I’m bringing back my 5×5 Director’s series but this time I’m going overseas. The first 5×5 list included only English language directors with no love for subtitles. In this series I will pick 5 directors from each region and then list some of my favorite films. They are arranged in order of how many films I could think of that were insanely good by the director.
My 5 Favorite Foreign Filmmakers from 5 Regions IS ON.
First up Asia… (with more swords than you can shake a gun at)
Zhang Yimou (China)
Zhang Yimou may be the world’s greatest living director. When I compiled my first fave five directors list, I excluded foreign/non-english directors. But had I not, Zhang Yimou would have been second on that list just below Stanley Kubrick. He is a master of the craft. And he introduced me to Gong Li, one of my favorite actresses.
Here are 5 of his best… the first four with my love; Gong Li. The last a bit of departure for him but it became his most famous film, and biggest box-office success, in the states.
Red Sorghum (1987)
Ju Dou (1990)
Raise The Red Lantern (1991)
Shanghai Triad (1995)
House of Flying Daggers (2004)
Still a great film; a romantic, martial-arts, sword fighting, fantasy, even though Gong Li is not in it.
Akira Kurosawa (Japan)
Here’s a director who is such an amazing visual storyteller that you could turn off the subtitles and still enjoy and understand the story. He gets such great performances from his actors and interprets, through his lens, the drama of the human condition so well that I’m compelled to compare him with William Shakespeare. Akira Kurosawa is the Shakespeare of film.
Here are 4 of his best (In My Opinion)… The first three are (so-called) Samurai films but they are in-fact gripping dramas and the fourth is beyond description. He also has a bunch of straight dramas & comedies (no swords) that are amazing, but I do not include them here.
Seven Samurai (1954)
Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams is one of my favorite films. It is a meditation on life and on impermanence and on death. It is a collection of stories that paint the human condition. It is wonderful.
John Woo is the patron saint of bullet time; the ultra slow motion technique that follows the path of a single bullet. The man makes the most bloody firefight into a beautifully savage and brutally stylized ballet. John Woo made slow-motion exciting. And The Matrix movies, and FPS games, and music videos, and everything that came after, owe him a debt (with all respect and reverence due to the great Sam Peckinpah).
Here are 3 of his best… (Just assume that every character in any of his movies has a gun)
A Better Tomorrow (1986)
Bullet in the Head (1990)
Hard Boiled (1992)
Hard Boiled goes over the top with the violence and gunplay but it is so much fun to watch.
Next, staying in the HK (but taking a much needed break from all the violence)…
Kar-Wai Wong (Hong Kong)
Every one of Wong Kar-Wai’s films are visually stunning and stylistically vibrant and musically brilliant. I just want to climb into the screen and live there. Can I live there please, sir? He is so cool. With his mix of French New wave, Vincent Van Gogh (in happier times) and the coolest most inclusive nightclub you have ever been. His movies make me happy.
Here are 2 of his best… (I love both of these films with a passion)
Chungking Express (1994)
2046 sees the return of Gong Li to our list. We missed her.
And last but not least…
Ang Lee (Taiwan)
Ang Lee is only fifth on my list of favorite Asian directors mostly because his Hulk film was so very bad. He, of course, has directed many of the best films of the last two decades including: Sense & Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi.
My personal favorite is also a departure for him.
Like House of Flying Daggers was for Zhang Yimou, Crouching Tiger is Ang Lee’s foray into romantic, sword flying, martial-arts, fantasy.
And that ends part one of my 5×5 Foreign Director’s series (and by that I mean not American Born but don’t read too much into that because I do not know all of their biographies) in part two we’re going to Europe.
See you then.