This new year, make a resolution to watch more foreign cinema (and here are some hacks)

Posted on January 4, 2019


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This new year, allow me to tempt you with a relatively easy resolution, that you will watch more foreign films. Many of you already do this, but maybe some of you have fallen out of the habit. Let’s face it:  it’s tough. With the glut of entertainment options around –every day, we hear about some hot new Netflix show that we just cannot afford to miss (as of this writing, it’s the interactive movie, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) — it’s become harder to find the time to watch that Godard classic you’ve heard so much about and have been meaning to catch up on. It’s probably right there, as a DVD or a download on your computer, but every time you think you should get to it, you get distracted. That’s one of the reasons I’m grateful for this column. It forces me to keep watching foreign cinema.

Watching foreign films in a theatre (particularly during a film festival) is easy, even if the film itself is a difficult watch. There’s something about a big screen, with big sound, that draws your attention and keeps it fixed — plus, the buzziness of a festival is contagious. It makes you more invested. You hear about, say, Chung Kuo, Cina, Michelangelo Antonioni’s 220-minute documentary, made in 1972, about the working-class Chinese, and you say, “I want to watch it.” But try watching the same film at home and it’s different. It’s often impossible to give such a film — especially given that it runs 3 hours, 40 minutes — the undivided attention it needs. You keep looking at the phone. You say you’ll take a ten-minute social-media break, and find, a few hours later, that it’s time for bed.

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