Thursday, October 14, 2010

Modern Maestros: And Many More...

Robert here with the final entry in my series on great directors.

A full year after starting my Directors of the Decade series that eventually evolved into Modern Maestros, I can declare that no man should besmirch the state of movies today.  We've discussed 47 directors who are consistently putting out films that are original, interesting, exciting and often masterpieces.

With each piece I've come to love even more each director and what it means to be a lover of film in this day and age.  Even though the series won't go on, I know it could.  There are still many directors worth celebrating.

There's Oliver Assayas and his ability to direct a wide variety of films from the heartwarming to the hopelessly cool.  The Brothers Dardenne with their Bressonian influence continue to pop up and find success at festivals every few years.  Turkish prince of detachment Nuri Bilge Ceylan has thus far been under-the-radar, but I await his eventual breakthrough.  Swede Lukas Moodysson brought us some of the most heartbreaking and heartwarming films of the past fifteen years.  Carlos Reygadas who can depend on mixed responses to his difficult films which are never less than downright intriguing.

Directors Danny Boyle, king of whirlwind editing, Peter Weir, consistent craftsman that he is and David O. Russell who we all wish worked a little more easily are poised to present entries into this year's Oscar race.

And speaking of Oscars, we have yet to see if Kathryn Bigelow's win last year helps solidify support for female directors, but dark romantic Jane Campion, ennui enabler Sophia Coppola and drama celebrating Lisa Cholodenko are all worth celebrating.

The recent explosion of documentaries can perhaps be traced back to the success of Michael Moore who, provocateur though he is, knows how to create enticing films.  Other documentarians like Charles Ferguson and Alex Gibney continue the tradition of asking important questions through their cinema.

The boom in Asian directors has been a running theme, yet I missed Hou Hsai-hsien who has been doing his thing for decades, perfecting his modern yet classic observational style and Hirokazu Koreeda whose poignant films cover the topics of life and loss.

Horror and Fantasy can often be a mass-produced wasteland but Guillermo del Toro with his dark humanity, Sam Raimi with his sense of fun and Peter Jackson with his mastery have all elevated those genres to new heights.

Bill Condon, Stephen Frears, and Terrence Davies have found a way to keep sophistication from becoming dusty.  Quite the contrary, they keep churning out films that are distinctly modern.

Clint Eastwood, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Julie Taymor and Julian Schnabel are among the names who've put out minor works this year (or flat out bad films depending on who you ask) but is there any questions whether or not their next film will be greeted with just as much anticipation as their last?  They could strike gold at any moment.

You can add to that list Sam Mendes, Stephen Daldry, Terry Gilliam, and Fernando Meirelles who we can pretty dependably assume will rise to great heights again.

Veterans of the old indie movement have found nice niches for themselves, whether that be Jim Jarmusch and his cerebral minimalism, Spike Lee and his documentaries or Noah Baumbach and his uncomfortable dark comedies.

Young independent directors are coming of age nicely too, like Ryan Fleck and Anna Bodden who clearly have great understanding for their characters.  Or Thomas McCarthy who clearly has a great love of his characters.  Or Todd Field who clearly appreciates the great drama that his characters provide.

How about the real veterans.  Eighty-five year old Sidney Lumet still knows how to make a film that's gripping.  Eighty-two year old Agnes Varda knows how to infuse a doc with her artistry.  Seventy-nine year old Godard proved at Cannes that he can still cause a stir.  And One Hundred and One year old Manoel de Oliviera is still working... my god he's still working.

And then there's Terrence Malick.  Has any other director since Kubrick found himself surrounded by such an aura of mystery and anticipation... he's practically an American folk hero.

After all that I could still name more, and so could you.  So I encourage you to share the directors who you look forward to, film after film after film, whether they've directed one movie like Duncan Jones or dozens like Abbas Kiarostami, whether they've fallen from grace like Tim Burton or are on the top of the world like James Cameron.  Tell me who I've missed or simply give love to someone who bears repeating.

Here is a list of all the directors covered by Directors of the Decade/Modern Maestros:
Martin Scorsese, Ramin Bahrani, David Lynch, Darren Aronofsky, Tsai Ming-liang, Brad Bird (Mr. Complexity),Lars von Trier, Andrew Stanton (Mr. Simplicity)Gus Van Sant, David Gordon Green,
Joel and Ethan Coen,Guy Maddin, Paul Thomas Anderson, Roy Andersson, Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino,Claire DenisZhang Ke Jia, Christopher Nolan, Jason Reitman, Pete Docter (Mr. Madcap),
Paul Greengrass, David CronenbergWong Kar Wai, Michael Haneke, Alexander Payne, Hayao Miyazaki, Todd HaynesSpike Jonze, Steven Spielberg,Andrew Bujawlski,Steven Soderbergh, Werner Herzog, Michel Gondry, Errol Morris Ang Lee, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Bela Tarr,Edgar Wright,Woody AllenMike Leigh Catherine BreillatZhang Yimou, Alfonso Cuaron, Aleksandr SokurovDavid Fincher, Pedro Almodovar.

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