Foreign Directors Everyone Needs to Watch
Here’s is an essential list of foreign directors to name-drop at your next group hangout to amaze your friends with your breadth of cinematic knowledge:
Yorgos Lanthimos (Greece)
One of the most esteemed foreign directors at the moment is the Greek filmmaker, Yorgos Lanthimos. Lanthimos has directed esteemed films, such as The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), The Lobster (2015) and Dogtooth (2009); all which have been nominated and awarded for prestigious awards, like The Academy Awards and Cannes. Lanthimos exudes this dark and strange style in his films that captivates an audience into the world he is created, but doesn’t completely drive them away— well, most of the time. Whereas, Gasper Noe and Lars von Trier tend to be direct and in your face with their eccentric and violent scenes, Lanthimos allows you to let the uneasiness settle in throughout the film.
Lanthimos’ success with Dogtooth has become one of the more prominent figureheads of this “Greek Weird Wave” movement— a movement in Greece that has given rise to the independent and strange films, despite the economic crisis the country is enduring. Since Dogtooth, Lanthimos has been indulging the world with his eccentric and dark style, and will once more captivate us with his upcoming period drama The Favourite.
The Favourite will be starring Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, and Olivia Colman. Lanthimos’ film, The Favourite, will be released on November 23, 2018.
Michael Hanake (Austria)
The Austrian director, Michael Haneke, has introduced films, such as Piano Teacher (2001), Funny Games (2007), The White Ribbon (2009), Amour (2012), Happy End (2017), etc. Haneke’s film style, while containing dark and strange narratives (like Lanthimos and von Trier), has always had a slower pace and build up. A signature style of Haneke is his static long shots: a shot where the camera does not move— no pans, tilts, or cuts. Haneke employs these static shots during uneasy and at times gruesome scenes that keep the audience fixated onto the image.
In one of his earlier films, The Piano Teacher (2001), Haneke employs this style once more in its rape scene. While it certainly isn’t as appalling as Gasper Noe’s Irreversible, the effect of the long static shot is all the same. The tactic behind the static shots leaves viewers trapped, uncomfortable and unfamiliar with the pacing, and ultimately left in utter suspense of when there will be a cut to end of the scene.
Haneke, who is now 76 years old, has been a prominent figure in Austrian Cinema, and his achievement of the Palm d’Or in 2012 for Amour has further affirmed his prominence.
Danny Boyle (England)
Danny Boyle, the English director, has added to the influence of English style and wit to Hollywood through his most recognized and praised works: Trainspotting (1996), 28 Days Later (2002), Slumdog Millionaire (2008), 127 Hours (2010), and the biopic of Steve Jobs (2015). Boyle, with his energetic and moving cinematic style, has been charming Hollywood ever since Ewan McGregor’s monologue “Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career…” and since Slumdog Millionaire grabbed seven Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Score, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.
Boyle has been confirmed to direct the next James Bond movie with Daniel Craig, and will hopefully bring his kinetic energy to Bond 25.
Park Chan-wook (Korea)
Park Chan-wook and his The Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Lady Vengeance) are some of his most esteemed works that have earned him the title as one of the best Asian directors out there, as well as an influencer in bringing light to Korean cinema. His most recent film was The Handmaiden (2016) that was adapted from the novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, and was nominated for several awards at Cannes, including the Palm d’Or.
Chan-wook has been notoriously known for his vengeance plots that are riddled with violence and dark twists that leaves the audience pleasantly disturbed. While Handmaiden is a bit tame compared to the The Vengeance Trilogy, Park Chan-wook still captivates the audience in this dark poetic tale that still surprises fans— even those who read Fingersmith, or watched the UK adaptation.
Currently, Park Chan-wook is working on filming and directing the mini-series The Little Drummer Girl, which is his television debut that will be released in 2019. So, keep an eye out for this series, and for more of Park Chan-wook’s adrenaline and shocking style.
Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron, and Alejandro González Iñárritu (Mexico)
After Guillermo del Toro’s win in the 2018 Oscars for Shape of Water, he became the latest Mexican director to earn the title for Best Director. Alfonso Cuaron won Best Director for Gravity in 2014, and Alejandro González Iñárritu grabbed the title the next two years for Birdman and The Revenant.
These three directors have been conquering Hollywood these last four to five years with their keen vision and directing style that has been dominating the Academy Awards. Del Toro is currently working on a dark take on the children’s tale Pinocchio, Cuaron’s next work to look out for on Netflix will be Roma, and Alejandro González Iñárritu has released a short virtual reality piece filmed with, once more, Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant, Birdman and Gravity).
While it doesn’t seem that these three are working on any big features at the moment, be prepared for 2019 and onward to see them continue to dominate Hollywood and the Academy Awards.
Honorable Mentions: Ang Lee (Taiwan), Claire Denis (France), Sebastian Lelio (Chile), Takashi Miike (Japan), and probably a lot more that I missed.