foreign movies and tv streaming

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

In this week’s Pop Culture Imports, we have quite a collection of international movies, from the critically acclaimed to the wildly controversial. The latter of which was a controversy that I was reluctant to wade into, but this is a column sharing the best in international titles, and that film at the center of the controversy falls into that category. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, and didn’t click on this column just because of one of the films in the headline, well, you’ll find out soon enough.

So fire up those subtitles, and let’s get streaming.

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Great Pretender

(Welcome to Ani-time Ani-where, a regular column dedicated to helping the uninitiated understand and appreciate the world of anime.)

In 1987, the legendary Freddie Mercury released a cover version of “The Great Pretender,” a 1955 song by The Platters about how we lie to ourselves and the world and pretend to be happy right after a devastating breakup. Mercury’s version is as glamorous as you’d expect from the Queen frontman, who performs with his signature swagger.

But the song has another meaning, which is brought to light the moment Mercury starts revisiting and parodying some of his best known moments with Queen, like the music videos for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “I Want to Break Free” and “Radio Ga Ga,” and the irony of the lyrics starts to reveal immense vulnerability and a poignant understanding of the singer’s life as a stage performer and the many acts he had to put on over the years while hiding his real self and his real feelings. That the song was released mere months before the singer was diagnosed with AIDS just adds to its depth and meaning.

Why have I spent so many words on Freddie Mercury in an article about an anime show? Because Netflix and Studio Wit’s latest show, Great Pretender, shares more than just a title with Mercury’s cover, which plays at the end of every episode with a recreation of the song’s music video (starring animated versions of Mercury’s actual cats). The Netflix show also shares the song’s knack for spectacle and showmanship, and more importantly, the meaning Freddie put into the lyrics — that essentially we are all con-artists, putting up a facade for the world while hiding our true selves.

Great Pretender follows Makoto Edamura, a small-time con man in Japan who gets swindled by a world-class confidence man named Laurent Thierry into working for him, pulling heists all over the globe with a crew of messed up yet skilled swindlers. Read More »