A while ago someone did a post on 10 directors who changed their view of the world… or something like that. I can’t find the post or remember who it was… because I am crap but I really liked the post and I wanted to do one for myself. I have to admit that I only started really noticing directors relatively recently and having not had any kind of education in film studies I operate pretty much on instinct alone. That means my choices are potentially a bit different from what people might expect and also don’t necessarily include a lot of directors that are considered to be classically great. And you’ll also soon realise that I am a big fan of aesthetics. But here goes anyway and if you were the person who did the original post and read this please do tell me so that I can give you a credit and link.
Ang Lee has directed some of my favourite emotionally intense films, providing not only great sweeping stories about the conflicts that rage within all of us but also dazzling visuals.
Best works: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Brokeback Mountain (2005), Life of Pi (2012)
Any duds?: Hulk (2003)
Oscar love?: Won best director for Life of Pi and Brokeback Mountain
“Nothing stands still. That’s important in my movies. People want to believe in something, want to hang on to something to get security and want to trust each other. But things change. Given enough time, nothing stands still. I think seeking for security and lack of security is another thing in my movies.”
Linklater is not the only auteur who has focused their career on films with a dialogue heavy narrative but he is the original and best and his experiments with time, especially around how one day can be life-changing are fascinating.
Best work: The “Before” Triology, Dazed and Confused (1993), Boyhood (2014)
Any duds?: None that I have seen
Oscar love?: Nominated for best director for Boyhood (2014)
“The most unique property of cinema is how it lets you mold time, whether it’s over a long or a very brief period.”
Joel and Ethan Coen
The Coen brothers have a brilliant knack for bringing together kooky stories with fascinating (if often unlikable) characters that give them a truly distinctive style.
Best work?: The Big Lebowski (1998), O Brother Where Art Thou (2000), No Country for All Men (2007), Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Any duds?: Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
Oscar love?: Won best director for No Country for All Men (2007)
Ethan Coen: “It’s easy to offend people. People get uncomfortable, for instance, when the main character in a movie is not sympathetic in a Hollywood formula way. Our movies are loaded with things that aren’t to everyone’s taste. On the other hand, there’s a scene in [O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)] where a frog gets squished that everyone seems to like. It’s all right to do the frog squishing.”
Jonze has a somewhat unusual career made up mostly of directing off the wall music videos and documentaries (Including Scenes From the Suburbs, the companion piece to Arcade Fire’s album, The Suburbs) but the motion pictures he has directed have all challenged people’s perceptions of love, life and the self.
Best work: Being John Malkovich (1999), Her (2013)
Any duds?: I’m not 100% sold on Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
Oscar love: Nominated for Being John Malkovich (1999)
“As a feature film director you got to be a guarding dog of the whole production. You got to be able to hold 100 script pages in the head at the same time. If you miss a detail it’s wasted. I don’t know how the music video generation can affect the movie business, but I’m curious what feature films the English Chris Cunningham and the Swedish guy Jonas Åkerlund are going to make.”
McQueen exploded onto the scene with a trio of intense films about challenging topics all starring his apparent muse Michael Fassbender. I cannot wait to see what he does next.
Best work?: Hunger (2008), Shame (2011), 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Any duds?: None that I have seen
Oscar love?: Nominated for best director for 12 Years a Slave (2013)
“Film is way different. When you’re twenty feet tall on a massive screen and you’re seeing people’s lives played out on it, it’s different from a nice painting. Film is important; it can be more than reportage or a novel – it creates images people have never seen before, never imagined they’d see, maybe because they needed someone else to imagine them.”
Whether you love or hate Tarantino he’s directed some of the most talked about films of the last twenty-five years. His fearlessness when it comes to mashing up genres and his taste for ultraviolence isn’t for everyone but I am definitely a massive fan.
Best work: Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003), Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Any duds?: I didn’t love Jackie Brown (1997)
Oscar love?: Nominated for best director for Pulp Fiction (1994) and Inglourious Basterds (2009)
“When people ask me if I went to film school I tell them, ‘no, I went to films.'”
While Tim Burton might have lost his way somewhat recently there’s no denying that he has a very particular aesthetic, one that I find fascinating. By combining the idea of 50’s American Suburbia, B-movies from the same era and a lot of weird dark things that are happening in his head he manages to create truly unique atmosphere.
Best work: Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Any duds?: Planet of the Apes (2001), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Dark Shadows (2012)
Oscar love?: Nominated for best animated feature film for Corpse Bride (2005)
“”I think the atmosphere that I grew up in, yes, there was a subtext of normalcy. I don’t even know what the word means, but it’s stuck in my brain. It’s weird. I don’t know if it’s specifically American, or American in the time I grew up, but there’s a very strong sense of categorization and conformity. I remember being forced to go to Sunday school for a number of years, even though my parents were not religious. No one was really religious; it was just the framework. There was no passion for it. No passion for anything. Just a quiet, kind of floaty, kind of semi-oppressive, blank palette that you’re living in.”
I realise not everyone gets Luhrman’s love of mashing up the past with the present and his crazy colour saturated palettes but I believe that sometimes style can be substance and this Aussie director is the master. He is also the only person who has ever enabled me to actually enjoy a musical.
Best work: Romeo + Juliet (1996), Moulin Rouge (2001), The Great Gatsby (2013)
Any duds?: Australia (2008)
Oscar love?: Nominated for best picture for Moulin Rouge (2001)
“But above everything else, [William Shakespeare] had to deal with a city of 400,000 people and a theatre that held 4,000 and everyone from the street sweeper upwards. Not unlike your local cineplex, and he used everything possible to arrest and stop that audience – really bawdy comedy and then, wham! Something really beautiful and poetic. Everything we did in Romeo + Juliet (1996) was based on Elizabethan Shakespeare. The fact that there was pop music in it was a Shakespearean thing. We would be fearless about the lowness of the comedy.”
Almost all of my favourite thrillers were directed by David Fincher who has an amazing talent for telling a compelling and intricate story in a unique way. He’s not afraid of exploring dark themes and always keeps the audience hooked.
Best work: Se7en (1995), Fight Club (1999), The Social Network (2010), Gone Girl (2014)
Any duds? I haven’t seen Benjamin Button but I have my doubts
Oscar love?: Nominated for best director for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) and The Social Network (2010)
“As a director, film is about how you dole out the information so that the audience stays with you when they’re supposed to stay with you, behind you when they’re supposed to stay behind you, and ahead of you when they’re supposed to stay ahead of you.”
I don’t always love Wes Anderson and it’s only been his more recent films that have really grabbed me but he absolutely has a unique way of seeing the world and he creates an entire world within his films which makes him hard to ignore.
Best work: Fantastic Mr Fox (2009), Moonrise Kingdom (2012), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Any duds?: I did not enjoy Rushmore (1998)
Oscar love?: Nominated for best director for The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
“I have a way of filming things and staging them and designing sets. There were times when I thought I should change my approach, but in fact, this is what I like to do. It’s sort of like my handwriting as a movie director. And somewhere along the way, I think I’ve made the decision: I’m going to write in my own handwriting.”
Who are the directors that challenge your view of the world? I would love to know!