6. Wong Kar Wai – Fallen Angels
Wong Kar Wai kickstarted his film career in 1988 with ‘As Tears Go By’ and has had continued critical acclaim, accumulating with ‘In the Mood for Love’ in 2000. ‘Fallen Angels’ is something of an official sequel to ‘Chungking Express’, and indeed its overall vibe and way of shooting are broadly similar. ‘Fallen Angels’ is a bit more violent, and its characters are more morally grey than its predecessor.
The unique style director Wong Kar Wai developed is highly impressionistic and feels sometimes like a wild collection of individual moments. That ‘Fallen Angels’ never becomes unwatchable but instead remains energetic, tense and can still manage to be emotional is to the credit of his strong direction. Fun, action-packed drama for fans of unique, different ways of filmmaking.
7. Paul Verhoeven – Spetters!
Paul Verhoeven is mostly known abroad for his American work. From ‘Robocop’ in the 80’s up until ‘Starship Troopers’ he had a constant series of success with his own brand of blockbuster: films that one could watch straight but also had a cynical undertone highly critical of contemporary society. Verhoeven is not a subtle filmmaker, and has constantly set himself apart by mixing cynical humour, much nudity & sex, and violence with your average big budget film.
Back home in the Netherlands Verhoeven made two classic films ‘Turkish Delight’ and ‘Soldier of Orange’ (with the first one nominated for an Oscar). ‘Spetters!’, however, was highly controversial on its release (and not without reason). The film follows a handful of small town teenagers with differing hopes and dreams. Again it is a cynical, violent, sexual and above all nihilistic portrayal of Dutch society. It is also an energetic, explosive film with tons of drama.
Many scenes in ‘Spetters!’ remind one of films to come, like the way Verhoeven let’s his actors occupy space and move around in a shot is similar to how he would later film the police bureau scenes in ‘Basic Instinct’, and as mentioned his cynical tone would become a staple of Verhoeven films abroad. Not for the squeamish or easily offended.
8. Chan Wook Park – I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Okay
Chan Wook Park is one of the most internationally recognised South Korean directors. His vengeance trilogy, especially ‘Oldboy’, became well known outside of South Korea. Chan Wook Park impressed audiences with his tantalizing beauty, while not shying from violence and humour, and unique storylines. In 2010 he would direct ‘Stoker’ with international actors: another violent, bizarrely twisting but beautiful film. Violence indeed seems one of the things Chan Wook Park is most interested in exploring: the way violence and vengeance play in the human mind, what drives humans to use violence and how does it shape us?
In any case ‘I’m a Cyborg, but that’s Okay’ is a bit of an odd man out in Chan Wook Park’s violent and explosive oeuvre. It is a funny, heartfelt romance film about characters who (dis)function outside of society. Even with the lack of violence, it is still clearly a Chan Wook Park film. His very distinct visual flair and odd humour shine through in this underwatched romantic comedy.
9. Brian de Palma – Blow Out
It is perhaps not that strange that a film could fall a bit out of the loop in de Palma’s eclectic filmography. The director went from horror films like ‘Carrie’ to the full on 80’s over-the-top crime drama ‘Scarface’, to the sensitive gangster drama ‘Carlito’s Way’ all the way to the first ‘Mission: Impossible’ film. Compared to those explosive films, ‘Blow Out’ might feel a bit more down to earth, which really gives de Palma’s craft more space. ‘Blow Out’ follows a sound recorder who accidentally picks up the sound of an assassination, with consequences for his own safety.
There are clear films that paved the way of ‘Blow Out’. ‘Blow Up’ by Antionioni is visible in the way Jack (John Travolta) plays his sound endlessly for that small detail. Further Hitchcock influence shows in the way de Palma builds the tension of the story. The whole movie has a cool brooding atmosphere that reminds one of the Italian Giallo films, not in the least because of Jack’s job as sound designer for horror films. All in all it is a well-crafted, tense thriller that fans of de Palma should not skip over.
10. Danny Boyle – Shallow Grave
Just two years before his 90’s hit ‘Trainspotting’ Danny Boyle shot ‘Shallow Grave’. While the plot of ‘Shallow Grave’, a group of friends find their flatmate dead but with a bunch of money, is not similar to ‘Trainspotting’, fans of the latter’s humour, and dark & zany energy will like this film.
That ‘Shallow Grave’ is a mish-mash of styles and influences should not detract from the filmic experience that it is. There are scenes more often seen in horror films, and others with ‘The Conversation’ like paranoia. Mix that with a story that starts out as a thriller with many darkly comedic moments. Also in that sense it is a precursor to ‘Trainspotting’ which mixed genres and styles to great effect. It also reminds of the films director Guy Ritchie would make at the end of the decade: ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ and ‘Snatch’.
If you like the above mentioned films, ‘Shallow Grave’ is energetic and fun and makes for a highly enjoyable watch and a great addition to these fast-paced British crime films.