top ten directors

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Re: top ten directors

Postby groom_daniel » Sat Jul 12, 2003 11:19 pm

For me, it's far more challenging to try and pick the Greatest Directors in terms of importance and influence.

This is my semi-educated guess:

1) D.W. Griffith
2) Sergei Eisenstein (Over Pudovkin, Vertov or Kuleshov.)
3) Robert Flaherty (Over Leni Riefenstahl)
4) Luis Buñuel
5) Jean Renoir
6) Fritz Lang (Over F.W. Murnau)
7) Roberto Rossellini (Over Vittorio De Sica)
8) Akira Kurosawa
9) Jean-Luc Godard
10) John Cassavetes

This was incredibly difficult, and my list is not very good. It more or less embodies people who were at the forefront of some of film's most important movements. The one that I'm least happy with is Jean Renoir, because I'm not convinced he's the embodiment of the Golden Age of French cinema. I chose him because he had an incredible influence on cinema around the world, and still does today. I wanted to include John Ford, but in the end, I decided he was more of a continuation of Griffith, whereas Cassavetes is the father of independent American filmmaking.

I considered including Hou Hsiao-Hsien, but my knowledge of "Chinese" cinema before the 80's is terrible, and I'm sure there's someone more influential or important. I also haven't included anyone from Indian cinema, which is pretty unforgivable. But there you have it!

Re: top ten directors

Postby groom_daniel » Sat Jul 12, 2003 11:32 pm

Now for my favourites.

1) Yasujiro Ozu
2) Eric Rohmer
3) Preston Sturges
4) Woody Allen
5) Ingmar Bergman
6) Kenji Mizoguchi
7) Shohei Imamura
8) Buster Keaton
9) Jean Renoir
10) Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Re: top ten directors

Postby auteur » Mon Jul 14, 2003 3:00 am

I like your lists of Greatest Directors and Favourite ones. I did find your inclusion of Mr. Allen jarring. Given your otherwise impeccable taste and obvious familiarity with cinema history, I am especially curious. I have seen every film he's released since 1969(I was 8) at the theatre and used to be an admirer. Nowadays I find his attempts to copy Fellini, Bergman and Sturges risible. A few of his films look pretty thanks to cinematographers like Carlo Ponti. Other than that it's just funny lines. I find that the films of his I used to love have not aged well. What is at about his films you enjoy so much?

Re: top ten directors

Postby groom_daniel » Mon Jul 14, 2003 9:19 pm

As much as I like Woody Allen, he only ever made two really great films, Annie Hall and Manhattan.

Annie Hall is one of my favourite films, ever. It's definitely one of the most mature, personal films ever made. Allen is able to take all his introspective, obsessive analysis, and all of his neurotic behaviour, and turn it into a wonderfully entertaining film, free from the bitterness that often crept into his work. This is his most idealistic film. It's not only funny, but incredibly poignant. Annie Hall is as meaningful as anything I've seen about relationships.

Manhattan is far darker and more pessimistic, and has that feeling of bitterness (or dissatisfaction) that I was talking about before, but it remains deeply funny and just as touching, in its own way, as Annie Hall. It looks beautiful, as well. A valentine to the city he loves, as some people have put it.

Other than that, I respect Woody Allen as a writer. Every now and again, he produces a brilliant screenplay -- Broadway Danny Rose or Bullets Over Broadway being two of my favourites. I wouldn't want anyone other than Allen directing those screenplays, like Sturges, the camera is always where it should be, and always captures the performance. I saw a documentary recently where he was talking about his films, and he was incredibly self-critical of himself, and the "anxiety of influence", painting himself as a hack Bob Hope rather than any of the European directors he's tried to emulate. He's pretty frank about the hit and miss nature of his films, and didn't try to excuse that as the result of making a film per year, he was simply honest about it.

Like most of my favourite directors, he's not eclectic, his films constantly deal with the same themes, but within that oeuvre he's made some really good films about modern relationships. Even if he does make the occassional one that furthers his bad reputation as being neurotic and annoying. The only thing I'll say for him as a director is that he does a better job than anyone else of incorporating his interests into his films, whether it's his great love for Manhattan, or literature, film, art, architecture, jazz, even the Knicks. He really is one of America's great auteurs.


Re: top ten directors

Postby auteur » Thu Jul 17, 2003 3:03 am

I also respect Allen the writer, but as a filmmaker he is primarily a "borrower". Allen seems to think verbally more than visually. I enjoy most of his films but no longer consider any of his films to be great cinema. As a teenager I loved "Annie Hall". Nowadays I find the film graceful and often funny, but CLEARLY inferior to Chaplin's, Keaton's, Tati's and Sturges' comedies, as well as Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, to name a few. In "Manhattan", he takes such care in ensuring that no black or latino enters the frame that I wondered about his views on race issues. His Manhattan never existed. At least Jeunet has the excuse that the Paris in Amelie did, many years ago.

Re: top ten directors

Postby groom_daniel » Thu Jul 17, 2003 9:24 am

I wouldn't put Woody in Chaplin, Keaton or Sturges' league, either (I have difficulty with Tati, because of his lack of narrative). Werner Herzog once said that Keaton wasn't so much a filmmaker as he was an athlete, and thus, I'd say he's the most ingenious of the list. Still, I admire that Woody moved from knockoffs in the Marx Bros/Bob Hope vein to a more complex and personal style of filmmaking. Not that I have anything against Marx Bros films, I love them, but Woody's somewhat autobiographical, soul-searching films have the mark of a real auteur (to me).

I'm sure Woody would be the first person to admit that he's a borrower, not only only from cinematic influences, but literary ones, too (most notably Chekhov), but I think there's a substance and depth to his best films, a "measure of sophistication and personal complexity" (All Movie Guide) that make him stand out. What's ironic, perhaps, is that the films he's most proud of (and there's very few, incidently) are amongst my least favourite -- notably Stardust Memories and Husbands and Wives. When you hear him talk about those films, and what he wanted to achieve, they sound great, but he doesn't seem to be able to realise those meditations on screen, and the reason for that may be as you've stated: that his visual scope is extremely limited. I would much rather watch him tell stories in Radio Days than try to be half a Fellini, and he does much better pastiches of his favourites, anyway, as is the case with the mordantly witty Love and Death.

Casting his aspirations aside, when he has a great story to tell, his camera does an excellent job of telling that story. As a director, in terms of shooting to tell the story, he's brilliant. It would appear that he's a great director of actors, at the least he's had some great working relationships with some talented people, and he's had some fantastic people crew for him (be it Gordon Willis on cinematography or Santo Loquasto on production design). To be able to write, direct and more often than not, act, is an impressive accomplishment, and has done a lot for lowbudget filmmaking, both independently and within studios. I'm happy to be amongst his fan base.

If I were to compare Woody Allen to anyone on your list it would be Sturges. While Sturges may have been more brilliant than Allen, they were both able to make thematics, character relationships and great storytelling the focal point of their comedy.

I never noticed the lack of blacks and latinos in Manhattan. I guess it's "his" Manhattan, come to think of it, I can't think of many characters in his films who aren't Jewish or Italian, so I guess he writes about what he knows best.

Re: top ten directors

Postby auteur » Sat Jul 19, 2003 12:35 pm

Excellent point about Allen borrowing from literature as much as cinema, and about the autobiographical aspect of his movies. He manages to incorporate his comic persona into his narratives, in fact, his heroes remain essentially standup personalities. Whatever I get from Allen (not in the often accomplished screenplays) seems to stem from his excellent choice of cinematographers and other crew.
I enjoy watching b&w CinemaScope shots of NYC landmarks to the strains of Gershwin in MANHATTAN. But like you say, this is "his" Manhattan, certainly not mine. Just like his obsessive need seduce a much younger(usually),w.a.s.p.(almost always)woman is "his" preoccupation, not mine.

Re: top ten directors

Postby ashfaque » Sun Jul 20, 2003 4:52 pm

I feel so sorry not to see World's 1 of the master film makers, "SATYAJIT RAY" is no where in anyones list. Come on, grow up guys. You should pay respect to those who truly deserve that.Any way my top 10 director's are :
1.Satyajit Ray
2.Abbas Kiarostami
3.Robert Bresson
4.Sergei Eisenstein
5.Akira Kurosawa
6.Jean-Luc Godard
7.Ritwik Ghatak
8.Andrei Tarkovsky
9.Federico Fellini
10.Luis Bunuel

Re: top ten directors

Postby auteur » Mon Jul 21, 2003 7:24 am

Ray is a great director. His absence from these lists is not due to immaturity(as you imply), fact is that few of his films are available on dvd in Europe and none(?!?) in North America. Most of the vhs copies released in the mid 90s are now defective thus not available for rental in a lot of areas. Our problem is not that we need to "grow up". We simply don't have access to his films.

Re: top ten directors

Postby Knoxville » Mon Jul 21, 2003 7:08 pm

1-Martin Scorsessee
2-Paul Verhoeven
3-Luc Besson
4-Stanley Kubrick
5-David Lynch
6-David Cronenberg
7-John Carpenter
8-Francis Ford Coppola
9-Quentin Tarantino
10-Brian De Palma


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