London Critics' Circle Awards for Foreign Films (1980-2004) (with links to full reviews)May 2, 2005 (Updated Dec 19, 2005) Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line The London Critics' Circle (LCC) is the oldest such organization in the English speaking world. The LCC initiated film awards in 1980.
The London Critics' Circle (LCC) originated in 1913 as an association for Brits working as drama, music, film, or dance critics. It is the only association of its kind in the U.K., in contrast to the U.S., where such organizations exist in New York, Los Angeles, and Nationally. The film section of the LCC has over eighty members. The requirements for membership in the film section are employment as a film critic for a British publication for a period of at least one year and the bulk of one's income earned from writing about film. The LCC first initiated its film awards in 1980. From 1980 through 1990, the organization recognized two films, one as Best Film and one as Best Foreign Film. The Best Film award was always for an English language film and the Best Foreign Film for a film in a language other than English. Beginning in 1991, the LCC recognized three films: Best Film (usually American), Best British Film, and Best Foreign Film. This list includes the selections of the LCC in the Best Foreign Film category only. The LCC has made, to date, twenty-six such selections, since there was a tie in the first year of selection, 1980.
The distribution by country of origin (counting only the first listed country for co-productions) includes eight winners from France, three each from Germany and China, two each from Italy, Japan, and Hungary, and one each from Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Brazil, and Mexico. A total of twelve different countries have been recognized by the LCC (counting East and West Germany and the reunified Germany as one). I have personally reviewed twenty-four of the twenty-six films. One of the films is in the Epinions database but has no reviews. I have included a link to a review by another reviewer here at Epinions for the other film.
You will also find the following additional posted lists useful in identifying foreign films that have been recognized by awards:
British Films Selected by the London Critics' Circle as Best Film or Best British Film
National Society of Film Critics' Awards for Non-English Language Films
New York Film Critics' Circle Awards for Foreign Films (1935-2004)
Los Angeles Film Critics' Award Winners in the Best Foreign Film Category
All Fifty-Six Best Foreign Film Oscar Winners
All Seventy-Seven Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Winners
All Seventy Venice Film Festival Best Film Winners
All Twenty-Six Films Honored by the London Film Critics' Circle as Best Foreign-Language Film:
1980 Tie Best Foreign Film Angi Vera (This film is in the Epinions database at Listing but there are currently no reviews for it.) Country: Hungary Director Pál Gábor Rating: Undetermined
This movie follows the transformation of a young rebel into a shrewd operative within the Communist Party in Cold War Hungary. The film ably illuminates the mechanism of indoctrination into the Party's code of behavior. Vera Pap stars as the title character (Vera is her first name and Angi her surname), along with Erzsi Pásztor and Éva Szabó. This film does not appear to be available for purchase in America, presently.
1980 Tie Best Foreign Film The Marriage of Maria Braun Country: Germany Director Rainer Werner Fassbinder My Rating: * * * *
Hanna Schygulla headlines in this film that established Fassbinder's reputation internationally. During World War II, Maria Braun dutifully awaits the return of Hermann, her soldier husband, but takes an American soldier lover after Hermann is reported dead. When Hermann surprisingly shows up and Maria kills her lover during a tussle, Hermann takes the rap for Maria and Maria devotes herself to building the successful career that her jailed husband cannot.
1981 Best Foreign Film Man of Iron Country: Poland Director Andrezj Wajda My Rating: * * * *
This sequel to Wajda's Man of Marble (1977) follows the Solidarity Movement in Poland from the vantage point of a strike leader and a cynical journalist who has been hired to conduct a smear campaign against him. Solidarity leader Walesa makes a cameo appearance.
1982 Best Foreign Film Mephisto Country: Hungary Director Istvan Szabo Rating: * * * *
Klaus Maria Brandauer provides a bravura performance as Hendrik Holgen in this fact-based story of a stage artist who sells his talents to the Nazis because of his abiding thirst for fame. The film was based on a novel by Klaus Mann, son of Thomas Mann.
1983 Best Foreign Film Yol Country: Sweden Director Serif Görin My Rating: * * * * *
The storyline for this film follows the experiences of five men on one-week furloughs from a half-open detention facility on the Turkish island of Imrali, weaving back and forth among the threads. Equally engaging is the story of how this film came to be made. Although Görin was the nominal director, the film was mainly the creative product of Yilmaz Güney, who, while imprisoned in Turkey, wrote the script and provided Görin, his assistant, with detailed technical instructions. Güney escaped from prison in 1981 and fled to France, arriving in France just in time to share in receiving the Palme dOr at Cannes for Yol.
1984 Best Foreign Film A Sunday in the Country Country: France Director Bertrand Tavenier My Rating: * * * * *
With all the look of an impressionist painting, A Sunday in the Country details a day in the life of a family, gathered together on a Sunday at the home of the widowed father, Monsieur Ladmiral (Louis Ducreux), where the two grown children spent their childhoods. Though Ladmiral enjoys the company of his son, Edouard (Michel Aumont) and his wife and three children, it is his prodigal daughter, Irene (Sabine Azéma), who lights up his life, with her irrepressible joie de vie.
1985 Best Foreign Film Heimat (See frwhiskey's Review.) Country: West Germany Director Edgar Reitz frwhiskey's Rating: * * * * *
At an intimidating length of about 15.5 hours, Heimat provides an unparalleled chronicle of life in Germany, from 1919 to 1982, including the depression following World War I, the rise of National Socialism, World War II, and post-war recovery. This is not the view from the top, however, but from the vantage point of the people of the small (fictional) village of Schabbach. Maria Breuer plays Maria, who provides our viewpoint, as she matures from childhood to old age.
1986 Best Foreign Film Ran Country: Japan Director Akira Kurosawa My Rating: * * * * *
Tatsuya Nakadai is Lord Hidetora Ichimonji, who, in his old age, wants to divide up his extensive kingdom among his three sons. While is two elder sons thank him for his generosity, the youngest one insults his father by questioning the wisdom and viability of his decision. When the older sons each later betray their father, the youngest son's understanding proves prescient. Ran features some of the most elaborate and brilliant battle scenes in film history.
1987 Best Foreign Film Jean de Florette (See Jean de Florette/Manon.) Country: France Director Claude Berri My Rating: * * * * *
Jean de Florette was the first half of a diptych that was completed later the same year by Manon des Sources. Gérard Depardieu stars as the titular character along with Yves Montand and Daniel Auteuil. Jean is the educated city boy who inherits a farm property in a rain-parched rural French village, but his neighbors covet his property, which, unbeknownst to Jean, has a hidden life-giving spring. The cinematography features gorgeous rural French landscapes.
1988 Best Foreign Film Babette's Feast Country: Denmark Director Gabriel Axel My Rating: * * * * *
Stephane Audran stars in this drama in which food provides the medium for examining the conflict and relationship between sensuality and austere spirituality. Babette, a French exile living as a servant in a remote religious community on the rough coastline of Denmark, teaches her reluctant community about the hedonistic delights of fine French cuisine.
1989 Best Foreign Film Au Revoir les Enfants Country: France Director Louis Malle My Rating: * * * *
Growing up is never easy, but when it's the middle of World War II in Nazi-occupied France, the boys in a provincial Catholic boarding school come of age very quickly and confront issues of intolerance and injustice much sooner than one would want. Julien's friend Jean has a secret that Julien can barely comprehend, but which could spell disaster if revealed. Gaspard Manesse stars as Julien and Raphael Fejto as Jean.
1990 Best Foreign Film Cinema Paradiso Country: Italy Director Giuseppe Tornatore My Rating: * * * * *
This film ranks among the most popular foreign language films of all time. A young boy, Toto, growing up in a small town in Italy, falls in love with the cinema and develops a special bond with the old man who works in the projection booth at the towns movie house. Toto learns his lessons well and grows up to become a renowned director, yet remains curiously unfulfilled in love. The skillful use of film references made Cinema Paradiso an eternal favorite among critics and film buffs alike.
1991 Best Foreign Film Cyrano de Bergerac Country: France Director Jean-Paul Rappeneau My Rating: * * * * *
For romantic majesty, no story exceeds that of Cyrano de Bergerac, with its tale of selfless and heroic devotion. Gérard Depardieu plays the title character, who masks self-loathing (caused by his hideously large nose) behind egotistical bluster. He also hides his deep, passionate love for the beautiful Roxane (Anne Brochet), sacrificing his own passion to advance her interest in the handsome Christian (Vincent Perez). Cyrano even provides Christian with his own poet's soul to woo and win the damsel.
1992 Best Foreign Film Raise the Red Lantern Country: China Director Zhang Yimou My Rating: * * * *
Zhang Yimou and Gong Li teamed up to produce a classic film about a Chinese household to which nineteen-year-old Songlian (Gong Li) is added as "fourth wife," giving up her university studies for the life of a concubine. What she encounters is perverse competition among the wives for the favor of the master and the privileges that go with it.
1993 Best Foreign Film Un Coeur en Hiver Country: France Director Claude Sautet My Rating: * * * * *
A romance blossoms between a violinist, Camille (Emmanuelle Béart), and an expert instrument maker, Stephane (Daniel Auteuil), stimulated in part by his exquisite sensitivity to her instrument and the nuances of her performances, but Stephane, as the film's title implies, lacks a passionate nature, while Camille, though cool on the surface, burns with interior passion. The film features music by Maurice Ravel, performed by the concert violinist Jean-Jacques Kantorow. Though actress Emmanuelle Béart had never played the violin, she succeeds admirably at conveying both the gestures and emotional expressiveness of a violinist.
1994 Best Foreign Film Farewell My Concubine Country: China Director Chen Kaige My Rating: * * * *
Chen Kaige's adaptation of a novel by Lilian Lee encompasses fifty years of recent Chinese history from the vantage point of an unusual love triangle. Duan Xiaolou takes the younger Cheng Dieyi under his wing, as the two boys grow up together in the Peking Opera Academy and become close friends. Cheng Dieyi is groomed for the females opera roles (since Chinese women were not allowed to perform on stage) and gradually discovers his homosexuality. His love for Duan Xiaolou is strained, however, when Duan's romantic inclinations are directed instead toward the courtesan, Juxian (Gong Li).
1995 Best Foreign Film Il Postino Country: Italy Director Michael Radford My Rating: * * * *
This popular Italian film features a little of everything: friendship, romance, politics, poetry, humor, and loss. A simple-minded postman with the soul of a poet develops an abiding friendship with a great Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, who is in exile in Italy. Massimo Triosi, who played the postman, died of heart failure shortly after the film's completion. Philippe Noiret stars as the poet, Neruda.
1996 Best Foreign Film Les Misérables Country: France Director Claude Lelouch My Rating: * * * * *
Not an adaptation of Hugo's classic historical drama but a modern story that draws on the great novel for its moral perspective. Henri Fortin (Jean-Paul Belmondo), an orphan and ex-boxer, helps a family of Jews in their effort to escape to Switzerland after the occupation of France by the Nazis. Being illiterate, he asks Ziman, the head of the Jewish family, to read Les Misérables as they travel. Fortin discovers parallels between his own life and characters in the novel, especially the protagonist, Valjean. Fortin is also inspired by the novel and begins to emulate Valjean in his own life course. Lelouch uses the parallels to illustrate how much of human life consists of the same two or three stories told over and over again.
1997 Best Foreign Film Ridicule Country: France Director Patrice Leconte My Rating: * * * * *
Ridicule provides a delightfully literate period drama, set mainly in Versailles during the reign of Louis XVI, when wit and etiquette were the secrets to power and influence at the court. Ponceludon de Malavoy (Charles Berling) will need all the wit he can muster if he is to gain financial support for his project to drain his region of disease-promoting marshes. If you love play on words, you'll love this film.
1998 Best Foreign Film Shall We Dance? Country: Japan Director Masayuki Suo My Rating: * * * * *
Shohei Sugiyama (Koji Yakusyo), a Japanese salary man and family man, badly needs something to brighten his drab existence and finds it in the form of ballroom dancing. Initially attracted to the dance studio by the vision of the beautiful, willowy, young female instructor, Mai Kishikawa (Tamiyo Kusakari), standing in the window, Sugiyama gradually develops a genuine love for his new hobby, though keeping it secret from his wife, out of shame. This film provides plenty of laughs as well as crowd-pleasing sentimental payoffs.
1999 Best Foreign Film All About My Mother Country: Spain Director Pedro Almodóvar My Rating: * * * *
When a devoted mother, Manuela (Cecilia Roth), suddenly loses her beloved son, Esteban (Eloy Azorin), in a tragic accident, she sets out to honor his last wish to know about his father, despite the fact that she'll need to turn back the clock twenty years and return to a world of prostitutes, transvestites, and stage actors that she had abandoned in order to raise her son in a more suitable environment. Back on the streets of Barcelona, Manuela discovers unlimited opportunities to manifest her thwarted maternal instincts.
2000 Best Foreign Film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Country: China Director Ang Lee My Rating: * * * *
Martial arts meet fantasy and special effects technology at its best in this one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Theres plenty of action and gorgeous cinematography along with spirited performances from an exceptional cast that includes Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, and Chang Chen.
2001 Best Foreign Film Amélie Country: France Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet My Rating: * * * * *
Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who had previously given us the tasteless but magnificent Delicatessen, shifted gears abruptly for this sweet, whimsical modern fairytale. This feel-good romantic fantasy stars Audrey Tautou as the irrepressible titular character and Mathieu Kassovitz as her love interest, along with a pantheon of delightfully absurd secondary participants.
2002 Best Foreign Film Y Tu Mamá También Country: Mexico Director Alfonso Cuaron My Rating: * * * *
Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal), fresh out of high school, are good friends despite coming from different social classes. At loose ends when their respective girlfriends go away for the summer, their lives pick up quickly when a gorgeous married woman in her twenties agrees to a road trip with the two boys to a remote beach. This raunchy Mexican teen comedy has some real thematic bite, exploring issues of homoeroticism, the allure of an experienced woman, and unbridled passions.
2003 Best Foreign Film Good Bye, Lenin! Country: Germany Director Wolfgang Becker My Rating: * * * *
When Christiane (Katrin Saß), a devoted socialist and social activist in East Germany, lapses into an eight month coma in 1989, her children (Alex and Ariane) decide that she needs to be spared the shock of discovering how much her world has changed during that time. The Berlin Wall may have fallen and capitalism may have invaded the old socialist republic, but in Christiane's bedroom, all of the old furnishings and socialist icons remain intact. This black comedy skillfully reveals the various kinds of deception: lies, propaganda, and self-deception. Daniel Brühl stars as Alex.
2004 Best Foreign Film The Motorcycle Diaries Country: Brazil Director Walter Salles Jr. My Rating: * * * * *
This film is a chronicle of an early adventure of Ernesto Guevara, who would later become the world famous revolutionary, Che Guevara. In 1951, a 29-year-old chemist, Alberto Granado (Rodrigo De la Serna) and a young medical student, Ernesto Guevara (Gael García Bernal), decide to take a motorcycle trip from southern Argentina, along the spine of the Andes Mountains, to Peru, where they will spend some weeks working in a leper colony. Along the way, their experience of the brutal poverty and exploitation of the indigenous people begins to shape Guevara's revolutionary outlook.
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