I can't remember the first time I watched a foreign language film. I remember watching some on Bravo (back when Bravo actually showed movies - and commercial free ones at that - instead of a relentless onslaught of reality housewives and newlyweds) in junior high. But that was more because I realized arty foreign flicks often showed bits of naked flesh rather than any calling to pay attention to the filmmaking.
I suppose it was college when I actually started paying attention to real cinema and foreign flicks. On the weekends we got IFC in the dorms, and I saw a few that way and again Bravo helped me out with some more. I specifically remember watching some Italian movie where a lonely, quirky fellow followed a prostitute around the city where she performed some of the oddest tricks for her Johns (the only one I remember was pretending to be mugged once a week). It ended with the follower literally turning into a cartoon character. That film might have single-handedly turned me into a foreign-film lover (and if anybody has any idea as to what the name of that film might be let me know; I've been searching for years.)
My wife is a Francophile, which kind of makes me one too. While we both love foreign films, we tend to focus of French films and while I wouldn't call myself an expert, I've seen more movies in French than your average American filmgoer. And then some.
Which brings me to the French New Wave in general and Jean Luc Godard in specific. Godard was, perhaps, the waviest of the New Wave and his films are often challenging and equally rewarding. He loved to push the boundaries of traditional cinema, while simultaneously embracing many of the traditions (or at least quoting them, and bending them, and subverting them).
Band of Outsiders is likely his most accessible film as it is a wonderful re-imagining of the traditional gangster film filled with lots of humor, some amazing set pieces, and a dance sequence that greatly influenced Pulp Fiction's famous dance (the film name itself was used for Quentin Tarantino's production company).
Criterion is releasing Band of Outsiders in high definition with their usual slew of great extras. Those include a visual glossary of references, interviews with Coutard and Anna Karina, excepts from a documentary featuring Godard discussing the New Wave, a short film featuring Godard and some of the cast, and a booklet featuring an essay by Joshua Clover and an interview with the director. All of that and more make Band of Outsiders my Pick of the Week, and you can read my review of it.
Also out this week that looks interesting:
30 Rock: Season Seven: I live in the sticks and we don't get NBC through our antennae so I'm looking forward to catching this show's final season.
Mama: A big budget, star-studded horror film produced by Guillermo del Toro. I'm there.
Barrymore: A one man show starring Christopher Plummer about John Barrymore. I don't know a lot about Barrymore but I know enough about the name to make me interested in this.
Jack Reacher: Tom Cruise does what Tom Cruise seems to do these days. That is act like Tom Cruise in a big, action thriller. Its a big popcorn movie worth seeing on a lazy afternoon when you aren't expecting more than some mindless fun.