In honor of my summer writing apathy, instead of a brilliantly insightful post, I will give you insight into how I waste spend my off hours. Go ahead, make some popcorn. I can wait…
I finished an amazing series on Netflix the other day, and now, I am drained. I’ll reference it just so you can decide for yourself whether you’d dedicate twenty plus hours of your life to watching a Korean soap opera based on a novel. The series is called The Moon Embracing the Sun. It is a love lost/love re-captured story set in a mythical court during the Joeson (pronounced Chosun) Dynasty. And it’s entirely in Korean. You have to watch subtitles to understand it. Yeah. That’s how I spent a week of my life. I have no regrets, except that it ended and now I am bereft.
What is it about a gripping story and fantastic cast that weaves a magic spell around the viewer? I can’t say for sure, but I think in this saga it has something to do with life being lived to its fullest and yet always teetering on the brink of extinction. There is love, passion, intrigue, betrayal, death, re-birth and ghosts. Basically it’s the Pu Pu Platter of entertainment with a little bit of everything to please all palates. You like romance? There’s a new one popping up between forbidden lovers every turn—almost all of it is star crossed or fatally doomed—but it never fails to twang the heart strings big time. Do you want action? Sword wielding maniacs will attack to move the nefarious plot along when it gets a little too saccharine. Hate someone in the story? Just wait. Eventually everybody gets what’s coming to them. It is absolutely delightful and yet still dramatically compelling when it does. And I have given nothing away by tell you this.
So, if you too are dragging this summer and don’t know what you want to do of an evening, might I suggest you find out where to activate your English subtitles and prepare to be mesmerized. And then, alas, desolated when the series ends. And then you’ll be on the hunt for a new epic drama to catch your eye. Beware, not all foreign films rise to this caliber. I made the mistake of watching “White Haired Witch” thinking it would compare. It didn’t.* Unless by compare you mean contrast so much as to make you wonder if good film making is possible. If you are a fan of seriously bad movies, watch it, the war porn is well done. Otherwise, skip the confusing mess. There are much better options out there.
Here’s a list of a few of my favorite foreign films:
Eat Drink Man Woman (Vietnamese)– A small family saga about a father and the three daughters who challenge his world view. Lots of beautiful meal preparation because father is a master chef who is now losing his sense of taste. You will leave the movie hungry for more.
Monsoon Wedding (Hindi) Think Father of the Bride set in India. Let hijinks with arranged marriages ensue. Or catch an even sillier take: Bollywood Bride and Prejudice. If you like lots of Bollywood dancing, this one’s for you. Bonus, both of these have spoken English in them.
Kung Fu Hustle (Chinese) Over-the-top fighting action sequences, totally ridiculous plot—on purpose. It is really a parody of Kung Fu movies. Absolute fun. Nice Matrix tie-in moment.
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (Mandarin) Truly kick-ass fight sequences, compelling battle of good versus evil all filmed on the backdrop of a mystical, magical China. (The Chinese perfected fighting in tree tops long before the Twilight vampires ever set foot in Washington State.)
Like Water for Chocolate (Spanish) – A woman puts her emotions into her cooking. Suppressed desire sends a naked woman running through the desert after her lover. Need I say more?
Atame (Tie Me Up/Tie Me Down) (Spanish) Bondage and Stockholm Syndrome. Warning, explicitly sexual. Make sure the shades are pulled and the kids are in bed…with ear plugs.
There you have it. I highly recommend the occasional foreign film so that you can feel mildly superior to other people about what kind of brain candy you are consuming.** Please make some recommendations of your own. I really could use another fix like Moon Embracing the Sun. This is how I can afford to travel the world–one delightful movie at a time.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*Don’t let the trailer fool you. It seems much more coherent when you aren’t trying to piece together which army is which and figuring out who the rebel infiltrators are actually fighting. Critically stupid ending as well.
**It’s gotta be better than watching reality television anyway.