Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Ryan Gosling To Star In 'Blade Runner 2' Ryan Gosling To Star In 'Blade Runner 2' Watch: New Trailer For 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Flies Into The Galaxy Watch: New Trailer For 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Flies Into The Galaxy Watch: First Teaser Trailer For Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight' Watch: First Teaser Trailer For Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight' 'Macbeth,' Todd Haynes' 'Carol,' Pixar's 'Inside Out' Lead 2015 Cannes Film Festival Line-Up 'Macbeth,' Todd Haynes' 'Carol,' Pixar's 'Inside Out' Lead 2015 Cannes Film Festival Line-Up Watch: Zack Snyder Teases The Full Trailer For ‘Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' & Upcoming IMAX Event Watch: Zack Snyder Teases The Full Trailer For ‘Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' & Upcoming IMAX Event Ryan Gosling & Edgar Wright Talk 'Lost River,' Shooting In Detroit, And Advice For First Time Filmmakers Ryan Gosling & Edgar Wright Talk 'Lost River,' Shooting In Detroit, And Advice For First Time Filmmakers Netflix & Marvel's 'Daredevil': The Pros, The Cons, The Verdict Netflix & Marvel's 'Daredevil': The Pros, The Cons, The Verdict Netflix's 'Daredevil' Is An Awesome Achievement And Marvel's Most Graphic & Grounded Effort To Date Netflix's 'Daredevil' Is An Awesome Achievement And Marvel's Most Graphic & Grounded Effort To Date Watch: Action-Packed Footage In 2 New “Avengers: Age of Ultron’ TV Spots, Plus Watch Interviews With The Entire Cast Watch: Action-Packed Footage In 2 New “Avengers: Age of Ultron’ TV Spots, Plus Watch Interviews With The Entire Cast Watch: Trailer For 'The Great Beauty' Director Paolo Sorrentino's 'Youth' Starring Michael Caine & Rachel Weisz Watch: Trailer For 'The Great Beauty' Director Paolo Sorrentino's 'Youth' Starring Michael Caine & Rachel Weisz Joss Whedon Says He's Not Making 'Avengers: Infinity War' Because It's "A Young Man’s Game" Joss Whedon Says He's Not Making 'Avengers: Infinity War' Because It's "A Young Man’s Game" Watch: Take 7 Minutes And Learn The History Of Film Editing Watch: Take 7 Minutes And Learn The History Of Film Editing 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' Called "Amazing" And "More Emotional" With "Insane Action" After First Screening 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' Called "Amazing" And "More Emotional" With "Insane Action" After First Screening Joss Whedon Calls 'Jurassic World' Clip "70s Era Sexist" Joss Whedon Calls 'Jurassic World' Clip "70s Era Sexist" The 20 Most Anticipated Films Of The 2015 Tribeca Film Festival The 20 Most Anticipated Films Of The 2015 Tribeca Film Festival The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki

5 Great & 5 Disappointing English-Language Debuts By Foreign-Language Directors

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist February 28, 2013 at 11:01AM

This Friday sees the release of the much-anticipated "Stoker." The melodrama would probably be of note just because it stars Mia Wasikowksa and Nicole Kidman, but it's even more so because it marks the English-language debut of acclaimed Korean filmmaker Park Chan-Wook, the man behind "Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance," "Oldboy" and "Thirst," among others. The film lands hot on the heels of "The Last Stand," from Park's countryman Kim Ji-Woon, and a few months from the English-language debut of another Korean filmmaker, Bong Joon-Ho's "Snowpiercer." The three are only the latest international filmmakers to seek wider audiences and acclaim by making a film in the English language.
11

"Dark Water" - Walter Salles
"Dark Water" - Walter Salles (2005)
Brazilian director Walter Salles, known primarily for art house smash "The Motorcycle Diaries," decided to make his English language debut with "Dark Water," a moldy horror movie based on a Japanese film directed by Hideo Nakata, who made a similarly unimpressive domestic debut with "The Ring Two" (see above). "Dark Water," ostensibly about the terror that befalls a young single mother (Jennifer Connelly, in another disastrous post-Oscar dud) and her young daughter (Ariel Gade) after they move into a shady apartment building, plays like a laundry list of things that are laughably not, at all, in any way scary: mold (well maybe this is scarier if you have allergies), puddles, Roosevelt Island, and John C. Reilly. The central mystery, about a young girl that went missing from the same apartment building years earlier, never builds appropriately and Salles, who has a more impressionistic style than the story demanded, poorly handles the suspense, even with a cast of solidly weird character actors/red herrings (among them: Tim Roth, Dougray Scott and Pete Postlethwaite). Glacially paced and muddily photographed, "Dark Water" was one of a host of Americanized Asian horror tales (others included "The Grudge," "The Uninvited" and the instantly forgettable, one-time Wes Craven project "Pulse") that mistook a vaguely menacing, eerie atmosphere for actual scariness, poorly grafting a Western sensibility onto things that worked much better in their original, Eastern form. No wonder that, after some short film noodles, Salles would return with the beat generation tale "On the Road."

"My Blueberry Nights" - Wong Kar-Wai
"My Blueberry Nights" - Wong Kar-Wai (2007)
Coming as it did from one of the most acclaimed filmmakers alive, the man behind "In The Mood For Love," widely regarded as the best film of the 2000s, excitement was obviously high ahead of the premiere of "My Blueberry Nights," the English-language debut of director Wong-Kar Wai. It starred singer Norah Jones, in her acting debut, as a woman who's traveling through the country to try and recover from a love affair, meeting various lonely figures, including Jude Law's Mancunian-in-exile cafe owner, David Strathairn's alcoholic cop and Rachel Weisz as his estranged wife, and Natalie Portman as a broke poker player (Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, also features in a small role). On paper, it looked like pretty much the best thing ever, and there are things to like it about it -- it looks typically gorgeous, even though Kar-Wai had split from regular DoP Christopher Doyle in favor of Darius Khondji, and Strathairn's performance in particular is excellent. But something is lost in translation; the film feels like the product of a film student smitten by Wong's earlier work, rather than the real deal, and lacks in any real substance. The emotion and dialogue feels false even in the hands of talented actors, Jones is something of a blank at the center, and it somehow feels like the filmmaker's heart isn't quite in it. The film picked up poor reviews when it premiered at Cannes, and Wong returned home for his long-in-the-offing martial arts opus "The Grandmaster," which finally hit cinemas in China last month.

Honorable Mentions: On the good side of things, while Francois Truffaut's "Fahrenheit 451" doesn't stand with the best of his work, it's a pretty solid first (and only) attempt at English-language cinema. Further back, Fritz Lang didn't skip a beat when he came to America to make "Fury," while Luis Bunuel's "The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe" is worth checking out too, although perhaps not one for the canon. We adore Roman Polanski's English-language debut "Repulsion," but we've written about it a lot of late here (the same is true of Ang Lee's "Sense & Sensiblity"), while Werner Herzog's "Where The Green Ants Dream" is better than its reputation. Milos Forman's "Taking Off" is underrated, as is Ingmar Bergman's "The Touch," while more recently, Alfonso Cuaron, Susanne Bier and Tomas Alfredson made impressive English-language films with "A Little Princess," "Things We Lost In The Fire" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."

On the less happy side of things, as we've already seen, remaking your own work is never a good idea, as George Sluizer, Ole Bornedal and Danny and Oxide Pang demonstrated with "The Vanishing," "Nightwatch" and "Bangkok Dangerous." Like Wong Kar-Wai, Chen Kaige got lost in translation with "Killing Me Softly," while Fassbinder's "Despair" is far from his best work. And more recently, Thomas Vinterberg and Oliver Hirschbiegel both dropped the ball with "It's All About Love" and "The Invasion."

This article is related to: Features, Feature, Stoker, Wong Kar-wai, Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Walter Salles , Chan-wook Park, Fernando Meirelles, John Woo, Alejandro Amenabar, Michelangelo Antonioni, Lars von Trier


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates