Top 10 directors and Their Films.
A list of directors whose work inspires, excites, provokes and most importantly entertains (me at the very least).
An atmospheric director who isn’t afraid to show us the abstract, slightly messy world of film making. It’s rare to have a director/scriptwriter to be so genuine and input their own life experiences, nostalgia and philosophy into their film’s themes and character. He’s an honest filmmaker and not half bad either. Richard Linklater, for me personally, will always be the man who brought us ‘before’ trilogy and in particular the second installment to that series Before Sunset. Before Sunset is in a sentence two long lost lovers talking shit whilst walking around a beautiful city, perfect. The film is less classic romance than its predecessor but still manages to breathe fresh air into an already played out tale of two lovers without embarrassing and patronizing the audience.
Arguably the only Englishman making films about England as well as the heritage of said land both good and bad. A genuine filmmaker who explores a large range of different themes and subjects, everything from the kitchen sink dramatic love story to the hard edged revenge thriller. Meadows honesty in his film making allows him to never shy away from images or attitudes that would otherwise barely make it past the censors. His films explore the darkest reaches of life in England whether his audience’s came seeking them or not. Dead Man’s Shoes is one such tale, a story of a brother revisiting the sleepy town where his brother and he once lived. Without giving too much away the film presents us with a revelation that disturbs and twists the plot into something more than just what we see on the surface. The film also features some incredible scenes that shock and amaze even today.
Christopher Nolan’s short but prestigious back catalogue of films includes the likes of Inception, The Prestige and Momento. His talent is the ability create large scale projects with huge budgets and from that create meaningful, entertaining cinema that is ambitious and yet seamlessly brilliant. Christopher Nolan loves puzzle box movies and enjoys showing his audience how clever a film maker he is by making sure the audience is constantly second guessing. The Dark Knight is less so of a mystery and still proves Nolan’s quality.
Forever to be viewed and accredited for the last best known performance by Heath Ledger, the Dark Knight is also a superb film rich in dialogue and story. Christopher Nolan explores (for the first time) a theme of hero and villain in the quite literally terms of Batman and Joker. The film delves deep into order and chaos and gives great insight into what makes a great villain.
Kitano studied to be an engineer and gets kicked out because of his rebellious behaviour, he then goes on to director some of Japan’s hardest hitting cop thrillers and wittiest comedies. A truly diverse and talented individual who manages to not only achieve success behind the camera but also in front of it (Battle Royale, Zatoichi). Takeshi excels in a variety of different genres as well as roles. He’s also prolific in creating sensitive and eloquent drama such as Hana Bi.
The visual poetry of Hana Bi is simultaneously both hard and soft. Takeshi graciously paints us a simple story of man and woman, husband and wife, through visuals, facial expressions and gestures. The cinematic rule of show don’t tell has never been applied so well and so beautifully. Hana bi touches on the simple aspects of life and death through pensive storytelling that forces its audience to involve and apply themselves. Also the music by Joe Hisaishi is just as brilliant.
David Fincher is on this list both for his original movies but more so for his skill at adapting literary works onto the big screen. Fincher’s ability to seamlessly translate books to screen gives him a huge advantage in his field. Fight Club, the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Zodiac and more recently Gone Girl, David Fincher’s interpretations of these books and short stories not only appeal to the already established fanbase but in some cases surpass the original and become iconic. Fincher delivers his skill through, clear style, smart dialogue and the ability to convert common themes into a single thought provoking text. Fight Club is a shining example of this skill to convert a plot, a theme, an idea into a cinematic experience that rewards all parties.
Ridley Scott is a hard director to love, his breadth of work ranges from highly commercial to artistic which in turns gives his films an inconsistent feel to them. You can scream and shout at me all you like but look the man brought us Blade Runner, Black Hawk Down, Thelma and Louise, The Duellists, American Gangster, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven (directors cut) and of course Alien. Alien is so much more than perhaps the greatest Sci-Fi ever created. It was and still is the benchmark for all science fiction to try and recreate and learn from. This films greatest achieve and indeed Ridley’s is the complete cohesion the film attains. The film is superbly casted, the script is immaculate and the direction is spotless. Alien is by all means the perfect film.
If we’re talking influential we’ll be mentioning Akira Kurosawa then. Quite literally cinema’s most captivating cinematographers whose movie’s art direction is still setting the standard for all modern films. Kurosawa’s blend of captivating action sequences and engrossing plot and adventure make his work some of the most watchable and influential. Without Seven Samurai we wouldn’t have Star Wars, without Stray Dog we wouldn’t have buddy cop movies, without Throne of Blood or Ran we’d probably be watching literal adaptations to Shakespeare, let’s face it cinema as an institution would be a very different place without the work of this great director.
Seven Samurai is the choice for Kurosawa, a simple story so accessible it’s still recreated today. The intelligence in those originals especially Seven Samurai is what makes the sixty year old epic less classic and still contemporary and that final fight scene in the rain, talk about perfect weather conditions.
He’s been dubbed the ‘universal director’ and always features as a hot favourite for anyone’s top list. He’s without a doubt one of the most successful movie directors of all time. His films bring in huge audiences year upon year which regardless whether the film was good or mediocre always means large box-office. Although that isn’t the reason for his position on my list. He may have cracked the code or obtained the perfect recipe but it’s his ability to produce film upon film without skipping a beat or cutting a corner. This is the man who brought us War of the Worlds and Munich in the same year, huge projects, surely too much for any one director but not Spielberg. Roger Ebert once said “Spielberg has always maintained obsessive quality control,” Spielberg’s a master craftsman who takes pride in every moment he captures.
Schindler’s List is widely regarded as his best work and features highest on IMDB’s top 250 but more than that it’s a film that really broke Spielberg’s typecast role of directing feel good family fun staring children is jeopardy and out of this world adventures. Schindler’s list is a film didn’t just win awards, it informs, sticks with its audience, resonates then wins awards.
Terrence Malick’s greatest strength is his ability to perceive film making as nothing short of an art form. Malick approach is to take each frame and paint a picture using strong brush strokes that highlight whatever emotions he wants the audience to experience. His films can come across as pretentious ambient filler but in reality he’s perfecting the art of film making by using those long edits, those non diegetic sounds, the absence of dialogue and the stunning cinematography. Notably his absence from all media and press gives his persona a reclusive genius vibe, his four films in 32 years make Kubrick look like Corman. The New World is a beautiful example of how each scene is used as a device to explore the finer detail, blowing grass, running rivers, soaring canopy, each and every detail has its purpose and an artistic quality. Terrance Malick, the master of ambience.
There’s little left to say about the late, great Satoshi Kon that hasn’t already been said in Japanese and yet he’s rarely mentioned in western cinematic circles, on and offline. For those that don’t already know Satoshi Kon was a Japanese filmmaker who in his brief lifetime became a highly prolific anime director. Having a back catalogue of just six animated films and serials, Satoshi is widely regarded as being similar to Miyazaki but with fewer masterpieces. However I’d argue his film and television is much more concerned with exploring in the dark, dank depths of human emotion, paranoia and fear. For me, Kon sits amongst the likes of Kubrick, Cronenberg and Lynch. His innovation and departure from traditional storytelling will draw in audiences from all inclinations and his work also has the intelligence and sheer complexity to then grip said audiences and hold their attention until the very end. Never in my opinion has any filmmaker had such an impression of quality and character from such a small handful of films over such a short career. His death is a huge loss to the world of film and in particular Japanese animation. No single film has been chosen for Satoshi Kon because each is so perfect and distinctive it would’ve been fruitless to cherry pick.