To give you an idea of what to expect from my blog when I actually post serious content, here are my five favorite film directors, in order.
1. Ingmar Bergman
He was Doctor Doom- expounding heavily on weighty philosophical and theological matters that hadn’t been discussed too often in cinema prior to Bergman- but he was also an absolute master at his craft. He took the close-up and made it his own weapon, sapping every ounce of humanity possible out of his actors’ faces. His attention to detail was phenomenal. He and his long-time cinematographer, Sven Nykvist, were phenomenal with their use of shadow, light, and contrast in a grayscale medium. By just about any measure that you’d like to use to gauge a director, Ingmar Bergman was phenomenal. And the ruthless honesty with which he approached serious questions that plague mankind launch him into a different stratosphere.
See: The Seventh Seal; Winter Light; The Magician; Persona; Wild Strawberries
2. Luis Buñuel
Buñuel was the king of absurdity, the Sultan of the Surreal. He grew up, intellectually, with Salvador Dali; the two met and befriended each other in Madrid when Buñuel was 17. The two launched a film career together with the iconic Un Chien Andalou and ultimately changed film forever. Buñuel was counter-culture to his very core, a rebel who greatly enjoyed whimsically poking fun at religion, sexuality, class structure, and just about every other social institution you can imagine. And for this, he is my #2.
See: The Phantom of Liberty; The Exterminating Angel; Los Olvidados; Un Chien Andalou; The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
3. Louis Malle
Time and time again, when you see lists of great directors, Louis Malle is either buried towards the bottom or excluded altogether. The only real reason I can come up with for this egregious mistake is that Malle had no specific genre. Most auteurs have a template that they employ while executing their craft. Louis Malle did not. He made film noir; French language drama; English language drama; gangster films; French and American documentaries; short films; etc… And each time he tackled a new genre, he was very successful at it. The one thing that he shares with Bergman is that he’s so deeply personal in his films. Many of his films are some shade of biographical. And his early film, The Fire Within, is quite frankly my favorite film of all-time.
See: The Fire Within; Elevator to the Gallows; Murmur of the Heart; God’s Country; Au Revoir les Enfants
Read all about it here in my very first blog entry.
See: Rashomon; Ikiru; Seven Samurai; Sanjuro; High and Low
5. Alfred Hitchcock
I’m relatively limited, as I’ve seen about 1/3 of the full Hitchcock catalogue. But the insane quality of what I’ve already seen demands to be included on this brief list. No director was better at toeing the line between art and entertainment. Sure, you might think of Vertigo as a crazy little flick about Jimmy Stewart’s obsession with Kim Novak. But peel back a layer or two and there’s a really hilarious, and dirty, subtext about necrophilia (and to a lesser degree, celebrity worship). Psycho is tense and full of suspenseful goodness, but a thin layer below that, it may as well have been made by Sigmund Freud. In Rope, you the viewer find yourself sucked into a morbid fascination with the murder plot hatched by the protagonists. But there in the middle of it all is one of the protagonists re-telling a tale of how shaken he’d gotten by a farm episode in which he had to “choke chickens”. A MASTURBATION REFERENCE, very much on purpose! And on and on. Like Bergman, Hitchcock was obsessed with details and it paid off in buckets when it came to overall quality.
See: Vertigo; Rear Window; North by Northwest; Psycho; Strangers on a Train