Foreign lingo pix: when it rains, it pours

Flood of imported films makes muddy waters for voters

Judging from the number of foreign-lingo releases that washed up on American shores this year, the critical and B.O. success of Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” helped open the floodgates for subtitled fare in 2001.

In addition to “Tiger,” which continued to reap the rewards of having four Oscar wins out of six noms (over $128 million domestically), a healthy number of foreign pics posted impressive numbers at the box office.

The year’s bona fide success, Miramax’s “Amelie,” managed to capture the attention of many filmgoers who would normally not seek out foreign titles. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s whimsical valentine, which offered a postcard-perfect version of Paris and introduced French gamine Audrey Tautou to America, has made more than $10 million Stateside. Like “Crouching Tiger” and “Life Is Beautiful,” it has a good shot at getting noms outside the traditional foreign-lingo Oscar race; it’s France’s official submission.

The first half of 2001 also brought in the wide release of Mexico’s Oscar-nominated “Amores Perros” ($6.7 million), the Juliette Binoche starrer “The Widow of St. Pierre” ($3 million) as well as Francis Veber’s crowdpleasing “The Closet” ($6.7 million), Wong Kar-Wai’s “In the Mood for Love” ($2.7 million) and Dominik Moll’s thriller “With a Friend Like Harry” ($3.8 million).

Miramax’s re-release of Yuen Woo-Ping’s 1993 “Iron Monkey” proved to be another smart move. The Hong Kong martial arts classic has made over $14.7 million in the States. Rounding up the top 10 foreign-lingo list are the frothy Italian entry “Bread and Tulips,” Nepal’s Oscar-nominated “Himalaya,” Francois Ozon’s Charlotte Rampling starrer “Under the Sand,” the Czech Oscar nominee from last year “Divided We Fall” and Chinese helmer Zhang Yimou’s “The Road Home.”

While none of these pics will compete for this year’s Oscars, they all point to an uptick in acceptance for subtitled films.

In December, the promise of Oscar brings more foreign prestige pictures to theaters. Aside from the high-profile “Amelie,” the following official Oscar submissions have generated the best word of mouth in critical circles: Danis Tanovic’s “No Man’s Land” (Bosnia); Jan Sverak’s “Dark Blue World” (Czech Republic); Michael Haneke’s “The Piano Teacher” (Austria); Walter Salle’s “Behind the Sun” (Brazil); Majid Majidi’s “Baran” (Iran); Nanni Moretti’s “The Son’s Room” (Italy); and Barbet Schroeder’s “Our Lady of the Assassins” (Colombia), which was a hit on the gay festival circuit and opened Stateside in September.