best foreign movies and tv streaming

(Welcome to Pop Culture Imports, a column that compiles the best foreign movies and TV streaming right now.)

We’re almost to the end of the year, which means it’s time to play end-of-year catch-up with the best movies of 2019. And surprisingly, Netflix is supplying a lot of them. The streaming giant has become quite a force at film festivals in recent years, picking up award contenders and indie dramas in hopes of earning a coveted Academy Award statuette. And it’s been no slouch with international fare — this year, Netflix has acquired some of the best foreign language films of the year, including Mati Diop‘s stunning supernatural romance Atlantics and the surreal French animated film I Lost My Body. Catch up with those to add to your “best of the year” lists, as well as Zhang Yimou‘s best wuxia film in years, a Jackie Chan classic, and a stunning short film from the director of Weathering With You.

Let’s fire up those subtitles and get streaming.

Best Foreign Movies and TV Streaming Now

Atlantics – Netflix

Country: Senegal

Genre: Supernatural romance

Director: Mati Diop

Cast: Mame Bineta Sane, Amadou Mbow, Ibrahima Traoré.

Mati Diop became the first black woman to ever play in competition in the Cannes film festival with Atlantics, a stirring supernatural romance that smoothly swings between genres. Part horror, part thriller, Atlantics reveals itself to be a ghost love story about a young woman Ada (Mama Sane), whose boyfriend’s (Ibrahima Traore) boat goes missing when he and his fellow construction workers set off to migrate to Spain in search of better lives. Pining over her lost love in the days leading up to her marriage to another man,  Ada finds herself at the center of an investigation over mysterious deaths in her suburban village, and discovers that her lost love isn’t so lost after all. Atlantics is a soulful mix of ghost story and coming-of-age romance with a gothic twist, all shot amidst the shabby, sun-drenched landscapes of Senegal.

Watch This If You Like: Ghost, Wings of Desire, Truly Madly Deeply, A Ghost Story, people in love with ghosts!

I Lost My Body – Netflix

Country: France

Genre: Animated coming-of-age drama

Director: Jérémy Clapin

Cast: Hakim Faris, Victoire du Bois, Patrick d’Assumçao.

An animated film about a disembodied hand shouldn’t be this good. But I Lost My BodyJérémy Clapin‘s surreal, Malickian film about a severed hand that wanders Paris trying to find the body it was cut from, is undoubtedly the best animated film of this year. I Lost My Body follows the hand as it escapes from the fridge full of body parts in which it was kept, and makes its way back to its body, a young man named Naofel who is as adrift and lost in life as his hand is lost in Paris. As the hand battles off hungry rats and irate pigeons, I Lost My Body chronicles Naofel’s life, from his happy life with his classical music performer parents, to his alienating teendom as an orphan after surviving the car crash that killed his family. The quirky premise gives way to a moving romance as Noafel falls in love with a woman named Gabrielle, getting a job at a woodworking shop to be closer to her. It’s a two-hander of a story that is part fable, part coming-of-age romance, and totally captivating.

Watch This If You Like: My Life as a Zucchini, Kiki’s Delivery Service, The Triplets of Belleville, good animated movies.

Shadow – Netflix

Country: China

Genre: Wuxia action epic

Director: Zhang Yimou

Cast: Deng Chao, Sun Li, Zheng Kai, Wang Qianyuan, Hu Jun, Guan Xiaotong, Leo Wu, Wang Jingchun.

After years of churning out films that felt like pale imitations of his greatest works, Zhang Yimou makes a glorious return to form in the monochromatic wuxia epic aptly titled Shadow. Beautifully shot and shockingly violent, Shadow follows a rather convoluted story of a commander (Deng Chao) who challenges the conquerer of a coveted city to a rematch in a bid to win back his kingdom’s lands, much to the displeasure of his cowardly king (Zheng Kai). Stripped of his ranking, the commander sets off to fight the duel, which is a cover for an army invasion he is staging against the city. But it turns out that this commander is not actually the venerated general, but a doppelganger servant who has been trained from childhood to serve as a body double for the commander, who was mortally wounded by the first duel. With a visual palette inspired by Chinese ink brush painting and the tai chi symbol (also known as the yin-yang symbol), Shadow is one of Yimou’s most visually sumptuous movies yet — while also being his most batshit bonkers one. Don’t let the stunning rain sequences and flowing cloaks deceive you: this is the closest Yimou will get to directing an anime movie. They fight with sword umbrellas!

Watch This If You Like: Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Blade of the Immortal, prying slow-motion rain fights out of Zhang Yimou’s cold hands.

Legend of the Drunken Master – Hulu

Country: Hong Kong

Genre: Martial arts action comedy

Director: Yuen Woo-ping

Cast: Jackie Chan, Yuen Siu-tien, Hwang Jang-lee, Dean Shek.

Jackie Chan is the master of the martial arts action comedy, and he is at his physical and comedic peak in The Legend of the Drunken Master. It’s an absurd premise that only Chan and his wide-eyed expressions and powerful, choppy fighting style could pull off: The Legend of the Drunken Master follows the young and mischievous Wong Fei-hung (Chan), a character based off a real Chinese martial arts master and medical practitioner (though probably without the alcohol-induced powers), who undergoes a unique training regime under the so-called Drunken Master, who teaches him to a martial arts style that is best fought while drunk. Considered one of the greatest kung fu movies of all time, The Legend of the Drunken Master is so good that it doesn’t even suffer under the bad English dubbing that most people know it by — and honestly, it just makes everyone sound like they’re having a grand, drunk time.

Watch This If You Like: The Young Master, The Fearless Hyena, that unique goofy brand of Jackie Chan action-comedy.

The Garden of Words – Netflix

Country: Japan

Genre: Anime romance

Director: Makoto Shinkai

Cast: Kana Hanazawa, Miyu Irino, Fumi Hirano, Megumi Han.

Makoto Shinkai, the director behind 2017’s global mega-hit Your Name, has an unusual fixation on animating rain. It’s a fixation he’ll fulfill in next year’s Weathering With You, but one that he first tinkered with and mastered in the stunning 2013 short film The Garden of Words. The 43-minute film is Shinkai at his animating peak, working with his studio CoMix Wave Films to bring photorealistic renderings of modern-day Tokyo to magical, ethereal life in undeniably the most beautiful animated film of all timeThe Garden of Words follows a teenage boy who keeps running into a mysterious 20-something woman at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden where they both take shelter on rainy mornings. Using a combination of hand-drawn animation, rotoscoping, and computer animation, Shinkai expands this barebones premise into a tender, atmospheric experience that makes pure visual poetry out of the mundane.

Watch This If You Like: Lost in Translation, Once, movies about two beautiful, lonely people being beautiful and lonely together, but in the rain.
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