nights of cabiria

Okay, we’re going out on a limb here given our stance on Pretty Woman, but trust us this Fellini film is not advocating becoming a plucky whore so you can be rescued by handsome and wealthy business man. Cabiria, the prostitute of the title, treats the business as a business, and takes care of her self. However, a hopeless romantic, she gets taken in by a number of unscrupulous men. Giulietta Masina plays Cabiria like Lucille Ball on the wrong side of the tracks: her energy is infectious and you can’t help believing that the next man is going to see her for the gem that she is. [italy, 1957]

the nasty girl

A popular, attractive “hometown girl” plans a patriotic essay on her town’s activities during the Third Reich. As she stumbles into Nazi history involving some of the town’s current upstanding citizens, she becomes the “nasty girl.” Clever editing and humourous touches make the film entertaining despite the serious subject matter. [germany, 1990]

run lola run

Fiery Lola, with her shock of punk red hair, muscular frame, and tattooed tummy is pumped and ready to run. And run she does for the entire movie. She has 20 minutes to raise a whack of cash or her boyfriend becomes gangster fodder. She runs over cars, into offices, and after ambulances in an exhilarating obstacle course that flashes, freezes, speeds up, slows down, and repeats itself three times without being repetitious resulting in three unique outcomes. [Germany, 1999]

not one less

A thirteen year-old substitute teacher arrives at a remote Chinese village to take over for the schoolmaster who must leave for a month. Her idea of controlling her unruly group involves sitting in front of the door to keep them from escaping. Eventually, while planning a trip to the city to rescue a 10-year old student who has been sent there to work, the teacher and her students actually start learning. Sweet, slow, quirky, and appropriate for all ages. [china, 2000]

the umbrellas of cherbourg

This candy-colored musical (yes musical—there is no talking) starts Catherine Denevue as a young woman smitten with the blush of first love. Her more practical mother would prefer the young ingenue choose a more stable and wealthy man. This bittersweet love story, and ultimately rumination on first love, first lust, and the greater commitment of relationships has it all: a beautiful heroine, a handsome and tragic hero, and copious singing in the original language of love. [France, 1964]

central station

As the hard-bitten Dora, 71-year-old Fernanda Montenegro carries this hard-won tear-jerker–despite the presence of a cute nine-year-old street urchin–on the strength of her character alone. She ably averts old lady clichĐšs coming across as neither decrepit, nor cute, nor maternal. Ultimately, her metamorphosis comes on her own terms. [brazil, 1998]

like water for chocolate

This irresistible Mexican feast of magic and passion is the most sensuous foodie movie around. Here an unmarried woman whose life centres on the kitchen transmits her emotions into her cooking with unusual effects on diners. A wedding cake causes guests to burst into tears; and a meal of quail and rose petals arouses one daughter so much, she bursts into flames and races off with a passing revolutionary. [mexico, 1992]

two women

Sophia Loren stars as Cesaria in this heart-breaking story of a widow and her adolescent daughter trying to find peace and shelter in wartime Italy, where it’s unclear which passing soldiers have come to help and which have come to harm. Fearful for the safety of her daughter and ever protective, Cesaria flees Rome to her childhood village where they find some safety but little food. The film explores themes of protection, mother’s love, loss of innocence, and trust both at the personal and at the global level, and will stay with you long after you have first viewed it. Loren’s stunning performance won her an Academy Award, the first ever for a foreign language film. [italy, 1961]

volver

Almodovar does it again. This tour de force stars Penelope Cruz as a mother fighting for her daughter, while battling demons from her own past, including infidelity, incest, and a mother seemlingly back from the dead and living with her sister. With allusions to Two Women, this is being hailed as Cruz’s best performance, but the ensemble cast and intricate plot twists, are also big stars. Like the best of Almodovar’s films, this one features humor, pathos, drama, and supernatural events, all rolled up into one highly provocative and entertaining package. [spain, 2006]