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Ken Julian Discusses His Favorite Foreign Films

Producer Ken Julian knows a thing or two about the art of filmmaking. In addition to his work as a producer and director in Hollywood (The Appointment), he also has an impressive history as a film professor. We sat down with Ken to discuss films from outside the United States that have impacted him for years. The result is one of our most interesting pieces yet, as Ken discusses what he thinks are the most important foreign films ever made.

  1. Bicycle Thieves (1948)

“This is a very beautiful, tragic film. The father needs the bicycle to look for work, but he can’t afford it; he gets the job anyway, and then the bike is stolen. He still has to feed his family, so he has no choice but to pawn everything they own just to have enough money to buy another bike. When the thief doesn’t return the stolen one, he goes out looking for him, which is fruitless; meanwhile, his wife and young son are left without food or money. That’s when you realize that one man striking out against the system can only hurt himself.”

  1. La Strada (1954)

“The most famous film of Federico Fellini. A young girl joins a strongman’s circus, and he falls in love with her, but when she realizes his true nature, she runs away. It’s not only an excellent study on the relationship between a man and a woman, but it also shows how much needs to be done for the exploitation of unskilled laborers.”

  1. Gertrud (1964)

“This is a Robert Benton film that includes what I consider to be one of the best endings in the history of cinema. It tells a simple story about a woman who falls for her brother-in-law [played by Jose Ferrer]. The performances are excellent, and the ending, where he takes care of her, shows how a man’s love for a woman can be unconditional.”

  1. Blow-Up (1966)

“A film that can be interpreted in many different ways. I’ve heard everything from ‘this is about the decline of London’s fashion industry to ‘it’s a commentary on the nuclear arms race.’ It is, in fact, more about art and how much we manipulate reality.”

  1. M (1931)

“This Fritz Lang film is a masterpiece about a child murderer in Berlin. Peter Lorre’s performance as the lead is amazing. One of the first true crime films.”

  1. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

“A story about [Jean-Dominique] Bauby, who suffered from locked-in syndrome; he could only communicate by blinking. It is a film about his life and how he coped with his condition.”

  1. Double Suicide (1969)

“This film is extraordinary: one part of the story precedes another and then follows it, just like in real life. That makes it unique because you don’t know what will happen next, which is a very interesting way to create suspense. It’s about two lovers who decide to commit suicide together: first, she does it, and then he follows her.”

  1. The Seventh Seal (1957)

“This Bergman movie is the most basic of all his films; it sets up an existential theme and makes you think about what life is all about. It’s also a great study on the relationship between man and woman.”

  1. L’Avventura (1960)

“It tells the story of two friends who want to have an adventure, so they go looking for one. At first, it seems like any other film; then, one of them goes missing, and the other spends most of the film looking for her. When he finally finds her, she’s dead.”

  1. The Children (1980)

“This was [Andrei] Tarkovsky’s final film; it is basically about a man living with his children on a lighthouse while his wife is trying to find him. He has a dream in which his wife is drowning, and one of the children saves her, leading to an important decision involving them all.”