Foreign Flicks with Hannah Castro

As cold weather approaches, choose to simply stay inside and enjoy this month's featured international pieces.

Chungking Express - (Wong Kar-wai, 1994) Cantonese Language Film

Chungking Express will transport you to 1990s Hong Kong: a place where residents are packed together, yet cavernous distances exist between them. Acclaimed director Wong Kar-wai uses his signature fluorescent, dreamlike style to weave together the lives of four isolated people in the cityscape. They turn to crime, their jobs, and even cans of pineapple as they look to soothe the personal rifts that they believe only a relationship can fill. As each searches for connection, the profoundness of loneliness is put on full display. Filmed inside the infamous, dirty maylay of the Chungking Mansion complex, it’s clear that the visuals, no matter how gritty or beautiful, take precedence above all else. Cinematographer Christopher Doyle uses step-printing on occasion and repeats the frames in order to create a blur effect that helps to capture the chaos of the story. He also uses odd, constantly moving angles to contribute to the surrealness and confusion that the characters live in; this makes the film more reminiscent of a place and a feeling you have known in the past but may have wished to forget. This is an off-beat but must see movie for people who appreciate aesthetics in a style unlike anything found in the American film industry today.

Hotel Del Luna - (Oh Choong-hwan, 2019) Korean Language Series

Step into fall with the story of Jang Man-wol, a sassy spirit with a dark past that forces her to run a resting spot for wandering souls - in the form of a luxurious and extravagant hotel. It weaves a tale of blossoming romance into a captivating ghost story. Hotel Del Luna largely centers on the undead staff that keeps up the honorable work of catering to the whims of each guest in order to peacefully send them off to the afterlife. Fortunately, their new human assistant is (literally) bound to liven up the place, and might even send the owner herself off to the other world happily. K-pop idol IU and actor Yeo Jin-goo are perfectly snarky yet compatible, as much as their characters differ. The hotel is almost a character itself, as it is designed warmly and eccentrically enough that you’ll feel at home there too. Man-wol’s elegant outfits, hair and nails change roughly every other scene. This series is a perfect introduction into Korean shows, and the storyline is addictive enough to earn a place as your next seasonal rewatch. A word of caution to those easily frightened: not all of these ghosts are very friendly.

Amélie - (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001) French Language Film

Amélie is an iconic cult classic directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet that will immerse you into its stylistic warm filter as well as the endeavors of Amélie, a quiet French woman devoted to making people happy - often in bizarre ways. She has an inclination that drives her to secretly interfere in her neighbor’s lives, occasionally breaking and entering, but usually with good intentions. She sets up multiphase quests, conducts major investigations, and tries to get people together in order to have her own personal peace. A lesson in seeing the good and prioritizing other people that is not often represented on-screen or off. The story is heavily characterized by its editing choices, using vignettes that show the intricacies of everyday life, and peppering in flashbacks to a younger girl in order to create context. The details and colors of the streets of Montmartre and Amelie’s apartment are just as unique as the main heroine herself. There’s no major plot, but stick around for the vibes and quirkiness along the way.

Created By
Hannah Castro