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OK – so you’re officially in to foreign cinema, and want to be a little more adventurous. Here‘s a is a list of foreign films that are suited to those looking to further explore the more engaging, unique, and interesting movies that other countries have to offer. These are ‘middle of the spectrum’ movies: they require more effort and attention than the previous list for beginners, but aren’t quite the ‘hardcore’ existential or often divisive films that need to be cryptically pulled apart.

This article also has an intentional modern bias. Most of he ‘Best foreign films’ lists appear to have been voted for, and compiled, by older people who only seem to watch a small and predictable list of films made before 1980. That’s utter bobbins, and completely pisses me off. Like music, art, or photography, there’s great things being created all the time. Apologies for the completely arbitrary number but I’ve been deliberating over this list for over three months.

Amores Perros

Amores Perros (Love’s A Bitch – Mexico): three different lives brought together by a car single crash. An intricate, intertwined, and multi-layered drama that follows and connects a fashion model, dog-fighter and homeless assassin. This is a raw, authentic, and unflinching look different social classes in Mexico City. It’s 153 mins long, but packs in three fleshed out stories with overlapping themes of violence, family, and inequality. Despite being Alejandro González Iñárritu’s (Birdman) first film, you knew straight away he was someone special. Storytelling in its purest form. TRAILER

Sex and Fury 01 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose

Sex and Fury (不良姐御伝 猪の鹿お蝶 Furyō anego den: Inoshika o-Chō – Japan): a highlight of the ‘Pinky Violence’ genre (think nudity and nunchucks). This is a refreshing combination of kick-ass female lead, breathtaking visuals, a historical setting, and a revenge story that leans heavily on crimson-splattered action set pieces. Put that all together and you’ve got a supremely high-quality exploitation film that is the blueprint for Kill Bill. Proof that ‘video nasty‘ / exploitation movies can be well-crafted and visually spectacular; beautiful and brutal in equal measures. TRAILER

City Of God Brasil Brazil Lil Ze Rocket Drugs Crime Gangs

City of God (Cidade de Deus – Brazil): an honest, visceral, and no-holds-barred drama that follows a group of kids in Rio favelas from childhood in the 1960s through to the 1980s, and how the city and its people changed. It got Oscar nods for direction, cinematography, editing, and writing, so you know it’s a well-made piece of cinema. With such an ambitious scope, and featuring mostly non-actors this was an enormous gamble, but it paid off big time, and has a legacy of one of the best foreign movies ever made. Often referred to as ‘The Brazilian Goodfellas – lets just call if GoodFavellas from now on? TRAILER

Oldboy Korean Movie

OldBoy (올드보이, Oldeuboi – Korea): an unrivaled tale of epic revenge. Everything about this film is exceptional. There’s a grand and intriguing story, meticulous direction, intense action scenes, a nice layer of humour, and the finale to end all movie endings. Every time I watch OldBoy it blows me away. It’s fantastic and cinematic but rooted in reality by sublime, career defining, performances. It sits perfectly in the middle of a trilogy, and you can’t go wrong with Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, or Lady Vengeance either. An original masterpiece that didn’t deserve a Hollywood, or Bollywood, remake – it’s arguably the best film from one of the world’s best film-makers. TRAILER

tillsammans-(2000) Together Lukas Moodysson 2

Together (Tillsammans – Sweden): Explores the life of an over-populated ‘hippy commune’ house in 1970s Stockholm. A micro drama about real people, that manages to be satirical, funny and poignant at the same time. The housemates are vegetarians, homosexuals, hippies, confused teenagers and alcoholics: basically a comedy scrip-writer’s wet dream. It sports a great ensemble cast, a masterful director coming in to his prime, and the happiest ending to a film I can remember seeing – Football and Abba. Between this and Fucking Amal, arguably Lukas Moodysson’s finest era. TRAILER

Infernal Affairs Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Chapman To, Gordon Lam, Kelly Chen, Sammi Cheng, Berg Ng, Wan Chi-keung, Dion Lam, Elva Hsiao

Infernal Affairs (無間道, 无间道 – Hong Kong): a powerful and simple concept – the triads have a mole in the police, and the police have a mole in the triads… who’s cover will be blown first? While on paper it’s technically a gangster/action film’s success rests on moments of high tension, drama and suspense; scenes where characters are just about to be made by the opposing side. The cream of H.K. actors push this single concept story from great to amazing. The Departed remake is a fantastic film, but this is still superior in every way. TRAILER

Persepolis Marjane Satrapi Vincent Paronnaud IRAN PUNK IS NOT DEAD

Persepolis (France / Iran): A coming-of-age story about a young, liberal, Iranian at the beginning of the strict Islamic revolution. Most reviews splurge on and on about how great this film looks – and this is true – but the biggest draw of Persepolis is the phenomenal story. It balances an interesting history of Iran, with the small-scale drama of how the regime affected individuals, free speech, feminism, art, culture… There are tragedies, shocks, and heart-warming humanity which make this an engrossing watch. TRAILER

Survive Style 5+ Vinnie Jones

Survive Style 5+ (Japan): it’s impossible to describe what this is like to watch – although this trailer should give you a rough idea. Imagine an intense dose of the West’s ‘crazy Japanese culture’ stereotype perception, but it just works! It’s five offbeat, stories set in a colourful, hyper-designed, pop-art, exotic, and garish world. It’s one of the maddest, most memorable, and most enjoyable films you’ll ever see. If you take cinema as a visual medium – this should be the holy text! The world needs more movies like this. A true one-of-a-kind – and I will be recommending this until the day I die. TRAILER

Headhunters Aksel Hennie Synnøve Macody Lund Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Jamie Lanister

Headhunters (Hodejegerne Norway): A NorwaySweden joint venture based on a Jo Nesbo book – it doesn’t get more Scandy than this. The film translates well up to the big screen as a very tense suspense-thriller that only lets up during moments of comically graphic violence and ultra black humour; which give the audience a few seconds to catch up with their breathing. It’s well-directed, well-acted, well-written, and a great example of a smart, serious, dramatic yet darkly comic crime caper. Better than the best bits of the (original) Dragon Tattoo movies. TRAILER

A Bittersweet Life Lee Byung-hun Kim Jee-woon

A Bittersweet Life (달콤한 인생, Dalkomhan insaeng – Korea): a loyal mob enforcer’s life is thrown into disarray when he refuses his bosses orders. This is a meticulously directed film where, although quite minimal, every single shot in reveals something else about the characters or keeps the story’s momentum going. The performances are strong, and the action scenes are intricate, innovative and flawlessly executed. It’s the second Korean revenge film on this list, but where OldBoy is unique, daring, and rich – A Bitterswet Life is simple, stripped down, raw, and emotive. TRAILER

JCVD Mabrouk El Mechri Jean-Claude Van Damme

JCVD (Belgium): the ultimate anti Jean-Claude Van Damme movie where he plays himself, in real life, during a bank robbery where he reflects on his career. Although it flirts with self-indulgence at times, Van Damme turns in a sensational performance that peaks with a 6-minute long single-cut soliloquy with his heart on his sleeve. It’s an Oscar-worthy show from a man who most people believe can’t even act – and makes you wish he’d been offered more A-list roles. Probably the least accessible film on the list, but you’ll get the most from this if you’ve seen – or care for – other JCVD movies.

Pans Labrynth Guillermo del Toro

Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno – Spain / Mexico): while most of Del Toro’s work contains an element of duality this one is split between two contrasting settings; the harsh reality of Franco’s Spain circa 1944, and a wild fantasy underground labyrinth. The film is eerie but seductive; violent but captivating; and contains some big emotional punches. One of the main reasons this works so well is Del Toro’s background in SFX – the physical effects and CGI are masterfully blended to create completely immersive, and non-distracting settings & characters. Like other true auteurs (Besson, Chan-Wook, Almodóvar, Noe, Jeunet…) you always know when you’re watching a Guillermo del Toro movie, and Pan’s Labyrinth is his masterpiece to date. TRAILER

Paprika Parade Full Satoshi Kon, Yasutaka Tsutsui, Doctor Atsuko Chiba, Detective Toshimi Konakawa, Doctor Kōsaku Tokita, Doctor Toratarō Shima, Megumi Hayashibara, Tōru Furuya, Tōru Emori, Katsunosuke Hori, 

Paprika (パプリカ, Papurika – Japan): a genuinely fearless animation that explores technology, mythology, reality, iconography, dreams, and the psyche. A 50/50 mix of breathtaking & vibrant visuals paired with thought-provoking concepts – you could show Paprika to an intellectual or a toddler, and they’d both be captivated for the duration. It put’s Hollywood’s ‘Cartoons are for kids lol’ attitude to shame, proving that you can do ‘Miyazaki for adults’. As the strapline proclaims: ‘This is your brain on Anime‘. Where can I buy this drug? I want more! TRAILER

Europa

Europa (Zentropa – Denmark): Before he was all about controversy and pushing everyone’s buttons Lars Von Trier actually started out as a promising straight up director. Part of his ‘Europa Trilogy’, Europa is LVT at his finest, employing 100 years of cinematic techniques to make this 1991 film feel like a 1930s Noir classic; told through fractured, surreal, and dreamlike visuals. While it’s not a weighty story, imagery is king here, and there are buckets of it – leaving you to wonder why he went in for Dogma, and hasn’t really shaken off that visual style since. TRAILER

Legend of the Drunkern Master 2

Drunken Master II (醉拳二, Zuì Quán Èr – Hong Kong): generally considered to be the one of the best Jackie Chan movies; and finishing with one of the greatest fight-scenes ever put to film, there’s a lot of grand claims that follow this picture. With a fairly weak plot, the film is completely defined by JC’s unique brand of entertaining slapstick, breathtaking, jaw-dropping, and highly innovative fight-choreography. He’s like Bruce Lee and Buster Keaton, but on better form than both here – mix it up with some unbelievably dangerous elements like fire-breathing, and hot coal stunts and you’re on to a winner. Most importantly, Drunken Master is great fun to watch. TRAILER

y tu mama tambien Diego Luna Gael García Bernal Maribel Verdú Alfonso Cuarón

Y Tu Mamá También (Mexico): Alfonso Cuaron is third director of the modern Mexican boys club (with Iñárritu and del Toro). Before the technical accomplishments of Gravity and Children of men, he made this indie-spirited, passionate, and fiery road-trip movie about love, loss, sexuality, and youth. All three leads are fantastic, but whereas the very young Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna went on to be Latino superstars, the female lead – Ana López Mercado – hasn’t worked since. A solid story, great performances set against a very interesting political background make this a genre-topping road trip to remember.  TRAILER

Ulrich Muhe The Lives Of Others

Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen – Germany): in the final throws of the GDR (East-Germany) a Stasi police officer has to spy on a writer and his lover, but slowly becomes immersed in their lives. The best thing about the intentionally slow pacing is that it gradually sucks you in, more and more, until you’re completely gripped. Ulrich Mühe steals the show with a dialogue-light, nuanced performance as officer HGW XX/7; going from a cold and by-the-book interrogation instructor, to a complex and divided human being. The other cast members, especially Sebastian Koch, put in stellar shifts too. On paper this sounds like a non-event, but it’s as solid a drama / thriller as you could ask for. TRAILER

Only Human Guillermo Toledo Marián Aguilera María Botto Fernando Ramallo

Only Human (Seres queridos – Spain-Argentina): a Jewish lady takes her new Palestinian partner to meet the family; naturally everyone’s dysfunctional. I know what you’re thinking: that sounds like Meet the Parents!? #LOL”. It’s absolutely not, because this is actually smart, witty, and laugh-out-loud funny. Although the story hinges on an intense political divide this film is as apolitical and innocent as they come – it almost feels like a ‘classic’ comedy; playing heavy on stereotypes, slapstick and some black comedy elements. My biggest complaint about Spanish cinema is that it’s usually over-dramatic, but it works perfectly in here. TRAILER

Which foreign film would you recommend for intermediates and why?

Please leave your film suggestions and reasons in the comments.
I’ll hopefully have enough to create a follow-up post – which would credit your entry and link back to your website.
Remember though, these are NOT the best foreign films per se, but the best ones for helping people explore the more interesting movies in world cinema.

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Have you always wanted to give foreign films a try but don’t know where to start?

There’s something for everyone in the ‘world cinema’ section of any shop – you just need to know what to look for. Foreign films aren’t all 4 hour-long arthouse softcore snooze-fests; although there are some… The only advice I would give to first-timers is to avoid dub-tracks at all costs and go straight for the subtitles (voice acting is generally stale, lips are out of sync, you lose the performance, and famous voices can distract you)

Below is a list of ‘Entry Level’ movies to get you started. There’s nothing too heavy on dialogue or ideas. These are ‘gateway’ movies to show that there’s an alternative to Hollywood’s churn-and-burn franchises. Some of the choices may seem obvious, but this list is aimed at absolute beginners. Most similar lists I’ve seen seem to stop at around 1970 listing ‘classic after ‘classic’; which aren’t necessarily the most accessible movies for novices.

THE RAID REDEMPTION gareth evans iko Uwais Joe Taslim Donny Alamsyah Yayan Ruhian Pierre Gruno Tegar Setrya Ray Sahetapy kick ass action film fighting scene machete watch streamThe Raid (‘Serbuan Maut‘ – Indonesia): imagine an action film where pretty much the entire runtime is nothing but bone-breaking, innovative, and mesmerising fight sequences! An action film that delivers on real, physical stunts and traditional fighting & filming techniques! An action film that says no to overblown and unnecessarily cheap-looking CGI, and gratuitous back story of 1D characters. The Raid (and The Raid 2) are movies that don’t disappoint. TRAILER

Run Lola Run Lola Rennt Tom Tykwer Moritz Bleibtreu Franka PotenteRun Lola, Run (‘Lola Rennt‘ – Germany): A simple concept played out three times, in a variety of frenetic, stylish, and a adrenaline-pumping ways. The plot follows a girlfriend’s attempts to bail out her debt-ridden boyfriend before his lenders send him to sleep with the fishes. You could watch this and think about free will, chance, the butterfly effect etc – or you can sit back, switch off, and let it hypnotise you. Bright, poppy, and with a pounding dance soundtrack, this plays out like an elongated music video. TRAILER

Hard Boiled 1992 John Woo, Yun-Fat Chow, Tony Chiu Wai Leung, Teresa Mo, Philip ChanHard Boiled (‘辣手神探‘ – Hong Kong): So you love the iconic gun fights from films like Face/Off, The Matrix, and Shoot ‘Em Up – awww, that’s cute. How about some genre-defining gunplay complete with doves, explosions-ahoy, and slow-motion bodies flying in all directions – delivered by the master of infinite-ammo action, John Woo. This is the peak of the ‘Heroic Bloodshed’ genre of action; basically kung fu but with guns. The final hospital shootout is among the best action scenes ever filmed. TRAILER

Love me if you dare Guillaume Canet, Marion Cotillard Yann Samuell La Vie En Rose Jeux d'enfantsLove me if You Dare (‘Jeux d’enfants‘ – France): Love stories, meh, I’m not usually a fan – but here’s one that’s quirky, cool and doesn’t star Zooey Deschenel (WTF, France?!?). It follows two best friends from children to pensioners as they struggle to be in the right place at the right time for their life-long love to truly work out. Any film this poetic, stylish and charming – to the point of warming your heart – could only be French! TRAILER

The Good Bad Weird Korean Blockbuster Dream CastThe Good, The Bad, The Weird (좋은 놈, 나쁜 놈, 이상한 놈Korea):  one of Korea’s best directors, and a handful of the country’s biggest stars in a story about three outlaws trying to find ancient treasure before the Japanese Army and other bandits. This is a fun historical romp that entertains for the duration, like an Indiana Jones film. It’s an Italian-style spaghetti western, with Hollywood sensibilities, but still remains a very ‘Korean’ feeling movie; combining some of the best aspects of 50 years of ‘world cinema’ together perfectly. TRAILER

Los Cronocrímenes Timecrimes Karra Elejalde, Candela Fernandez, Barbara Goenaga, Nacho Vigalondo, Juan InciarteTimecrimes (Spain): Whilst on vacation with his wife everyman Hector sees a lady undressing at the edge of his property, which sets off an elaborate chain of events. Here’s to the highconcept, low-budget timetravel film with no SFX! It’s hard to say more without ruining the film, but this one stands out for being completely rooted in the real world; the characters feel human, the baddie fumbles around, the settings are banal but creepy. Simple, clever, and effective. TRAILER (contains spoilers)

01 - The Streetfighter Street Fighter 1974 Sonny Chiba, Shinichi Chiba, Yutaka Nakajima, Goichi Yamada, Masashi Ishibashi, Jirō Chiba, Etsuko Shihomi, Masafumi Suzuki, Nobuo Kawai, Ken Kazama, Fumio WatanabeThe Street Fighter (激突!殺人拳 – Japan): when he refuses to kidnap a billionaire heir for the Yakuza, they try to kill the street fighter – which turns out to be a terrible decision for all involved. This is the first movie to get an R rating for violence alone, a major influence of a Mr Tarantino, and while it’s not as shocking as it would have been 40 years ago, it’s still a brilliant Martial Arts movie. It’s also been deemed important enough to be made available for free on the public domain (LINK) TRAILER

Troll Hunter Norway Film Review Movie Pics Screenshots Screencaps Otto Jespersen Glenn Erland Tosterud Johanna Mørck Tomas Alf Larsen Urmila Berg-Domaas Hans Morten Hansen Robert Stoltenberg Knut Nærum Eirik Bech André ØvredalTrollhunter (‘Trolljegeren‘ – Norway): mockdocumentary following an old school troll-hunter (mythical ones, not internet trolls) as he helps keep these magnificent beasts hidden from the unsuspecting public. This one’s a dead-pan slow-burner that packed with loads of tiny details about trolls and their mythology. The central character is played superbly, taking his job very seriously, which engages the viewer. Great black comedy / fantasy satire. TRAILER

Ring Ringu Nanako Matsushima Hiroyuki Sanada Rikiya Ōtaka Yoichi Numata Hideo NakataRing (Ringu – Japan): You know the drill; after watching a cursed VHS you get a phone call saying “you gonna die lol”, and you spend your last week in a pants-shittingly terrifying nightmare scenario. A victim of its own success, having being parodied everywhere, it’s easy to forget how scary this film is; it’s broody, atmospheric, restrained, and genuinely terrifying. The haunted mother of the J-Horror genre, which kick-started the trend of (usually botched) Asian horror remakes. TRAILER

Micmacs à tire-larigot Jean-Pierre Jeunet Non-stop shenanigans Dany Boon Yolande Moreau Dominique Pinon André Dussollier Jean-Pierre MarielleMicMacs (‘MicMacs à tire-larigot‘ – France): after losing his dad to a landmine, and being hit by a stray bullet  Brazil sets out to take his revenge on the two weapons manufacturers responsible. Despite being a sharp commentary on the arms industry the title translates as “non-stop shenanigans”, and that exactly what this is. A fun take on the classic ‘revenge’ story, this is from French visionary Jean-Pierre Jeunet; who somehow manages to capture surreal and dream-like worlds perfectly – and manages to make this modern film look and feel like a Golden Age classic. TRAILER

Which foreign film would you recommend for a beginner and why?

Please leave your film suggestions and reasons in the comments.
I’ll hopefully have enough to create a follow-up post – which would credit your entry and link back to your website.
Remember though, these are NOT the best foreign films per se, but the best ones for introducing people to world cinema.

Advice to aspiring (movie) bloggers.

For any readers thinking ‘this site is rubbish‘, ‘this guy knows nothing’, or ‘I’ve got loads of time to burn’, you may want to consider starting your own blog. The bottom line is that on WordPress it takes about 2 minutes, and it’s a brilliant way of making yourself feel important – “Yah, I run a Film Review website in my spare time, yah”. But before you dive at the deep end in – STOP! Think about the following…

TIme Lola Rennt Run LolaDo you have enough spare time? Writing, re-writing, editing, pictures, and posting takes longer than you’d think, but that’s only the first part. You should also be reading, linking, and commenting on similar sites. Movie bloggers should join the LAMB, participate in Blogathons, and after a while start your own blogathons… If you’re wanting a decent level of traffic and interaction, you have to invest a lot of time.

So you’ve convinced yourself you want to be a blogger? Before you register, the next two things will be the biggest factors in your blog’s future; so don’t rush them.

Heisenberg Say my name

It’s all in the name: ideally you want a unique and self-explanatory website title, with a matching URL. It also has to be memorable enough that fleeting visitors will be able to recall it and search for your site again. For me having “Film Reviews” in the title and URL works because it’s on several places in every page, which makes for some good SEO.

What’s your niche? Short articles? Long essays? Detailed analysis? Humour? Technical? Industry insider? Genre specific? Debate? A single country’s or region’s cinema? Pick a pigeonhole and stick to it. In my opinion, there are too many broad film review sites, all busting out generally similar reviews of the same films at the same time – the “one stop shop” market is packed. Pick a niche and fill the vacuum.

Once you’ve registered, here’s some more general advice gleaned from years with my nose stuck in the WP dashboard.

You’ve heard the hyperbolic cliché a bajillion times before; but content really is king. It’s your site: should be your content. There’s no point in regurgitating or aggregating stories & content from established movie news sites like IMDB / empire / SlashFilm… who themselves are constantly scanning studio, production and industry sites. Original articles, ideas, features, opinions and reviews will be why people tune in again and again.

Patience Baseball Great Escape

Be patient. Don’t worry about your first few months; unless you can log some serious hours it will take a while to find your stride, hone your own style and work out how to best layout your website, widgets and articles themselves. It can take years for your stats to truly snowball, and for your site to build up a loyal readership & subscribers.

Be critical, keep reading/re-reading your articles – looking for mistakes, and areas of improvement. Comb through your stats and find out what’s driving people to your site, and what else is keeping them there. It could be a particular franchise, actor, or catchphrase – once you know, write more about it.

Be honest; a lot of movie reviewers seem to ‘go with the flow’ and mark a film depending on how it’s generally received. Don’t worry about being the stick in the mud, tell it like you see it and readers will genuinely respect you more, comment more, read more…

Cinema Paradiso - Watch

Watch a film just before you review it: remember how awesome you thought a film was when you were ten years old, drunk or stoned? (You’re a legend if it’s all three) Watch it again to make sure it’s still good and funny!

Review the movie, don’t re-tell the entire plot. This is easily the biggest and most infuriating mistake of many ‘review’ sites – a sentence or two should cover the plot, any more and you’re probably in spoiler territory. If you write a couple of paragraphs about the story, you’re being a dick.

Use the wider WordPress community. As mentioned above, join an index site like the LAMB and participate in as much as you can. Seek out similar, but larger and more successful sites and leave meaningful comments & links there – don’t spam the same comment on every article about a particular topic.

Posting semi-regularly; is far better than bunching reviews together. Start aiming for 2-3 posts a week to keep people interested and coming back to your site. The ‘schedule’ feature in WP is great, use and abuse it!

Pictures - Bean Whistlers Mother

Pictures help: I went several years with no pictures, thinking short reviews were snappy enough. Now the site looks a lot slicker, and hits from image-specific search engines make up around 30% of all incoming traffic. Some pictures have more hits than the actual review of that movie.

Finally, some advice from one of Britain’s top film critics. The spectacularly quiffed Mark Kermode – as pointed out in his book The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex – lists five essential components to proper for any movie criticism (which applies to all writing)

  1. Opinion
  2. Description
  3. Contextualisation
  4. Analysis
  5. Entertainment.

Kermode The Good The Bad The Multiplex

keep-calm-and-get-to-the-choppa-49Most importantly, ENJOY BLOGGING This should be a fun hobby, not a chore. If you ever feel like you’re beginning to loathe writing, GET TO ZE CHOPPA and escape before it’s too late! It’s worth taking some time off to clear your head and put some good content together if you hit the wall.

If you’ve been mulling it over for a long time, the best advice I can give you is to start as soon as you can; you’ll wish you’d done it years ago.

This gallery contains 51 photos.

Konichiwa! Brief interruption from regular film reviewing schedule here. As mentioned earlier in the year, the ongoing JAPAN-O-RAMA feature I’ve been running – in conjunction with some of my favourite movie bloggers – was brought around after I booked a trip from Scotland to Japan. It’s been and gone, and I’m not even going to …

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Since I started this site I’ve been bleating on about how much I believe that Korea is one of the strongest film industries in the world regarding the actors, directors and the canon of associated staff that it takes to produce world-class, top-notch films. It looks like Hollywood is finally catching up, recognising this talent, inviting the cream of the crop over to tinsel town. Here’s a list of my favourites that have made the jump, so far…

Park Chan Wook Films Joint Security Area, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Oldboy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK, Thirst, StokerDirector – Park-Chan Wook (박찬욱): easily Korea’s most famous cinematic export, and firmly established as one of the world’s greatest directors with over a decade’s worth of acclaimed movies, including; Joint Security Area, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Oldboy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK, and Thirst. His trademark style? Meticulous direction, spellbinding visuals, powerful storytelling, and often violent & disturbing subject matter. When Hollywood came a-knockin’ he managed to get Nicole Kidman, Jacki Weaver, and Tony & Ridley Scott involved in his first English-language movie – Stoker, which was well-received.

Lee Byung HunActor – Lee Byung-hun (이병헌;): top of the K-actor pack in my books. He’s starred in some of the biggest and best Korean movies of all time: JSA: Joint Security Area, A Bittersweet Life, The Good The Bad The Weird, and I Saw The Devil. Has recently brought his Asian clout to Hollywood as ‘Storm Shadow’ in the past 2 GI Joe movies, and will appear in RED 2 this summer. He can do everything from rom-coms, to flawed heroes, to villains, and his 20-year career’s been so strong that he has his own Wiki page just for awards and nominations.

Kim Jee Woon - Tale of Two Sisters, Bittersweet Life, The Good The Bad The Weird, I Saw The Devil, The Last Stand

Director – Kim Ji-Woon (김지운): another director running with a hot streak of impressive movies: A Tale of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life, The Good The Bad The Weird, and I Saw The Devil. For his debut American production he managed to cast Arnold Schwarzenegger (and coax arguably one of his best performances after a long line of duffers), Forrest Whitaker, Eduardo Noriega, Peter Stromare, and the prolific Luiz Guzman. While it was not on the same level as his national works, The Last Stand far outshone Sylvester Stallone’s attempt at a similar genre movie – Bullet to the Head.

Bae DoonaActress – Bae Doona (배두나): Breaking out internationally in Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, and later The Host & Air Doll, Bae was picked up by the Wachowski brothers for Cloud Atlas, for which she was unanimously praised, sealing her a place in their next film, Jupiter Ascending.

RainActor – Rain (Jung Ji-Hoon, ): broke through with I’m A Cyborg, but That’s OK – and immediately jumped over to star in both Speed Racer and Ninja Assassin. Hasn’t done much since, but that’s OK too, because he’s also a singer, songwriter, dancer and model.

Bong Joon-ho Memories of Murder, The Host, Mother, SnowpiercerDirector – Bong Joon-ho (봉준호): despite having less films than the previous two directors, they still pack a punch: Memories of Murder, The Host, and Mother, all being successful exports. Bong’s next film is the much-anticipated sci-fi thriller Snowpiercer, starring Chris Evans, Jamie Bell John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, and…

Song Kang-ho.. Actor – Song Kangho (송강호): One of the most watchable and charismatic actors in Korea today, he has a magnetism that can only be described as ‘star power’ and a range that most actors can only dream of. Appearing in many of Koreas biggest movies: Shiri, The Quiet Family, JSA Joint Security Area, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, The Good The Bad The Weird, and Thirst – I’m excited to see that Bong Joon-ho has pulled him across the Pacific.

As you can tell, it’s quite a tight and incestuous list, as the great combinations of elite directors and actors stick together, to create world-class film after world-class film.

But have they been good Korea moves for those involved? (Sorry, had to put that in) You could argue that something is being lost in translation, as the two released directorial efforts, although strong, aren’t on the same level as their previous works, and the actors, despite being in some big roles, are usually word-shy, or over-dubbed in post-production. To that, I would say… so what? Let’s throw Nolan, Scorsese, Bale, Fassbender and Streep into South Korea and make them do a Korean film, speaking Korean, and see how that sits with a completely different culture!

South Korea Flag

Remember this flag, as it may – someday – replace The Hollywood Sign!

Although it’s quite a recent trend, and a fairly short list in the grand scheme of things, I hope that this cross-pollination of talent  continues, and shines a bright light on everyone’s previous – overlooked – work in K-Cinema.

Note: there’s a load of Korean Born / Korean Descendent actors that have spent the majority of their life working and acting in America like Rick Yune, Ken Jeong, Sandra Oh, C.S. Lee, John Cho, Sung Kang, Daniel Dae Kim and so on… but to include them would be cheating.