“Gangnam Style” by South Korean pop star PSY became the first video to ever break through one billion views on YouTube. This feat, one that no U.S.-made video has yet to match, is all the more remarkable since most likely less than 1 percent of all those who watched it knew what he was saying.
If a foreign language music video can be so phenomenally popular, why not foreign language movies? Especially when there was such a wealth of wonderful foreign films this year? According to the Indiewire annual poll of film critics, the best movie of 2012 is Holy Motors by the mad French genius Leos Carax, with four other foreign films making the top ten: Amour, This Is Not a Film, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia and The Turin Horse.
This may be as many foreign films to have made the top ten since Indiewire started conducting the poll (though I can’t verify this since the results of previous Indiewire polls are no longer available on Indiewire!) And yet this was also the first year that the poll discontinued listing its Best Foreign Film category. Perhaps, given the prominence of foreign films this year, the site felt it was no longer necessary to make a distinction. But I think these movies still deserve their own moment in the spotlight.
As it turns out, so does PSY. Careful translation of the “Gangnam Style” video reveals that the lyrics are actually a celebration of the glories of foreign language cinema—as revealed in this translated version of the video, re-edited with clips from the movies that are the object of the pudgy Korean pop star’s praise. And with the karaoke lyrics added, you can even sing along!
Here are the top ranked foreign language films in the 2012 Indiewire poll, all included in the video:
1. Holy Motors
5. This Is Not a Film
8. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
9. The Turin Horse
15. Oslo, August 31st
17. The Kid with a Bike
25. Rust and Bone
27. Neighboring Sounds
34. The Raid: Redemption
36. Almayer’s Folly
Originally published on Fandor.
Kevin B. Lee is Editor in Chief of IndieWire’s PressPlay Video Blog, Video Essayist for Fandor’s Keyframe, and a contributor to Roger Ebert.com. Follow him on Twitter.