5 Filmmakers

Five filmmakers I love. Not a comprehensive list - there are many others - but these are the ones I feel reasonably confident talking about. They are also people who seem to be on roughly the same wavelength as me. There may be others who make 'better' films, but these guys make stuff that I like.

Each image is of a selected film for each director. Mouse-over to see the title.

5. Wong Kar Wai

Wong Kar Wai pretty much flies in the face of mainstream cinema - making films without a script; shooting two films at the same time; throwing in sad endings along with the bittersweet and ambiguous. You can never tell what he's working on, or what's going to be next. But you do know that when he makes it, it will be bold, beautiful and undiluted.

4. Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a director that makes weird-looking films full of weird-looking actors getting into weird situations. And yet, what makes Jeunet stand out so much is that he is not a self-consciously weird or 'zany' director - instead he draws out what is peculiar about everyday life in a way that is striking, familiar and believable.

Jeunet also makes very sensitive films: we are not presented with all this strangeness to laugh at it or be shocked (well, not entirely), but instead in the hopes that we may recognise ourselves.

3. Tim Burton

Tim Burton is the quintessential outcast filmmaker, making films almost exclusively about oddballs struggling against arbitrary social standards. Given that this subject is arguably one that underpins a huge portion of human suffering and conflict, it's a relief to see Burton handle this theme with equal dollops of black humour and compassion - not to mention his unique and powerful visual style.

2. Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki's films perhaps embody all the various qualities that fawning Hollywood stars like to imagine you can find in those films that win Oscars. Well, one of his films did win an Oscar. But all that nonsense about making you feel a broad range of emotions - excitement, fear, hope, laughter - and taking you to strange new places in space and time, making you believe in magic...

Yes, Miyazaki's films have all of that. But more importantly, as well as producing aching moments of emotion, they are also largely subtle and understated. As well as featuring sweeping vistas and thrilling action, they have quiet, simple moments of touching humanity. Miyazaki's favourite themes of environmentalism, pacifism, and humanism are strengthened by a frank understanding of the difficulties of those paths. His dramatically strange new worlds are fleshed out with the plain, the ordinary and the everyday.

I think it's this combination of incredible vision and simple heart that makes Miyazaki so revered by all who come into contact with his work.

1. Buster Keaton

The films of Joseph Frank "Buster" Keaton Jr. are great evidence that cinema was pretty much born fully formed. Working without CGI, stunt men, ninety years of accumulated cinematic craft, or, for that matter, sound, Keaton was still able to produce films that seem startlingly comparable in technical quality to modern fare. And when you take into account the content of the films, Keaton easily stands shoulder to shoulder with the great filmmakers of any later period.

Like his contemporary (and one-time collaborator) Charles Chaplin, Keaton had his own visually distinctive cinematic personality: a clumsy, unsmiling fellow in a flat hat who, though repeatedly at the butt-end of the Universe's jokes, still dusts himself off to save the day from stampeding cows, improbable storms and hungry cannibals. Probably the chief appeal of this character, even today, is that he doesn't look like a man who should really be starring in a film. Short, expressionless, slightly embarrassed to be in this situation, would clearly much prefer it if no-one looked, uncertain what to do, but trying his best - every one of us has been this character ourselves at some point (some of us more often than others).

It's this combination of simple, unflinching humanity and Keaton's own cinematic innovation - conjuring up images that are more convincing than some of today's dodgy CGI - that allows Buster to live on today like no other filmmaker of his era.


Geosomin said...

I'd have to agree with you on all except Wong Kar Wai - although only because I haven't seen any of his work...now I think I'll have to track down his films and watch them, given my affinity for the other 4 people on your list.
I aquired a love for Buster Keaten in university...I took a few film courses to better understand what my husband does (he shoots, edits, does sound etc. for video&film) and was absolutely amazed at Buster Keaton's films... considering what he did with the limited effects/equipment he had access to back then, his film were so very original and entertaining.
And Tim Burton...well, don't get me started. With the exception of his remake of Planet of the Apes, I've loved all of his films. I've also enjoyed every film of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Hayao Miyazaki that I've had the privelidge of seeing.
Being in the middle of the prairies it's hard to track down a lot of the less widely released films (even ones like Pan's Labyrinth almost never came here).
Still haven't been able to track down "A Scanner Darkly"...

Terri /Tinker said...

I'm not familiar with numbers 4 and 5 - but I'd agree with you on numbers 1 - 3. *_*

Pacian said...

Yay! You're both cool!

@Geosomin: I half sympathise with you. In my town almost nothing comes to the cinema, but pretty much everything comes to the DVD shop.

@Tinker: WKW is quite different from the other 4, so may not be your thing. JPJ is kinda like Tim Burton only subtler and with more sex. ^_^

susanna said...

Oh yeah! That's a great list. I remember thinking that the smoking scene in Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love was especially beautiful. I wanted to recapture that in a photograph.
I heard that Jean-Pierre Jeunet is filming an adaption of the book, The Life of Pi. That should be really interesting.
Have you ever seen films by Jim Jarmusch and Wim Wenders? Jarmusch's films crack me up, especially Mystery Train. And the cinematography in Wim Wender's Wings of Desire was just soooooo good.

Pacian said...

Jim Jarmusch is on my 'see more of' list, but so far I've only seen two of his films. When money flows more freely, I'll prioritise him.

the cinematography in Wim Wender's Wings of Desire was just soooooo good.

You do seem to like that film, don't you? :-)