International Oscars: The 10 best foreign-language films to watch before this year's ceremony – Yahoo Entertainment

Courtesy of TIFF; Limbo Films, S. De R.L. de C.V. Courtesy of Netflix; Mubi
It took the Oscars nearly a century to honor a non-English-language film for Best Picture (that would be Bong Joon Ho’s audacious class masterpiece Parasite, in 2020). And with all the recent shuffles in format and presentation — who needs to see televised wins for Score, Editing, or Production Design, when there are Twitter polls and misdemeanor assaults to get to? — it can seem as if almost no category is safe from Academy whims. Still, like a shadow government, the nominees for Best International Feature tend to be where much of the best and most essential stuff lives: films frequently more vital, provocative, and frankly original than their main-body counterparts.
So who qualifies in 2022? Some of the rules can seem impossibly arcane: Only one production from each country may be submitted, and exceptions and asterisks abound. (Puerto Rico was eligible for decades, then suddenly not; Israel and Belgium, whose combined lifetime submissions top 100 films, have never taken a single prize home.) But certain titles have already emerged as favorites on the festival circuit; of the dozens of productions vying for this year’s five nominations, here are 10 frontrunners of note, from a Mexican auteur’s surreal autobiographical epic to a dreamy Polish picaresque about a runaway donkey.
Helmed by Alejandro Iñárritu, a major Hollywood player who already has two Best Director prizes (for Birdman and The Revenant), Bardo can’t help feeling like this year’s Moby Dick. Being the biggest fish may actually work against the Mexico City native’s self-refracting fever dream, along with its mondo runtime (now trimmed, after a divisive festival debut, by 22 minutes) and decidedly mixed reviews. Still, there’s a lot to be said for the sheer artistic shock and awe of the film’s ambitions, and the strength of its creator’s engagement with Academy voters. (Nov. 4 in theaters; Dec. 16 on Netflix)
The allure of this hallucinatory royal drama — a joint production between Austria, Germany, Luxembourg and France — can be summed up in two words: Vicky Krieps. The ethereal star of Phantom Thread and Bergman Island brings a gorgeous, restless complexity to writer-director Marie Kreutzer’s sly revisionist history of Austria’s Empress Elisabeth, a born nonconformist trapped in a gilded cage of duty and convention. (Dec. 23)
Four years after winning a Camera d’Or at Cannes for Girl, his luminous debut, 31-year-old Belgian Lukas Dhont returns with another feverishly transportive portrait of youth, this time a dappled, devastating autofiction about the tangled friendship between two adolescent boys, played by newcomers Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele with remarkable, almost subdermal intimacy. (Nov. 1)
Trust Korean maestro Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, The Handmaiden) to conjure something deliciously audacious and strange, even when he’s working within the genre confines of a neo-noir like Decision, about an insomniac Seoul detective (Park Hei-il) and the femme (Tang Wei) who may or may not be fatale. The whodunit — or more accurately whydunit — narrative here never quite reaches the heights of his best work, but any chance to tumble down a Park rabbit hole feels like a sticky, transgressive treat. (Out now)
At 84, the Polish iconoclast Jerzy Skolimowski (Four Nights With Anna, Essential Killing) has turned his gaze to a contemporary retelling of the 1966 French classic Au Hasard Balthazar — which is to say, it’s a road movie about a donkey, and somehow one of the most inordinately charming and ultimately heartrending movies of the season. (And also the only one that gives you approximately five perfect minutes of Isabelle Huppert.) (Nov. 18)
This towering adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s foundational antiwar novel feels like the stuff traditional Oscar winners were once made of: sweeping, ambitious, morally important (in fact the original All Quiet did win Best Picture, nearly a century ago). Director Edward Berger’s update brings certain avant-garde touches (Malick-y camera angles; a shattering, atonal score) along with indelible performances from his young cast, including Felix Kammerer as the wide-eyed recruit who finds that war is a hell he’s not remotely prepared for. (On Netflix now)
Based on the true story of a serial killer who targeted sex workers in Mashhad in the early 2000s, Iranian filmmaker Ali Abbasi’s fraught, immersive drama plays like both a traditional thriller and a character study centered on a fictional female journalist (Zar Amir Ebrahimi) determined to unlock a case that the local authorities seem criminally uninterested in pursuing. The story moves smartly and swiftly, but Ebrahimi’s white-knuckle performance — she won Best Actress for it at Cannes — is the irrefutable reason to watch. (Out now)
Like all the best whistleblower stories, Argentina, 1985 — a fact-based recounting of the efforts to bring the architects of the country’s bloodiest dictatorship to account — is less about visual dazzlement than righteous, methodical justice. Led by Ricardo Darín as the wary veteran prosecutor and Peter Lanzani as the young idealist assisting him, writer-director Santiago Mitre’s surprisingly low-key political drama is shot through with wry humor and moments of gentle, earned profundity. (Out now on Prime Video)
The narrative-film debut of prize-winning documentarian Alice Diop (Nous) can be frustratingly slow to reveal its layers, and has some undeniable pacing issues. Still, her portrayal of a young Senegalese immigrant (Guslagie Malanda) on trial for the murder of her baby daughter in a Paris courtroom — and the conflicted novelist (Kayije Kagame) who comes to observe it — becomes a stinging, subtle meditation on race, class, and the looking-glass perceptions of motherhood. (Jan. 13, 2023, with a limited qualifying release in December.)
Maryam Touzani’s gentle drama about a closeted Moroccan tailor (Saleh Bakri), his ailing wife (Lubna Azabal), and the handsome young apprentice (Ayoub Missioui) who inadvertently enters their cloistered world is both unhurried and unabashedly sentimental. But it pulls lovely, nuanced performances from its leads, particularly Azabal (Paradise Now), and finds a rare and liberating state of grace in its tender final scenes. (Feb. 10, 2023)
Also worth seeing: Boy From Heaven (Sweden), Alcarràs (Spain), Return to Seoul (France/Germany/Belgium), Quiet Girl (Ireland)
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