Awards for Best Foreign-Language Film are a mixed bag. Laurels meant to highlight noteworthy selections from across the globe sometimes condescend to them instead and often miss the boat on world cinema's richest offerings in a given year. But this year's Golden Globe nominees — all of which you can see this week at the Aero Theatre — are an above-average field.
Every film begins at 7:30pm, with Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt opening the series on Monday and likely winner Blue Is the Warmest Color closing it on Friday. Vinterberg's film charts a close-knit group of deer-hunting friends from suburban Denmark torn apart by allegations that one of them (a brilliant Mads Mikkelsen) molested another's young daughter. The Hunt unfolds beneath gray skies and shortened days, a visual dreariness that's more than matched by its dispiriting — and deeply involving — narrative.
Asghar Farhadi's The Past (Tuesday) is scarcely more cheerful. Another domestic drama from the master dramatist whose A Separation rightly won the award two years ago, its volatile plot twists hinge on small moments of betrayal and revelation surrounding an engaged couple and the man's comatose, not-quite–ex-wife. The many moving parts to Farhadi's latest don't fall into place as elegantly as in his previous prizewinner, but the messiness contributes to an emotional impact that's no less wrenching.
The same can't be said of The Wind Rises (Wednesday), Hayao Miyazaki's fictionalized biography of famed fighter-plane engineer Jiro Horikoshi. Said to be the beloved animator's swan song (although he has again recently reversed himself on retirement), the film is set within Japan's aviation industry in the lead-up to World War II. More of a whimper than a bang, its questionable subtext is less problematic than the fact that it simply isn't that moving.
Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty (Thursday), easily the most lavish and opulent nominee, follows an aging writer through a grand vision of Rome as the ultimate canvas for decadence and disillusionment. Though there's precious little drama, Sorrentino's skills as an image-maker are indisputable.
Blue Is the Warmest Color's trajectory has been among the most tabloid-worthy of the year. The three-hour lesbian drama won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and has since caused a rift between its two lead actresses (Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, both of whom are excellent) and director (Abdellatif Kechiche), and ultimately proved ineligible for the Oscar due to the Academy's reliably arcane rules.
That the film happens to be an engrossing portrait of first love and all it entails has often been lost in the larger conversation surrounding its graphic sex scenes, which is a shame: The heartfelt and affecting Blue Is the Warmest Color deserves to be experienced on its own terms.
GOLDEN GLOBE FOREIGN-LANGUAGE NOMINEES | Aero Theatre | Jan. 6-11 | americancinemathequecalendar.com