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Check out foreign films when you’re renting

Scanning the new releases recently at the video store, I came across nothing going beyond the usual Hollywood triple addiction of violence/sex/stupid comedy. It’s not that I don’t appreciate a hot woman, a good action film or laughing out loud, it’s just that on that day they all seemed to be either weak remakes of old classics – which I have found mostly better left alone – or they were so shallow in their vacuous sex appeal that even the copy on the back made no pretense of any substance.

And I just wasn’t pulled to see a comedy, the cover of which threatened me with a news anchor in his undergarments. So drifting over to the foreign film section in search of a breath of fresh air, I picked out the following three features.

“Seducing Dr. Lewis” is a sweet comedy that takes place in a quaint French fishing village that has seen better times. The whole town must collude in a grand scheme in order to save their little hamlet, their pride, and their sex lives (the last two, obviously very closely connected in French culture).



Actor Raymond Bouchard delivers a flawless performance as Germain Lesage, the ringleader in this funny farce that will lighten your day.

I give it three stars, stopping short of the fourth because the ending falls just a hair short of its mark. Well worth seeing. Not rated. There is no nudity, violence or harsh language (but there are some suggestive noises), but I personally would OK it for my 11-year-old. Directed by Jean-Francois Pouliot. French with English subtitles.




“Combination Platter” follows the story of Robert (Jeff Lau), an illegal Hong Kong immigrant who works as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant in New York City and faces the specter of the INS. This is no light romantic romp like Peter Weir’s “Green Card,” (1990).

“Combination Platter” is a more serious look at the real difficulties faced by real immigrants as they are pulled by their homeland, their families, their need to make money and the two-faced dragon of American immigration (‘We want them to work here, we just don’t want them to know we want them to work here’).

This is an insightful look into Chinese and Chinese American cultural issues. As one Chinese American woman in the film says, “My Chinese relatives think I’m American, and the Americans think I’m Chinese.”

For me it was also interesting to look behind those swinging kitchen doors and peer into the mystical culinary womb from which all those magical Chinese dishes appear.

Good cinematography, honest writing, and good acting, if a little slow and plodding at times. English and Chinese with English subtitles. Three stars. Directed by Tony Chan. Not rated. Some strong language, (Eh Ð it’s New York).

“Weeping Camel” is the docudrama of a nomadic camel herding family in Southern Mongolia that is challenged when a mother camel refuses to nurse her firstborn.

The subtitles are not very informative, but as we see the practical, unadorned love that embraces this family unfold, so the excellent cinematography lovingly tells the story cleanly and beautifully.

These simple people are not so different from us in their essence, but being treated to observing their lifestyle like a fly on the wall is a great gift in that we see for ourselves how much of our Western life’s amenities are distractions from the important things.

This wonderful tale is exactly the refreshing change of pace I was looking for.

A great family film. Don’t miss it. Four stars. Directed by Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni.

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Robert Smith lives in Nevada County and is a member of the Pleasant Valley Pheasant Pluckers, an improv comedy group.


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