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Profile: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Tackling the Beast: Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980)

Michael Haneke’s Trilogy: The Seventh Continent, Benny’s Video, 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance

The Ten Best Countries for Film Production

Ever since movies have existed, various countries have been participating vigorously in the ever expanding industry, but just what countries have consistently managed to release better films than all the others? Here are the ten best countries for film production, wherein you are most likely to get your money’s worth:

10: Russia

The Golden Age of Russian Cinema rests within the age referred to as the Soviet Cinematic Era, and birthed such influential and classic masterpieces as The Battleship Potemkin and The Man with the Movie Camera. During the contraints and heat of wartime in the first half of the 20th century, films often were viewed from a political perspective, and were used as weapons.

However, after the wars, when things were relatively beginning to settle, Russian filmmakers were given more freedom and less censorship, and Russian cinema began to run on a timeline of eventual development. From films such as The Cranes are Flying which reexamined Russia’s shady past, to films like Tarkovsky’s Solaris, which allowed Russian cinema to branch out into new areas and the more recent The Return and Russian Ark which brought its creators critical acclaim and numerous awards, as well as re-establishing and reminding the world that the Russians, technically, had a film ability and vision that was a force to be reckoned with.

9: Australia

Australian cinema showed its prominence mainly with the barrage of actors it launched into mainstream appeal and Hollywood acceptance. And yet, considerably few of the country’s fine films have showcased these actor’s potential when compared with the dozens of Hollywood films we see them in. Peter Finch, Mel Gibson, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett are just some of the actors we’ve seen heaps of in Hollywood, but their real roots lie in the cinema of their home continent.

With the birth of the Australian New Wave in the early 70s, directors such as Peter Weir, Ken Hannam, George Miller and Peter Faiman, among others, had their films recognized globally for their significance and relevance to cinema. Arguably the most important Australian film, Picnic at Hanging Rock, has received global acclaim and the admiration of critics and viewers alike with its thoughtful provocation and shocking tactics. As time went on, Australian cinema only continued to develop with brilliant films such as Romper Stomper, Muriel’s Wedding, Babe, The Tracker, Rabbit-Proof Fence and Moulin Rouge, among many others, showcasing the talents of Australian actors and directors, as well as reminding us of the ability of its general art.

8: Mexico

Mexican cinema, like Australian cinema, has brought a lot of its own citizens in the film industry into the mainstream spotlight. We may see actors like Gael Garcia Bernal and Selma Hayek in American films but it is important to remember their roots in Mexico. Mexican cinema dates back to the birth of cinema, but was only really fully acknowledged overseas with the arrival of directors such as Luis Buñuel in the 1930s, as Mexico’s Golden Age began to bloom. And it continued right throughout the century. Directors such as Buñuel, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Luis Alcoriza and many others. In the 1990s, the birth of New Mexican Cinema occured, and dozens of directors and actors were propelled into the mainstream. Directors such as Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu began to get their films and talents noticed in Hollywood and elsewhere, and have gone on to have extremely successful careers.

 

 

7: Japan

Japanese cinema has been around for a long time, and has encountered numerous notable stages of cinematic evolution. It has also encountered periods of extreme success, winning the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar more times than any other Asian country.

There are numerous genres, from darker horror film, to sophisticated ‘pink’ pornography, to the thought-provoking works of directors such as Akira Kurosawa. Indeed, it seems Kurosawa has had the biggest impact on the country’s film industry, showing with dashing cinematography and incredible force the possibilities of the true filmmaking art. Other directors have also shown their cleverness and ingenuity with their own influential masterpieces, such as Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses, Itami’s Tampopo, Otomo’s Akira, and Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. Japanese cinema has thus proved that it can strike success in nearly all genres, racking up impressive awards for various achievements.

6: Sweden

When one thinks of Swedish cinema, it seems, the name that always comes to mind is Ingmar Bergman. But, we must remember that Swedish cinema has had success and influence far before and beyond Bergman’s time. Swedish cinema was initially noticed in the early 20th century, when directors such as Mauritz Stiller and Victor Sjöström began to make their mark. Introducing stars such as Greta Garbo into the spotlight, it didn’t take long for their talents to be noticed.

In the 50s and 60s, Swedish cinema grew with the rise of Bergman, whose films not only revolutionized the country’s style, but the style of all film worldwide. He also helped bring Sven Nykvist into the spotlight of appeal, as his distinct style helped carve the visual beauty of the Swedish aesthetic. At the same time as this was happening, Vilgot Sjöman was rousing controversy with films such as the sexually explicit I Am Curious (Yellow) that were as visually shocking for the time as they were undeniably influential. Modern Swedish directors such as Lasse Hallström and  Lukas Moodyson directing films that would gain attention from around the world, particularly the ever-expanding grip of Hollywood who took on board Hallström’s talent and thus brought popular American films such as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and The Cider House Rules into existence.

5: Italy

Italian cinema has been hugely influential. In 1916, the Manifesto of Futuristic Cinematography was signed by various filmmakers, and was one of many steps into the world of film we live and experience today. It was an essential part of the founding of the avant-garde film industry, influencing the German Expressionists who would use the genre to create some of the most artistically relevant features of their times. But as war brew in Europe, fascism was a stronghold for Mussolini and would influence the way films were created, leading to countless works of propaganda and change.

After the war came neorealism, which would hugely change the way cinema operated at that time, leading to more emotionally strong, affecting films such as those of Vittorio De Sica. After his time, different genres began to emerge and become prominent, most notably the spaghetti western, with much thanks due to Sergio Leone in that area. This article certainly could not go without mentioning other auteurs, whose works influenced not only Italy, but the world wide. Names such as Fellini, Antonioni, Pasolini, Bertolucci, Argento, Rossellini, and many others are prominent in the encyclopaedia of film history with their movies having an astonishing impact.

 

4: India

In terms of cinematic output, India tops all countries. Over a thousand films are produced every year, and the iconic Bollywood film production genre is still thriving. India has been making films vigorously for over a hundred years, and while not all of them have been masterpieces, a large number have had great affect and modern cinema owes a lot to India.

Possibly the most famous and best example of pure Indian cinema is Satyajit Ray’s The Apu Trilogy. This was in the 50s, around the time India experienced its New Wave and began to become more widely received across the globe. Indeed, it is Ray’s films which are the staples of revolutionary Indian cinema, and he is widely considered one of the greatest cinematic minds for his contribution to the evolutionary time. In the 70s, 80s and 90s, however, Indian cinema began to modernise, with the formation of several subgenres, from light comedy to darker thrillers to the intriguing genre of “Mumbai noir,” reflecting on pressing issues for India’s underworld. From this, and the continous output of thousands of films annually, we can tell just how important Indian cinema has been, and how it will continue to have an effect.

 

3: Germany

Germany has had an inarguably huge affect on cinema ever since the birth of the medium. The first internationally successful film is probably Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which was conveniently followed up with F.W. Murnau’s influential horror Nosferatu. This was during the age of German Expressionism, but that genre faded into obscurity as the Weimar Republic was replaced by Nazi Germany. This was an age where films of propaganda reigned, most famously Leni Riefenstahl’s The Triumph of the Will. During the Nazi period, many German filmmakers fled to America where they had full and prosperous careers. Cinema began a steady decline in Germany after the war, until the birth of New German Cinema, which officially occured with the signing of the Oberhausen Manifesto in 1962. Many influential German directors, such as Werner Herzog, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Wim Wenders, subscribed to this manifesto and helped bring German Cinema into a new age. Today German cinema is alive, well and thriving, with continuous success in the many films it produces.

 

2: America

American cinema is arguably the most globally recognized of all cinema. Since D.W. Griffith revolutionised the medium in the 1910s, the American film industry has been consistent and successful. He made hundreds of films and, despite the controversy he caused, paved the way for thousands of filmmakers ahead of him. When sound pioneered in 1925 with The Jazz Singer, America experienced a steady boost and much recognition. During the 1930s, American film was prominently focused on the romantic comedy genre, although as time went on film developed somewhat of a depth as new techniques were invented and ideas flourished.

American cinema was changed forever in 1941 when Orson Welles created Citizen Kane, undeniably one of the most influential movies of all time. With him came a wave of Hollywood directors who would have a startling effect on the booming business of Hollywood. Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder were arguably the two most important of their time (the 50s), and they led the path for filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and countless others. With the rise of home video, movie accessibility became stronger, and the classic cult experience of viewing films at home would grow to influence modern directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson. Modern cinema introduced independent films, or ‘indie’ movies, allowing directors such as the aforementioned two to get their creative ideas more easily produced and surprisingly noticed. Today, American films are still widely recognized and seen worldwide and have a much better distribution and average sales number than cinema of other nations.

1: France

Cinema was literally born in France, with the Lumiere brothers pioneering the first successful cinematographe, and giving life to cinema and cinematography as we know it. And it certainly doesn’t stop there. Directors such as the Lumieres and George Mèliés created the first real films, and when they retired, the Gaumont Film Company continued their empire, with huge success. However, after the First World War there was a slight decline, but film in France managed to pick itself up and dust itself off afterwards, with directors such as Jean Renoir rising to success in the 30s.

But, French film’s incredible boost wasn’t to be until the French New Wave, believed by many to be the birthplace of Modern French cinema, and stapled by directors such as Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and Louis Malle. As French film rose, so did its success and the number of directors and actors participating in its vigorous uprise. However, as New Wave rose, it began to slump in the 70s, and we were reminded just how lucky we were for the New Wave period of the 60s, and how influential it has become. Since this time, modern French directors such as Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Luc Besson, Michael Haneke, and various others. Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours trilogy had a huge impact in the 90s, dealing with themes of modern French society reminiscent of Godard and Truffaut, whilst remaining distinctly grounded. Jeunet’s Amelie, released in 2001, quickly became the highest grossing French film in the United States, of all time, and reminded us of the possibilities, uniqueness, and style of the cinema of France. Thus, France is the best country in the world to create a film. You have all the style, technique and originality, and French directors managed to consistently create amazing films at a rate which makes Hollywood look comparitively small. With the Cannes film festival every year, people flock to France to see a showcase of truly great film, in what may be one of the world capitals of consistently great film. Though many of the true auteurs of French cinema and worldwide cinema may have passed on by now, we have the legion of ideals and lessons that they have taught us, the themes, originality and style they have invented, and of course the films themselves which they have kindly left behind for us to revisit time and time again. Cinema was born in France, and if it should die (God forbid!), it would be only fitting for the last great films to be made in France.

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That’s my list! Is there anything you’d like to add? Anything you’d like to say on the matter? Please, leave a comment below, and thank you for reading.

Great Directors: Michael Haneke

Last night I watched Michael Haneke’s tremendous thriller, the mysterious and chilling The White Ribbon. It was Haneke doing what he does best, and it inspired me to write a post about this fantastic director, his lifetime and films.

He was born in Germany, and spent most of his life taking a keen interest in film and television. It wasn’t until middle-age that he finally began to direct feature films. His first was The Seventh Continent, based on the true story of a mass family suicide. It was the first of a trilogy of three followed by Benny’s Video and 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, two more films examining violence in modern society. It was with his next film, however, that he proved he wasn’t squeamish to presenting violence in an unsettlingly honest manner. Funny Games was released in 1997, and seemed to be a plotless film about mindless serial violence, though Haneke has said he prefers to have the violence ‘implied’ rather than seen. He was intent on getting his point through, so much so that exactly ten years later he directed a shot-for-shot American remake starring Naomi Watts and Tim Roth.

The next movie, in 2000, was a character study, titled Code Unknown, starring Juliette Binoche and telling of a chain-reaction series of events. His next film, in 2001, was where he gained true fame (and notoriety). The Piano Teacher is a sexually graphic, violently suggestive and brutally stunning motion picture telling of sexual obsession and visceral self-harm. It won various awards, including Cannes Best Actor and Actress for its two leads, and sealed Haneke’s fate as a director of coldly beautiful movies with seedy underbellies.

He reteamed with the star of that film, Isabelle Huppert, for his next film, a post-apocalyptic vision called Time of the Wolf, made in France. The film was quite good, but noticeably less successful and screened at Cannes out of competition.

His next film is, in my opinion, his absolute unbeatable best. Caché (titled ‘Hidden’ in English) is his creepiest, slow-paced and most thought-provoking thriller. It tells of a couple (Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche) who are uneasy and frightened after receiving videotapes of their house from a hidden camera that seems to be impossibly positioned. It asks countless questions about human secrets and how we react to dangerous situations, as well as featuring cinematography and direction that are, in no exaggeration or hyperbole, a serious work of masterful art.

After the Funny Games remake came the Cannes success The White Ribbon, the film which prompted this post. Haneke shoots in black-and-white this time, and tells a gripping tale of mysterious events in a wartime village. Various characters begin relationships, and everybody is a suspect for committing the serious crimes. The film is very reminiscent of the movies of Ingmar Bergman, filmed in an eerily similar style and with an eerily similar plot. Imagine Picnic at Hanging Rock meets Fanny and Alexander.

We are now eagerly awaiting the release of his newest film, Love, which I’ll be sure to see and review.

Leave a comment and tell me which Haneke films you’ve seen, and what you thought of them. You can see, from this amazing filmography, what a talented and brilliant director Haneke is, and I hope this will prompt you to check out any of his amazing films. He is one of few directors who, in my opinion, has never made a bad film. And that is quite something, indeed.

Thanks for reading.

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