With Hollywood endlessly letting us down with overwrought comic book fodder like the recent Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice farce, it’s a good reminder to sometimes look a little further afield for your cinematic inspiration.
But with streaming services now offering us the chance to view an entire world’s movie output at the click of a button, it can be hard to know where to start. So here are some interesting Scandinavian noir flicks, some hard-hitting hits from the Hong Kong’s gambling mini-genre, and a reminder why Europe continues to be such a hotbed of movie-making innovation.
One of the most surprising foreign cinematic successes in recent years was undoubtedly Headhunters. This quickly became a critical favourite thanks to the way in which it blended the cool aesthetic of many Nordic noir TV hits with some comical almost Tarantino-esque violence. By following the haphazard exploits of a Norwegian art thief, it quickly unravelled into a darkly humorous tale that featured dogs impaled on tractors and an infamous outdoor toilet scene.
Themes of humor and violence also inspired Hong Kong’s short-lived gambling movie genre that saw its high point with 1989’s God of Gamblers. This featured Chow Yun-Fat in a breakthrough role as a world famous gambler who takes on his dangerous counterparts in the Tokyo underworld.
What makes this movie all the more poignant is how it mirrors changes in the region’s fortunes at the time where the likes of Macau became a massive tourist gambling destination. And with Betway’s blackjack section introducing a whole new generation to the pleasures of gambling in a mobile-friendly format, it looks like it won’t be long until we see a resurgence of this popular genre.
At the other end of the aesthetic realm is the likes of 2013’s Ida. A beautiful black and white movie directed by the Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski, it portrayed a young nun leaving the convent to explore her family’s past, and on the way, she discovers some alarming secrets about the history of her country.
And finally special mention must be made to the enfant terrible of European movies, Lars Von Trier, who continues to release an endless array of sublimely shot, yet deeply disturbing movies such as Antichrist and Melancholia that is just a further indication of how much scope there is out there away from the Hollywood mainstream.