Thursday, October 14, 2010

Modern Maestros: And Many More...

Robert here with the final entry in my series on great directors.

A full year after starting my Directors of the Decade series that eventually evolved into Modern Maestros, I can declare that no man should besmirch the state of movies today.  We've discussed 47 directors who are consistently putting out films that are original, interesting, exciting and often masterpieces.

With each piece I've come to love even more each director and what it means to be a lover of film in this day and age.  Even though the series won't go on, I know it could.  There are still many directors worth celebrating.

There's Oliver Assayas and his ability to direct a wide variety of films from the heartwarming to the hopelessly cool.  The Brothers Dardenne with their Bressonian influence continue to pop up and find success at festivals every few years.  Turkish prince of detachment Nuri Bilge Ceylan has thus far been under-the-radar, but I await his eventual breakthrough.  Swede Lukas Moodysson brought us some of the most heartbreaking and heartwarming films of the past fifteen years.  Carlos Reygadas who can depend on mixed responses to his difficult films which are never less than downright intriguing.

Directors Danny Boyle, king of whirlwind editing, Peter Weir, consistent craftsman that he is and David O. Russell who we all wish worked a little more easily are poised to present entries into this year's Oscar race.

And speaking of Oscars, we have yet to see if Kathryn Bigelow's win last year helps solidify support for female directors, but dark romantic Jane Campion, ennui enabler Sophia Coppola and drama celebrating Lisa Cholodenko are all worth celebrating.

The recent explosion of documentaries can perhaps be traced back to the success of Michael Moore who, provocateur though he is, knows how to create enticing films.  Other documentarians like Charles Ferguson and Alex Gibney continue the tradition of asking important questions through their cinema.

The boom in Asian directors has been a running theme, yet I missed Hou Hsai-hsien who has been doing his thing for decades, perfecting his modern yet classic observational style and Hirokazu Koreeda whose poignant films cover the topics of life and loss.

Horror and Fantasy can often be a mass-produced wasteland but Guillermo del Toro with his dark humanity, Sam Raimi with his sense of fun and Peter Jackson with his mastery have all elevated those genres to new heights.

Bill Condon, Stephen Frears, and Terrence Davies have found a way to keep sophistication from becoming dusty.  Quite the contrary, they keep churning out films that are distinctly modern.

Clint Eastwood, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Julie Taymor and Julian Schnabel are among the names who've put out minor works this year (or flat out bad films depending on who you ask) but is there any questions whether or not their next film will be greeted with just as much anticipation as their last?  They could strike gold at any moment.

You can add to that list Sam Mendes, Stephen Daldry, Terry Gilliam, and Fernando Meirelles who we can pretty dependably assume will rise to great heights again.

Veterans of the old indie movement have found nice niches for themselves, whether that be Jim Jarmusch and his cerebral minimalism, Spike Lee and his documentaries or Noah Baumbach and his uncomfortable dark comedies.

Young independent directors are coming of age nicely too, like Ryan Fleck and Anna Bodden who clearly have great understanding for their characters.  Or Thomas McCarthy who clearly has a great love of his characters.  Or Todd Field who clearly appreciates the great drama that his characters provide.

How about the real veterans.  Eighty-five year old Sidney Lumet still knows how to make a film that's gripping.  Eighty-two year old Agnes Varda knows how to infuse a doc with her artistry.  Seventy-nine year old Godard proved at Cannes that he can still cause a stir.  And One Hundred and One year old Manoel de Oliviera is still working... my god he's still working.

And then there's Terrence Malick.  Has any other director since Kubrick found himself surrounded by such an aura of mystery and anticipation... he's practically an American folk hero.

After all that I could still name more, and so could you.  So I encourage you to share the directors who you look forward to, film after film after film, whether they've directed one movie like Duncan Jones or dozens like Abbas Kiarostami, whether they've fallen from grace like Tim Burton or are on the top of the world like James Cameron.  Tell me who I've missed or simply give love to someone who bears repeating.

Here is a list of all the directors covered by Directors of the Decade/Modern Maestros:
Martin Scorsese, Ramin Bahrani, David Lynch, Darren Aronofsky, Tsai Ming-liang, Brad Bird (Mr. Complexity),Lars von Trier, Andrew Stanton (Mr. Simplicity)Gus Van Sant, David Gordon Green,
Joel and Ethan Coen,Guy Maddin, Paul Thomas Anderson, Roy Andersson, Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino,Claire DenisZhang Ke Jia, Christopher Nolan, Jason Reitman, Pete Docter (Mr. Madcap),
Paul Greengrass, David CronenbergWong Kar Wai, Michael Haneke, Alexander Payne, Hayao Miyazaki, Todd HaynesSpike Jonze, Steven Spielberg,Andrew Bujawlski,Steven Soderbergh, Werner Herzog, Michel Gondry, Errol Morris Ang Lee, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Bela Tarr,Edgar Wright,Woody AllenMike Leigh Catherine BreillatZhang Yimou, Alfonso Cuaron, Aleksandr SokurovDavid Fincher, Pedro Almodovar.


Andrew R. said...

Miyazaki's animation.

Tarantino's violence.

Aronofsky's visions.

And the greatest director ever...Spielberg.


Andrew R ... i was with you until... er... um, no.

ROBERT -- thank you so much for this great series. And we'll see you in a few weeks. Have a great honeymoon.

Jorge Rodrigues said...

102 (!)-year-old Manoel de Oliveira. That man has such a young soul... He looks like he'll never die.

He has currently 3 projects slated for pre-production and he's shooting a new feature right now. Gosh.

Robert, can I just say... thank you? You've made us discover many directors whose films are worth checking out and you've made us fall in love all over again with some of our favourite directors.

What you've achieved here is the absolute goal of a cinephile: to inspire other people to experience the same passion you do when you watch a movie. And for that, I thank you.

I wish you good luck for your marriage and I hope you return to The Film Experience one day.

Anonymous said...

I was kinda sad Danny Boyle wasn't done. Although the trailer for 127 Hours summed him up in one way.

Michael said...

Loved the series. A great, thoughtful mix of choices. I'm gonna miss it. Tip of the hat to you, sir.

Greg Bennett said...

Thanks Robert, have really enjoyed the series.

And I think I've finally gotten over you declaring that Christopher Nolan has no Masterpieces.

(Or maybe not as I can still remember that!)

Robert said...

Jorge - Thank you, I've enjoyed the series so much. And I'll be back in a few weeks with a series that excites me even more than this one!

GJB - I revisited a lot of Nolan recently and am ready to admit he has directed a masterpiece... and it's The Prestige.

Jason H. said...

Brilliant series, Robert. It was one of my favorites, introducing me to favorites old and new. I'll miss it dearly.

rosecityjesse said...

Jorge said it best. Thank you for an amazing series! I have discovered new films and directors, and rethought quite a few old favorites and dislikes.

Amir said...

i loved this series.
thank you very much for all the posts,
and looking forward to seeing you back.

Agustin said...

Loved this series
I hope it will be back in some form or another

Greg Bennett said...

Robert - Very good! That would be my pick too.

Thanks again for the series.

Anonymous said...

Come back to us!! I was so looking forward to your entry on Peter Jackson!

Anonymous said...

Oh God, how rude of me. Thanks Robert. I especially loved your write-up on Mike Leigh.

Volvagia said...

Yeah: I think you're alone on Spielberg. Lynch, The Archers, Kubrick, Kazan (I've loved everything I've seen of his EXCEPT Gentlemen's Agreement), Scorsese, Huston, Malick and many others. But Spielberg and, on a similar note, Hitchock? They captured the myths of the time (Sharks, WWII and aliens for Spielberg, Ed Gein, Nazi Hunting and film strictly as voyeurism for Hitchcock), but they have few-no literary or aesthetic designs, which I'd think you'd need to actually asign a "Greatest Ever" status to a creator of what is, above it all, a VISUAL MEDIUM.

NicksFlickPicks said...

This has been a great series, Robert. Thanks for all the work you put into it.

Andy said...


Deserves to be on there

Alison Flynn said...

Just want to add my appreciation for this series. It's wonderful and I've enjoyed every write-up (even if I haven't always commented).

as said...

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Caden said...

This was a great series. Thank you for doing it!