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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

For another take on reality, watch Lantern foreign films


Growing up, I never had much opportunity to see foreign films. Few of them ever played at the drive-in theaters my family would go to, and even if they had my parents' film tastes ran mostly to Westerns, musicals and comedies.

I made up for that after getting out of the army. In fact, I spent much of the early years of the 1970s watching every kind of foreign film I could find. I haunted La Jolla's Unicorn Theatre, watching films from Japan and Italy, Spain and France made by the likes of Akira Kurosawa and Kenji Mizoguchi, Michelangelo Antonioni, Luis Buñuel and Francois Truffaut.

Which is one reason why I love Spokane's Magic Lantern Theater. Though pre-quarantine, you could catch the occasional foreign-language film at AMC River Park Square, those kinds of movies are the Lantern's stock in trade. And even under quarantine conditions, which has all theaters padlocked, the Lantern continues to provide an international movie menu.

Of the 24 films that you can stream through the Lantern, 14 are foreign-made and hail from (or are produced by) the following countries: Brazil, China, France, Georgia, Germany, Iceland, Israel, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia. In the mix you can hear a blur of other languages, including Swedish, Haitian, Spanish, Italian, Palestinian and — in the case of "The Whistlers" — a strange kind of whistling language.

That final film, which is a kind of neo-noir, is particularly intriguing because of the imaginative leaps it asks viewers to make. Some are just a tad too much. But then that's typical of a noir — even one that feature people talking by putting their fingers in their mouths.

Foreign languages, just like the films in which they are conveyed, come in all forms. That, plus a look into how the rest of the world lives, is the joy of watching them.

And if you can experience that kind of joy, while supporting the Lantern, so much the better.

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