Which Foreign Film Popped Your Cherry?

There are folks who go their whole lives without watching a “foreign” film (that is, a movie produced outside the US), subtitles being too much drain on the brain. But we all furthermuckers here, right? So tell me: what was your first foreign film?

I’m pretty sure French director Jean-Luc Godard’s À Bout de Souffle is it for me, probably at the age of 18. I’d rented the 1983 American remake—Breathless with Richard Gere—but Pops always mentioned the original from an old CCNY film course he’d taken, and I wanted in. Godard’s first film, À Bout de Souffle was co-written by that other New Wave Frenchie, François Truffaut (who I’d catch up on later with Jules et Jim, Fahrenheit 451, La Femme d’à Côté, Le Dernier Métro and La Chambre Verte). I don’t remember a single frame of À Bout de Souffle, but it was my first.

Those were school days. I remember my college sweetheart and my girl on the side offering up Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus) at different points, me sitting there like I’d never seen it before. My first trip to Europe, I fell asleep on Jamón, Jamón in a Madrid movie theater—the first time I ever saw Pénolope Cruz or Javier Bardem. That same study-abroad sweetheart with the Spanish jones rented Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! for us, and I honestly haven’t seen another Pedro Almodóvar joint since. If memory serves, La Strada rounds out my first five (a Fellini classic, natch), though I know for sure I fell asleep on the three-hour La Dolce Vita at NYC’s Film Forum years later.

These were the films that got me accustomed to cinema from other cultures, teaching me there was much more to life than Die Hard 2. What were yours?

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