Five Favorite Foreign Filmmakers from 5 Regions (Part Six: The Rest of the World)

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)

Peter Weir

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)

The year of living dangerously

Witness (1985)

witness

Dead Poets Society (1989)

Dead Poets Society

The Truman Show (1998)

The Truman Show

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

Master and Commander

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

Peter Weir is one of the greatest living filmmakers.

Next, staying in Australia, we have the versatile…

George Miller (Australia)

George-Miller-directing

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

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

Mad Max 2

The Witches of Eastwick (1987)

The Witches of Eastwick

Happy Feet (2006)

happy-feet

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

George Miller is a versatile cinematic master.

And now we travel to Russia for some awkward action…

Timur Bekmambetov (Russia)

Timur Bekmambetov

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)

Night_watch

Day Watch (2006)

day watch

Wanted (2008)

Wanted

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

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)

romeo-and-juliet-poster

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Moulin Rouge

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

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.

Neill and Matt

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)

District 9

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.

district 9 stillDistrict 9 has some of the scariest but most sympathetic aliens in sci-fi history. Can’t wait to see what he does next with the robot drama Chappie.

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.

I’ll wait…

– Mel

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11 thoughts on “Five Favorite Foreign Filmmakers from 5 Regions (Part Six: The Rest of the World)

  1. Hi Mel, great list! I don’t know the Russian but I LOVE Peter Weir too. Master and Commander is one of my favorite guy films. I didn’t realize that George Miller did both The Witches of Eastwick and Happy Feet, fun films, good for him!

    I have to say though I’m in the “I hate Baz Luhrmann” camp. I only liked his very first film Strictly Ballroom. I’ve seen Moulin Rouge and Australia and I wish I hadn’t. I thought his idea for Romeo and Juliette was good but the execution reminded me of West Side Story’s dancing thugs and I just couldn’t take it seriously. I just have too much respect for Franco Zeffirelli.

    I totally agree with you on Neill Blomkamp I’m sure he will do better. District 9 was just too good and Elysium had too many good things going for it even though it was flawed.

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    • Dude, I agree with you about everything except for R&J. Juliet is 13. She is a child. They are children. It is difficult to do contemporary adaptations because directors either keep them preteen but portray their love as adult love. Which is both creepy and misguided. Or make them adults. It is a puppy love not some great romance of all-time. It is a tragedy. They both end up dead because they are both stupid and young and because their tribes are too busy hating each other to see that these kids need guidance. There are no heroes in Shakespeare tragedies. Everyone is fucked up in the head… or in the heart. I don’t see R&J as people to root for or “I hope those lovers make it.” but more like, “Oh my god. They need an adult.” Juliet doesn’t need Romeo. She needs a juice box and a ride home. And the next time someone puts on the play they need to cast her like they cast Annie or Wendy. It is a tragedy. Not because they didn’t get together but because no one was around to stop them.

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  2. Yes your right about R&J and that’s why I thought the idea was good but I guess I just can’t take Baz Luhrmann seriously. I just find his films over cooked and cheesy. I feel like he’s John Waters without the irony.

    His art department actually was looking to interview me to do the story boards for Gatsby but I turned down the job. I just didn’t want to be a part of sullying F. Scott that way. 😉
    (Actually I was a few years out of the biz and really did not want to go back).

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    • That’s cool. His films are bordering on cheesy. But I like that lavish production value and “over-cooked” style. Kind of a less pretentious Peter Greenaway.

      I just thought Zeffirelli’s version of R&J was too serious and almost creepy. It was beautiful but just disturbingly adult. I loved West Side Story and Baz’s and also the way they handle it in Shakespeare in Love. I just think of all of Will’s tragedies R&J is the most misinterpreted. That overblown, I would rather die than live without you, sentiment… at thirteen is tragic, not romantic. And I think High School teachers in this country have ruined a cautionary tale and made it some syrupy sweet twilight crap. Which I think is why I like it better when it isn’t as serious. Because no one who does it serious does it right. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. When I started reading this I expected a) not to know most of the directors and b) not watched most of the films but I’m pretty surprised I’m familiar with many of these movies I just didn’t know the directors name.

    Peter Weir’s Master & Commander is fantastic thought I’m one of the few that didn’t love Truman Show though I appreciate what it was trying to do.

    Night Watch and Day Watch sounds like cool flicks. I didn’t mind Abe Lincoln as much, the first half was pretty interesting but it got messy in the second half.

    Like the above commenter mentioned, Neill Blomkamp has talent and lot of good ideas, I can see him returning with a stronger effort after Elysium.

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    • If you liked Abe: Vampire Hunter, you’ll love Night Watch and Day Watch. Though I don’t know if there are dubbed versions in English. I watched them with subtitles. I like to watch the original languages with accurate subtitles more than dubbed. Because I grew up w/ badly dubbed foreign movies.

      Did you see Truman Show on DVD after the explosion of the internet and the turn of the century?

      Back then it was more prophetic. It predated Big Brother and social media and reality TV. Today, The Truman Show seems tame but the idea of being raised and living your life on camera back then was an original idea. (except for the other movie that came out that year; EdTV) But Jim Carrey was just as annoying then as he is now.

      I like the premise and what I’ve read so far about the new Blomkamp film; Chappie. They’re in post-production and it’ll probably come out early 2015. I hope they don’t try to make it a summer movie like Elysium. Thanks for the comment.

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      • I also prefer subtitles where available than badly dubbed English versions.

        I liked the concepts and idea behind The Truman Show, I just can’t put my finger on why I didn’t like it as much as other people. Maybe it was too hyped. I watched it before the rise of social media and everyone having their own reality show.

        I haven’t heard about Chappie, hopefully District 9 isn’t going to be his one great movie.

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      • That gives me an idea for a new list… First Movie / Best Movie: Kevin Smith (Clerks), Ed Burns (Brothers McMullen), Robert Townsend (Hollywood Shuffle), Nia Verdalos (My Big Fat Greek wedding). can’t think of any more unless I include directors who only made one movie (even though it did well) Tom Hanks, Biliy Bob Thornton, The Blair Witch guys…

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  4. Great list! I loved The Truman Show and Master and Commander. Your list also reminded me that I’ve always wanted to watch Moulin Rouge! but still haven’t seen it. I will have to check it out. I’m a big fan of Ewan McGregor. 🙂

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