several appearances of a young Maggie Cheung as Chan’s beleaguered girlfriend, May. The Police Story series is action filmmaking at its finest, and even more than 30 years later, still put most Hollywood movies to shame.
Watch This If You Like: Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, watching Jackie Chan look Death in the eye.
The Triplets of Belleville – Criterion Channel
Genre: Animated comedy
Director: Sylvain Chomet
Cast: Béatrice Bonifassi, Lina Boudreault, Michel Robin.
Sylvain Chomet‘s oddball animated film remains a black sheep of the Oscars’ Best Animated Feature category usually dominated by Disney or Pixar — so droll its humor, so experimental its storytelling, and so grotesque its designs. But The Triplets of Belleville is an unquestionable anime classic whose wild, stylish imaginings push the envelope of animation. The Triplets of Belleville follows elderly Frenchwoman Madame Souza, whose grandson Champion, a professional cyclist, is kidnapped and taken abroad. Embarking on a journey to find him alongside her faithful dog Bruno, Souza finds unlikely allies in three sisters who are washed-up vaudeville singers. The elderly women and their dog team up to outsmart a band of international operators and save Champion. Benoît Charest composes an original jazz score for The Triplets of Belleville that drives this strange and fanciful film. In a way, that’s the best comparison for The Triplets of Belleville: all the joyous unpredictability, that bouncy mischief of a jazz song, made manifest as a kooky and altogether terrific animated film.
Watch This If You Like: Tokyo Godfathers, The Illusionist, The Aristocats, road trip movies with singing French ladies.
The Son – Netflix
Genre: Psychological thriller
Director: Sebastián Schindel
Cast: Joaquín Furriel, Martina Gusman, Luciano Cáceres, Heidi Toini.
This harrowing little psychological horror film from Argentina deserves far better than getting buried in the bottomless Netflix trove. But if circumstances were different and The Son, a gut-churning paranoid thriller that plays like a reverse Rosemary’s Baby, were released under a hip indie studio like A24, Sebastián Schindel‘s film could’ve been a bonafide critical hit. The Son follows painter Lorenzo (Joaquín Furriel) as he becomes increasingly more convinced that his Norwegian wife, Sigrid (Heidi Toini), is performing strange experiments on their newborn son. Locked out the childbirth and only permitted to see his son for a few hours each day, Lorenzo grows more unhinged, until things spiral out of control and he ends up in an asylum diagnosed with Capgras syndrome, because Lorenzo believes “a close relative has been substituted with an identical imposter.” Guillermo Nieto’s claustrophobic cinematography, screenwriter Leonel D’Agostino’s nonlinear narrative, and Schindel’s clinical direction force the viewer to piece the events all together even as Lorenzo’s actions become steadily more unclear.
Watch This If You Like: Rosemary’s Baby, Mother!, Killing of a Sacred Deer, babies.
One Spring Night – Netflix
Country: South Korea
Genre: Romantic drama series
Creator: Kim Eun, Ahn Pan-seok
Cast: Han Ji-min, Jung Hae-in, Kim Jun-han.
To call One Spring Night a K-drama for adults may be a disservice to other K-dramas, but the ponderous, slow-moving romance series is certainly a step away from the cutesy visual language and wacky comedy that define most romantic K-dramas. That’s the signature style of writer Kim Eun and director Ahn Pan-seok, who reunite with their Something in the Rain star Jung Hae-in for a series that prefers realism over melodrama, with a dose of social commentary — where Something in the Rain prodded at strict age hierarchies, One Spring Night shines a light on single parenthood. One Spring Night follows a librarian (Han Ji-min) in a loveless longterm relationship whose chance encounter with a single dad (Jung) threatens to shake up her entire life. Sparks fly after multiple accidental meetings, and the two of them decide to become friends. Naturally, this arrangement doesn’t last long as the two of them can’t deny their romantic attraction. Though One Spring Night is slowly paced to an almost irritating level — though it’s a nice change to the contrived plot twists of Something in the Rain — the chemistry between Han and Jung is sweet and sincere, and Ahn’s beautifully hazy direction makes the series a breeze to watch.
Watch This If You Like: Sleepless in Seattle, Serendipity, When Harry Met Sally
Attack on Titan: Seasons 1-3A – Hulu
Genre: Fantasy-action anime
Director: Tetsuro Araki
Cast: Yuki Kaji, Yui Ishikawa, Marina Inoue.
When Attack on Titan debuted in 2013, it was immediately hailed as a modern anime classic. Comparisons to Neon Genesis Evangelion were drawn — if only for the similar “humanity vs. giant monsters” premises and deep dives into the human psyche — and Attack on Titan helped propel anime back to the global stage. If you weren’t watching Attack on Titan at the time (like me), you were outside of the zeitgeist. While the hype around Attack on Titan has died down a bit in the six years since its debut, that hasn’t stopped the critical praise for this fantasy sci-fi series. Attack on Titan takes place in a world that has been overrun by giant humanoid “Titans,” monsters with a craving for human flesh that have devoured most of humanity. The remainder of humanity has taken refuge inside vast cities surrounded by three enormous walls that have been standing for centuries. But when the outer wall is breached by the biggest Titan yet, a group of teenagers mobilize to bring the battle against the Titans and eliminate them once and for all. I have to admit, I missed the boat on Attack on Titan, but the show’s sheer ambition and European steampunk flavoring make it an interesting twist on the kaiju genre. And if you’re new to anime, it may be the best gateway series for you.
Watch This If You Like: Game of Thrones, Fullmetal Alchemist, The Walking Dead, artful blood splatter.
The post Pop Culture Imports: ‘Police Story,’ ‘The Triplets of Belleville,’ ‘Attack on Titan,’ And More appeared first on /Film.