The newly mastered version of Federico Fellini’s masterpiece La Strada returns to UK cinemas this Friday 19th May. As well as being masterfully directed and acted, thoughtful and atmospheric, it also won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film; we therefore thought we’d round up the six best recipients of this award from over the years.
La Strada (1954)
La Strada follows a care-free girl who is sold to a travelling entertainer and subsequently has to endure much physical and emotional pain. It is testament to the power of the ‘less is more approach’ to filmmaking; exploring a number of themes such as love, loneliness, sin and redemption in an understated but fundamentally accessible way. This is not to mention that the characters are so strikingly nuanced and believable, you could easily believe Fellini knew these people in real life.
All About My Mother (1999)
This Spanish drama written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar centers on Manuela, an Argentine nurse who oversees donor organ transplants in Ramón y Cajal Hospital in Madrid and single mother to Esteban, a teenager who wants to be a writer. A vibrant, unconventional and at times uncomfortably explicit film, All About My Mother manages to bring together a number of topical issues from AIDS and transsexualism to existentialism, into one truly unique experience. As one critic at the time put it, the film is ‘more than a movie: It’s Almodovar’s design for living.’
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Ang Lee’s meditation on menace, mortality and the martial arts is a flat out masterpiece for so many reasons. When viewing it for the first time, you’re immediately hit by its visceral brilliance, the jaw dropping precision of its fight sequences and its supremely effective score. The real lasting impression however comes from how emotionally resonant it continues to be throughout and after. This is certainly the type of picture that demands multiple viewings to deconstruct.
Tsotsi tracks six days in the violent life of a young Johannesburg gang leader. A brutal and emotionally devastating picture, the film takes an absolutely abhorrent man and gradually makes the audience more sympathetic to him. In many ways a counterpart to City of God in its grim but realistic depiction of slums, Tsotsi is a brilliant adrenaline shot of a movie.
The Lives of Others (2006)
This German feature follows an agent of the secret police in 1984 East Berlin who becomes increasingly absorbed by the lives of the writer and his lover that he is running surveillance on. Beyond the stunning acting, screenplay and aesthetic as well as the nuanced exploration of moral/political issues, what is truly astounding about this film is that it’s the directorial debut of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. The masterful way in which he is able to keep the story and tension of this thriller rolling throughout suggests a director of far greater experience.
A Separation (2011)
It’s difficult to fault anything about A Separation; a film so impeccably directed, acted and written that one could argue films of its caliber only appear once or twice a generation. Treating intensely difficult and personal issues with the depth that they deserve allows it to become oddly universal in its treatment of two wildly different families. A slow burner of a film that is so emotionally resonant and powerful that it grips you with the force of a thriller.
La Strada returns to cinemas in a new digital restoration 19 May 2017, followed by a new DVD/Blu-Ray/EST release from Studiocanal on 19 June.