After compiling my five-part foreign filmmaker series there were about a handful of great artists that were left off the list. So this is in effect part six of that five-part series. We had: Asia, Europe, The UK, Canada, Latin America and now…
The Rest of The World
There were three Australians, one Russian and one African director that absolutely had to be added to my favorites. I’m almost certain my picks from these regions will surprise you. And the 5, 4, 3, 2 & 1 film I chose from each director are some of the best and most entertaining movies of the series.
(Full disclosure: It was dumb of me to start this series before compiling the whole damn thing. I won’t make that mistake again)
To the list…
First up… from Australia… the great…
Peter Weir (Australia)
The first director on this Rest of The World list is one of my favorite directors from the 80’s, he directed the films, Witness and Dead Poets Society; two of my favorites of all-time. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve seen Witness. Or how often I quote it. I still quote it constantly. (“Stop the boy from ringing that bell. Stop him now. Get outta here now.”) And Dead Poets is one of those inspirational films that I like to drag out when I’m searching for inspiration.
From a time when Robin Williams was my favorite actor and Mel Gibson was still sane, Peter Weir is a director’s director who paints with powerful emotion & great performances, breathtaking visuals & real stories.
Here are five perfect films from a director who was the vanguard of the Australian New Wave; Peter Weir:
The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)
Dead Poets Society (1989)
The Truman Show (1998)
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
Peter Weir was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Direction on each of these films except for The Year of Living Dangerously. In 1985 He won the DGA award for Witness but hasn’t yet won an Oscar. This is a travesty, in my opinion. He has, however, won the BAFTA for directing The Truman Show and for Master and Commander.
Peter Weir is one of the greatest living filmmakers.
Next, staying in Australia, we have the versatile…
George Miller (Australia)
George Miller, the second Australian on this list, is the director of the Mad Max films and the Happy Feet animated movies (Mel Gibson and Robin Williams again. I’m sensing a pattern). He has a broad range, to say the least.
But by far my favorite of his works is the brilliant adaptation of John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick with Jack Nicholson and Susan Sarandon. And yes I quote it all the time. All the time. (In fact none of what comes out of my mouth is my own words)
Here are four fantastic films:
Mad Max (1979)
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
Happy Feet (2006)
He also directed the segment Nightmare at 20,000 Feet from Twilight Zone: The Movie which is arguably the best of the four segments. He is working on a fourth Mad Max film Mad Max: Fury Road which looks like a step beyond Thunderdome. But even the differences between the first Mad Max and Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior are stark.
George Miller is a versatile cinematic master.
And now we travel to Russia for some awkward action…
Timur Bekmambetov (Russia)
With tensions rising between Russia and the West, I offer an olive branch in the form of a spot on my Rest of The World list (I got this diplomacy thing) for Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov. Timur combines the action sensibilities of John Woo with the atmospheric artistry of Jean-Pierre Jeunet with a dash of John Carpenter for good measure.
This is of course ignoring the hilariously awful Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (you know what, olive branch rescinded. How you gonna do our 16th like that?) but Bekmambetov has always been a film director who dances to his own drummer.
Here are three awesome films that do not take themselves seriously at all:
Night Watch (2004)
Day Watch (2006)
The duology; Night Watch and Day Watch are two of the most kick-ass action, horror, sci-fi, foreign films I have ever seen. Obviously try to get the unrated versions. He duplicates the kick-ass but leaves out the horror and sci-fi with the American action film Wanted. But then loses his mind with that Abe Lincoln film. Timur Bekmambetov is an acquired taste. Get back to your roots Timur.
Next… we go back down-under for the sublimely beautiful films of…
Baz Luhrmann (Australia)
Baz Luhrmann may take five or six years between films but it is time well spent. He brings his theatrical sensibilities, that rich atmospheric attention to detail, to his films. He puts in as much time with the costumes and the music and the sets as he does with the actors and the photography.
I would love to compare him to Kubrick but they are completely different animals visually and thematically. But like Stanley, Baz is a hands-on detail oriented task master with a strong idea of the finish product before he shoots a frame of his huge fantastical theatrical presentations.
Here are two beautiful films that are visually and aurally exquisite:
William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Baz Luhrmann can also be called an acquired taste. You either love him or you hate him. And while I fall into the love group, I didn’t like his take on The Great Gatsby as much as other people. I still loved the Baz Luhrmann-ess of it but I didn’t like the music choices and the story itself is so frivolous.
However, as one of the world’s biggest Shakespeare fans (Shakespeare’s collected works was one of my first books as a child), I loved his take on Romeo & Juliet. It was true to the source in all the right ways and updated for this century in all the best ways (I’d say Shakespeare in Love is the only film portrayal of the lovers that I felt was better, and that one was hidden within a larger story). The way I figure it though, we’ll get the next Luhrmann film sometime in 2020. Baz takes his time so be patient.
And finally to the bottom of the dark continent…
Neill Blomkamp (South Africa)
Neill Blomkamp has only made one film that I really liked (but I liked it so much); the amazing District 9. Yet even after the nightmare with the Halo movie (still want that one please) and the disappointment of Elysium (oh so close), I am still excited to see what he does next. I am endlessly impressed with his vision and I still loved the look and feel of Elysium. We’ll just chalk that up to a sophomore jinx.
The world has waited for a sci-fi director with the guts and talent to bring science fiction film back to the realm of real hard-hitting social commentary like it was in the 60’s.
Here is one truly amazing film by Neill Blomkamp:
District 9 (2009)
In District 9, Blomkamp brings a realism and a documentary feel to a sci-fi drama like I’ve never seen before. An instant cult classic. So good.
And that’s it. I’ve separated the filmmakers by region (because I said I would). It was not fun. It was very hard. I would list my favorite American directors but that would be even harder to do and the list would end up being anywhere from fifty to a hundred names long.
As it is there were 8 to 10 languages (depending on dialect), 5 or 6 continents (depending on… I don’t know… continental drift), 8 or 9 months (I started this thing last June! Mazel Tov), 30 fantastic filmmakers (if I say so myself) and 90 great films.
Now go watch ’em all.