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It's International Women's Day !

I had so many different ideas with which to celebrate today that I didn't manage to get any of them done. It's a typical problem when you have more ideas than time and when indefatigable ambition meets easily exhaustable execution. So herewith... a few off the cuff LISTS celebrating actresses that work primarily outside of the English language that are every bit as good and sometimes a whole lot better than their American/English/Aussie counterparts who get the bulk of attention in the global market.

The gold standard here is always Deneuve. "Catherine Deneuve"... go ahead, sound it out. The name itself just reverberates with glamour but the razzle dazzle of her international celebrity is hardly the reason she's the gold standard. She's also got a filmography that would be the envy of any actor who cares about cinema beyond their own image and though she'll turn 70 this fall, she's still challenging herself. Frankly, if you look at some of the work she did in the past dozen years or so (Dancer in the Dark, Potiche, Pola X, Beloved, 8 Women, A Christmas Tale, etcetera) other actresses her age are slacking...

10 Foreign Film Actresses Most Likely To Get Me in the Movie Theater 

Paprika Steenmultiple actressy lists after the jump!

  1. Catherine Deneuve (France)
  2. Gong Li (China)
  3. Almodóvar's Various Muses: Carmen Maura, Cecilia Roth, Penélope Cruz, Lola Dueñas, etcetera (Spain)
  4. Paprika Steen (Denmark)
  5. Isabelle Huppert (France)
  6. Juliette Binoche (France)
  7. Jeon Do-Yeon (South Korea)
  8. Ludivine Sagnier (France)
  9. Emmanuelle Devos (France)
  10. Sibel Kekilli (Germany)

Jeon do-yeon with her Cannes trophy

I know people will be like "But, Marion Cotillard!" but I see her as more Hollywood than French now (though she was pretty great in Rust & Bone). Although I assume that when she's older and Hollywood dumps her she'll get great roles regularly in Paris still. 

Actresses I Miss. They Seem To Have Vanished From the Cinema...

apparently Franka Potente was in both Copper and American Horror Story Season 2. But I didn't know this!

  1. Maggie Cheung (China)
  2. Victoria Abril (Spain)
  3. Fernanda Montenegro (Brazil)
  4. Emmanuelle Béart (France)
  5. Franka Potente (Germany) 

Newish Talents To Watch and Hopefully Obsess Over

  1. Alicia Vikander (Sweden)
  2. Léa Seydoux (France)
  3. Doona Bae (South Korea)
  4. Stephanie Sigman (Mexico) 

5 Actresses I Found Amazing The First Time I Saw Them but Haven't Seen Anything Else Since (!!!). Any Suggestions?

  1. Tang Wei (Taiwan)... Lust Caution
  2. Ronit Elkabetz (Israel)... Late Marriage
  3. Audrey Dana (France) ... Roman de Gare
  4. Emilie Dequenne (Belgium) ... Our Children
  5. Mirjana Karanovic (Serbia)... Fraulein

Rave about your favorite international stars in the comments. Who should everyone seek out and fall for? Let's spread the love. 

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Reader Comments (41)

For me, Melanie Laurent. Unforgettable in Inglourious Bastards. She was game and good in Beginners too!

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterwinston

I LOVED Lea Seydoux in Sister, and she was so much fun in Ghost Protocol. Can't wait to see her in more things. Shame on you for misusing her, Woody Allen.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterwill h

Oh, also, he's not an actress so maybe this off topic, but I love Jeremie Renier so any movie he makes has my attention.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterwill h

Deneuve and Huppert are THE gold standards for me. Binoche is also getting there for me.

Love that you rank Ludivine Sagnier so high.

But the Emmanuelle Beart mention I now feel in the mood to watch 8 Femmes. Everybody was all so great in that/

There is an Isabelle Adjani retrospective at BAM that I want to really see. If just for Possession.

And speaking of actresses who have not really broken out, I see Julia Jentsch as a supporting player in a Hannah Arendt biopic but honestly wonder how the hell is she not more famous? At the very least, she should be the female equivalent of Daniel Bruhl and be the stock German national.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Bring back Catalina Sandino Moreno!!!

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

Maggie Cheung was so good in In the Mood for Love, but I've never seen anything else that she has done. Any suggestions?

I was sad to see that Doona Bae (her story thread has stuck with me the best from Cloud Atlas) has no upcoming films listed on her imdb page.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

Lovely piece. For me, have to include Cecile de France, who does a bit of American work too. However, The Kid with a Bike took her to that next level for me.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrianZ

Alicia V. is Swedish, but we Danes will take her!

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commentertomito

The recent death of Mariangela Melato has me missing great Italian actresses. Where are the Magnanis and Monica Vittis of today? Well, at least we still have Loren.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavide

Miss 90s Irene Jacob (La Double Vie de Veronique; Les Trois Couleurs: Rouge) -- what happened to her career?

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

Glad to see at least one Argentine lady in there! (Cecilia Roth)

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

totally out of place but have to SCREAM MY MIND about this:

after watching "Oz the Great and Powerful" I recalled the Actress Roundtable discussions from last year and thought "Rachel Weisz had to be pushy and demanded to audition for this role?!?!?!? the world really is ending."

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

Nina Hoss of course

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBacio

Yeah, Nina Hoss!

Julie Delpy, hello

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

If you liked Emilie Dequenne, try "Rosetta" by the Dardenne brothers, it is worth a try.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDuck

Nathaniel, have you seen Untold Scandal? It's Dangerous Liaisons set in Joseon Korea, with Jeon Do-yeon in the Madame de Tourvel role. She's also pretty wonderful in My Dear Enemy, I Wish I Had a Wife, and Happy End. You Are My Sunshine, My Mother the Mermaid, and Harmonium in My Memory are more conventional fare, but her acting really elevates the films.

You should also check out Bae Doona in Take Care of My Cat, Barking Dogs Never Bite, and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.

Another Korean actress I think you'll like is Moon Sori. She did Oasis with Lee Chang-dong (Poetry, Secret Sunshine) and A Good Lawyer's Wife with Im Sang-soo (The Housemaid).

Gong Hyo-jin is underrated in the Asian cinephile community. She was great in Family Ties and Crush & Blush.

Loved Tang Wei in Lust, Caution. She made Late Autumn in 2010, though I found the film and performance disappointingly lacking.

Was pleasantly surprised with Alicia Vikander in Anna Karenina and A Royal Affair, and Lea Seydoux in Farewell My Queen. Looking forward to more.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteryoonah

Although I've only seen her in two films so far (Julia's Eyes and The Orphanage) I'd definitely spare time to watch something with Belén Rueda in. The Orphanage instantly became a favourite after watching it, which was largely due to her amazing performance and it's great to see some quality acting within a genre usually known for its low standards.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDan

Yoonah, thanks for the remainder of two great Korean pics. Untold Scandal is the best version of Dangerous Liaisons I've ever seen, better than the movies by Frears, Forman, Vadim (but Moreau is still the best Merteiull.

And Oasis. You can credit Lee Chang Dong for getting three of the ten best female performancrs of this century.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Good lists.

Alicia Vikander is one to watch, thought she was excellent in A Royal Affair.

Can I add Elena Anaya to the mix of Spanish actresses.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersuzy

Good list. I would add:

-Hiam Abbass: The Visitor (Israel)
-Norma Aleandro: The Official Story (Argentina)
-Agnès Jaoui: The Taste of Others (France). She's like a french version of Tina Fey.
-Sareh Bayat: A Separation (Iran)
-Élodie Bouchez: Wild Reeds (France)
-Margherita Buy: Le fate ignoranti (Italy)
-Anamaria Marinca: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania)

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Giovanna Mezzogiorno (Italy)
Juliane Köhler (Germany)
Catalina Saavedra (Chile)
Maria Onetto (Argentina)
Rosa Maria Sarda (Spain)
Lena Endre (Sweden)
Aggeliki Papoulia (Greece)
Catherine Frot (France)
Oksana Akinshina (Russia)
Arta Dobroshi (Albania)

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterhcu

Nora Aunor from the Philippines

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjo69e

Nobody from Italy?

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVince

Vince -- i'm happy to love them but it seems like Italian cinema never makes big international inroads these days. We're a long way from Fellini's dominance.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

I could fill a Top 10 with just French actresses, but off the top of my head:

Anamaria Marinca
Maura/Cruz/Duenas/Portillo/Lampreave/Paredes/Roth/de Palma
Leila Hatami
Luminita Gheorghiu
Gong Li

(And of course Ullmann, Cheung, Moreau and Adjani would be in that list if they were still working, or in the latter two's case, working more often and on projects that reach Australian screens.)

I also wish I could see more from Carice van Houten, Arta Dobroshi, Deannie Yip, Chiaki Kuriyama, Elena Lyadova and Catalina Saavedra

By the way Karanovic was also in a Berlin Film Fest Golden Bear winner a few years back, called "Grbavica". It did get a (very small) release in the States as well, if I remember correctly. Solid little film, if a bit familiar.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Nathaniel, Cecilia Roth is from Argentina, not Spain. Another actress that I like, but haven't seen in that many movies is Shohreh Aghdashloo.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteralejrios

@Peggy Sue: Oh, yes! I love Agnes Jaoui! Such fun to not know what is going to happen next.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteradri

I just watched the 92 version of Night and the City, and at the finale De Niro said Helen Reddy's name to Jessica Lange. Sigh.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

alejrios -- yeah, i thought of that but since it was a Spain grouping it felt weird to imply that half of them were from Argentina. But i like her. I've seen her in a couple of non-almodovar things too. any argentinian films with her in it worth seeking out?

March 9, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

^ Martin Hache.
It's one of those actors movies which also counts with scene stealer Eusebio Poncela. It was quite a big thing back in the day. Now from a distance, maybe there's too much scenery chewing and coke snorting :) Still, worth watching.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

Deneuve, Deneuve, Deneuve. Always Deneuve. Everything is Deneuve.

Incidentally, I don't think anyone has mentioned Fanny Ardant. I think she's pretty spectacular as well. She's wonderful in 8 Women, the Woman Next Door, and Nathalie, amongst many others.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRose

Travis: You should watch Maggie Cheung in "Comrades: Almost a Love Story" (an uneven film but damn, her performance is heartbreaking) and "The Soong Sisters" (biopic). Also, Days of Being Wild and this Ann Hui film (something Exile, don't remember the name). Very sad that she doesn't feel like to star in films anymore. Usually people who has a tough love life chose to work a lot, but instead she chose her freedom, that is kinda rare and courageous.

Yoonah: When I saw "Oasis", I couldn't tell if she is really suffering from the disability or not. That's how good she was. I just want Lee Chang Dong to keep making great roles for women. Maybe he should direct a film with Cheung in it...

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLars

Carice van Houten

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

After Barbara, I'm on the Nina Hoss train. And also, Diane Kruger is awesome in German and French.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Fanny Ardant
Isabelle Adjani
Sophie Marceau
Monica Belluci
Marissa Paredes
Carice van Houten
Martina Gedeck
Sonia Braga
Ariadna Gil
Maribel Verdú
Paz Vega
La Binoche--Happy Birthday (Sat)

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

i loved carice van houten in black book... but now TV has stolen her away. would've liked to have seen her in one more great foreign flick. anything earlier in her resume?

March 9, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Victoria Abril is one of the best actresses in history. It's a real hurt she is so forgotten... Her performance in Lovers is one of the best of the past 30 years.

She and Antonio Banderas grew up together in Málaga, but the one who jumped to Hollywood was the wrong person.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHelen M

My ten favorite foreign actresses:
Isabelle Huppert
Nathalie Baye
Catherine Deneuve
Emmanuelle Devos
Carmen Maura
Lola Duenas
Sandrine Bonnaire
Penelope Cruz
Cecile de France
Juliette Binoche

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAbby

The other Asian actress in Cloud Atlas, Zhou Xun, is one of my fav Chinese actresses. But most of my fav work from her are TV dramas, so I haven't seen much of her film works.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterYuan

Nathaniel, no love for Diane Kruger?!?

I also miss Emanuelle Beart and Franka Potente, who was pretty amazing on American Horror Story: Asylum (Ryan Murphy basically wrote the part for her).

Foreign ladystars begin and end with Deneuve. I love that she has "auteur fever" - she keeps working with all these great up-and-coming directors. I want to BE her. So classy, so talented, and aging so gracefully!

I would add Zhang Ziyi. Loved her in everything she's done. And I can. not. WAIT. for The Grandmaster.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Dang, I need to make a list:

Catherine Deneuve
Isabelle Huppert
Isabelle Adjani
Juliette Binoche
Ludivine Sagnier
Penelope Cruz
Monica Bellucci
Maggie Cheung
Michelle Yeoh
Julie Delpy

I guess the Nina Hoss train confirms that I must seek out Barbara.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

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