Like many people I’ve got certain directors that appeal to me most. That is, the majority of their movies rank highly with me. There are no big surprises on my list, but maybe, just maybe, I will turn somebody on to a director they’ve never experienced before. That would be cool. jbm 9/3/2016
Jim Jarmusch: what’s not to like about JJ? His early movies were the epitome of independent film making. He didn’t appear to have ties to any studio or corporation and did pretty much as he pleased. Who knows how he got his movies funded but thank goodness he did. They are artistic, eccentric, and playful with genres and tropes, insightful yet entertaining, cynical yet humanizing, embracing the many contradictions of being human. His movie list is as varied as it is impressive: Down by Law, Night on Earth, Deadman, Ghost Dog, Mystery Train, Stranger than Paradise are among his best (in my opinion). He first came to my attention with Down by Law (1986), a wonderfully low key prison escape movie set in New Orleans and Louisiana. The cast is eclectic: Roberto Benigni, Tom Waits, John Lurie, Ellen Barkin, Nicoletta Braschi (who had heard of Roberto Benigni in the USA when this movie came out? I had not) and the plot is just downright fun. The second movie I saw was Ghost Dog, the Way of the Samurai (1999) and it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Again, JJ is playing with well-known genres (samurai and mob films) but making them entirely his own. And again the movie is replete with eclectic casting and wonderfully eccentric dialogue. I should also add that all his movies have great scores. [His latest movie, Paterson, comes out January 2016 and is getting excellent reviews.]
Mike Leigh: is a thoroughly British film maker who is, in my opinion, the best parts innovative director and consummate perfectionist. By this I mean that he makes carefully crafted movies but encourages spontaneity (his scripts are often improvised). This is not to detract from his movies at all. What you can expect is that the film will be thoughtfully presented and understandable. His range is quite remarkable from the dark and violent “Naked” to the warmhearted slapstick “Life is Sweet” from the serious bios “Mr. Turner” and “Vera Drake” to the not so serious bio “Topsy Turvy” to the social critiques “Career Girls” and “Secrets and Lies” you are guaranteed a great film viewing experience when you see a Mike Leigh film.
Ken Loach: is also a thoroughly British film maker who has an extensive list of socially conscious, humane and thought provoking little films. He has consistently made what most would consider noncommercial films that are meant to edify more than entertain. Yet they are so well crafted that they are also entertaining. I admit to only having seen the following: Kes, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, and The Angel’s Share, but you would do well to see any of his films. It must be noted that his film “I, Daniel Blake” won the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival in 2016 which stands as a wonderful tribute to movies of conscience and film makers of integrity. Per The Guardian article “I, Daniel Blake: Ken Loach and the scandal of Britain’s benefits system” (9/11/2016): “His work is frequently dismissed as “didactic”, shorthand for leftwing, biased propaganda. Yet, the stream of films and media that casually endorse the avaricious and the talentless rich, the exploitative and the violent are viewed as entertainment. But they, too, in their own way, are didactic. They send a message that greed is good; the individual comes first.”
BFI Retrospective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geyZ9c7uwGk
Aki Kaurismäki: see my blog post devoted to him linked here: https://walkcheerfullyblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/04/i-aki-kaurismaki/
Yasujirô Ozu: is well known by directors, not so well known by audiences. Many directors cite his influences. Watching his movies requires some patience as their pacing is not rapid nor do they contain much action but their deep humanity, simplicity and feeling are like incense for the soul. Tokyo Story (makes most lists of greatest movies of all time), Late Spring, Early Spring, Floating Weeds, A Story of Floating Weeds, There was a Father, are frequently regarded to be among his best. I’ve named this blog after one of his earlier movies.
Akira Kurosawa: widely recognized as one of the greatest film makers of all time, along with Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini (Isn’t it interesting that all three were making movies at the same time)? He has inspired many westerns (most famously The Magnificent Seven and A Fist Full of Dollars). George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have acknowledged his influence and financed his movie “Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams.” Many of his movies stand as the best ever made, including (but not limited to): Rashomon, Yojimbo, Seven Samurai, Ikiru (personal favorite), Sanjuro, Stray Dog, The Hidden Fortress (inspiration for Star Wars). There may be some who consider him a master of only the samurai genre, but he is much much more. Actually, his movies cover every genre including drama, comedy, war, noir, detective, antiwar, romance, memoir, etc.
Joon-ho Bong: He has been enjoying a series of successes culminating in a “Hollywood” movie (Snowpiercer). His movies are a unique mixture of comedy, drama, mystery, suspense and horror. Best known movies are: Mother, Memories of Murder, The Host, and Snowpiercer.
Chang-dong Lee: Don’t know much about this director but have seen the following and recommend them highly for their poignant social commentary and portrayals of intense moral/ethical dilemmas: Poetry and Secret Sunshine.
Edward Yang: Unfortunately Mr. Yang died young. From these two movies it is apparent that he was a film maker of exceptional talent. They offer extraordinary insight into day to day lives, are beautifully photographed, contain wonderful dialogue and incredible acting – often from amateur actors: A Brighter Summer Day and Yi Yi (A One and A Two).
Paul Thomas Anderson: a highly challenging director who addresses “the American Experience” like no other. By this I mean he explores American life at its rough edges through unique character studies. A true auteur, he writes, directs, even occasionally takes on the role of cinematographer. My favorites: The Master, There Will be Blood, Inherent Vice, but all his movies are glorious! (photo: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times).
The Cohen Brothers: Ethan and Joel cover the gamete of movie styles: comedy, historical, drama, satire, parody, thriller, noir, etc. Their movies are always entertaining and slightly skewed. This is what keeps their movies fresh, despite their frequency. Recommended: Blood Simple, The Big Lebowski, Fargo, Miller’s Crossing.
More information on these directors can be found at: The Criterion Collection (https://www.criterion.com/explore/people) and Senses of Cinema (http://sensesofcinema.com/category/great-directors/)