First off the bat, I would like to preclude several directors from the following list. Yes, directors such as Charlie Chaplin, Billy Wilder, Michael Curtiz, Frank Capra, Douglas Sirk and Alfred Hitchcock were all foreign born, but they are also so embedded in American film culture and Hollywood history that sometimes one forgets they are indeed foreign. With that said, allow us to move on.
In celebration of American Independence this week, I hand you a bit of a twist on the whole thing. A list of films about America and the American experience, made by directors who are more known, or at least equally known, for their work in their native lands. Some of these films take a positive spin, some a negative, but all are films that breathe life into a land that may not be all that known to their respective creators. So without further ado, here is that very list.
10. United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006)
The thing that made this film work while many other 9/11 films did not was the casting of unknowns in the roles of the flight’s fated heroes. It became all that much real – all that more intense. Directed by Englishman Paul Greengrass, whose Bloody Sunday was an equally intense look at the Irish uprising, United 93 is one of the most harrowing films of the post 9/11 cinematic world.
Probably the least known of the films on this list, German auteur Wim Wenders shows us a world of post 9/11 paranoia in America. Starring Michelle Williams and John Diehl, this film which got barely any notice when it played for its rather truncated release time, is a film that people need to search out to watch, but it is a film that you will be glad you did.
After two decades of brilliant and beautiful work in Chinese cinema, Hong Kong master auteur Wong Kar-wai tried his hand at an American road movie. Many critics claimed it as a failed experiment, but this critic was surprised at how much he liked it. not as alluring as something like In The Mood For Love or Fallen Angels, but still this is a quite stunning film to watch.
The Taiwanese director has made a habit of working in Hollywood these days, but this was the first of his American films. In this deeply resonating film, Lee takes a look at the societal taboos of 1970′s American suburbia, with great and tragic performances from Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood and Sigourney Weaver.
I suppose I could have just as easily put the Italian spaghetti western maestro’s Once Upon A Time in The West on here, but this epic tale of organized crime speaks so well, for better or for worse, about the underbelly of early twentieth century era America. Originally a brilliant four and a half hour tale of self-destruction, US distributors butchered it (against Leone’s wishes) to a two hour and nineteen minute fiasco of a film. Luckily the original version has been restored.
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