Usually with mainstream Hollywood cinema, it is hit-&-miss and we don’t get a lot of originality. Everything seems to be some sort of remake, revamp, or regurgitation in some shape or form. But some of the directors who are now dishing out some of the best best films started of with non-English language features.
I have listed some directors below – their first movie and how I got introduced to their work, and what their first English language début was.
Michael R. Roskam
Roskam released an unusual Belgian drama/thriller called Bullhead back in 2011.
The film is about a cattle farmer called Jacky (played superbly by Matthias Schoenaerts) who gets involved with a well-known crooked meat-trader.
When Jacky was a kid, something horrible and unimaginable happened to him. These events changed the way Jacky would see the world for the rest of his days.
The events leave you with no choice but to feel a great deal of sympathy for Jacky. In a nutshell, the man is incapable of showing emotion, falling in love, or controlling his rage – he also injects himself with the same steroids that he uses to to beef-up his cattle (excuse the pun).
Matthias Schoenaerts gives one of the best performances I have ever seen on-screen, and completely carries thr movie. The man is an unpredictable powerhouse, and every second that passes, you have no idea if he is going to explode.
The cinematography is beautiful and paints Belgium in such a nice light. When you’re watching Bullhead you are aware that what you are viewing is quite unique and unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
The story is a hard one to watch, with a lot of it being told through emotion. Although the viewer does feel sympathy for Jacky, we are also frightened of him, and how unpredictable the man is. This only adds to the thriving tension that is constantly flowing throughout the film
Roskam went on to be one of the last directors to direct the late James Gandolfini with his English Language debut, The Drop, which also starred Tom Hardy , Noomi Rapace, and also, Matthias Schoenaerts (another great performance from Schoenaerts but in my opinion, not enough camera was given time to show us what he was really capable of).
Superb film though
Miguel Angel Vivas
Miguel Angel Vivas’ first feature-length movie was Spanish home-invasion shocker Kidnapped. Kidnapped still stands as one of the most brutal and relentless home-invasion movies to ever be released.
The story of a gang of masked men who break into a home and hold a family hostage. They start to inflict some gruesome and hideous acts on the family while making their loved ones watch.
I am big fan of Spanish movies and Kidnapped is by-far the most gruesome one that I have seen. It also caught me by surprise and has some clever twists in-store for the viewer.
Miguel Angel Vivas has just released his first English language movie – A new zombie horror called Extinction that recently played at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival.
The film has picked up some great reviews along the way and no doubt it will open doors to bigger and better features.
Although films these days seem to be overpopulated with the undead, and all things zombie, Extinction looks to be a fresh take on the sub-genre.
Alejandro González Iñárritu
One of the most popular directors working in the film industry today. Before he was directing A-listers like Sean Penn and Leonardo DiCaprio he released a lot of shorts then his first feature-length, the brilliant, Amores Perros.
The film is quite brutal and some scenes are pretty hardcore, espeically if you’re a dog-lover. Fine performance form a young Gael Garcia Bernal – a role that paved his way to becoming one of the top names in independent cinema.
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s first English language feature (I hope I’m right) was the brilliantly bleak thriller, 21 Grams that starred Sean Penn Naomi Watts, and Benicio Del Toro.
Since 21 grams, Alejandro González Iñárritu has gone from strength-to-strength releasing fantastic films like Babel, and Birdman and getting some of the biggest names in Hollywood waiting in line to work with him. At the same time, he still remains loyal and continues to release Spanish language movies like Biutiful .
His new film which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy is called The Revenant and looks absolutely stunning. The Revenant is due for released later this year.
Nicolas Winding Refn
Before Refn had Ryan Gosling as his go-to-guy for the leading man. Refn released Danish crime drama, The Pusher (1996) which spawned a very powerful trilogy.
Not only did The Pusher gain Refn a name as one of the hottest new directors around, but it also brought a fantastic new actor out into the light – Mr Mads Mikkelsen (Dr Hannibal Lector from Hannibal TV series)
Refn went on to direct Bronson, Valhalla Rising Drive, Only God Forgives and is currently working on a new horror film titled, The Neon Demon
Norwegian writer/director Tommy Wirkola first burst into the scene with his much loved Nazi zomedy Dead Snow (I’m sure it was his second film but we are featuring it anyways)
Dead Snow was a lot of fun, was it scary? no, not at all, but it had some impressive gore and decent looking Nazi zombies.
It was also heavily inspired by all of our favourite horrors throughout the years, which is always a joy to watch.
Dead Snow spawned a sequel which was also really good. The sequel had more money behind it, and was more of an American production and Wirkola was able to take things to the next level. Personally I enjoyed the first installment more, but it was still a good sequel with great scenes. and genuine laugh out loud moments, so I can’t fault it in anyway.
In-between Dead Snow 2, Wirkola released his first English language feature which was Hansel & Gretal: Witch Hunters and starred Jeremy Renner & Gemma Arterton.
The film was a lot of fun and was quite dark in places. A lot of people took this movie far too serious and didn’t realise that Wirkola set out to exactly what he had planned, to make a fun entertaining movie.
French director/writer Pascal Laugier released his first ever feature which was The Making Of Brotherhood Of The Wolf. Before Pascal would go on to release one of best horror films ever, he was the assistant to legendary director Christoph Gans.
His first feature-length was a haunted house, ghost story called Saint Ange, AKA The House Of Voices which is very much an underrated film, and well worth your time if you can manage to find the thing.
Then Pascal Laugier released his second feature-length, and he became part of the French Extreme Movement overnight. He had just released a film that was making people faint and vomit at screenings, that film was the flawless and mesmerising, Martyrs.
4 quiet years later (think he directed a few episodes of some tv program) it was announced that his first English language feature was going to be a mystery/horror called The Tall Man starring Jessica Biel.
I loved The Tall Man. Martyrs it was not, but it was a completely different film. With House Of Voices he focused on a haunted house tale – with Martyrs he focused on the pain threshold and how much pain one human body could take before breaking, and with The Tall Man he gave us a cleverly crafted mystery film with elements of horror about a run-down town that children have been going missing from. The legend has it that it’s mysterious supernatural figure known only as The Tall Man.
Julien Maury & Alexandre Bustillo
Both came on the scene with their French shocker, Inside. Both directors quickly fitted into the same category as Pascal Laugier as part of the Extreme French Movement (I love that title).
After Inisde, they went on to direct a dark, vampire/fantasy film called Livid(e). Livid(e) was a great flick, although mixed reviews, I love that both these guys were sticking with the horror genre, because they damn good at it. In 2014 they continued with another French horror, this time taking a stab at the serial-killer genre with Among The Living.
Now, Bustillo & Maury are going to be the gentlemen who will bring us The Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel as their English language debut, Leatherface.
A lot of people do not like the fact that Leatherface is getting made, and we can’t blame them as a lot of these movies don’t turn out to be all that good. I can take comfort in the fact that I am familiar with all of their work to-date and I have no doubt in my mind that these guys will prove that they have something really special in store for us. Leatherface is going to be one hell of a film, no matter what approach they take with it.
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