Monday, October 25, 2010

15 Directors Who Shaped My Movie Love

So there's this meme going around that Paolo tagged me with. So why not? The idea is that you list 15 directors, mainly off of the top of your head, that contributed to the way you experience and think about the movies. This is not a list of my all time favorites though half of the list would probably overlap. This is the list I come up with when I think briefly on the formative masterminds and/or the ones that have or had some sort of claim on my soul if you will. Three of them I could definitely live without at this point but I'm trying to be honest about the exercize.

Wise with Wood ~ West Side Story 
So here goes in no particular order... 

ROBERT WISE (1914-2005)
When I was a kid West Side Story and The Sound of Music were the most Epically ! Epic !!! movies to me. At the time I didn't quite grasp the auteur theory but at some point I became aware that this guy had made both so therefore "He must be the best director of all time!" Later I discovered that he wasn't but I still think he's a stronger talent than he gets credit for being nowadays.
first encounters: The Sound of Music and West Side Story (on television) 

As I said in my Rope retro, he's training wheels for any young budding film buff who is curious about The Man Behind the Curtain (Hitch or otherwise).
first encounter: North By Northwest (I think I saw it here, the place I saw many old movies for the first time. My parents didn't know what a monster they were creating by taking me there regularly.)

For the same reason as Hitchcock really; it's impossible to think you're watching anyone else's film. Woody was the first director I "followed", eagerly anticipating and attending each movie as soon as I could. As a result, he'll always have a place in my heart.
first encounters: Broadway Danny Rose (in theaters... my older brother's idea), The Purple Rose of Cairo (in theaters, my idea)

Wyler meeting Charlton Heston's son.
WILLIAM WYLER (1902-1981)
The auteur theory isn't everything. This man understood dramatic storytelling and didn't dumb it down but made accessible all the nuances and fine points. Plus he could wring top notch work from all kinds of actors. His resume is deservedly overstuffed-with-classics. Just last month while watching The Best Years of Our Lives I even dreamed of watching all of his movies chronologically in a row for a blog project. I bet it would be an awesome journey. 
first encounters: Ben Hur (revival house) and Wuthering Heights (VHS) 

Because everyone loves him and therefore he was ubiquitous when I was growing up and still is to a degree. There was no question that he was shaping Hollywood and more than one moviegoing generation. I never felt personally attached but he was always present in the movie menu.
first encounters: Raiders of the Lost Arc & E.T. (in theaters)... the latter is the only movie I can ever remember seeing with my Grandma *sniffle*

Because I seriously wish he was mandatory study/viewing for anyone assigned to direct a mainstream action film. He's never created an action sequence that was boring or difficult to follow (few others can say the same) and even if the dialogue is and was a bit clunky, his films are such masterful pop(corn). Plus, like all the greatest directors, he doesn't ignore female characters but makes them crucial players.

first encounters: The Terminator (cable), Aliens (in theaters... one of the very first R rated movies I ever saw in theaters. Ooohh.)

Pedro and His Muses celebrate All About My Mother's Oscar win
Truth: I look forward to no one else's movies more. Pedro always gives audiences something for the heart, the brain, the eyes and the groin and rare is the filmmaker who understands to provide us with all four pleasures in each and every film. 

first encounters: Women on the Verge... (in theaters), Law of Desire (VHS) 

Ridley with Veronica Cartwright on 
the Nostromo in Alien (1979)
Because he made two movies that I remain deeply in the thrall of (Blade Runner and Thelma & Louise) and kicked off one franchise I obsessed over regularly for a good long while (Alien). And he helped inform my love of Art Direction within movies. All that but I could never work up much enthusiasm for anything in between or after those three peaks which just goes to show you: even if you love someone's something, you never know how it's all gonna shake out in terms of fandom.

first encounters: Legend (in theaters), Blade Runner (I can't remember how I first saw this...? There's too many versions!)

TIM BURTON (1958-)
He started off so very strong and stylized. Few things are as pleasureable as the weird and whimsical as long as they're genuinely felt and not manufactured. Unfortunately...  no, no, let's not go there! I can't deal.

first encounters: Pee Wees Big Adventure (I think on cable?), Beetlejuice (in theaters)

Sirk with Dorothy Malone on the set of Written on the Wind (1956) 
Why is she reading My Antonia?

DOUGLAS SIRK (1900-1987)
Because he influenced so many directors I love but I came to him after his ancestors which is like a glorious reminder that there's always more to experience from the past. When you sift through cinematic history you might even love someone so much that you wish you could jump in a time machine and shake the person's hand or give them a million kisses or a bear hug or promise them your first born child, depending on how they react to you arriving in the time machine in the first place. Maybe you should just send a thank you note in the machine.

first encounters: Lured and All That Heaven Allows (on DVD)

Because he's a true original and yet his highly personal films resonate with so many people. It's like he was practicing Inception long before Nolan ever thought it up; his dreams and nightmares became ours. Plus, he made me believe in television as a powerful artistic medium in its own right and for its own reasons and not just the cinema's poor uglier relation. 

first encounters: Dune (in theaters) and Twin Peaks (television)

Campion's Bright Stars
Because there were so few female directors when she rose up but it was no kind of affirmative action enthusiasm -- she could have been a genderless space alien and would have still completely vaulted to the top of Directors Whose Movies You Must Watch!

first encounters: The Piano (in theaters), Peel (on VHS)

INGMAR BERGMAN (1918-2007)
It's not only that he made deeply great movies. I am fascinated that he ever existed at all... or rather, he has come to represent a myth / reality that I did not experience firsthand but am always fascinated to think on: the 1960s and 1970s and how adventurous movie fans once were. (See also: Federico Fellini.)

first encounters: Cries and Whispers and Persona (VHS)

ROBERT ALTMAN (1925-2006)
Movies should be crowded with true character... and characters. And they should be alive with possibilities as if the camera could follow anyone offstage and there would be a whole new movie waiting, tantalizingly out of reach.

first encounters: Fool For Love (VHS), The Player (in theaters) 

Bale & Haynes hit Goldmine!
Because he keeps growing and therefore keeps us guessing. And because his one of his pet themes, the fluidity of identity, is among the most cinematic of themes.

first encounters: [Safe] (VHS), Velvet Goldmine (in theaters) 

If you ask me who are the "best" or my "favorite" directors the list would have to change at least by a third, maybe even a half. But that would require more careful consideration. If you ask me who from the past I'd like to resurrect to make one last motion picture the list would look crazy different. But that might be a fun list to make some time. Hmmmm.

I don't know who to tag since this meme has been going around for some time now. So I say YOU in the comment section: which 15 directors shaped your ideas about the movies in your formative film years.

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