This winter's most exciting foreign films offer a peek into far-flung corners of the globe. Part Tang dynasty romance, part kung fu spectacular, director Zhang Yimou's The House of Flying Daggers is an allegory of modern Chinese history. In it, Pan-Asian superstars Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro play government officers attempting to track underground rebels with the aid of a beautiful, blind dancing girl (Ziyi Zhang)—but the intricate plot takes second place to fabulous costumes and action sequences shot amid bamboo forests and snowy stretches of Ukraine. • Spain's rugged Galician coast forms the backdrop for The Sea Inside. Spanish heartthrob Javier Bardem gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Ramón Sampedro, a paralyzed man who spent decades fighting from his bed for the right to end his life. • In Look at Me (opens February), literary Paris—rife with social climbers—provides fodder for French writer, director, and star Agnès Jaoui. She turns her satiric eye on a misanthropic writer (Jean-Pierre Bacri) who ignores his 20-year-old daughter, played by Marilou Berry, a homely girl with a lovely singing voice.
—Leslie Camhi