At one time, this site acknowledged itself as the auteurs, promoting the primacy of the director. We all still have the option to become a ‘fan’ of as many directors as we like. For some, this is just a handful, for others, it could be upwards of 50 or more. What I would like to know is this: How does each of us define those directors and filmographies that mean the most to us and why they do? What is it about a director’s style that grabs you?
In my own case, the answer varies depending on the director I am considering. With Kubrick, I admire his close and meticulous attention to detail, evident in all his later films, regardless of content. In Bergman, I find his stories and screenplays go to a level of depth re the human condition offered by few other filmmakers. Tarkovksy represents my own inclination to have a mystical side, seeing reality in terms of multiple layers of possible meaning, always eluding a final disclosure. With Satyajit Ray, I find myself drawn to his subtle, unmistakable humanism – each character is alive and drawn with sympathy and understanding. I admire this same depth of human understanding in Kiarostami.
For more contemporary directors, I admire filmmakers like Guerin, Reygadas, Malick, Ceylan, and Bartas for showing me that reality is often allusive, silence and nature can show us the way to understanding. These filmmakers seem to say that human reality is ever mysterious and just one small part of the natural order of things. Often an image for these filmmakers is worth pages of dialogue. It’s the way I increasingly view things myself.
In other words, I bring my own perceptions and interests to each of these filmmakers, who somehow connect at a deep level with my own viewpoint, by often helping me to define just what that is. These are guides and friends of mine on a long journey of discovery. Anybody else feel that way?
So, how do YOU choose the directors that matter to you and why do they? You can be as succinct or verbose as you like, serious or frivolous – but try for an honest response that reflects what YOU find valuable.
For me, it’s easy, 70s Coppola and Kieslowski. They both utilized smooth, smart cinematography and intelligent editing based on emotion, not industry standard of cut til the celluloid bleeds.
Even though The Godfathers and Apocalypse Now were big stories, they retained the feel of personal films about people, just like The Rain People (yes, it was 69) and The Conversation.
Kieslowski’s work, culminating with The Three Colors films were just so honest, but never devolved in the standard small budget BS that happens too often and trusted his vision and his audience.
Strangely enough, although I’m an admirer of the Auteur Theory, I judge directly purely by their output as opposed to an specific aesthetic quality. So, my favorite directors are those who’ve directed the most of my favorite films. Of course, I appreciate them each stylistically, but their styles vary so much that I can’t generalize that way.
Whose, not who’s.
I like Tourneur because he shoots straight.
Ozu for his simplicity in execution and the strong nostalgia that he evokes in me for a time and space in my life that I fondly remember. Mikio Naruse for his poetic nihilism in a largely indoor milieu.Guru Dutt for his song picturization.Masaki Kobayashi for representing the spirit of rebellion and the indomitable spirit of man.Sadao Yamanaka for being the most complete director who could be poetic as well as plot oriented in his execution of subject matter.Jean-Pierre Melville for his attention to detail and for upholding the spirit of stoic, brave and honorable men.
Ah, Bresson. Nothing else made sense afterward. I didn’t realise I had had any specific preferences before. Was studying Godard and then Tarkovsky, wondering who was ‘right’. Then they pointed me to Bresson and I blind bought Mouchette and Pickpocket on a whim when I realised I couldn’t afford the Bergman Faith Trilogy, the Cassavetes 5 Films set, or the Herzog/Kinski set. Ah! I still don’t own them and I’ve become less interested in everybody else. To me, no one is anywhere near Bresson; he questioned everything, and exposed everything in cinema. My criticisms are small: I don’t like his ‘sound dissolves’, or when someone sobs into their hands or has to act.
It wasn’t Antonioni who created a ‘grammar’. Bresson’s whole style was a filmmaking machine like Life: A User’s Manual was a story creating machine. It’s so tightly knit, nothing compares! Who else had such a complexly perfect style? Anyone can break the rules but to break each rule and make more sense than the rules?
I want to say Linklater (my favorite director) because of his un-intrusive style, but since I feel that at some point, I want to try to incorporate others’ aesthetics, then my answer is not definitive.
Some principles of his:
- If it doesn’t fuck you up, it’s not worth doing
- Images, moments, scenes, and characters are more memorable than plots
- There are no plots in real life anyway
- There is no value in making a neat, “perfect” movie
- The work should be about a powerful, memorable experience, something difficult to articulate into words
- The work should be humanistic and life-affirming
- Characters should be shown from the outside
That’s it for now.
Whose, not who’s
OK! OK! – I was posting this very late at night (never a good idea) and my spell-checker highlighted Whose, which I originally had put in, so I mistakenly changed it. Of course, can’t edit after the fact (if someone can on mubi, that would be nice). Thanks for being such a nitpicker (which we have many here at mubi). I’ve made these sort of typo mistakes in the past and will in the future. Saying all that, do you have anything else constructive to add to this thread, or does it just give you pleasure to point these things out?
To everybody else: thanks for the comments and the insights into what you like in the style of certain directors.
Five Directors:Yasujiro Ozu
Ozu is the alcoholic in me.
Naruse is the nihilist in me.
Leigh is the cynic comedian in me.
Tsai is the lonely romantic in me.
Gosho is the naive humanist in me.
And the great thing is they can all switch roles.
Hey now! You just learned a valuable piece of grammatical information. I wish I was as lucky; that someone would rip apart my grammar so I could get better. I’m calling for more grammar nazis!
Those ain’t aesthetics. How would your visual style be? What would everyone’s films look like? Long takes? Montage? Batshit crazy?
and yeah i had a list but just deleted it cuz ur so paranoid why should i bother.
My favorite quote from a filmmaker:
“I hate entertainment.” – John Cassavetes
There is a principle in there that I want to follow.
Rosemary’s Baby was very entertaining – wonder if he hated that.
I’m with The Dude and JC. It’s impossible to live without downtime, diversion, but you gotta avoid it as much as possible, and it’s an unnecessary convention in art. A fidimplictary furbelow. I don’t mind it obviously, but you gotta work at art! I don’t know. What’s entertainment?! Everyone’s definition is different.
By the way, how come Naruse is so ignored in Europe and America? everybody talks about Kurosawa, Ozu and Mizoguchi, first time i ever heard about Naruse was on Mubi.
Probly the same reason Ozu took so long to get here.
Yeah, you’re right Girlfriend – I did completely over-react, so full apologies to you for my inappropriate comments. Please post the comments you intended and I promise not to get all snarky about it. I guess I was mad at my own stupidity when I opened this thread today and realized I had blown the title in such an obvious way. I’ve done this before and am always annoyed that mubi doesn’t allow us to edit these types of mistakes. Now it’s going to be staring at me in the face every time I see this bleeping thread – which is my problem, not yours.
In any case, some directors mentioned here that I also would include as influences on me, like Kieslowski. I think about him the same way as Uli. Also, I have no problem liking directors who can be funny or make films that aren’t all heavy on the symbolism, etc. I love Gilliam for his Monty Python films and Brazil, but can’t follow him down the garden path in every film. Scorsese was once a big influence on me, as his films seemed so personal and stylish (like Coppola in the 70’s), but now I really could care less. With Lynch, some of his films work for me, but others don’t.
So, for me, I tend to go for directors who sort of resonate with me throughout their filmographies, not just hit and miss. I should confess that for directors like Reygadas and Ceylan that I need to see much more of their work before I make my mind up, as my comments were because I was really drawn to an individual film of theirs that made me think (Silent Light and Distant respectively). I guess filmmakers who make me think are now much more of value to me than those that just ‘entertain’ or amuse me – if that makes any sense.
And to continue Wu’s metaphor: Tarkovsky appeals to the closet mystic in me. Just reading Bordwell’s book Figures Traced in Light. He has a great chapter on Angelopoulos and his staging/framing of scenes that helped me to realize what constantly draws me to his films. Sometimes, it is the creative use of specific techniques like: long takes, framing of characters in shots, shadows and distance, that can make the work of a certain director work for us. Bordwell opened my eyes to just why Angelopoulos works for me.
There isn’t one but I would say Nikita Mihalkov is pretty close to me.
Yes, I’m bored.
“Those ain’t aesthetics. How would your visual style be? What would everyone’s films look like? Long takes? Montage? Batshit crazy?”
I don’t care. Figure it out. My entire point was the cohesiveness and diversity in the filmmakers chosen…
“By the way, how come Naruse is so ignored in Europe and America?”
Naruse is beloved in Europe. Much more so than in the U.S..
The answer would probably be, though, that his visual style is much less defined than Ozu’s or Mizoguchi’s because he worked so much more often on a much wider variety of narrative topics in his late period. As opposed to Ozu, and Mizo, and Kurosawa (who all had almost free reign by the mid-50’s, at the latest), Naruse took whatever project came his way, right up until almost the end of his career.
That makes it a lot harder to analyze him (think of one Ozu that feels as ambivalent as Repast, and then consider that that’s arguably Naruse’s most popular film in the west) and thus people don’t pay as much attention.
I’ve done this before and am always annoyed that mubi doesn’t allow us to edit these types of mistakes.
Me, too! Here’s what I do: if the thread doesn’t have too many posts, I make a new thread with the correct title. It works and there’s no harm done, I think. But, yes, I can definitely relate to your frustration!
Back to the thread…I like the concept of the thread, but I have a hard time answering this question. A part of me wants to answer the question as if I were a filmmaker (i.e., which director would match the style I’d expect to use). But I’m pretty sure that’s not where the OP is coming from.
That leaves choosing a director’s style that matches my personal style—which would mean, how I dress, behave, think, etc.? To me, the first director that comes to mind is Frank Capra. It’s not his visual approach that resonates with me so much as the themes in his films as well as the realism of the acting and the sincerity and earnestness of the characters.
Bergman making me feel sad, Buñuel making me laugh at the things that made me sad in Bergman’s works.
And a little Herzog for the weird side of my personality.
Godard for his post-modern rebellion/political radicalism, representing what of what independent art film can do.
Malick for his images and stunning cinematography that is as philosophical as beautiful
Schrader’s need to explore internal problems through fictional metaphors – filmmaking as therapy.
Haneke’s need to utilizes film as a means of expressing vast questions even by ways of using traps to lure the viewer into the necessary psychological interrogation – film viewing as self-reflection.
If we’re talking about those select few kinds of films that hit a nerve with me like no other, I would say there are two types of films – those that hit me on an emotional level (Rachel Getting Married, *Blue Valentine, Still Walking) and those that hit me on an intellectual/technical level (Zodiac, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The White Ribbon).
In the case of the emotional films, these are personal films that I can relate to as a filmmaker and usually represent the kinds of films I want to make myself. They are usually character driven and are more interested in examining behavior than codifying a plot. When I leave the theater after seeing these films, I’m usually affected so deeply that it manifests itself physically (for instance, my hands will literally start to shake).
With more intellectual films, I’m responding to the ideas presented or the technical brilliance of the filmmaking. These are the types of films I would have no idea how to make and yet I love them nonetheless. Roman Polanski is a good filmmaker that represents these kinds of films for me. The style, the confidence in direction – these films remind me how diverse cinema can be but still be brilliant. I’m not sobbing when I leave the theater but instead my eyes are wide in amazement at what the director achieved.
To break it down into filmmaker camps:
Emotional: Cassavetes, Van Sant, Kore-eda, Lee Chang-Dong, Jonze, Demme, Denis, Todd Field, Baumbach, Maren Ade
Intellectual/Technical: Haneke, Fincher, Polanski, Preminger, Melville, McQueen, Refn
About the only one I can think of who treads the line between both categories is Lars von Trier.
As far as “style”, I’m not married to a particular style. The style I like is the style that works for the film. For instance, I love Cassavetes and I love Kubrick.
I wish I saw things like Claire Denis; imagined things like Paranjanov; aggravated social consciousness like Rossillini; was outspoken like Nagisa Oshima; could tell a story in film like Larisa Shepitko; could erase like William Kentridge; could write like Woody Allen; be provocative like Noé; master genres like Hawks; be urbane like Denys Arcand; be as lucky as Wim Wenders; tender as Renoir; chomp a metaphorical cigar like Sam Fuller; build a mythical dreamworld like Tarkovski; build a social dreamworld like Kaurismaki; organize non-sequiturs like Apichatpong Weerasethakul; trust myself like Bela Tarr; be committed like Jonas Mekas; understand crass beauty like Reygadas; choreograph mise en scene like Miklós Jancsó; be an assistant to Orson Welles; direct a film like Tengiz Abuladze; watch a film by Imamura; walk away from it all like Douglas Sirk.