Hmm. I may need to rethink that title. But it describes the subject of this post very well, and describes my current inability to think up good titles.
At this point, you may be thinking: “What on Earth is Miss Eliza doing? Foreign Films? I thought this was a Jane Austen blog!”
I apologize, dear reader. I have strayed from my original mission.
The thing is, as a mishmash of German, Polish, and Italian, I was introduced to foreign movies early on. I am also told that English is my second language, after German (the story behind this is that my mother and grandparents spoke exclusively German with me when I was little, and as such, my German may have actually been better than my English at one point. I may have to do a post about languages in the future.)
So I probably watched most of my movies in a non-English language–and please leave a comment if you have ever heard of Koziołek Matołek or Die Drei Von Der Tankstelle–but the thing is, most of them were pre-1970s, which leads us to the post’s title.
In no particular order, language, or date, here are a few gems:
I stand firm that this is probably the greatest movie of all time. And you can quote me on that. Starring Heinz Rühmann as the (homeschooled) poet Johannes Pfeiffer who is sent to a Gymnasium by some slightly tipsy colleagues so he can get the “school experience”, this has been a favorite of mine since I was four, when my Opa sent it to us–because yes, it was a favorite of his, too.
Under the pseudonym Hans Pfeiffer (“Mit drei ‘f’. Eins vor dem ‘ei’, zwei nach dem ‘ei’.”) he comes to school, where he quickly becomes the favorite among the students, and the bane of the professors. He organizes all sorts of shenanigans, from pretending to get drunk on the blueberry wine the Chemistry teacher brings in to demonstrate alcoholic fermentation and gravity, closing the school due to “construction”, to impersonating a teacher, and “experimenting” with co-ed classrooms (this is a movie set in 1900-10, so this practice raised eyebrows.) And he convinces the principal’s daughter to marry him while he’s at it.
Really, I can’t recommend this movie highly enough–this is a German classic, to the point where it’s become a cult film, been turned into a musical…but that’s a subject for another post.
It also includes one of my favorite quotes–but it’s in German, so I’ll give you the gist of it:
The only truths are the memories that we have, the dreams we spin, and the desires that drive us.
La Grande Vadrouille
Another fabulous movie, one which apparently got translated into Polish (this is according to my father), but I watched it in its original French. Because this is a WWII-based movie, three languages are spoken throughout the film: English (by the pilots), French (by the Résistance fighters and civilians), and German (by the Nazis).
The British bomber Tea for Two gets shot down over Paris, and three of its crew, Sir Reginald, Peter Cunningham and Alan MacIntosh, manage to parachute out. MacIntosh lands on the opera house, Cunningham on a window painter (on him) and Sir Reginald make a rather ungraceful landing in the hippo tank at the zoo. With help from various Résistance fighters and the conductor of the Opéra, they make it out into Allie Territory, narrowly avoiding disaster in the most hilarious ways.
This was apparently released in the US as Don’t Look Now…We’re Being Shot At!” Which really sums up the cumulative IQ of the pilots.
Quax der Bruchpilot
Yet another Heinz Rühmann film, this one about a man who signs up for a contest, hoping to get the third prize: two tickets to the Canary Islands, but gets the first prize: flying lessons instead.
He comes to the airfield, passes his medical exam with flying (and hilarious) colors, and learns to fly. He’s absolutely terrible at flying…and that’s putting it mildly. Hence the title of this movie, “Quax the Crash Pilot”. But this flying school has its good points–Quax meets Marianne (Karin Himboldt, who played the principal’s daughter in Die Feuerzangenbowle)
But in the end he gets his certification, becomes a teacher at the school, and takes up his first student, which is really a sweet ending.
N.b. This film features literally the same cast as Die Feuerzangenbowle, which is like seeing old friends again.
Ivan Vasilievich Changes Professions
This was recommended by my Russian Lit. teacher, and I have to say, it is delightful. A scientist–Shurik–comes up with a time machine, but because he’s distracted by his wife’s affair, accidentally sends his landlord–Ivan Vasilievich–to the time of Ivan the Terrible…while Ivan the Terrible switches places with him.
It would seem that Ivan IV bears a startling resemblance to Ivan the landlord, and he gets to cope with modern life while his lookalike sends the army out, gets chased by guards, and generally causes mayhem.
In the end, everyone goes back to their respective times…and Shurik wakes up. It was all a dream: his landlord still hates him, history has not changed, and his wife is not chasing after other men. It was all a dream…or was it?
I don’t speak Russian, although my Polish allowed me to understand about every fifth word, so I can attest to the fact that this movie comes with subtitles.
This is basically the Polish Pride and Prejudice ’95. It is fabulous (I wouldn’t be recommending it if it wasn’t). I call it the Polish P&P ’95 only in the loosest sense–it has a slight Romeo and Juliet flavor to it, aside from that. It also has some of the most gorgeous cinematography I’ve seen in a film.
This is based on the 1834 epic poem by Adam Mickiewicz–and every Polish schoolchild has to memorize at least the opening of it. My father had me memorize it, regardless of my school-going status. There are two families in Lithuania, the Soplicas and Horeszkos, who hate each other–Jacek Soplica killed a Horeszko many years ago, the Horeszkos never got over it (this is the highly simplified version, mind you).
Tadeusz Soplica comes home after spending years away, finishing up his education. He discovers that his bedroom has been taken over by Zosia Horeszko, his aunt’s ward. But before he falls in love with her (Zosia) he has a bit of a fling with his aunt (Eeewww. That one never sat well with me) Did I mention this takes place over the course of five days, in which he falls in love twice, the household gets attacked by Russians, and his father, who supposedly died years ago, dies for real this time?
And did I mention that all the characters speak in verse?
The movie ends with a Polonaise, the music of which is about as iconic as the movie.
Truly, this is a highly complicated plot, which deserves its own post. But I hope I’ve done a good enough job to get you at least mildly interested in it 🙂
Are you even remotely acquainted with these movies?
Would you watch any of them?
Lastly, any recommendations?
Postscript: Here are the links to Die Feuerzangenbowle, Quax der Bruchpilot, and La Grande Vadrouille, should you be interested. Note, however, that these movies do not come with English subtitles, and should be undertaken by the fluent…or the very brave.