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FILM

A foreign affair

International titles to look for in 2012

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Cannes. Berlin. Venice. Toronto. New York. Busan. These are the stages where world film comes to life, where strange films with strange names become common knowledge. These are the films that slowly trickle into our market (or, more likely, on demand) through the course of the year, filling out the edges of our viewing habits. But they do not represent all of the films out there, not by a long shot.

I tried the foreign-film guessing game last year, combing through big festival titles that didn’t catch on, dozens of countries’ release charts, personal favorite directors and actors and lesser-known festivals, and Headshot and The Grandmasters aside, my crystal ball held up relatively well. Let’s try it again, shall we?

The Girl (U.K.): Sienna Miller and Toby Jones play Tippi Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock, respectively, in this docudrama from BBC Two that follows the unraveling creepiness that was Hitch’s sexual obsession with the “Hitchcock Blonde” Hedren during the filming of The Birds and Marnie. (Not to be confused with Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, which stars Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins as the pre-Hedron Hitchcocks, scheduled for release in 2013.)

I Wish (Japan): For me, Hirokazu Koreeda is the best active Japanese filmmaker. Not favorite, mind you, but the best. His eye, his thoughtfulness in regards to both character and environment, as well as an immense storytelling prowess, put him ahead of all comers, with the possible exception of Shunji Iwai, who has moved into more of a mogul role lately. For his seventh film, Koreeda intertwines the deep family themes of his previous outings such as Nobody Knows and Still Walking to tell the story of two young brothers separated by their parents’ divorce who hope to reunite via, well, a miracle that is supposed to occur as two trains pass.

Now Is Good (U.K.): Dakota Fanning is all grown up now and stars in this adaptation of Jenny Downham’s Before I Die, about a teenage girl in England diagnosed with terminal leukemia who creates the kind of bucket list that would have had Jack Nicholson snorting his Kopi Luwak through his nose. In order to feel like she has lived, she needs to have sex, do drugs, say “yes” to everyone for a day and fall in love. Downham’s novel was both lauded and criticized for the depth to which she depicted the debauchery, and there is a tricky level of bitterness to Tessa’s character that may not play well on film. They’re tough obstacles for writer-director Ol Parker (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) to deal with, and if he doesn’t meet them head first, this film will go nowhere fast.

Bleak Night (South Korea): We all know bullying is a problem. We’ve known it since childhood, when all of us were likely either bullied or the bully, or both. Bleak Night is just that: a story of the bully, the bullied and the guy stuck in the middle. Framed around the suicide of one of the boys, the story unfolds as his father, who was mostly absent while he was alive, tries to discover his son’s story by interviewing the other boys.

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