Part two of my Five Favorite Foreign Filmmakers from Five Regions mega-post in five parts (Part One: Asia) moves us to Europe.
Not yet sweetie.
Specifically, I am concentrating on non-English speaking Europe. (Or just not the U.K.) but not all of these films are foreign language films. Yet every one of these directors works in English as well as their native language. One in Spanish, two in French, One Swiss and one Italian.
To the list…
First to Italy by way the American Southwest:
Sergio Leone (Italy)
In Italian cinema there is Fellini and Bertolucci and Antonioni but for my money the best Italian director is Sergio Leone.
Sergio Leone could build tension with editing and close-ups and music cues that would turn his B movie westerns into works of art. He absorbed and repurposed the talents of Akira Kurosawa & John Ford and added 60’s angst and 50’s cool. And much like Kurosawa he used a visual storytelling so detailed that you could watch without sound.
But if you did watch without sound you’d miss Ennio Morricone’s sensational soundtracks.
Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone redefined the western genre and made the strong silent type a beautiful thing behold.
Here are five fantastic movies. Four amazing westerns and his last film; an epic, American Immigrant, coming-of-age, mobster classic, starring Robert Deniro.
A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
For a Few Dollars More (1965)
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Once Upon a Time in America is a mobster film to rival The Godfather & Miller’s Crossing. One of my favorites.
And now to France
Thank you, Leeloo. I think I’ll need that.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet (France)
Jean-Pierre Jeunet is one of my favorite directors. His films are a joy to watch. They are a deeply emotional whimsy. They are an absurdly and comically touching steam punk fantasy.
Sure, he directed the underrated and pretty bad Alien Resurrection but I forgive him because English is not his first language, so the performances and line readings of Joss Whedon’s script were horrible and it was never his genre to begin with. (I know… Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Joss Whedon got together and made a bad film. It boggles the mind)
And I forgive him because the four films I list below are four of my favorite films of all-time.
His films, especially his early ones with his partner Marc Caro, are a delicious combination of Charlie Chaplin and Terry Gilliam and Billy Wilder. He is genius and originality, covered in chocolate in a silly wrapper and a bow that you want to keep forever. I love his movies.
My Fave Four:
The City of Lost Children (1995)
A Very Long Engagement (2004)
A Very Long Engagement is an Epic Romance with a stellar cast including Jodie Foster, who is, amazingly, just as good an actor in French as in English.
Luc Besson (France)
Luc Besson is better known as the writer of some of the most kick-ass action thrillers of recent years like Taken and The Transporter but this is a directors series and he has also directed more than a few of my favorite films. His films are thrilling, exciting, well-written and feature three-dimensional characters including women who aren’t just waiting around to be saved. They kick ass.
Here are three French movies (but only one in French). All action packed and all extremely entertaining.
La Femme Nikita (1990)
Leon: The Professional (1994)
The Fifth Element (1997)
Fifth Element is one of my all-time favorite films. It’s Bruce Willis at his best and Milla Jovovich at her hottest. And Gary Oldman, who is also the bad guy in Leon: The Professional, in yet another deliciously evil turn.
Next our only dual-citizen on the list…
Jean-Luc Godard (Switzerland, France)
Jean-Luc Godard is the pioneer of the French New Wave. You can see his influence in the works of Woody Allen, Kar-Wai Wong, Francois Truffaut, Gore Verbinski, Luc Besson, Richard Lester and on television, in music and music videos. He is the Miles Davis of filmmaking. If Miles gave birth to the cool; to the concept of cool. Jean-Luc is the Obstetrician who smacked it on the ass and cut the cord.
Forgive me if it sounds like I worship the man… because I do.
Two of the coolest moments caught on film and extended to full feature-length. And I Include his Rolling Stones Documentary that puts the fuck in phenomenal.
Band of Outsiders (1964)
* Sympathy for the Devil (1968)
Sympathy for the Devil is a documentary/political commentary surrounding the recording of the Rolling Stones most iconic and infamous song.
Last stop. Spain… everybody off.
Pedro Almodovar (Spain)
Pedro Almodovar’s color palette has to be my favorite thing about his movies. They are funny at times and he always gets great performances and his movies are about complicated relationships with family and lovers and friends but it’s the colors that I love most. Because as he’s wrenching your heart with laughter and love and complex emotions and beautiful costumes on beautiful people, it’s his wonderful use of color that drives the points home. For me at least. A feast for the eyes.
In my opinion, Pedro’s perfect film is
However, almost everything he’s done is amazing. He’s weird but he’s good.
You are weird, Pedro. Everyone says so.
And that’s my Top Five Favorite European Directors (non-English category) I’m sure there are so many more I missed that might be on your list. Perhaps Bergman or Truffaut, Renoir, Malle… Delpy? Hell, France could have had its own category and so could have Italy, actually.
And I love Lars von Trier (Denmark)
and Tom Tykwer (Germany),
the directors of Melancholia and Run Lola Run respectively and I expect great things from them every time out. But there was only room for five.
Hey! You know what does get its own category? The U.K. does (sorry France) Next up the United Kingdom.
Amelie! Where’s that spoon?