best foreign movies and tv streaming

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

In unprecedented times such as these, is there really only one kind of movie you can turn to? One that can offer you an escape, tap into your rage, or quench your thirst? Probably not, but you can achieve at least one of these with this week’s batch of foreign-language films in Pop Culture Imports. This week we have French-Israeli festival darling Synonyms, the Mexican coming-of age gem I’m No Longer Here, the Jackie Chan martial arts comedy classic Police Story, Mamoru Hosoda’s whimsical time travel anime Mirai, and the sexy riff on Alfred Hitchcok’s NotoriousLust, Caution.

Fire up those subtitles, and let’s get streaming.

Best Foreign Movies and TV Streaming

Synonyms – Criterion Channel

Country: France, Israel

Genre: Drama

Director: Nadav Lapid

Cast: Tom Mercier, Quentin Dolmaire, Louise Chevillotte.

A young Israeli man (Tom Mercier in a knockout debut performance) is found freezing and naked in an empty upstairs apartment by a young Parisian couple, who are immediately taken with this stoic stranger. They ask him his life story, but Yoav is reluctant to give it, having fled to Paris armed with just a dictionary and a resolve to abandon his national identity. From then on, Yoav refuses to utter a word of Hebrew, speaking only in a stilted, poetic French as he attempts to build a life for himself. Nadav Lapid’s French-Israeli drama is based on his real-life experiences, but bucks the usual structure of an immigrant drama. Instead, Synonyms is a meandering, maddening, baffling, and slightly alienating portrait of passion without a purpose. Mercier gives a magnetic performance as a man who is a pressure cooker of emotional turbulence, erupting in bizarrely timed displays of anger that often veer into the absurd. A festival darling that won the Golden Bear at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival, Synonyms is comic tragedy at its most intense.

Watch This If You LikeUn Prophète, Taxi Driver, First Reformed, dictionaries.

I’m No Longer Here – Netflix

Country: Mexico

Genre: Coming-of-age drama

Director: Fernando Frías

Cast: Juan Daniel Garcia Treviño, Xueming Angelina Chen,

Written and directed by Fernando Frías de la Parra, best known for helming the Spanish-language HBO limited series Los EspookysI’m No Longer Here is a captivating snapshot of a culture, a time, a place, and a boy who is not well-equipped to navigate it all. Originally published as a short story before adapted as a full-length feature film, I’m No Longer Here takes place in 2011 and follows a cocky 17 year-old teenager named Ulises (Juan Daniel Garcia Treviño) from the slums of Monterrey, Mexico, who leads a gang dedicated to the counter-culture of Kolombia — a lifestyle that consists of wearing baggy clothes, sporting eccentric hairstyles, and dancing to a music genre called “cumbia rebajada.” But after a run-in with the local cartel, Ulises is forced to flee to New York City, where he finds himself out of his depth and painfully isolated from the counterculture around which he formed his whole identity. Remarkably soulful, I’m No Longer Here is a sweet, slow-burning ode to a cultural identity rarely seen on film.

Watch This If You LikeFrances Ha, Skate Kitchen, Inside Llewyn Davis, dancing on the streets of New York.

Police Story – Criterion Channel

Country: Hong Kong

Genre: Martial arts comedy

Director: Jackie Chan

Cast: Jackie Chan, Brigitte Lin, Maggie Cheung, Chor Yuen, Charlie Cho.

Jackie Chan is at his manic daredevil best in Police Story, a banger of an action-comedy that famously almost got the martial arts legend killed and is part of the Criterion Channel package “Starring Jackie Chan.” Featuring some of the greatest stunts Chan has ever pulled off — including a chase through a shanty town, a fight hanging off the side of a bus, and the unique use of several glass ceilings — Police Story is such a non-stop ride that you’ll forgive its barebones plot. Chan directs and stars in Police Story as Ka-Kui, a cop given the task of guarding a gangster’s girlfriend (Brigitte Lin). Things naturally get out of hand, and Ka-Kui has to take things into his own hands, fighting off dozens of gangsters and performing acrobatic action sequences that knock the wind out of you (and often, out of Chan). Chan really proved himself to be the next-gen Buster Keaton with Police Story, which strikes the pitch-perfect balance between slapstick comedy and gritty crime procedural.

Watch This If You LikeRush Hour, Jackie Chan defiantly looking death in the eye.

Mirai – Netflix

Country: Japan

Genre: Slice-of-life fantasy anime

Director: Mamoru Hosoda

Cast: Moka Kamishiraishi, Haru Kuroki, Gen Hoshino, Kumiko Aso, Mitsuo Yoshihara, Yoshiko Miyazaki, Koji Yakusho, Masaharu Fukuyama.

Why do time travel movies always have to involve daring plots and epic action? Why can’t it just be a snaphot of a normal family, going through trials both mundane and life-changing? The Girl Who Leapt Through Time director Mamoru Hosoda has a gift for delivering on the latter, injecting whimsy and wonder into the ordinary with his lovely slice of life drama, Mirai. A fantasy drama meets coming-of-age movie, Mirai follows 4-year-old Kun, a spoiled young boy who resents his new baby sister. After his latest tantrum is ignored by his beleaguered, mild-mannered father, Kun stumbles into a magical garden that acts as a gateway through time. There he meets the teenage version of his baby sister, Mirai, whose name coincidentally means “future,” who takes him on a journey through their family history. Kun befriends his mother as a mischievous young child, goes on a motorcycle ride through the country with his great-grandfather in pre-World War II Japan, and gets into scraps with the human form of the family dog. Within the kooky family comedy, Hosoda takes the time to meditate on time and memory in an intimate and unique twist on the time-travel movie.

Watch This If You LikeWorld of Tomorrow, Inside Out, My Neighbor Totoro, time existing all at once.

Lust, Caution – Netflix

Country: China

Genre: Erotic-espionage historical drama

Director: Ang Lee

Cast: Tang Wei, Tony Leung, Joan Chen, Wang Leehom, Chiu-Wai, Anupam Kher.

Based on the 1979 novella by Eileen Chang, Lust, Caution follows a group of Chinese university students in Japanese-occupied China who hatch a plot to assassinate a high-ranking agent (Tony Leung) of the puppet government. The beautiful Chia Chi (Tang Wei) is tasked with seducing the agent, Mr. Yee, but begins to feel conflicted emotions as their affair becomes more heated and intense. When it hit theaters in 2007, Lust, Caution earned attention for its famously explicit sex scenes, with U.S. censors slapping Ang Lee‘s erotic espionage drama with an NC-17 rating and China banning the lead actress from work for years to follow. Was it worth it? For the most part — Lee won the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival for Lust, Caution, but this sumptuous, sleepy period drama could have honestly cut back a few of the sex scenes; the sensual mood and tense paranoia is enough to make Lust, Caution a thrilling watch.

Watch This If You LikeRed Sparrow, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Hitchcock’s Notorious but with abundant sex scenes.

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