Today is my birthday. I turn 35. This means that I can no longer claim that I’m “in my early 30’s”. I am halfway to 70 years old. I’m just a few short years away from (GASP!) FORTY YEARS OLD! Life is very different for me now than it was when I turned 25 and was presented with a urinal cake (a birthday cake shaped like a urinal cake) and 4,000 people sang happy birthday to me. Working in minor league baseball had perks, insofar as getting a urinal cake is a perk. 35… is not the same thing. But age 35 doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Here’s a fun little exercise. What were my cinematic heroes doing when they were 35 years old?
Let’s start with the yin and yang of my movie appreciation- the maestro of melancholy, Ingmar Bergman, and the sultan of slapstick, Buster Keaton.
Ingmar Bergman turned 35 in 1953. He had shown flashes of brilliance but had yet to break out. That year, he made both Summer with Monika and one of his most underrated works, Sawdust and Tinsel.
Buster Keaton turned 35 in 1930. He was a few short years into his regrettable affiliation with MGM, and made his first “talkie”- Free and Easy– in 1930. MGM clearly had no idea how to put his comic genius to work and Keaton was in the throes of a bout with alcoholism (which he would later defeat).
How about a couple of directorial wunderkinds?
Louis Malle celebrated his 35th birthday in 1967. He had already enjoyed a great deal of success dating back to his 20’s. In his 35th year, he directed the little-known Thief of Paris.
Edgar Wright reached 35 just two years ago in 2009. At the time, he already had a load of TV and film credits to his name. His 35th year was no doubt spent filming Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which would release in 2010.
What about some of my favorite American directors?
John Huston’s 35th birthday arrived in 1941. That year, he was busy enjoying the success of his first film. You may have heard of it. It’s called The Maltese Falcon.
Martin Scorsese reached the age of 35 in 1977, when he released New York, New York and edited The Last Waltz (which was released one year later).
Joel and Ethan Coen are a bit tricky because there are two of them. Joel Coen reached 35 in 1989, when he was most likely working on 1990’s Miller’s Crossing. Ethan Coen got there three years later, directly in between 1991’s Barton Fink and 1994’s The Hudsucker Proxy.
What about some more foreign directors?
Luis Buñuel wrote the screenplay for Don Quentin the Bitter in 1935, his 35th year, and had already achieved great success with both L’Age D’Or and Un Chien Andalou. Given his irreverence for all social institutions, I sort of assume that Buñuel didn’t celebrate birthdays.
François Truffaut was in the middle of his heyday in 1967 when he turned 35. Although he had no releases in 1967, he had already attained international acclaim for his work and still had a great deal more acclaim to come.
It appears that being halfway to 70 isn’t so bad after all. Probably.