Thursday, April 21, 2005

Favorite directors

As a child, I fervently rooted for Tom to beat Jerry. I desperately wanted Wile E. Coyote to catch Road Runner, and even rooted for the would-be ghosts to get away from Scooby and the gang. Besides explaining the enduring appeal of The Empire Strikes Back and my masochistic adoption of the Red Sox, I'm not sure what this means, or why I'm relaying it on the blog. I'm a Democrat, so it's not as if I'm naturally inclined to root for villains. Perhaps it's a preternatural disposition to subverting formula? A way to trace my tastes to childhood inclinations as a way to impress girls? I'm not sure. I like to think my taste for genre tweaking has been with me from the get-go, which is a way to segue into every nerd's favorite activity, listmaking. Rick Curnutte ran a poll of the favorite twenty-five directors among some movie nerds recently, to which I had planned on contributing but forgotten to do so amid the recent anti-fanboy outburst. So instead I'll post it here, fully aware that no one really cares about other people's lists. But it's the New Positivity, man. Come along for the ride.

The elements that most of these directors have in common are: (1) the aforementioned finding fresh ways to tweak genres/formulas; (2) ravishingly baroque visuals accompanied by lush musical scores; (3) unsentimental but balanced treatment of characters - a key thing for me (and is not necessarily "humanism"); (4) a general air of tragic romanticism; (5) "lyricism," whatever that means; (6) themes of love/time un-regained, or imprisonment by society, especially if those themes are explored together; (7) a sense of liberating play with form; and last but not least, (8) a sense of humor.

Top Ten (in very rough estimated intuitive not-set-in-stone preferential order)

01. Howard Hawks
02. Jean-Luc Godard (1960-1967)
03. Alfred Hitchcock
04. Wong Kar-wai
05. Josef von Sternberg
06. Billy Wilder
07. Martin Scorsese
08. Eric Rohmer
09. Yasujiro Ozu
10. Jacques Demy

Comment: Please worship these guys. They are all awesome, even if not everything they have ever made is awesome.

Next fifteen (rough chronological order) [Not exactly full of surprises]:

F.W. Murnau
Jean Renoir
Orson Welles
Kenji Mizoguchi
Otto Preminger [very underrated - a recent retro helped tremendously]
Douglas Sirk
Alain Resnais [possibly the greatest living filmmaker, all things considered]
Stanley Kubrick
Sergio Leone
Roman Polanski
R.W. Fassbinder
Robert Altman
Brian De Palma [in spite of all the crap]
Edward Yang
Olivier Assayas

Another time, another place: Woody Allen

Sorry to leave out all kinds of great filmmakers, but especially: Buster Keaton, Lubitsch, Preston Sturges (a better screenwriter than director), Lang, Nick Ray, Kurosawa, Naruse, Boetticher, Imamura, [Visconti], Truffaut, and Coppola.

Ten Favorite working filmmakers not listed above (whose new movies I most eagerly anticipate):

01. Charlie Kaufman [yeah, I know]
02. Terry Gilliam
03. David Lynch
04. Arnaud Desplechin [moved up since yesterday]
05. Steven Soderbergh
06. Pedro Almodovar
07. Jim Jarmusch
08. Quentin Tarantino
09. P.T. Anderson
10. Hong Sang-soo & Claire Denis

Stay positive, folks! More good vibes coming your way soon. Unless John Bolton is confirmed as Ambassador to the U.N. Then all bets are off.