(Welcome to Pop Culture Imports, a column that compiles the best foreign movies and TV streaming right now.)
This is a column that operates in multitudes, because only in Pop Culture Imports would you have a fluffy romantic K-drama right next to a sobering Austrian human trafficking film. But prepare for the emotional whiplash, because that’s what the best foreign movies and TV streaming now are offering you: A South Korean character drama that doubles as a cinematic apology letter, a steamy Argentian sex drama about a woman who’s lost her libido, a harrowing Austrian trafficking film, a K-drama about an art curator who hides her double life as a fangirl, and a Golden Camera nominee that’s getting a boost from Netflix.
Fire up those subtitles and let’s get streaming.
Best Foreign Movies and TV Streaming Now
On the Beach At Night Alone – Criterion
Country: South Korea
Director: Hong Sangsoo
Cast: Kim Min-hee, Seo Young-hwa, Kwon Hae-hyo, Jung Jae-young, Song Seon-mi, Moon Sung-keun.
“Personal stories are boring,” Kim Min-hee’s dejected actress Young-hee proclaims in On the Beach At Night Alone, Hong Sangsoo‘s 2017 drama and his most personal yet. The South Korean auteur always loves to inject his own personal life into his poetic, meandering films, but On the Beach at Night is his most transparently personal yet, turning the sordid stuff of tabloids into a moving and contemplative drama. Kim, who won the Silver Bear for Best Actress award at the Berlin Film Festival for her performance, stars in On the Beach At Night Alone as a washed-up actress who disappears on a trip to Germany after a publicized affair with her director. Upon her return to Korea, she wanders the cold beaches in winter and ponders their doomed relationship. On the Beach At Night Alone is an intriguing character drama, but it’s all the more fascinating for the real-life affair which inspired it: frequent collaborators Hong and Kim had embarked on an extramarital affair two years prior, a source of much scandal in Korea. On the Beach At Night Alone acts as Hong’s cinematic apology letter to Kim, and an oddly exhibitionist cross between therapy and high art.
Watch This If You Like: Frances Ha, The Meyerowitz Stories, learning about South Korean tabloid gossip through arthouse movies.
Dry Martina – Netflix
Genre: Romantic comedy-drama
Director: José Manuel Sandoval
Cast: Antonella Costa, Dindi Janea, Pedro Campos.
Frank, funny, and unapologetically sexual, Dry Martina is another international release that is flying under the radar on Netflix. Cringe-worthy title aside, Dry Martina is a smart and sensual film about a formerly famous singer Martina (Antonella Costa) who has lost her libido. When a superfan Francisca (Dindi Jane) approaches her with the theory that they may be long-lost sisters, Martina falls for her accompanying boyfriend Cesar (Pedro Campos), a cute but clueless younger man that finally revives Martina’s ravenous sex drive and prompts her to follow the dup back to Chile. Costa is magnetic as the confident Martina, who desperately seeks out meaningful connections with people only to be spurned time and time again. And while it’s easy to write off Dry Martina as a sex comedy with a bad title, it’s much deeper and complicated than that.
Watch This If You Like: Lost in Translation, Gloria, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, being sad and sexy.
Joy – Netflix
Director: Subadeh Mortezai’s
Cast: Joy Anwulika Alphonsus, Angela Ekeleme Pius, Precious Mariam Sanusi.
Written and directed by Sudabeh Mortezai (Macondo), Joy is a sobering but humanizing look at victims of human trafficking. Following a group of Nigerian women who are sex workers in Vienna, Joy is a richly textured and grimly realistic story about a prostitute named Joy (Joy Anwulika Alphonsus) who has been working the streets for years in order to send money home to her family in Nigeria and pay her debut to her Madame (Angela Ekeleme Pius). She finds herself put in charge of a new recruit, Precious (Precious Mariam Sanusi), a young girl who is reluctant to throw herself in the business and is horrifyingly punished by Madame. Depressing and harrowing but all the more necessary to watch, Joy offers a look at the human side of human trafficking.
Watch This If You Like: Documentaries on human trafficking because this movie is too harrowing for comparison.
Her Private Life – Viki
Country: South Korea
Genre: Romantic comedy series
Creator: Kim Hye-young
Cast: Park Min-young, Kim Jae-wook, and Ahn Bo-hyun.
An accomplished art curator who hides her double life as a dedicated fangirl to a teen idol in a silly premise to a lighthearted but wholly enjoyable K-drama. Her Private Life stars Park Min-young as Sung Deok-mi, the aforementioned art curator/fangirl who clashes with her new art director (Kim Jae-wook) a handsome celebrity in the art world who happens to have a connection to Deok-mi’s beloved boyband idol. Her Private Life is silly, cheesy, and stupidly sentimental, but it’s a rare drama that considerately tackles the topic of fandom, depicting a career woman who is dares to be childish. While later episodes do fall victim to classic K-drama tropes, its unusual premise makes Her Private Life a fun watch.
Watch This If You Like: Reply 1997, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Jane the Virgin, women having it all.
Sheherazade – Netflix
Genre: Crime drama
Director: Jean-Bernard Marlin
Cast: Dylan Robert, Kenza Fortas, Idir Azougli, Sofia Bent.
The Cannes Film Festival Golden Camera nominee that Netflix acquired for international distribution is another hidden gem on the streaming service. Sheherzade, the debut feature from writer/director Jean-Bernard Marlin is a slick, vibrant character drama about a young man (Dylan Robert) fresh out of juvenile detention who turns to pimping in order to make a living. In the process he falls for the titular Sheherzade (Kenza Fortas) a sweet and plucky prostitute who happened to be his former classmate. Gritty and brimming with life, Sheherzade is a crime drama that hides a poignant coming-of-age story about young people trying to make the best of their hardscrabble lives.
Watch This If You Like: Kids, Thirteen, Spring Breakers, A Prophet, beautiful people living dangerously.
Source: Slash Film