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By A.O. Scott

To many Americans, foreign movies evoke boredom, confusion, and that Gitanes-reeking blowhard from freshman year. But if you're reading this, you can handle subtitles. (And if you're wondering what happened to that guy: Hi!) Approach these films the way you would any other cultural pursuit: Go in search of sex, violence, and wisecracks, and stumble into art. The six essential movies in this starter kit, all released since 2000, ascend in order from the accessible to the difficult. Invoke them as needed.

Y Tu Mamá También
(Mexico, Alfonso Cuarón, 2001)
Cheat sheet: Two young horndogs (Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna) flee Mexico City with an older woman (Maribel Verdú). Fun fact: The male leads see as much action with each other as they do with Verdú.

Blue Is the Warmest Color
(France, Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)
Cheat sheet: Bittersweet coming-of-age story about two young women (Adéle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux) who fall in, then out, of love. Tell parents it's: A sprawling, detailed consideration of love class, and French Republican identity. Tell friends it has: A nine-minute lesbian sex scene.

(South Korea, Park Chan-wook, 2003)
Cheat sheet: An unjustly imprisoned man seeks vengeance against the people who framed him. Live octopus consumed? Yes. Talking point: Is Park the Korean Tarantino, or is it the other way around?

A Separation
(Iran, Ashar Farhadi, 2011)
Cheat sheet: A middle-class Tehran couple break up. Talking point: Farhadi won the Oscar in 2017 (his second) for Best Foreign Film but skipped the ceremony to protest Trump's immigration ban.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
(Romania, Cristi Puiu, 2006)
Cheat sheet: Unsparing tour of the Romanian health-care bureaucracy. Talking point: The first great post-Ceauşescu film.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
(Thailand, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010)
Cheat sheet: Pastoral jungle love story and spiritual head trip. Plus monsters and motorbikes. Insider fact: For non-Thai speakers, the preferred pronunciation of the director's name is "Joe."
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