best foreign movies and tv streaming now

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

The Cannes Film Festival is in full swing, but for those of you who can’t afford to traipse over to Europe, Pop Culture Imports is the next best thing. Instead of watching prestigious movies in full party regalia next to angry French movie critics, watch some of these subtitled movies instead. This week, the best foreign movies and TV streaming now include Snowpiercer, Amélie, Kaili Blues, a beloved anime remake, and an experimental South Korean short film anthology series. Fire up those subtitles and let’s get streaming.

Best Foreign Movies and TV Streaming Now

Snowpiercer – Netflix

Country: South Korea, Czech Republic

Genre: Post-apocalyptic sci-fi

Director: Bong Joon-ho

Cast: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Go Ah-sung, John Hurt, Ed Harris.

Yes, I may be stretching the “foreign-language” label a little with Snowpiercer, which is the embodiment of the perfect cross-cultural collaboration. A Korean filmmaker directs a South Korean and Czech production, in which most of the cast speak English. But Bong Joon-ho‘s harrowing vision of a post-apocalyptic future is too good to pass up. Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Snowpiercer is set in a near future in which an attempt to stop climate change dramatically backfires, coating the world in a layer of ice and snow and leaving it a uninhabitable wasteland. The only hope for the remainder of humanity is a massive train called Snowpiercer, which runs perpetually on a track across the world. But over the years, the train has become strictly divided by class: the hedonistic elites who live at the front, and the “scum” who struggle to live in squalor in the back. Snowpiercer is a bleak and bracing sci-fi thriller that dares to challenge your ideas about humanity while delivering sleek, heartpounding action. A modern sci-fi classic, it doesn’t get better than this.

Watch This If You Like: Elysium, War for the Planet of the Apes, V for Vendetta, Chris Evans in a beard.

Kaili Blues – Criterion

Country: China

Genre: Mystery drama

Director: Bi Gan

Cast: Yongzhong Chen, Yue Guo, Linyan Liu, Feiyang Luo, Lixun Xie.

“I’m going to reverse time.” Time becomes fluid in Bi Gan‘s mesmerizing 2015 directorial debut, Kaili Blues, a film that takes the viewer on both a mental and geographic journey through the provinces of rural China. On a plot basis, this film is incredibly simple: Yongzhong Chen plays a country doctor Chen Sheng who embarks on a journey to find his brother’s abandoned child. But as his journey through rural China unfolds, Chen’s journey becomes one through his how past, present, and future, as Bi Gan’s dreamlike, stream-of-consciousness direction blurs the line between fantasy and reality. A hypnotic, contemplative visual tone poem, Kaili Blues marked the debut of a brilliant new director who has recently delivered another acclaimed arthouse film, Long Day’s Journey Into the Night. If you can’t get the chance to watch the latter in theaters, be sure to watch Kaili Blues.

Watch This If You Like: The Tree of Life, Stalker, Wild Strawberries, motorcycles.

Amélie – HBO Go

Country: France

Genre: Romance/Comedy

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Cast: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Jamel Debbouze, Rufus.

Every frame in Amélie is a treat for the eyes, and every second of Jean-Pierre Jeune‘s whimsical romantic-comedy is a gift to the soul. The bright colors and playful flairs of Jeune’s direction masks his more macabre underpinnings and reflects the same same joie de vivre that his heroine possesses. Played by a wonderful Audrey TatouAmélie follows the quirky title character as she resolves to devote her life to helping strangers find happiness. Misdiagnosed at a young age with a rare heart defect, Amélie grows up isolated but with an active, slightly kinky imagination. While she works as a waitress at a cafe in Paris, Amélie is content to observe — and occasionally meddle in — the lives of the sad, lonely people that she sees every day. But unexpectedly, Amélie runs into her own chance at love.

Watch This If You LikeThe Shape of Water, Pushing Daisies, Wes Anderson movies, happiness.

Fruits Basket – Crunchyroll

Country: Japan

Genre: Slice of life anime series

Director: Yoshihide Ibata

Cast: Manaka Iwami, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Yuma Uchida.

Only Japanese romantic animes have a premise as wacky as: orphan girl becomes entangled in the lives of a family cursed by the animals of the Chinese zodiac. But Fruits Basket transcends its bizarre premise and shoujo anime trappings to become a sincere, profound examination of depression, alienation, abuse, and the healing power of love above all. Tohru Honda is a typical high school teenager, except that she lives in a tent in the woods after her mother was tragically killed in a car accident. When she’s discovered by the landowners, one of whom happens to be her handsome classmate Yuki Sohma, she’s invited to stay at their house. But she soon discovers Yuki’s family harbors a strange secret: they’re cursed to transform into an animal of the Chinese zodiac when hugged by a member of the opposite sex. Soon Tohru becomes enmeshed in the Sohma family’s lives, including Yuki’s cousin and (equally handsome) rival Kyo, who is possessed by the spirit of the angry cat, the one animal cursed to be left out of the zodiac. This 2019 reboot of Fruits Basket adapts the manga by Natsuki Takaya, which was still unfinished when the original 2001 anime first ran its truncated adaptation. While the new anime’s wispy animation style and more melancholic touch is hard to get used to, the new Fruits Basket is a delightful nostalgic journey for any anime fans whose life was changed by this sweet, wholesome manga 15 years ago.

Watch This If You LikeMy So-Called Life, Pushing Daisies, Once Upon a Time, crying.

Persona – Netflix

Country: South Korea

Genre: Experimental short film anthology

Director: Lee Kyoung-mi, Yim Pil-sung, Jeon Go-woon, Kim Jong-kwan.

Cast: Lee Ji-eun, Bae Doona, Kim Tae-hoon, Park Hae-soo.

Persona is an eclectic arthouse short film anthology series that contains four dramatically separate stories directed by a different director. The only thing they have in common is actress Lee Ji-eun, best known by her stage name IU, a singer-songwriter whose famously sweet and innocent looks get cleverly subverted or twisted in each episode of Persona. The episodes range from playful and sensual, to disturbing, like in the second episode, titled Collector, which features Lee as a beguiling heartbreaker who collects boyfriends both metaphorically and figuratively. Thin on plot but heavy on character drama and intense close-ups, Persona at times feels like just a vehicle for IU to practice her acting chops. But the stylish experimentation of the four directors and the presence of other major Korean stars, like Bae Doona (Sense8, Cloud Atlas) who stars as a woman competing for Lee’s father’s (Kim Tae-hoon) affections in one off-kilter tennis match, makes Persona an intriguing watch.

Watch This If You Like: Late-night short film festivals, K-pop, lots of close-ups of IU’s lips.

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