Favorite Asian Directors

My list is dominated by Japanese directors but I wanted to fit one of my favorite directors of all time in a post, so I decided to call it favorite Asian Directors instead. It is a little unfair of me to include all of Asian’s cinema together, because different countries produce some very different films. For instance Japan is usually known for quiet films and samurai films whereas Korea is known for stylish horror. Of course there is also Hong Kong which is where some of the best action directors get their start. However I am not as well versed as I would like to be in the Asian cinema scene, so I am going to lump everything together and plead ignorance.

5. Hayao Miyazaki

If you glance at my list, you will probably notice a lot of the same directors were at least mentioned in my last top 5 about auteurs. I usually watch films based on directors, so I drift towards directors with a certain style that can be seen throughout different films. Miyazaki is definite one of those directors who can easily figure out their style by only watching a few of his films. He has a folk tale way of telling a story that has been missing from normal Disney features for a long time. He also tells stories that deal with loss in a more grown up way than Disney employs. Also his films just look gorgeous. I had the privilege to watch Ponyo on the big screen and it was one of the best cinema experiences of my life. Seeing those impressionistic fields sway on the big screen is so amazing. FYI I would stay away from Grave of Fireflies unless you want to ball your eyes out. devastating.  Favorites: Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Spirited Away.

4. Seijun Suzuki

Suzuki is the king of B film in Asian cinema. He is weird to the extreme and totally awesome. His films are full of bright colors, people with cheek scares and cool guns. The narratives are usually twisted, but sure that everyone is going to die at the end. I love watching his films because he brings such a uniqueness and energy to the screen that is usually missing from art house cinema. My favorite films: Branded to Kill, Tokyo Drifter (powder blue leisure suit!) and Youth of the Beast. I haven’t delved into his later stuff much, but I heard that there are some major misses in his later career. I would start with his earliest stuff first and then develop an affection for him to allow you to forgive him for his atrocities (speaking only from other people’s opinions.)

3. Chan-wook Park

Horror is a genre that was built for Park to deconstruct. His films are full of murders, twisted narratives, and grotesque but needed violence. His claim to fame is his Vengeance trilogy and I could watch those three films every day for the rest of my life, especially Oldboy. Holy crap is that film awesome and crazy! I would also recommend his newest feature Thirst if you are into true vampire lore, which I have a little soft spot for. Twilight has totally wrecked my stance on vampires. I hope Stephanie Meyer goes to hell and experiences what true vampires are made out of damn it.

2. Wong Kar-Wai

My favorite auteur is my second favorite asian director. He is the complete opposite of the previous two directors in that he loves preciseness and quiet while the other director’s use of violence sometimes borders on cartoonish. His films are the definition of slow burn, but during these slow burns, the audience gets to revel in rich characters with a beautiful narrative line. I love him with all my might. My favorites: In the Mood for Love (if you like quiet dramas, watch this first, you will love him to death!), Chungking Express and Happy Together (an interesting homosexual narrative that deals with alienation.)

1. Akira Kurosawa

Duh. My film watching credentials would be instantly taken away from me if I didn’t put him at the top. One of the most versatile directors of all time, he can make samurai films, psychological dramas, and crime capers within the space of a couple of years and each film is iconic. His adaptations of Shakespeare are also very expertly done and ones that I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of Shakespeare or wants to see how much influence Shakespeare has had on film. My favorites: Yojimbo and Sanjuro, Ran, Roshomon, Ikiru, and Throne of Blood.

Honorable Mention:

Yasujiro Ozu- I have not watched enough of his films to be a real authority on him or to say I liked him or not. I found Floating Weeds to be interesting, but sometimes excruciatingly slow.

 

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