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- Published on Amazon.com
French, Chinese, and Italian -- three different countries, cultures, and worldviews. Two tragedies, a romantic comedy, and a character drama. This is the "Best of World Cinema Volume 1," collecting four of the best and most beautiful non-American films together.
"Amelie" makes life a little better for everyone. The entrancing, whimsical story centers on the sweet-natured, shy Amelie (Audrey Tautou) who finds a little box of treasures in her apartment, and returns it to its owner, now an old man. She changes the man's life, and decides to continue doing good for others via benevolent meddling. But then when she encounters her soulmate, will Amelie summon the courage to help herself as she's helped others?
"Malèna" is the heart and soul of this lush, riveting film. The sensual Malèna (Monica Belucci) moves into a small Sicilian town in the 1940s, and immediately captures the adoration of all the men, and the disgust of all the women. Preteen Renato (Giuseppe Sulfaro) begins to develop pure, worshipful feelings for Malèna, but as he grows toward manhood, he sees that not all her beauty is on the outside.
"Farewell My Concubine" gives a breathtaking look at Chinese history and culture. A prostitute manages to get her young son Cheng Dieyi (Leslie Cheung), into the world of the Peking Opera, and falls in love with his costar Duan Xiaolou (Fengyi Zhang). But Duan takes a beautiful courtesan as his wife, and thus begins Dieyi's fall from grace.
"Cinema Paradiso: the New Version" is the expanded version of the classic film, a film about film. A famed film director returns to his old hometown and reminisces about his life, and the path that set him towards cinematic fame. As a boy (Marco Leonardi), he befriended a blinded projectionist (Philippe Noiret) -- but did the old man give him fame and glory at the cost of his love?
"The Best of World Cinema" covers different cultures, characters, and ways of directing. And they deal with each topic in their own ways -- fate, love, jealousy, hate and gossip. Is it depressing? In a majestic, melancholy way, some of the films are depressing, although the gorgeous "Amelie" will uplift you if you watch it last.
The acting in these films is almost uniformly superb, from Belucci's silent temptress to Leslie Cheung's tragic young singer to Tautou's elfin sweetheart. And the direction ranges as well -- "Farewell" is starker and grittier, "Amelie" is fantastical and wink-nudge sweetness, and "Malèna"'s warm sensuality.
Four beautiful movies. Four magnificent stories. And four modern classics of the cinema, each a work of art in its own way. Highly, immensely recommended.