Breathless (1960): Conversing comfortably in another language is tricky. Actors don’t want to look like they’re too distracted by the basics of language. Most actors acting in foreign fare allow themselves to be dubbed, often by people who sound nothing like them. So kudos to Jean Seberg. After a disastrous debut in Saint Joan, in which she was famously chosen by Otto Preminger from thousands of wannabe starlets, she actually spoke French, albeit with a thick American accent, in the film that made her iconic (if not, alas, a star).
Incubus (1965): Only a handful of films have been filmed in the constructed language Esperanto, and only one of those stars a pre-Trek William Shatner. Directed by Outer Limits creator Leslie Stevens, this sci-fi exacerbates the feeling of alienation with its off-beat vernacular, although Esperanto speakers complained that the cast’s pronunciations left something to be desired.
The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967): Gene Kelly spent his autumn years in the likes of Viva Knievel! and Xanadu. But his true farewell film found him in France, as part of the vast ensemble of Jacques Demy’s air-light, melancholy musical.
I’ve Loved You So Long (2008): Roles tend to dry up for middle-aged actresses; not, apparently, in France. The absurdly talented Kristin Scott Thomas has always had a second career in France, having learned the language and its specific pronunciations so well she now regularly turns up in the nation’s cinematic output.
The Stoning of Soraya M. (2009): Washington-born Jim Caviezel spoke Aramaic as J.C., and he also spoke Farsi in this questionable Iranian expose. Is there nothing he can’t do? (A. Well, sorta.)
I Am Love (2009): Tilda Swinton was dubbed—with predictably distracting results—in Hungarian in Bela Tarr’s The Man From London. But she went and learned both Italian and Russian for this bombastic bourgeois drama. Which only means more roles for Tilda!
Six Long-Running Film Franchises