If the best foreign films you see this year don't even appear on this list, don't blame us. Blame the fickle tastes of critics and the continuing decline of interest among Americans in movies that are made elsewhere.
Distributing non-American films is the toughest act in the movie business. How films are received at such festivals as Cannes and Toronto will determine whether attempts are made to get them to theaters in U.S. cities; sometimes it takes an Oscar nomination.
Often a movie that does well in New York will bomb in L.A., and vice versa, and because the stars and directors of these films are known to only fractions of the general moviegoing audience, the media pay less attention to them (OK, so blame us a little).
In any event, there will be many more foreign films playing in Southern California this year than appear on this list, but if you hear of one that strikes your fancy, don't dally; it may be gone in a week.
"Alexandria Encore"--The third part of actor-director Youssef Chahines' cinematic autobiography celebrates the relationship between a director and his actors. This is Egypt's official Oscar entry for this year. (Orion Classics)
"Ay Carmela!"--Two cabaret performers commissioned to entertain troops at the front during the Spanish Civil War are nabbed by Franco's forces and must perform for their lives. Carmen Maura and Andres Pajares star for director Carlos Saura. (Miramax)
"Cross My Heart"--From Jacques Fansten, a noted French TV director, comes a seriocomic tale of a 12-year-old boy who covers up his mother's death so he won't be sent to an orphanage. (MK2 Productions)
"Docteur Petiot"--Michel Serrault plays the man who for many French became a symbol of the dark mid-1940s. Marcel Petiot was a doctor who lured unsuspecting Jews to the cellar of his Paris home, where he murdered them and stole their valuables. Filmmaker Christian de Chalonge reportedly spent six years developing this film with Serrault. (Aries)
"Europa, Europa"--Agnieszka Holland directs this Franco-German co-production based on a true story about a young German Jewish boy who adopts an Aryan identity (as a cover in fleeing Nazi persecution) and winds up in an exclusive school for Hitler youth . Solomon Perel stars. (Orion Classics)
"Every Other Weekend"--A divorced actress (Nathalie Baye), determined to re-establish a relationship with her estranged children, flees with them to the South of France during a weekend visit. Nicole Garcia directs from a script she co-wrote with Jacques Fieschia. (MK2 Productions)
"Daddy Nostalgia"--Bertrand Tavernier is the director, Dirk Bogarde the star of this look at an aging businessman who retires to the South of France with his wife of many years. While undergoing a heart operation, the man's aloof daughter comes to his side. Jane Birkin and Odette Laure also star. (Avenue)
"Heaven and Earth"--This epic, which cost approximately $40 million, is set in 16th-Century Japan and chronicles a legendary conflict between a young and intensely spiritual nobleman and a ruthless and fearless warrior. In the battle of Kawanakajima, their destinies--in both heaven and on earth--are determined. Haruki Kadokawa produces/directs; Takaaki Enoki and Masahiko Tsugawa star. (Triton)
"Iron & Silk"--When an innocent and charming guide (Mark Salzman) falls for a young and beautiful Chinese woman (Vivian Wu), he's slowly drawn into a country making small and slow strides toward freedom. Salzman co-writes for director/producer Shirley Sun. (Miramax)
"Ju Dou"--Set in a 1920s northern China dye factory, this film (inspired by a contemporary short story) concerns a pair of lovers who have a passionate resistance to tradition. China's entry for this year's best foreign-language film Oscar. Zhang Yi-Mou directs Gong Li, Li Bao-Tian and Li Wei. (Miramax)
"Madame Bovary"--Claude Chabrol films Gustave Flaubert's classic novel with Isabelle Huppert (in her third collaboration with Chabrol) in the title role. With Jean-Francois Balmer, Christophe Malavoy, Lucas Belvaux, Jean Yanne and Jean-Louis Maury. (MK2 Productions)
"Open Doors"--Gian Maria Volonte stars as a jurist in a murder trial in Fascist Italy. This thriller, directed by Gianni Amelio, is Italy's official Oscar entry for this year. (Orion Classics)
"Roselyn and the Lions"--Isabelle Pasco and Gerard Sandoz play circus lion trainers whose passion for risks is surpassed only by their passion for each other. Jean-Jacques Beineix ("Diva") directs. (Distribution pending)
"The Story of Boys and Girls"--This dramatic period piece entails the occasional ribald engagement celebrations of a city boy and country girl in the Italian countryside of 1936. Felice Andreasi, Angiola Baggi and Davide Bechini star; Pupi Avati writes and directs. (Aries Releasing)