While the racks of most high-street video stockists are overloaded with the latest outpourings from Hollywood, foreign language films may be much harder to come by. This is a shame, because film and media teachers looking for extracts from something more exotic than Oliver Stone or Orson Welles have a world of cinema from which to choose - and the potential for modern language teachers is obvious.
The key suppliers of foreign language films on video are Arrow, Artificial Eye, Connoisseur and Tartan. Between them they market textbook classics such as Z, Tokyo Story and Closely Observed Trains, as well as more modern fare such as Les Visiteurs, Dear Diary and Cinema Paradiso.
In among the Wenders and the Kurosawas at Connoisseur, there is even an exotic African collection, which shows there is more than one way to tell a story. All the videos are available by mail order, with prices from Pounds 9.99 to Pounds 15.99.
Connoisseur's catalogue also has a wide variety of cinema classifications including "Electric", with films by directors such as Bu$uel and Fellini, "Art House" (Chabrol, Szabo) and "Mainline" (Tanner, Kapur).
Some other mail order companies offer extensive stocks. One, Moviemail, claims it can find any film as long as it has been released on video, and stocks films by Carne, De Sica and Eisenstein as well as those by obscure masters such as Karoly Makk and Kaneto Shindo. It is a haven for classicists and cultists alike. More movies by mail are available from France House, which specialises, as its name suggests, in French films.
Catering mainly for popular tastes, the rental chain Blockbuster is also worth a look. It's not often that three Tarkovskys turn up under one roof - the same one that's housing the Tarentinos at that. Blockbuster also offers a sprinkling of post-war Asian classics, as well as a strong list of French films, old and new. This is a good starting point for language teachers or those planning an introduction-to-world-cinema module. It's also cheap - Pounds 3.50 for 24 hours' rental.
But most convenient of all is the local library, which often keeps a wide range of subtitled films for rent, and at great value - around Pounds 2 a week.
Quality foreign films also make it on to the racks in HMV and Virgin, where you can find Une Femme Francaise, Cyclo and Jour de Fete.
Arrow, tel: 01923 858306; Artificial Eye, tel: 0171 437 2552; Connoisseur, tel: 0171 957 8957; Tartan, tel: 0171 494 1400; Moviemail, tel: 01496 302286; France House, tel: 01451 870920. If in real difficulties contact Videofinders International, tel: 0171 435 9933 or Video Searchers, tel: 0181 941 8255.