Monday, 11 October 2010

Fifteen Directors That Have Shaped The Way I Look at Cinema.

In the time I've maintained this site, I often forget that I am not alone in the wider film blogger community. Through no fault but my own, I've neglected writing many articles about film which say much about me as a person. Never been sure why to be honest, just always been so consumed with the reviewing aspect.

However, in the pursuit of writing about everything and anything to do with film, I thought it was time (and only polite) to follow the lead of my dear colleague, Ruth, over at FlixChatter and explain why the 15 directors below changed my perception of cinema and the films attributed to their untouchable status.

Most of the directors and films listed you will probably expect, though others might surprise, and perhaps the odd entry you have yet to experience. If the latter is the case then I urge you to see the films listed as soon as possible, as I can only hope they will carry the same emotional impact as they did, the first time, I caught them on the big screen or at home.

In no particular order...

1. Steven Spielberg - If there's one cinema trip I remember more than any other, it's surely the first time I saw Jurassic Park on the big screen. I often look back on the scene where Dr Alan Grant (Sam Neil) catches his first glimpse of that Brontosaurus herd as the moment where I truly believed anything was possible in cinema.

2. Francis Ford Coppola - Predictable? Yes. But those first two Godfather films are really quite brilliant. I also still believe the third is a good film, by definition, also. Just when placed next to its predecessors it just falls short in comparison.

3. Christopher Nolan - Nevermind the fact he made Batman cool on the big screen again. With an unrivalled ability to tell engaging and complex stories for mainstream audiences - and currently developing a Midas Touch - with such films as Memento, The Prestige and Inception, Nolan is perhaps this era's answer to Stanley Kubrick. Though he's bound to make one bad film eventually...right?

4. David Fincher - Though Fight Club contains better lines, the film which caught my attention was Seven. Very few films of that dark and at times unbearably gritty style I could watch again and again as I have with Fincher's second feature film. It turned Brad Pitt into a creditable leading man, reminded us all once again how f**king cool Morgan Freeman is and lastly how sinister Kevin Spacey can be as a villain.

5. Mel Brooks - If Seven is the thriller I could watch again and again with zero effort, then the same applies Mel Brooks' best films - The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. It should be noted that all three of the aforementioned films contained the comedic legend (I don't use that term lightly) Gene Wilder in one of the leading roles. Heart-warming cinema which was able to make you laugh because it was genuinely funny.

6. Guillermo del Toro - Mr del Toro never had the best luck with Hollywood features, but one of the reasons why I've admired his work above most is because of his, undeniably, personal touch he brings to his more domestic Spanish language films. Though visually exquisite and beautifully told, Pan's Labyrinth, at times, felt like del Toro was right there in the cinema with you telling the story over a soft burning fire on a cold winter's night. His more folky and earthly blend of fantasy, in my opinion, often surpassed Peter Jackson's mammoth efforts on his Lord of the Ring's trilogy and now makes you think, with a touch of regret, how wonderful del Toro's Hobbit films might have been, had he stuck with the production a little bit longer.

7. Alfred Hitchcock - As good as the other 14 directors on this list are, how many of them would even be making films if it weren't for this visionary? He always got the best out of his actors (Dial M For Murder/Strangers on a Train). Was able to tell interesting stories within constrained environments (Rear Window), and needless to say, kept the cinematic world on the edge of their seats at all times (The Birds, Psycho, North By Northwest).

8. Jean Pierre Jeunet - I once said in a previous post that Jeunet's finest achievement, Amelie, was a celebration of a life worth living. How the most insignificant of acts can enrich someone's life. And I still believe that. Very few films worldwide have matched Amelie for its sincerely gorgeous portrayal of Parisian life and I defy anyone out there who feels subtitled world cinema is beneath them to watch this just once and still feel that way upon the film's end. And once you have, go watch his equally celebrated collaborations with Marc Caro - the Terry Gilliam inspired City of Lost Children and the darkly comedic Delicatessen.

9. Wolfgang Reitherman - I, like many others between the ages of zero to ten, probably believed that Walt Disney created every single one of his films before his death in some magical Roger Rabbit-esque environment surrounded by all his beloved characters. Disappointingly, he didn't. He did however place his trust in a few men to direct his timeless classics, one of which I am singling out solely for his directorial efforts on some of my favourite Disney films growing up, most notably, Sleeping Beauty (co-credit), 101 Dalmatians, Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book and Robin Hood. There is perhaps better Disney films out there but as a child I probably rented these few from my local video shop more than any other. And yes I now own all of them on DVD...

10. Ridley Scott - Like Spielberg, everyone has their favourites. With Mr Scott, two instantly spring to mind. The first obviously being Blade Runner. Though Alien had more atmosphere and a much more memorable tagline on the poster, Blade Runner went a long way to influencing a lot of Sci-Fi films we all see today. The other notable entry for me on a personal level was his epic Oscar-winning cheesefest, Gladiator. Yes it is a little bit over the top at times, but it's littered with countless scenes of iconic imagery and quotations which is bound to stay in the mind for years to come.

11. Hayao Miyazaki - Often labelled as "Japan's answer to Walt Disney", Miyazaki has created a prestige unrivalled to most in the world of animation over the past 25 years. Though trying not to draw comparisons to Disney's work, as they're frankly two completely different propositions, Miyazaki's work with Studio Ghibli offered audiences more mature story-telling with absolutely breathtaking hand-crafted 2D animation, in a period where most Western studios were starting to crossover into the computer-generated era. Films such as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke aren't only the benchmark for quality Asian animation, it's recognised world-wide by fellow peers as examples that mere "cartoons" aren't just for children, they're cinematic experiences for all audiences.

12. Woody Allen - Though undeniably on the decline over the past 10 years, it can be easy to forget Allen created some of the best films ever made. Again like other directors, everyone has their favourites. Mine unsurprisingly is the smartly written and wonderfully shot Manhattan, which contains one of my favourite opening scenes to any film ever, set to the backdrop of that grand Gershwin score.

13. Robert Altman - Probably the best director ever at creating interesting, interweaving stories for such a carefully constructed ensemble cast. You only need to look at the chemistry between the polarising casts of his most famous work, MASH and one of his last ever films, Gosford Park to affirm these beliefs. And hey, anyone who has the balls to do a live-action adaptation of Popeye always deserves some praise right?

14. Tim Burton - Though Chris Nolan made Batman films cool again, it's definitely worth mentioning the director who made Batman films cool in the first place. Comic book geeks aside, the general preconception of Batman in the realms of pop culture was the half hearted campy 60s version portrayed by Adam West. Cue Burton and his distinctly Gothic quirks who transforms Batman into the real Dark Knight we have all come to love and expect. Burton isn't perfect however, and often has a habit of letting his visual style dominate his productions, which is why the likes of Batman Returns, Alice in Wonderland, The Corpse Bride and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fell slightly flat for me. As mentioned countless times I feel, Burton is at his best when giving some artistic constraints, like his first Batman movie and one of his most under rated, and frankly my favourite film by him, the beautifully made, Big Fish.

15. Darren Aronofsky - Last but certainly not least, Darren Aronofsky for a long time belonged mainly to the arthouse realms of cinema, with such cult hits as Pi and the bleak and unsettling drug exploration, Requiem for a Dream. Watching his evolution into the film-maker about to release the hotly anticipated thriller, Black Swan perhaps wouldn't of came to be without the tear-jerking performance of Mickey Rourke in his 2009 drama, The Wrestler or the multi-layered, effects laden spectacle The Fountain. It's a shame Aronofsky never got the Superman role as I sense we have missed on something potentially quite special in that department.

So there you have it. I could probably list another 15 directors on this list, but the men listed have probably done the more for moulding my own tastes in film more than anyone else. Cheers to Ruth over at FlixChatter for asking me to do this. Had a lot of fun reminiscing.


ruth said...

Wonderful! I like that you have a short writeup for each one, I would've done that if I had more time.

Solid list, a few of them didn't make mine only because I haven't seen a lot of their work (I know, shame on me!) Glad to see Wolfgang Reitherman here, I LOVE Sleeping Beauty, it's in my top five animated films of all time. I still watch it from time to time, and once I get my Blu-ray player, I might buy the Blu-ray version, too. It's so timeless.

As I just recently watched Spirited Away, I see now what a great director Miyazaki is.

Glad you had fun doing this, I did too!

Brian said...

How can anyone miss out Scorsese on a list of influential directors! The man is a living legend, rarely puts a foot wrong.

Sweet list otherwise. Maybe throw Welles or Kubrick in there too.

Blake Wilkinson S102-A said...

Ruth you should watch Princess Mononoke and Kikis Delivery Service too, true classics of animation and further proof of Miyazaki's brilliance.

its a good list, not sure if i could make one myself it would take me weeks to compile lists and tables for different qualities apparent in a good Director, cross referencing them against each other to find the best overall people for my personal influences.

Although off the top of my head i would say; Hitchcock, Clint Eastwood and Milos Foreman