Okay after the five days of Greatest Directors of the Decades threads, let see if we can clearly define what Greatness in Directing really means.
John Ford’s name pops up in four decades and I tagged him for the Greatest of the 40s, so obviously he had great longevity, but if he would have stopped directing after 1939 would he still be great? Still be remembered as well by us here and would as many in many film circles remember him and his work?
Same with Godard and Bergman.
But what about others? Hell, John Sayles is my one my favorite directors and I forgot to mention him — thank you Jaspar, for bringing his name up (also, he one of the featured directors in the documentary I tagged for this thread).
Do we get lost sometimes on the big names of greatness and the lost gems of greatness, that we cannot see the greatness right before our eyes?
It was also mentioned a few times that maybe a director could not be considered great for a certain decade because of the lack of films s/he made in that ten-year span.
But was not Malick great in the 70s with just two films? Could he not be considered great in the 90s for A Thin Red Line alone?
Same with Kubrick in the 80s and 90s (though I am not a fan at all of Eyes Wide Shut).
And I had mentioned what if a director was part of the studio system and was just churning films out with a great one every once and awhile, but something unforgettable (and possibly forgotten) in the mix — do some bad films detract from the greatness of a director?
Is Scorsese any less great because of …. okay what is a bad film he’s made? :-)
Or what about filmmakers who died young? Might Theo van Gogh have been great if he were not murdered leaving just eight films? Can greatness be achieved through the potential for greatness?
So, what do you all think? What makes a Great Director?
Here’s some quick links to the threads:Greatest Directors of the 00s+Greatest Directors of the 90sGreatest Directors of the 80sGreatest Directors of the 70sGreatest Directors of the 60sGreatest Directors of the 50sGreatest Directors of the 40sGreatest Directors of the 30sGreatest Directors of the 20sGreatest Directors of 1900/19Greatest Directors of the 1880s (thanks Apursansar, for starting this one)
And Thank You Maximilian Bercovicz for making a little statement in another thread.
Celebrate Films, people, they are one of the greatest gifts given to us.
“Or what about filmmakers who died young? Might Theo van Gogh have been great if he were not murdered leaving just eight films?”
And the other way round with Jean Vigo. Maybe he would have made some terrible films lateron, we’ll never know. If Fellini had died after making “8 1/2” our impression of his “greatness” would have been altered as well. By defining a director’s greatness we’re of course only able to consider a limited scope, first of all in regard to the films that did not remain unrealized projects and actually can be seen as giving evidence of the creator’s artistic sensibility, then in many cases we also know little about the creative process behind the film, the way the ideas shaped up and to what extent a director borrowed from other artists. In that sense reading biographies or watching making-offs and interviews certainly gives a better pictures, though even then there’s still a lot that’s obscure. And taste obviously plays an important role as well. So if we’re talking about “greatness” on here one mainly has to take it as personal preference based on what one has seen, in some cases it may do the director justice and in other cases not that much.
Greatness and its definitions are in the eye and mind of the beholder. Tarkovsky and Da Vinci were not prolific but their quality places them high in the respective pantheons.
Greatness = Vision Integrity Mastery Soul.
Great Directors is a great documentary. Is this thing finally on DVD? I saw it a year or two ago in the theater and have been wanting to buy the DVD.
As for what defines “greatness”, there is no hard and fast definition when discussing the greatness of a director. And that’s part of what makes cinema and art so special. It’s something that defies definition.
“A director makes only one movie in his life. Then he breaks it into pieces and makes it again.” : Jean Renoir
It is that one movie which defines the greatness of a director. That work must connect with our soul. If the director is great, more often than not his other films will be pretty close to greatness as well. But essentially, it is one film. That film could differ from viewer to viewer.
Apparently Renoir never saw Coppola’s Jack.
What Defines Greatness?
If, say, the Earth has become barren, and nobody is around to observe, experience and evaluate the Mona Lisa, can it be great?
I would argue… NO!!
Greatness is a value with which we intelligent observers of the universe can choose – at any relative time and location unique to individual perception – to ascribe to an object/concept of seeming interest, beauty, beneficiality, meaningfulness, importance, etc… of course, everybody has their own personal cognitive biases and perspectives in evaluating greatness (even if their views are influenced subconsciously by other people, etc), which is why discussion about it can be so interesting and rewarding.
What makes a great director?
A great director is a director who makes great films.
What makes a great film?
A great film is a film which is valued as being great.
What is great?
What is valued as being great.
I can share with other people (to the best of my ability) why I feel that Duvidha is a great film, but I don’t expect that others will necessarily agree or disagree with me, for whatever reasons (intrinsic or extrinsic), biased or no. Discussion (i.e. intersubjectivity) may of course ensue, and some people may or may not agree with me or be influenced by my views (and vice versa); others just wouldn’t care either way. I can perceive and place a value judgement upon Duvidha, as can others, but I literally cannot perceive and place a value judgement upon it for others, no matter how hard I might try. I can view Duvidha as a great film, but only great relative to my positive perception of it (which has been influenced subconsciously by others, to some extent) at that given time and place.
If nobody is around to perceive Duvidha (maybe there’s been an apocalyptic nuclear war which has wiped out humanity, heh), can it be great? Or is it just a meaningless object sans any potential value judgements i.e. greatness? Asked and answered (… I hope, lol).
Anyways, roughly speaking (and subject to change), I personally would call a director great if he/she constructs work which is formally interesting/clever/skillful and aesthetically beautiful/meaningful… kind of vague and subjective, I know. THAT’S THE BEAUTY OF ART.
We’ll know as soon as Jazz’s book is published: Greatestness: The Greatest of the Great
^ ha ha ha
I don’t -ascribe- subscribe (let me get my “scribes” straight) to the idea that every artist/director/creator makes only ONE film, reiterated in different ways a million times. Maybe SOME do, but not everyone.
That’s a romantic notion really.
And to me, kind of boring.
Urge to mergers.
be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.
And some will remain forever content in obscurity. :D
Evading all evaluation.
I like this thread. :) And I’m glad there’s someone else starting threads on this subject besides myself. (Uli, you can share the hate, now. :)
Seriously, I thought this question would easier to answer than it actually is. I say “easier” because I have been giving some thought to what constitutes a great film, and I was going to say what Mischa did—a great director is one who makes great films (or at least one). But somehow that’s not very satisfying. This closes off the possibility that someone with great talent, vision, soul (to paraphrase Kenji’s definition, which I rather like)—may not make a great film. He/she will probably have made good or very good films, but they may have missed making a great one. Does that mean they’re not a great director? I’m not entirely comfortable with that. On the other hand, as a general rule, great directors have at least made one great film. Basically, I’m ambivalent and confused about this question.
As I said, I like Kenji’s definition, although in order to determine if a director possesses those attributes, don’t we have to evaluate the films? And if the films indicated the director possessed those qualities, wouldn’t it be likely that the films were great or very close to great?
I’ll have to think about this some more, but let me throw something else out there. We might also want to think about what separates a good director from a great one—or even a great film from the greatest of all time. That might be a way to isolate the attributes of greatness.
I’d have to share royalities with you if I gave it that name, and I’m not willing to share the millions the book will make.
So greatness is essentially relative, right? Everyone’s opinion about great films or great directors are equally valid.
FWIW, I like the way this thread is culmination of all those best director of the decade threads.
… I’m glad there’s someone else starting threads on this subject besides myself. (Uli, you can share the hate, now. :)
Aw, I love both you guys, there’s no hate coming from these quarters!
Let the greatness discussions go forth, building up the great edifice of greatness. :D
Jazz — you can’t possibly believe though that there is ONE film sitting atop the edifice of greatness?
“So greatness is essentially relative, right? Everyone’s opinion about great films or great directors are equally valid. "
Yes. I might say Alan Pakula is a great director because he made three films that are great. But someone else might say he’s a good director because he made three films that were good.
(well I’m right because I’m always right).
“you can’t possibly believe though that there is ONE film sitting atop the edifice of greatness?”
It’s the film that hasn’t been made yet.
Are you the oldest child, Santino? This sounds awfully familiar (I am the oldest child).
You’re stealing Robert’s gig.
you can’t possibly believe though that there is ONE film sitting atop the edifice of greatness?
You’re right. That was poor communication on my part. I don’t think there is one film that is greater than all others. But I think that there are a handful of films—a sort of first tier, if you will—that rise above all others. The creme de la creme of great movies. What separates the two groups is not clear or precise at all. (This issue mainly a matter of semantics—a la a “Spinal Tap” debate about the number 11. :)
Not stealing, Jazz, adding to it! :D
Creme de la creme… hmmmm
There is actually a kind of rose called this:
Well, I’m kind of an only child, which I suppose is the same thing.
^ that’s a SUPER (as in super powered) oldest child!
Tony the Tiger is the sole true arbiter.
^ sugar high!
If you really want to know what’s great, ask Tony, the little boy that lives in Danny’s mouth.
Here’s a cool little discussion and article that the Hollywood Reporter recently did on this exact topic:
As a side note, I think it’s funny that they call all these guys auteurs.
Oh God… I can’t even read that. It sounds so… self-congratulating…
Don’t get me wrong, Jazz; I have plenty of respect for experts in their fields, to a degree. For instance, if I wanted to study Shakespeare, I’d sooner seek out the opinions of a Shakespeare scholar than that of the local fishmonger (but hey, maybe they fishmonger has some interesting insights too, who knows? haha).
But nobody is holding a gun to my head lol. I can listen to whoever the fuck I want ;P
You seem to be saying that a compelling and valid opinion can come from someone other than an expert. I agree. The validity and persuasiveness of an opinion isn’t strictly based on one’s credentials. An non-expert could make a more compelling and valid argument than an expert.
But that still gets back to the issue of some opinions are more valid and legitimate than others. (Honestly, my sense is that you agree with that, too. What you seem to object to is people arrogantly imposing their views and dismissing the views of others. I object to that behavior as well, but one can believe that some opinions are more valid than others without acting like a jerk.)
“What Defines Greatness?”
one that has directed a consistent body of work with a number of great movies
one that has a compelling vision and groundbreaking style that has helped to define cinema as we know it today
one that has a personal stamp that cuts across films, genres, and decades
You know it when you see (hear) it
“An non-expert could make a more compelling and valid argument than an expert.”
This reminds me of the recent controversy surrounding Bill O’Reilly’s new book on Lincoln.