(Welcome to Pop Culture Imports, a column that compiles the best foreign movies and TV streaming right now.)
Welcome back to another edition of Pop Culture Imports, where I spotlight international films of both the arthouse and the audience-pleasing variety. And in this week’s column, we’ve got a healthy heaping of both. From Georgia’s hypnotic Oscar contender to South Korea’s first space blockbuster, here are the best foreign movies and TV streaming now.
Now fire up those subtitles and let’s get streaming.
Best Foreign Movies and TV Streaming Now
Beginning – Mubi
Director: Dea Kulumbegashvili
Cast: Ia Sukhitashvili, Rati Oneli.
Georgia’s contender for the best international film Oscar, Beginning is a slow-burning tableau of alienation and anger. Starkly directed by Dea Kulumbegashvili, Beginning follows Yana (Ia Sukhitashvili), the wife of a Jehovah’s Witness preacher, as she deals with the fallout of a firebomb attack on their church by violent extremists. A former actress who had given up her career to support her husband’s mission predominantly Orthodox Christian town outside the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, Yana finds herself ostracized for her religion and gender — ignored by the women in her community and harassed by a detective who arrives to ask her about the incident. The film is a slow but uneasy simmer, honing in on Yana’s interior life through minimal dialogue and striking wide shots filled with empty space that dwarf the pensive, lonely housewife, as the slow-simmering queasiness builds to a dark and distressing climax.
Watch This If You Like: First Reformed, Tarkovsky-esque imagery.
Promare – HBO Max
Genre: Mecha anime
Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi
Cast: Kenichi Matsuyama, Taichi Saotome, Masato Sakai.
Even the most averse to mecha anime (like me) can be wowed by the kaleidoscopic art style and frenetic animation of Promare, one of the rare 3D CG animes that uses the technology to its fullest potential. Set in a near-future where half the population of Earth have grown a mutation that allows them to develop pyrokinetic abilities, Promare follows a group of scrappy fire fighters, led by the enthusiastic but dim-witted Galo, as they uncover a wide-reaching government conspiracy to suppress and use the “Burnish,” the pyrokinetic community, for nefarious means. “Visually dazzling” doesn’t cut it as a description for Promare, which is so jam-packed with color and movement that it’s full to bursting. But its effective storytelling and wild energy — as well as a surprisingly simple design that feels reminiscent of Art Deco —keep Promare from overwhelming the senses.
Watch This If You Like: Gundam done up in the eye-popping style of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Band of Outsiders – Criterion Channel
Genre: French New Wave
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Cast: Anna Karina, Sami Frey, Claude Brasseur.
The film that famously inspired the name of Quentin Tarantino’s production banner, and his iconic Pulp Fiction dance scene, Band of Outsiders (or Bande à part) remains a stone-cold classic of French New Wave. A leisurely gangster movie following a trio of French classmates (Anna Karina, Sami Frey, Claude Brasseur) who scheme to steal a large pile of money from a nearby villain, Band of Outsiders is arguably Jean-Luc Godard‘s most accessible film, one of the French auteur’s rare hangout movies in which we can watch beautiful people do violent things beautifully. Like many a French New Wave film, it’s a subversive send-up of the American gangster cinema that takes some unusual, often frustrating, turns, but there’s a certain (at the risk of sounding clichéd) joie de vivre to the whole thing that makes Band of Outsiders a joy to watch.
Watch This If You Like: The dance scene in Pulp Fiction, because let’s face it, that’s what led you to it.
Space Sweepers – Netflix
Country: South Korea
Genre: Sci-fi action
Director: Jo Sung-hee
Cast: Song Joong-ki, Kim Tae-ri, Jin Seon-kyu, Yoo Hae-jin, Richard Armitage.
South Korea’s very first space blockbuster, Space Sweepers goes big on both spectacle and emotion. Maybe a little too big on the latter, but hey, what do you expect from the country that made us cry over a zombie movie? The gleeful action figure bombast of Pacific Rim meets the found-family charm of Guardians of the Galaxy in Space Sweepers, a totally fun, very silly space opera set in a future where the upper echelons of humanity have fled to a colonized Mars, while the poor are left to live on the fringes fighting for scraps or on the heavily polluted Earth. International crews of “space sweepers” collect space debris floating in Earth’s orbit to sell to the private company that runs the colonized Mars, but the South Korean ship, Victory, finds themselves targeted by the government and terrorists alike when they stumble on a cyborg girl bred to be a secret weapon.
Watch This If You Like: Pacific Rim, Guardians of the Galaxy, Elysium if it were less of a bummer.
The White Tiger – Netflix
Genre: Dark crime drama
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Cast: Adarsh Gourav, Priyanka Chopra, Rajkummar Rao.
A Dickensian tale of an impoverished man’s ruthless social climb, The White Tiger is a crime drama that sneers at the sentimentality of fellow grimy rags-to-riches tale Slumdog Millionaire while aiming for the sharp social satire of Parasite. It doesn’t quite reach the latter, but it’s still a damn good watch. Ramin Bahrani directs the film adaptation of Aravind Adiga’s 2008 novel of the same name, which follows a poor Indian chauffeur as he is embraced by, then used by, the wealthy family that he works for. Adarsh Gourav gives a dynamite debut turn as Balram, a lower caste member who was conditioned into servitude his whole life, before his exposure to the corruption and carelessness of the upper castes leads him to break free from the cycle in an explosively violent turn of events.
Watch This If You Like: Parasite, Burn After Reading, lots of digs against Slumdog Millionaire.
The post Pop Culture Imports: ‘Beginning,’ ‘Space Sweepers,’ ‘Promare,’ and More appeared first on /Film.