Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Top Ten: Oscar's Favorite Foreign Filmmakers

tuesday top ten returns! It's for the list-maker in me and the list-lover in you

The Cannes film festival wrapped this weekend (previous posts) and the most recent Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, The Secret in Their Eyes is still in the midst of a successful US run. That Oscar winning Argentinian film came to us from director Juan Jose Campanella. It's his second film to be honored by the Academy (Son of the Bride was nominated ten years back). The Academy voters obviously like Campanella and in some ways he's a Hollywood guy. When he's not directing Argentinian Oscar hopefuls he spends time making US television with episodes of Law & Order, House and 30 Rock under his belt.

So let's talk foreign-language auteurs. Who does Oscar love most?

[The film titles discussed in this article will link to Netflix pages -- if available -- should you be curious to see the films]

Best Director winners Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) and Milos Forman
Amadeus and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest)

Please Note: Filmmakers like Ang Lee (Taiwan), Milos Forman (Czech) and Louis Malle (France) have won multiple notices for their foreign language work with the Academy but I'm restricting this list to those directors who worked primarily in their native tongue throughout their careers. The three aforementioned men all had their biggest Oscar successes from English language films.

The ranking that follows are somewhat arbitrary since we're
dealing with different kinds of attention paid.

Honorable Mention: Ettore Scola (Italy), Bo Widerberg (Sweden), Carlos Saura (Spain) and Zhang Yimou (China) each helmed 3 Foreign Film Nominees over the years... the latter two for submissions from two different countries. Denys Arcand (Canada) and Nikita Mikhalkov (Russia) have each directed 3 Nominees one of which won the prize (The Barbarian Invasions and Burnt By The Sun, respectively). Mikhalkov, who also acts in his pictures, recently completed the sequel to his Oscar winner called Burnt by the Sun 2, but reviews have been brutal so we aren't banking on seeing it in the Oscar lineup next year. Finally, Jose Luis Garci (Spain) directed 4 nominated films, winning once for Volver a Empezar.

let's make this a top dozen

12 István Szabó (Hungary) 1938 - still working
4 Foreign Film Nominees (1 win)
all Oscar categories: His filmography has earned 5 nominations, 1 win

Like Spain's Garci, the last of the honorable mentions, Szabó directed 4 Foreign Film Nominees, winning once. But in the case of Szabó, it's a more surprising achievement. Unlike Spain, Hungary has rarely won much favor with Oscar. In fact, after Szabó's last nomination, Hungarian films have been completely ignored by the Academy.

In a remarkable hot streak in the Eighties, Szabo had four (!) Best Foreign Film nominations: Bizalom (1980), Mephisto (1981 winner), Colonel Redl (1985) and Hanussen (1988). The latter three all starred Klaus Maria Brandauer who became a fixture in international cinema after the success of Mephisto. It helps to speak several languages and be brilliant -- just ask Christoph Waltz (Yes, there are earlier incarnations of all success stories). Brandauer might have even won the Supporting Actor Oscar for his sterling work in Out of Africa (1985) had voters not been feeling sentimental for that Cocoon fella. Oscar was SO sentimental in the 80s.

But where were we? Ah yes. Szabo moved over to English language cinema (directing Annette Bening to a nomination for Being Julia) but he hasn't yet equalled those early Hungarian successes.

11 Mario Monicelli (Italy) 1915 - still living
2 nominations (writing) | 4 Foreign Film Nominees
all Oscar categories: His filmography has earned 6 nominations, 0 wins

He's best known for kicking off the commedia all'italiana movement in cinema and for the classic Big Deal on Madonna Street but Oscar's love for him stretches over six movies (His two screenplay nominations weren't even from his foreign film nominees). Monicelli turns 95 (!) this summer. He hasn't directed a feature film since 2006 but you may have seen him as an actor in the Diane Lane vehicle Under the Tuscan Sun (2003).


10 René Clément (France) 1913-1996
1 Foreign Film Nominee | 2 Honorary Foreign Film Wins (before category existed)
all Oscar categories: His filmography has earned 4 nominations and 2 honorary statues

The Academy gave out 8 special foreign language film Oscars before they decided they needed to give foreign films their own category and René Clément won the prize twice during those years. In those days Oscar only had eyes for France, Italy and Japan. The Walls of Malapaga (1949) was his first win and he won again shortly thereafter for his internationally renowned classic Forbidden Games (1952). Games even won a second Oscar nomination for story two years later once it finally hit American screens (this is before they changed the rules to prevent films from competing in more than one year). That film was in some ways the perfect embodiment of Oscar's foreign type before Oscar even knew it had one: young children as protagonists + World War II.

The Academy created the foreign language film category as we know it in 1956 and Clément's was there again as a shortlister for the Emile Zola adaptation Gervaise (1956).Though that film was his last foreign film nominee, he continued to make movies for another two decades including such well regarded films as Purple Noon (1960) and Paris Brûle-t-il? (1966) which received two Oscar nominations in other categories.

09 Luis Buñuel (Spain) 1900-1983
2 nominations (writing) | 3 Foreign Film Nominees (1 win)
all Oscar categories: His filmography has earned 5 nominations, 1 win

Oscar arrived at the Buñuel party conspicuously late. They even ignored Belle de Jour (1967) one of the best films ever, despite awards attention elsewhere. Sometimes they are well behind the curve. Notice how long it took Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) and Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon) to win attention. In some ways it's surprising that AMPAS got there at all with Buñuel given the director's penchant for sexuality and surrealism. Oscar somewhat prefers the chaste and the literal as you know.

and the years of critical acclaim preceding it, opened their hearts to his work at the dawn of the '70s. His follow up, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), was a double nominee. Its win in the Foreign Film category has to count as one of the best but most unusual choices in the category's entire history. But then Oscar was at his most adventurous in the early 70s. Oscar and Buñuel had one last fling with That Obscure Object of Desire (1977). It was also Buñuel's last affair with the cinema. The father of cinematic surrealism was in his late 70s at the time and died in 1983.

08 Andrzej Wajda (Poland) 1926 - still working
1 Honorary Oscar | 4 Foreign Film Nominees
all Oscar categories: His filmography has earned 4 nominations, 0 wins and 1 honorary statue

Poland's most influential filmmaker was most revered by awards bodies in the latter half of the 70s and early 80s. He won 3 Foreign Film Oscar nominations in that period: Promised Land (1975), The Maids of Wilko (1979... retitled The Young Girls of Wilko) and Man of Iron (1981). To prove that it wasn't a temporary love, Oscar handed him an honorary statue for "five decades of extraordinary film direction" in March of 2000. He won a fourth foreign film nomination recently for Katyn (2007). His lauded filmography also includes Ashes and Diamond (1958) and the French biopic Danton (1983) starring Gerard Depardieu which received awards attention elsewhere but strangely no Oscar heat.

07 Jan Troell (Sweden) 1931- still working
2 nominations (directing, writing) | 3 Foreign Film Nominees | 1 Best Picture Nominee
all Oscar categories: His filmography has earned 7 nominations, 0 wins

He's often forgotten in discussions of Scandinavian cinema (at least here in the US) since Ingmar Bergman casts such a long shadow. But Oscar was quite fond of him up until recently. His high water mark with the Academy was Utvandrarna (The Emigrants) -- strangely not on DVD -- one of only five pictures to ever achieve both Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture nominations. Given Oscar history it's a bit odd that the Academy didn't jump on his latest picture Everlasting Moments (2008) and even with Max von Sydow in the lead role, Hamsun (1996) didn't win attention either.

06 Pedro Almodovar (Spain) 1949- still working
2 nominations (directing, writing) | 1 Oscar (writing) | 2 Foreign Film Nominees (1 win)
all Oscar categories: His filmography has earned 5 nominations, 2 wins

Spain's most famous living filmmaker has a fascinating Oscar history. The Academy embraced his international breakthrough Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) but then ignored the next ten years of his career. His Oscar comeback was the mature and wondrous All About My Mother (1999) which took the top prize, despite content that would normally scare them away. Given his global fame and AMPAS's familiarity with his mad melodramedic skill, you'd think he'd have more nominated films to his credit. Part of the problem is that the Spanish Academy, which makes Spain's choice about Foreign Film representation, hasn't always been gaga for Pedro's work. Famously they passed over Talk to Her (2002) in its year so Oscar handed that recent masterpiece a screenplay Oscar and a directing nomination instead. It's no small stretch of the imagination to say that it would've beat the German winner Nowhere in Africa that year to become Pedro's second winner in the category. Volver (2006) was weirdly snubbed in the Foreign category but managed the even more high profile Best Actress nomination and became Pedro's biggest stateside hit if you don't adjust for inflation.

05 Francois Truffaut (France) 1932-1984
3 nominations (writing, directing) | 3 Foreign Film Nominees (1 win)
all Oscar categories: His films have earned 8 nominations, 1 win

This icon started his career as an obsessive cinephile and provoactive critic at the magazine Cahiers du Cinéma. His feature debut, The 400 Blows (1959) kicked off the French New Wave and proved to be one of the most influential and acclaimed films ever made. That film won him the best director prize at the Cannes Film Festival at only 27 years of age. It also netted him his first Oscar nomination and more would follow. His classics include seminal features like Jules et Jim (1962) as well as Oscar-recognized favorites like Stolen Kisses (1968), Day for Night (1973 -winner), The Story of Adele H (1975) and The Last Metro (1980).

Film buffs will note that he also acted, even receiving a BAFTA nomination for appearing in his admirer Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Here's Spielberg talking about working with him.

04 Akira Kurosawa (Japan) 1910-1998
1 Honorary Oscar | 1 nomination (directing) | 3 Foreign Film Nominees (1 win) | 1 Honorary Foreign Film Win (before category existed)
all Oscar categories:
His films have earned 12 nominations, 2 wins and 2 honorary statues

Japan's most famous filmmaker spent over sixty years working in the cinema and his legacy is enormous. The Oscars don't paint a full enough portrait of his cinematic impact. Only two of his films won the Foreign Oscar: the game changing Rashomon (1951) which people have been riffing on ever since, making it one of the true must-sees for cultural literacy, and Dersu Uzala (1975) which actually won the prize for Russia rather than Japan. His other nominated films were Dodes'ka-Den (1970) and Kagemusha (1980). I can't recall the circumstances which led his King Lear style epic Ran (1985) to ineligibility in the foreign film category but the Academy compensated with a well deserved Best Director nomination for that classic.

Still, despite what would be more than plentiful Oscar attention for most filmmakers, this portrait feels incomplete. Major classics like The Hidden Fortress (1958), Yojimbo (1961) or The Seven Samurai (1954) had to make due with technical nods or none at all. They sure did owe him that honorary Oscar they gave him in 1990 "For cinematic accomplishments that have inspired, delighted, enriched and entertained worldwide audiences and influenced filmmakers throughout the world."

* *
The Top Three

Oscar's most beloved trinity of foreign language film auteurs (in terms of this list's criteria) had the good golden fortune to be doing incredible work during the decades when US movie culture was most enamored of foreign fare. That is, at least since the silent film era, before sound came crashing into cinema toppling it like the tower of Babel.

03 Vittorio de Sica (Italy) 1901-1974
1 nomination (acting) | 3 Foreign Film Nominees (2 wins) | 2 Honorary Foreign Film Wins (before there was a category)
all Oscar categories: His (directorial) filmography has earned 10 nominations, 3 wins and 2 honorary statues

The Bicycle Thief and The Garden of the Fitzi-Continis... the titles alone sound mythic somehow, having amassed so much cultural heft over the years. Those two Oscar winning classics aren't true bookends of de Sica's acclaimed filmography but since one is from the 40s and one from the 70s they work as such. This Italian neorealist and prolific writer/actor/director was celebrated often and seemingly continuously from Shoe-Shine (1947's honorary winner) through his supporting actor nomination for A Farewell to Arms (1957) and onward until the Fitzi-Continis. His swansong The Voyage (1974) didn't win awards but it was a fitting goodbye, since it allowed him to reteam him with his frequent muse Sophia Loren.

Loren & de Sica. They made beautiful films together.

I was a bit surprised to see his name above Kurosawa's in this listing given their name recognition value these days but he's a truly giant figure from world cinema history, popularizing neorealism in the late 40s and delivering multiple classics. He was also one of the principle authors of Sophia Loren's legend having directed her in both her Oscar winning role in Two Women (1961) and in celebrated films like Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1964's foreign Oscar winner) and Marriage, Italian Style (1964). He also directed American screen giants like Montgomery Clift in Indiscretions of an American Wife and Shirley Maclaine in Woman Times Seven (she was Golden Globe nominated for that multiple role performance).
02 Ingmar Bergman (Sweden) 1918-2007
9 nominations (directing, writing, producing) | Irving Thalberg Award | 3 Foreign Film Winners | 1 Best Picture Nominee
all Oscar categories: His filmography has earned 21 nominations, 7 wins and a Thalberg

This legendary Swede's body of work is so deep and impressive (not to mention deeply immersed in the human condition) that listing his numerous Oscar successes wouldn't even acknowledge what some would argue is his greatest achievement (Persona, 1966). That black and white masterwork in which a mute actress (Bergman's muse and lover Liv Ullmann) and her nurse (Bibi Andersson) become pyschologically fused has influenced much work since, including two of the greatest films from other world class auteurs (David Lynch's Mulholland Dr and Robert Altman's Three Women). Woody Allen never did his own Persona riff but he is arguably the most famous of Bergman's many auteur fans.

Bergman's filmography is essentially one treasure after another so we'll have to ignore the bulk of it for brevity's sake and point you to his Oscar films in case you haven't seen them. Program a mini festival at home. All three of his foreign film nominees won: The Virgin Spring (1960), Through a Glass Darkly (1961), Fanny And Alexander (1982). [Trivia Note: Sweden has never won the foreign prize outside of Bergman's work]

Cries and Whispers (5 nominations, 1 win for cinematography)

In addition to his foreign film winners Bergman's other gold successes include Wild Strawberries (1957) Face to Face (1976) and Autumn Sonata (1978). The Academy fell deepest into a hypnotic Bergman trance in the early 70s when they gave him the Thalberg award and then followed up that honor with multiple nominations, including Best Picture, for his great and disturbing female grief drama Cries and Whispers (1972).

01 Federico Fellini (Italy) 1920-1993
12 nominations (directing, writing, producing) | 1 Honorary Oscar | 4 Foreign Film Winners |
all Oscar categories: His filmography has earned 23 nominations, 7 wins and 1 honorary statue

Last year's adaptation of Nine, itself adapted from a stage musical adapted from Federico Fellini's 8½ (1963) wasn't well received enough to spark a mini-Fellini revival in the media but the media was once quite enamored of all moving parts of Fellini's cinematic circus. That press conference scene in Nine was no exaggeration or joke. In fact, the word "paparazzi" sprung to life because of one of his best loved movies La Dolce Vita (1960) in which a male photographer's name is Paparazzo. Fellini's celebrity was vast and his actors were also sensations. His male muse Marcello Mastroianni never won an Oscar but he holds the record of most nominations for non-English language performances, three in total).

Though their sensibilities are vastly different, Fellini shares with Bergman, his only real rival for Oscar's foreigner crown, a prolific career and one with consistent inspiration and awards pull. Even before he won notices for his directing he was winning screenplay nominations for films he didn't helm.

Fellini's Academy Award winners: La Strada (1956), Nights of Cabiria (1957), (1963), Amarcord (1974) Other Oscar-honored Fellinis: I Vitelloni (1953), La Dolce Vita (1960), Satyricon (1969), Fellini's Casanova (1970).

How familiar are you with the films mentioned?
I have a decent grasp of the Fellinis, Bunuels and Kurosawas. I'm nearly a completist with the Almodóvars (duh). But I need to get down to serious business on the Bergman's (small percentage despite my love. What's that about?) and I'm almost completely ignorant on the de Sicas and the Troells. So many I haven't seen.

How about you?


Robert said...

Really fantastic piece Nate. I love these directors soooo much.

I'm pretty well versed in Bergman (my favorite director all time, so great the Academy just had to take notice especially the acting.) and Fellini, though he kinda loses me after 8 1/2 when everyone almost literally becomes a clown. Kurosawa is really where I'm lacking, even though I've seen seven of his films, it's a drop in the bucket. And if I love The Bicycle Thief so much, why have I seen so little de Sica? Damn expansive film history. Troell is okay. Von Sydow really deserved a nomination for Hamsun. And I do believe I'm finally warming to Almodovar. Just saw Talk to Her for the first time (I'm embarrassed to admit). Man, I've been missing out.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

There are more masterpieces scattered across Fellini's filmography (and certainly Bergman's, Bunuel's, Kurosawa's, Truffaut's, and very soon probably also Almodovar's) than across 80 years of Ampass' BP winners.

In terms of my blind spots, I tihnk I've seen nothing by Monicelli and Troell - partly because their titles aren't at all available, and partly because why wouldn't I just watch Fellini and Bergman instead, you know? But I'd be curious to see Madonna Street and The Emigrants at some point.

Also, I really think Rene Clement's Forbidden Games needs to be more emphasised. Clement himself isn't necessarily among the great masters, but that film is as transfixing and shattering as pretty much anything by Bergman, Fellini, Almodovar and co.

James T said...

I love this piece not only because I love lists and your writing but because it reminded me I have to watch more movies from these guys.

I might print it and post it on my fridge.

MovieNut14 said...

Why did I know that Fellini would be the top one? A great talent, nonetheless.

I've only seen one work each from Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa and Truffant.

Anonymous said...

No Denys Arcand ? :(

David Coley said...

I've been watching all of my Fellini films this past week. I watched Roma today and tomorrow I'll be at Amarcord. A lot of critics I've been reading say that he really drops off after 8 1/2 except for Amarcord, but I have to say I really loved Juliet of the Spirits and managed to get quite a kick out of Satyricon.

Robert said...

David - you should definitely check out And the Ship Sails On. I do think it's his post 8 1/2 peak.

jbaker475 said...

Fellini, Bergman, and Kurosawa are the only ones I'm even remotely close to being "experienced" in, though from what I've seen, I love Almodovar. I still need to see a Bunuel, and haven't seen anything other than "The Bicycle Thief" from DeSica, and "400 Blows" from Truffaut. Just when I think I've made a halfway decent dent in "important films to see," I remember and/or learn of dozens more that I need to see; it's both exciting and daunting.

kent said...

ingmar bergman's PERSONA is truly masterful. its so shifty, haunting, and mesmerizing. i thought bibi andersson was so great in it, maybe better than liv ullmann. how did the academy ignore this film?


anon 11:07 -- Denys Arcand is in the honorable mention category

Robert -- actually i suppose i'm with you on the kurosawa. i've seen several but there are so many! so i overstated my familiarity

Y Kant -- i once thought about doing a series watching EVERY SINGLE BEST PICTURE FIELD VS. EVERY SINGLE FOREIGN FILM FIELD to compare the quality but my god... the projects i think up are so time consuming ;) i still hope to do something more about the category in the near future. we'll see.

Kent -- i think PERSONA must have seriously confused people at the time because it didn't win many awards. Just goes to show you that awardage is only an extremely rough sketch of a half formed list of films of value in any given year ;)

jbaker -- i know the feeling. I keep meaning to really tackle a FILM NOIR self-programmed festival but there are still so many things to see from every country and from every time frame. It feels impossible!

Y Kant -- i've always wanted to see The Emigrants. So strange that it's not available since it has name actors and awards history.

Notas Sobre Creación Cultural e Imaginarios Sociales said...

My dad always brags about being alive in the 70's and bashing in the glory days of the non-English film love across the world.
I truly drool every time I see AMPAS stuff from the 70's, those Best Director lists are superb up until 78 and 79.
Also I think "Another Woman" is Woody's riff on "Persona".

David Coley said...

Robert- I've got it on my schedule for Thursday. Never seen anything past Amarcord so I'm looking forward to it.

Jose- And "September" is Woody's version of Bergman's Autumn Sonata.


Jose -- it does kind of make you wonder what exactly happened to the AMPAS membership to go from what they admired in the 1970s to what they went for in the 1980s.


principessa1121 said...

It's such a great list. Reminds me of how many films I should still see. I've seen some by Truffaut, Bergman, Almodóvár, Kurosawa and Bergman (and loved most of them), but I have to catch up on the Fellinis. As regards Bunuel, I've seen Belle de jour and Tristana, for obvious reasons. :-) Despite being a Hungarian, I have to admit I haven't yet seen any of Szabó's Oscar-nominees and I'm more acquainted with his later, English-language films such as Sunshine and Being Julia.

Rebecka said...

Of the "foreign" ones I'm most familiar with Kurosawa and Almodóvár (especially the first is one of my great obsessions), but as a good Swede I've naturally seen most of Bergman and Troell. Though I must admit that Persona is not a favourite of mine. I can't really stand Liv Ullman's acting, but I agree with a previous poster that Bibi Andersson is great. Fanny och Alexander, however, is perhaps my top Swedish movie of all time.

Troell's Utvandrarna is such a huge classic, I've seen it several times and read the book twice. Once again I really don't understand the casting of Ullman in the lead, but Max von Sydow and Monica Zetterlund are amazing.


principessa1121 -- so have you seen any of Hungary's nominated films? There are so few and none after the Szabos.

rebecka -- interesting to hear an Ullmann descenter. it's so rare.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

By the way - Persona didn't win many awards, but it did feature in the Sight and Sound all-time Top 10 in the early 70s. So it certainly achieved some kind of instant classic status - if not necessarily in the mainstream.

Also - how odd that Truffaut is the only one from the Nouvelle Vague to feature on this list. I understand that Godard was probably too out there (but still, I'd expect a couple mentions) and Rohmer a little too demanding (but so upper-middle-class-friendly and overtly French-high-arty). But at least Chabrol was very acclaimed and accessible. And Resnais had a decent amount of crossovers (the great, the gorgeous, the life-altering Mon oncle d'Amerique even managed a script nomination in 1980). And yet neither of them features much.

But I probably can't just blame Ampass all the time. I mean, they seem to have nominated the French candidate almost every year - maybe it was the French academy that was too stodgy to submit the above.

Perhaps we should be grateful that Truffaut at least got some decent exposure.

Also, while I'm on Truffaut - I really can't recommend the weirdly neglected The Story of Adele H enough - Isabelle Adjani in the title role is my pick for performance of the decade - and it was her first! I don't think Ampass nominated the film, but they did nominate Adjani.

So just in summing up - please everybody watch Rene Clement's "Forbidden Games" (1952), Alain Resnais' Mon oncle d'Amerique/My American Uncle (1980) and Truffaut's The Story of Adele H (1975). I promise they beat any Best Picture/Actress/Director roster of the past few decades.

Rebecka said...

rebecka -- interesting to hear an Ullmann descenter. it's so rare.

I might add that my scepticism of Ullman in Utvandrarna (The Emigrants) has a lot to do with the fact that her accent in that movie is so off (and because most of the supporting cast is so great...) But I do strongly recomend anyone to watch it!


Y Kant -- noted! I will hopefully use the research from this article to fill the gaps in some of my film knowledge.

Carl Joseph Papa said...

ok so im gonna represent the philippines in this list :D

Lino Brocka remains as one of the most famous Filipino directors of all time. I am doing a marathon of all his movies, but i have not gone far. From what I have seen, "Insiang", "Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag" and "Stardoom" are my favorites.

Ishmael Bernal also created masterpiece after another. "Himala (Miracle)" is regarded as one of the Philippines' and Asia's best movie of all time. Add "Manila by Night" to his best works.

My personal favorite is Mike de Leon who clearly for me has the very distinct voice in Philippine cinema. His masterpiece (for me) was "Kisapmata", a movie that would make Mo'nique's turn in "Precious" seem tame. "Kakaba Kaba Ka Ba?" is a quirky offbeat musical comedy. I have nothing but love for his work :D

J.D. said...

I am severely under-versed with everyone in this post sans Bergman.

Sooooooooo. Sorry, Nat.

No one I dislike, yet, though!

Peter Nellhaus said...

One of the problems with the nominees is that each country has some committee that chooses the one film that will be the potential nominee. This explains, at least in part, why Almodovar has not always had his films represent Spain, for example. Much of the time, the nominated film is what each committee thinks will appeal to the Academy, rather than choosing the most critically acclaimed film from that country. It also explains why a filmmaker, like Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who is disliked by the Thai establishment, has not been considered by Best Foreign Language Film.

javi said...

My top 10 movies from those top 10 directors

02. JULES AND JIM, Truffaut
03. PERSONA, Bergman
04. SHOESHINE, De Sica
06. VOLVER, Almodóvar
07. L'AGE D'OR, Buñuel
08. SHAME, Bergman
09. THE STORY OF ADÉLE H, Truffaut
10. RASHOMON, Kurosawa

So generally from my point of view these directors' masterworks weren't recognized by AMPAS. It's amazing THE EMIGRANTS got a Best Picture nomination as it is - they probably couldn't deny how epic it
was, albeit one of a completely different kind.

I love most of these people - Truffaut and Buñuel most of all.

I'd also like to mention the extraordinary Satyajit Ray, who was given an Honorary Oscar sometime in the 90s. He may never have won a competitive award but that Oscar he did get was a great gesture anyway.


javi -- interesting top ten. i've seen most of those but hte order intrigues. and now i want to see THE EMIGRANTS even more!

peter -- that's definitely a problem. but one that i don't think could be avoided unless they changed the rule to one film submitted per country PLUS any film that opened under normal Oscar eligibility. But then you'd probably have France hogging 40% of every shortlist.

and it still wouldn't get weerasthekul any attention.

Flosh said...

Just to back up what Y Gorant said - The Story of Adele H. is a masterpiece.

Did Antonioni never get any Oscar love? I guess that makes sense, since Antonioni and Fellini's peak periods overlapped, and clearly Fellini got the lion's share of the Academy's attention. Still, another master who deserved recognition!

Burning Reels said...

Monicelli and Clement - none! Where's best to start?

Bunuel - only his latter stuff thus far but fast becoming one of my favorites. Adore Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoise.

Troell - Only Everlasting Moments.

Almodovar - nearly complete!

Truffaut - currently working (and loving) through his filmography, however Day For Night doesn't seem to be available - grrr.

Kurosawa - seen most of his major works.

De Sica - I really need to catch up, only Bicycle Thief and Umberto D thus far.

Bergman - as with many, one of my very favorites - nearly complete, although when will Face to Face be out on DVD?!

Fellinni - like Truffaut, i'm around halfway through his works.

Lovely piece Nathaniel - brought back many perfect cinematic memories.

Timothy said...

I've seen so little of these films. So sad on my part. :( Very illuminating article. Cheers!

Runs Like A Gay said...


I hate to ask, but did you catch up with Everlasting Moments? I know I talked about loads last year but it was one of my top films for 2009.

I'm a big Troell fan though, so highly anticipate his next Domen över död man (Truth and Consequence)

tim r said...

Superb overview Nat and I think you've nailed the hierarchy of Oscar's preferences perfectly. Curious, isn't it, that Oscar bit so hard on Fellini and De Sica, but only liked one Antonioni (Blow-up) and one (actually quite bad) Visconti film (The Damned, which got a screenplay nod): I'd have thought something like The Leopard might have wooed them, and Antonioni's glorious La notte isn't such hard work. (Jeanne Moreau must be one of the most Oscar-snubbed actresses of all time, right?) Tell us which Bergmans you've seen and maybe we can collectively point you to the next ones to see (though I have big gaps too, I must say).

I'll back up Runs Like a Gay both on his fantastic name and praise of Everlasting Moments -- pretty sure you'd love it, Nat, if you didn't catch it, particularly the very moving lead perf of Maria Heiskanen.

It redoubled my intention to catch up with The Emigrants, which others have mentioned above. I (cough) found it eventually, though not on DVD, admittedly. It wasn't too hard. Saving it for a rainy day.


runs & tim -- THANKS for chiming in. i STILL haven't tackled "everlasting moments" but i have the DVD. it's haunting me from a huge unwatched stack of movies.

as for Bergman, i'm good in the middle of his filmography but it's the early ones and the late ones i'm missing if this makes sense.

principessa1121 said...

@ Nathaniel - I'm afraid I haven't seen any nominated films from Hungary, which is a shame, really. It's mostly because I'm a latecomer to movies and I started with what was on at the cinema, while most of our nominated films date back some decades so I haven't got to them yet. But I figure it's high time I did. :)

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

If you need to fill in on early and late Bergman, don't miss Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries and Smiles of a Summer Night among the early ones (apparently Sawdust and Tinsel, and The Face are pretty remarkable too). Among the later works, I'm sure you'd love to watch Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullmann head to head in Autumn Sonata, Scenes from a Marriage is pretty riveting, I've read mixed reviews of Face to Face though I'm still dying to see it/find it, and Fanny and Alexander (the full 5-hour miniseries version!) is just one of the great things that happened to cinema.

Meantime, I can't believe Ampass bailed on The Leopard - that is such an Oscary foreign movie. I can see how they bailed on Antonioni - not that I justify it. Actually wait - I totally justify bailing on La Notte, what a turgid little mediocrity that is. The definitive example of what Pauline Kael called the 'come-dressed-as-the-sick-soul-of-Europe-party' movies.

That said, Jeanne Moreau is God. (Ditto Liv Ullmann for that matter, I won't stand for any of this dissing.) And the 60s are the greatest decade in cinema: just ponder the fact that this is when Bergman, Fellini, Welles, Kurosawa, Bunuel, Godard, Truffaut, Resnais and Kubrick were making a lot of their finest films *at the same time*.

Janice said...

@Nathaniel and Jose - somehow, and this is just a guess, it feels like it has something to do with the "backlash" again liberalism (and "depravity" of which, of course, Europeans are always representative in the American mind) and the return of "solid American values" and the return of the Fundamentalist movement, the election of Reagan, the return of 1950's conservative values, or at the very least the pretense of such. All of which also accompanied (or masked, or made palatable) the rise of big corporations, big business, "the business of America is business" etc. And as we all know, big business thrives on selling anything that is perceived as "safe" and "uncontroversial". (And unfortunately most consumers are perfectly happy to settle in with intellectual junk food rather than be challenged.)

It also coincided with Star Wars and the rise of the "big budget movie" mentality, yes?

I'm probably casting too wide a net, but it seems to me the shift to safer pablum didn't just occur in the cinema. It occured on the radio and TV as well.

Great list - which reminds me that I have seen very very few of these films. I did see Persona in college and it blew my mind.

de Sica was also an actor; I loved his warm and subtle performance in "the earrings of Madame D - " He gave so much to the cinema on so many levels.


@Y Kant -- Italy submitted 8 1/2 in the year of THE LEOPARD so there was no way it could be nominated. It did receive a costume design nomination.

@Janice -- all that you're saying is probably true. except that the american fascination with europe was very prominent even during the 50s (where you'd get those american abroad movies like THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN)

Bing147 said...

Hmmm... what have I seen:

For Monicelli, only Big Deal On Madonna Street which I LOVE, one of my favorites of the 50s. I need to see more.

Yet to see anything from Clement, one of my major blind spots.

Seen a decent number of Bunuel films, 7 I think, but there's plenty I need to see like The Milky Way/Exterminating Angel/Diary of a Chambermaid. From what I've seen, I largely prefer his work after he left Mexico, his early stuff has done nothing for me but everything I've seen post Viridiana is gold. After Bergman, my favorite director on this list.

Troell, I've seen Everlasting Moments which is great and I saw the Emigrants a few years ago but on a dubbed copy that was close to unwatchable. I've yet to find a quality copy subtitled.

Seen a fair amount of Almodovar, everything since Live Flesh anyway. But only 2 before that (Women on the Verge and Tie Me Up). Need to explore his early work.

Seen a lot of Truffaut, around 10 or so, but still a lot to see. One of my favorite directors.

Seen 15 or so Kurosawa's, most of the big ones and a few smaller ones, but still more than a couple I want to see.

Only seen 4 of De Sica's films, my favorite being Umberto D followed by Garden of the Finzi Continis...

Seen a LOT of Bergman and Fellini though still a few to see from both. Bergman is my favorite director. For me, Fellini is incredibly hit and miss (can't stand I Vitelloni, Nights of Cabiria, Satyricon, Roma...) and even some of his acclaimed good ones aren't as good as their reputations (I'm looking at 8 1/2 and Amarcord). Still though, when he was on (La Strada/La Dolce Vita/Juliet of the Spirits all come immediately to mind) few have ever been better.

My top 10 of the directors here:

1. The Phantom of Liberty (Bunuel)
2. Scenes From a Marriage (Bergman)
3. That Obscure Object of Desire (Bunuel)
4. The Seventh Seal (Bergman)
5. High and Low (Kurosawa)
6. Jules and Jim (Truffaut)
7. Shame (Bergman)
8. La Strada (Fellini)
9. The Last Metro (Truffaut)
10. Big Deal on Madonna Street (Monicelli)

With honorable mentions to Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night and Virgin Spring.

cal roth said...

I haven't read this post until I saw it @Comment du jour. The post is fantastic, and I wanna second the comment: Adjani landed one of the five best performances ever in Adele H.

ReelReviews2010 said...

The article is timely considering that AMPAS used to be more "adventurous" and "aesthetic," especially with the Foreign Language Film contenders.

A glaring omission (surprising considering the scope of the article)is Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda, winner of the Honorary Award in 2000 (presented by Jane Fonda, a political activist like the director/honoree) and a three-time Best Foreign Film nominee for

Land of Promise (1975) - lost to Kurosawa's war drama "Dersu Uzala"

The Young Girls of Wilko (1979) - lost to Schlondorff's "The Tin Drum" (I preferred the latter over Wazjda's slow moving and surprisingly dull character study.)


Man of Iron (1981) - lost to Istvan Szabo's "Mephisto" ("Iron" and "Mephisto" are politically charged films, and the Academy obviously fought for Wazjda's film as Poland's official entry despite threats from the government that time.)

Wazjda's latest film, "Sweet Rush," had its North American premiere at the New York Film Festival last year.


@Reel Reviews.

Eeek... i should have included Andrzej Wajda somehow.

i must revise.


reel reviews -- i have revised (thanks for pointing that out) he actually had four oscar nominated films (most recently KATYN)

Arkaan said...

Nathaniel, as an actressophile, Bergman should be a top priority. His abilities with actresses are without peer. Not only Liv Ullman, but Ingrid Bergman, Harriet Andersson, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, and Eva Dalhbeck were all wonderful under his watch. And FANNY AND ALEXANDER really is one of the all time great movies.

I don't care for Fellini very much.

What modern (un-nominated auteurs) do you think will become part of this list? The only one I can really think of is von Donnersmark. Maybe Ole Christian Madsen.


i keep meaning to watch the Bergmans all chronologically (it's definitely time to enjoy Persona again!) just to fill in any of my remaining gaps.

but after a week away from this top ten and the revisions, I think I feel most guilty about de Sica. I just don't know his filmography at all (save The Bicycle Thief)

Andrew said...

Why wasn't "Ran" nominated for Best Foreign Language? Because Japan didn't submit it -- but why? For some reason, Kurosawa skipped the film's premiere, pissing off a lot of the Japanese industry. Oops. Attempts to submit it as a French co-production failed.