Ten Excellent Non-English Language Senior Films (with links to full reviews)Mar 8, 2005 (Updated Nov 10, 2005) Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line Struggling with getting old? Thinking ahead? Use this list to find some remarkable films that explore issues of aging and death in meaningful ways!
I've decided that to qualify for this list, a film must deal with issues pertaining to old age to a significant extent. Such issues might include retrospective evaluation of one's life and contributions, feeling of obsolescence, preparations for dying, or contemplations of death. Senior issues do not have to be the exclusive thematic content of the film but senior issues must be of foremost importance. For example, films like Ran, Pelle The Conqueror and Central Station each deal with issues of aging to an extent, but have other themes of equal or greater importance and are therefore excluded. For purposes of this list, I am rating the films specifically for their treatment of issues relating to elderly status, rather than their overall worth as works of art. Films that I've previously rated at four-stars are allowed to precede five-star films, for example, if the four-star film deals with issues of aging in a more direct or substantial way. So, here's a top-ten list of non-English language senior films plus two runners-up. There's a total of eight different countries represented here, with Japan and France (three selections each) the international leaders in confronting issues of aging.
1. Tokyo Story (1953) Country: Japan Director Yasujiro Ozu Rating: * * * * *
When an elderly couple takes a rare trip from their rural village to Tokyo, to visit two married children, they soon realize that their presence is not all that welcome. Only their daughter-in-law, the widow of another son who was killed in the war, finds time and interest to enjoy the old folks' company. This film is a poignant look at the feelings of irrelevancy that elderly people sometimes experience.
2. Umberto D. (1952) Country: Italy Director Vittorio De Sica Rating: * * * * *
In the years immediately following World War II, Italy was struggling economically and had little interest or capacity to support its most needy citizens. Umberto, a retired pensioner, finds that his miserly pension will no longer even cover both food and shelter. About to be evicted from his room, Umberto contemplates suicide, but his dog, Flike, who loves and depends on his owner, just won't let go.
3. Wild Strawberries (1957) Country: Sweden Director Ingmar Bergman Rating: * * * *
Bergman offers this heartfelt look at a man remorsefully reviewing his life choices on the day he is scheduled to receive an honorary degree from his alma mater. Despite achieving noteworthy professional success during his career, Isak Borg is tormented by his failure to communicate or relate effectively with his mother, his son, or his now-deceased wife. He must also come to grips with unresolved pain from a romantic rejection in his younger years.
4. Children of Nature (1991) Country: Iceland Director Fridrik Thór Fridriksson Rating: * * * * *
This little-known but superlative film about old age finds an elderly man abandoned in a nursing home when his presence at his son's home proves unwelcome to the family. There, he encounters an old woman who had once been his childhood sweetheart and he is inspired to undertake a dramatic course of action to help her satisfy her dream to return to the remote, now-abandoned village where they had both once lived.
5. Ikiru (1952) Country: Japan Director Akira Kurosawa Rating: * * * *
Upon learning that his days are numbered, Kanji Watanabe, a low-level, civil service functionary, who has been going through the motions for years, is inspired to confer meaning to his life by one last push to shepherd a community's request for a playground to replace a toxic waste site through the usually intractable bureaucratic tangle. Watanabe mystifies his friends and acquaintances, who struggle to understand his seemingly inexplicable conversion, as the ultimately gather together at his wake.
6. A Sunday in the Country (1984) Country: France Director Bertrand Tavernier Rating: * * * * *
An aging artist struggles with regrets about the cautious path he once took in choosing his artistic style. Now, as he passes a Sunday afternoon with his family, he finds his own choices impacting his relationships with his adult son, who has made similarly safe choices, and his adult daughter, who lives life to the fullest, risking all. This gorgeously shot film has the appearance of the impressionistic painting that the old artist had always wanted to create.
7. Providence (1977) Country: France Director Alain Resnais Rating: * * * * *
A dying 78 year-old novelist draws the inspiration for his fictional characters from the people who populate his real life, but the fictionalized versions bear only limited resemblance to the real people. Now, as he approaches death while struggling to complete his final novel, he must deal with regrets that his loved ones have sometimes been no more to him than something to write about.
8. The Barbarian Invasions (2003) Country: Canada Director Denys Arcand Rating: * * * * *
When an old philanderer approaches death, old jealousies and rivalries are set aside, as old friends and lovers gather to see him off. A heroin addict and an estranged son prove invaluable in facilitating the old man's passage into eternity. This film provides one of the most intimate and, ultimately, uplifting examinations of dying ever committed to film.
9. The Grandfather (1998) Country: Spain Director José Luis Garci Rating: * * * *
It is never too late to learn something new about the nature of love, as a proud old aristocratic grandfather discovers, when a last letter from his now-deceased son reveals that only one of the old man's granddaughters is legitimate and a genuine genetic heir. When the Count of Albrit's daughter-in-law refuses to acknowledge which of her daughters is truly the Count's grandchild, the Count sets out to make the determination for himself by close observation of the two girls.
10. Madame Rosa (1977) Country: France Director Moshe Mizrahi Rating: * * * *
Rosa, a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz, had been forced into prostitution to survive after the war and, when too old for that line of work, had turned to providing daycare for abandoned children and children of young prostitutes. Now elderly but still living in mortal fear of being carted off once again to a concentration camp, she wants nothing more than to die peacefully at home, rather than being hospitalized. An unusual, mutually supportive relationship that she fosters with a young, orphaned Arab boy in her care provides each with badly needed emotional sustenance.
Two Other Worthy Non-English Language Senior Films: (Alphabetically):
The Ballad of Narayama (1983) Country: Japan Director Shohei Imamura Rating: * * * * *
Eternity and a Day (1998) Country: Greece Director Theo Angelopoulos Rating: * * *
You might enjoy my other genre lists of non-English language films as well.
Ten Excellent Spanish-Language Films
Ten More Excellent Spanish-Language Films
Coming-of-age Outside the USA!
Top Ten Foreign Language Psychodramas
Top Ten Non-English Language Political Movies
My Top Ten Non-English Language Tragedies
Top Non-English Language Comedies
Top-Ten Non-English Language Film Biographies
Top-Ten Non-English Language Action/Adventure Films
Ten Best Non-English Language War Movies!!
Top-Ten Non-English Language Mystery Films
Top-Ten Non-English Language ~Horror~ Films
Top-Ten English-Language ~Horror~ Films from Outside the USA
Ten Excellent Films Featuring Royalty
Ten Excellent Non-English Language Thrillers
Ten Non-English Language High-Yield Tearjerkers
Top-Ten Non-English Language Films Featuring Classical Music
The Top Non-English Language Epics
The 10 Best Foreign Language Romance Movies!!
The Ten Best Non-English Language Love Story Movies!!
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