The American 1970s may have been dominated by a ?New Wave? of younger, auteurist-inspired filmmakers including George Lucas, Peter Bogdanovich, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Francis Ford Coppola, all contemporaries as well as sometime colleagues. It is, however, an outsider to this group, the older Robert Altman, perhaps that decade's most consistent chronicler of human behavior, who could be characterized as the artistic rebel most committed to an unswerving personal vision.
In a 1958 essay entitled ?Get Out and Push,? Lindsay Anderson expressed his approach to working in the cinema.
Antonioni's cinema is one of non-identification and displacement. In almost all of his films shots can be found striking emphasis on visual structure that works in opposition to the spectator's desire to identify, as in classical Hollywood cinema, with either a protagonist's existential situation or with anything like a seamless narrative continuity?the ?impression of reality? so often evoked in conjunction with the effect of fiction films on the spectator.
While women directors in film industries around the world are still seen as anomalous (if mainstream) or marginalized as avant garde, the Antipodes have been home to an impressive cadre of female filmmakers who negotiate and transcend such notions.
Alexandre Astruc was the embodiment of the revolutionary hopes of a renewed cinema after the war. True, Clement, Bresson, and Melville were already making films in a new way, but making them in the age-old industry. Astruc represented a new, arrogant sensibility. He had grown up on the ideas of Sartre and was one of the youthful literati surrounding the philosopher in the St. Germain-des-Pr?s cafes. There he talked of a new French culture being born, one that demanded new representations in fiction and film.
Claude Autant-Lara is best known for his post-World War II films in the French ?tradition of quality.? His earliest work in the industry was more closely related to the avant-garde movements of the 1920s than to the mainstream commercial cinema with which he was later identified. He began as a set designer in the 1920s, serving as art director for several of Marcel L'Herbier's films, including L'Inhumaine, and for Jean Renoir's Nana; he also assisted Ren? Clair on a number of his early shorts.
Next to Jean Gr?millon, Jacques Becker is surely the most neglected of France's great directors. Known in France for Goupi Mains rouges and Antoine et Antoinette, his only film to reach an international critical audience was Casque d'Or. But from 1942 to 1959, Becker fashioned thirteen films, none of which could be called a failure and each of which merits respect and attention.
Ingmar Bergman's unique international status as a filmmaker would seem assured on many grounds.
No American film director of his time explored the possibilities of the mobile camera more fully or ingeniously than Busby Berkeley. He was the M?li?s of the musical, the corollary of Vertov in the exploration of the possibilities of cinematic movement. His influence has since been felt in a wide array of filmmaking sectors, from movie musicals to television commercials.
Budd Boetticher will be remembered as a director of westerns, although his bullfight films have their fervent admirers, as does his Scarface-variant, The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond. Since Boetticher's westerns are so variable in quality, it is tempting to overcredit Burt Kennedy, the scriptwriter for all of the finest. But Kennedy's own efforts as director (Return of the Seven, Hannie Caulder, The War Wagon, etc.) are tediously paced dramas or failed comedies.
Frank Borzage had a rare gift of taking characters, even those who were children of violence, and fashioning a treatment of them abundant with lyrical romanticism and tenderness, even a spirituality that reformed them and their story.
Robert Bresson began and quickly gave up a career as a painter, turning to cinema in 1934. The short film he made that year, Affaires publiques, is never shown. His next work, Les Anges du p?ch?, was his first feature film, followed by Les Dames du Bois du Boulogne and Journal d'un cur? de campagne, which firmly established his reputation as one of the world's most rigorous and demanding filmmakers.
For all the critical attention (and furious critical controversy) his work occasioned over half a century, Luis Bu?uel resisted our best taxonomical efforts. To begin with, while no artist of this century strikes one as more quintessentially Spanish than Bu?uel, how can one apply the term ?Spanish filmmaker? to a man whose oeuvre is far more nearly identified with France and Mexico than with the land of his birth?
The critical stock of Frank Capra has fluctuated perhaps more wildly than that of any other major director. During his peak years, the 1930s, he was adored by the press, by the industry and, of course, by audiences. In 1934 It Happened One Night won nearly all the Oscars, and through the rest of the decade a film of Frank Capra was either the winner or the strong contender for that honor. Long before the formulation of the auteur theory, the Capra signature on a film was recognized. But after World War II his career went into serious decline.
At a time when film schools were non-existent and training in filmmaking was acquired through assistantship, no one could have been better prepared for a brilliant career than Marcel Carn?. He worked as assistant to Ren? Clair on the first important French sound film, Sous les toits de Paris, and to Jacques Feyder on the latter's three great films of 1934-35.
If Jean-Luc Godard appeals to critics because of his extreme interest in politics and film theory, and if Fran?ois Truffaut appeals to the popular audience because of his humanism and sentimentality, it is Claude Chabrol?film critic, filmmaker, philosopher?whose work consistently offers the opportunity for the most balanced appeal.
Charles Chaplin was the first and the greatest international star of the American silent comic cinema. He was also the twentieth century's first media ?superstar,? the first artistic creator and popularized creature of our global culture. His face, onscreen antics, and offscreen scandals were disseminated around the globe by new media that knew no geographical or linguistic boundaries. But more than this, Chaplin was the first acknowledged artistic genius of the cinema, recognized as such by a young and influential generation of writers and artists including George Bernard Shaw, H.G.
Ren? Cl?ment was the most promising filmmaker to emerge in France at the end of World War II. He became the most technically adroit and interesting of the makers of ?quality? films during the 1950s, only to see his career begin to disappoint the critics. In the years of the New Wave it was Cl?ment, above all, who tied the older generation to the younger, especially through a film like Purple Noon. In a more recent phase he was associated with grand-scale dramas (Is Parts Burning?) and with small, personal, lyric films (Rider on the Rain).
During the 1930s, when the French cinema reigned intellectually preeminent, Ren? Clair ranked with Renoir and Carn? as one of its greatest directors?perhaps the most archetypally French of them all. His reputation has since fallen (as has Carn?'s), and comparison with Renoir may suggest why. Clair's work, though witty, stylish, charming, and technically accomplished, seems to lack a dimension when compared with the work of Renoir; there is a certain over-simplification, a fastidious turning away from the messier, more complex aspects of life.
Though nearly forty before directing his first feature, Clayton had a solid professional grounding as Associate Producer. His credits, though few, have been mostly major productions. Though he disclaims consciously auteurial choices, his films evince a heavily recognisable temperament.
In a country like France where good taste is so admired, Henri-Georges Clouzot has been a shocking director. A film critic during the age of surrealism, Clouzot was always eager to assault his audience with his style and concerns.
Jean Cocteau's contribution to cinema is as eclectic as one would expect from a man who fulfilled on occasion the roles of poet and novelist, dramatist and graphic artist, and dabbled in such diverse media as ballet and sculpture. In addition to his directorial efforts, Cocteau also wrote scripts and dialogue, made acting appearances, and realized amateur films. His work in other media has inspired adaptations by a number of filmmakers ranging from Rossellini to Franju and Demy, and he himself published several collections of eclectic and stimulating thoughts on the film medium.
George Cukor's films range from classics like Greta Garbo's Camille, to Adam's Rib with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, to the Judy Garland musical A Star Is Born. Throughout the years he managed to ?weather the changes in public taste and the pressures of the Hollywood studio system without compromising his style, his taste, or his ethical standards,? as his honorary degree from Loyola University of Chicago is inscribed. Indeed, Cukor informed each of the stories he brought to the screen with his affectionately critical view of humanity.
Between the mid-1940s and the late 1950s, Jules Dassin directed some of the better realistic, hard-bitten, fast-paced crime dramas produced in America, before his blacklisting and subsequent move to Europe. However, although he has made some very impressive films, his career as a whole is lacking in artistic cohesion.
"I make films to come to terms with my family history.... If there had been no suffering, there would have been no films." Hardly the most unusual of artistic subjects, but for Terence Davies it has been the source of perhaps the most emotionally and technically distinctive films in recent British film history.
For much of his forty-year career, the public and the critics associated Cecil B. De Mille with a single kind of film, the epic. He certainly made a great many of them: The Sign of the Cross, The Crusades, King of Kings, two versions of The Ten Commandments, The Greatest Show on Earth, and others. As a result, De Mille became a symbol of Hollywood during its ?Golden Age.? He represented that which was larger than life, often too elaborate, but always entertaining.
The films of Vittorio De Sica are among the most enduring of the Italian post-war period. His career suggests an openness to form and a versatility uncommon among Italian directors. De Sica began acting on stage as a teenager and played his first film role in 1918. In the 1920s his handsome features and talent made him something of a matinee idol, and from the mid-1950s he appeared in a number of films by Mario Camerini, including Gliuomini che mascalzoni!, Dar? un milione, and Grandi magazzine.
Jacques Demy's first feature film, Lola, is among the early distinguished products of the New Wave and is dedicated to Max Oph?ls. These two facts in conjunction define its particular character. It proved to be the first in a series of loosely interlinked films (the intertextuality is rather more than a charming gimmick, relating as it does to certain thematic preoccupations already established in Lola itself); arguably, it remains the richest and most satisfying work so far in Demy's erratic, frustrating, but also somewhat underrated career.
Unlike many other Soviet filmmakers, whose works are boldly and aggressively didactic, Alexander Dovzhenko's cinematic output is personal and fervently private. His films are clearly political, yet at the same time he is the first Russian director whose art is so emotional, so vividly his own. His best films, Arsenal, Earth, and Ivan, are all no less than poetry on celluloid. Their emotional and poetic expression, almost melancholy simplicity, and celebration of life ultimately obliterate any external event in their scenarios.
Carl Theodor Dreyer is the greatest filmmaker in the Danish cinema, where he was always a solitary personality. But he is also among the few international directors who turned films into an art and made them a new means of expression for the artistic genius. Of Dreyer's feature films, seven were produced in Denmark, three in Germany, two in France, two in Sweden, and one in Norway.
Blake Edwards is one of the few filmmakers from the late classical period of American movies (the late 1940s and 1950s) to survive and prosper through the 1980s. If anything, Edwards's work has deepened with the passing decades, though it no longer bears much resemblance to the norms and styles of contemporary Hollywood. Edwards is an isolated figure, but a vital one.
Sergei Eisenstein is generally considered to be one of the most important figures?perhaps the most important figure?in the history of cinema. But he was not only the leading director and theorist of Soviet cinema in his own lifetime, he was also a theatre and opera director, scriptwriter, graphic artist, teacher, and critic. His contemporaries called him quite simply "the Master."
Federico Fellini is one of the most controversial figures in the recent history of Italian cinema. Though his successes have been spectacular, as in the cases of La strada, La dolce vita, and Otto e mezzo, his failures have been equally flamboyant. This has caused considerable doubt in some quarters as to the validity of his ranking as a major force in contemporary cinema, and made it somewhat difficult for him to achieve sufficient financial backing to support his highly personalized film efforts in his last years.
Robert Flaherty was already thirty-six years old when he set out to make a film, Nanook of the North. Before that he had established himself as a prospector, surveyor, and explorer, having made several expeditions to the sub-Arctic regions of the Hudson Bay. He had shot motion picture footage on two of these occasions, but before Nanook, filmmaking was only a sideline.
John Ford has no peers in the annals of cinema. This is not to place him above criticism, merely above comparison. His faults were unique, as was his art, which he pursued with a single-minded and single-hearted stubbornness for sixty years and 112 films. Ford grew up with the American cinema. That he should have begun his career as an extra in the Ku Klux Klan sequences of The Birth of a Nation and ended it supervising the documentary Vietnam! Vietnam! conveys the remarkable breadth of his contribution to film, and the narrowness of its concerns.
Franju's career falls clearly into two parts, marked by the format of the films: the early period of documentary shorts, and a subsequent period of fictional features. The parts are connected by many links of theme, imagery, attitude, and iconography. Critical attention has focused primarily on the shorts, and there is some justice in this.
The seven feature films John Frankenheimer directed between 1961 and 1964 stand as a career foundation unique in American cinema. In a single talent, film had found a perfect bridge between television and Hollywood drama, between the old and new visual technologies, between the cinema of personality and that of the corporation and the computer.
Sam Fuller's narratives investigate the ways that belonging to a social group simultaneously functions to sustain and nurture individual identity and, conversely, to pose all sorts of emotional and ideological threats to that identity. Fuller's characters are caught between a solitude that is both liberating and debilitating, and a communality that is both supportive and oppressive. Unlike Howard Hawks, whose films suggest the triumph of the group over egoism, Fuller is more cynical and shows that neither isolation nor group membership is without its hardships and tensions.
Abel Gance's career as a director was long and flamboyant. He wrote his first scripts in 1909, turning to directing a couple of years later, and made his last feature, Cyrano et d'Artagnan, in 1964. As late as 1971 he re-edited a four-hour version of his Napoleon footage to make Bonaparte et la r?volution, and he lived long enough to see his work again reach wide audiences.
If influence on the development of world cinema is the criterion, then Jean-Luc Godard is certainly the most important filmmaker of the past thirty years; he is also one of the most problematic.
Jean Gr?millon is finally beginning to enjoy the international reputation most French film scholars always bestowed upon him. Although Americans have until recently been able to see only one or two of his dozen important works, he has generally been placed only slightly below Renoir, Clair, and Carn? in the hierarchy of French classical cinema.
Values change and time plays tricks on one's memory of how it really was. Back in the early 1930s, when talking pictures were gaining a foothold in this country and all foreign nations were exhibiting their product in America, it seemed as if there was nobody in films as charming, witty, and multi-talented as Sacha Guitry. His films, made in France, appeared at all the best art houses; he was a delightful actor, a director with a Lubitsch-like wit, and a writer of amusing sophisticated comedy. Seeing his films today in revival, however, they do not seem that funny.
Howard Hawks was perhaps the greatest director of American genre films.
In a career spanning just over fifty years (1925-76), Hitchcock completed fifty-three feature films, twenty-three in the British period, thirty in the American. Through the early British films we can trace the evolution of his professional/artistic image, the development of both the Hitchcock style and the Hitchcock thematic. His third film (and first big commercial success), The Lodger, was crucial in establishing him as a maker of thrillers, but it was not until the mid-1950s that his name became consistently identified with that genre.
Few directors have been as interested in the relationship of film to painting as has John Huston and, perhaps, none has been given as little credit for this interest. This lack of recognition is not completely surprising. Criticism of film, despite the form's visual nature, has tended to be derived primarily from literature and not from painting or, as might be more reasonable, a combination of the traditions of literature, painting, theater, and the unique forms of film itself.
Kon Ichikawa is noted for a wry humor that often resembles black comedy, for his grim psychological studies?often of misfits and outsiders?and for the visual beauty of his films. He is noted as one of Japan's foremost cinematic stylists, and has commented, "I began as a painter and I think like one."
The work of James Ivory was a fixture in independent filmmaking of the late 1960s and 1970s. Roseland, for example, Ivory's omnibus film about the habitu?s of a decaying New York dance palace, garnered a standing ovation at its premiere at the New York Film Festival in 1977, and received much critical attention afterward. However, it was not until A Room with a View, his stately adaptation of E. M. Forster 's novel, that Ivory gained full international recognition.
Elia Kazan's career has spanned more than four decades of enormous change in the American film industry. Often he has been a catalyst for these changes. He became a director in Hollywood at a time when studios were interested in producing the kind of serious, mature, and socially conscious stories Kazan had been putting on the stage since his Group Theatre days.
Alexander Korda may be Britain's most controversial film figure, but there is no doubt that his name stands everywhere for the most splendid vision of cinema as it could be, if one had money and power. Both of these Korda had, although several times he was close to bankruptcy, living on pure Hungarian charm and know-how. He at least had a dream that came near reality on several occasions.
Few American directors have been able to work within the studio system of the American film industry with the independence that Stanley Kubrick has achieved. By steadily building a reputation as a filmmaker of international importance, he has gained full artistic control over his films, guiding the production of each of them from the earliest stages of planning and scripting through post-production. Kubrick has been able to capitalize on the wide artistic freedom that the major studios have accorded him because he learned the business of filmmaking from the ground up.
Unquestionably Japan's best-known film director, Akira Kurosawa introduced his country's cinema to the world with his 1951 Venice Festival Grand Prize winner, Rashomon. His international reputation has broadened over the years with numerous citations, and when 20th Century-Fox distributed his 1980 Cannes Grand Prize winner, Kagemusha, it was the first time a Japanese film achieved worldwide circulation through a major Hollywood studio.
Although many of his individual films are periodically reviewed and reassessed by film scholars, Gregory La Cava remains today a relatively under-appreciated director of some of the best ?screwball comedies? of the 1930s. Perhaps his apparent inability to transcend the screwball form or his failure with a number of straight dramas contributed to this lack of critical recognition. Yet, at his best, he imposed a vitality and sparkle on his screen comedies that overcame their often weak scripts and some occasionally pedestrian performances from his actors.
Fritz Lang's career can be divided conveniently into three parts: the first German period, 1919-33, from Halbblut to the second Mabuse film, Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse; the American period, 1936-56, from Fury to Beyond a Reasonable Doubt; and the second German period, 1959-60, which includes the two films made in India and his last film, Die tausend Augen des Dr. Mabuse.
One of the most consistently commercially successful directors in Italy, Lattuada has continued to enjoy a freedom of subject matter and style despite ideological shifts and methodological changes. His main films during the neorealist period, which he claims never to have taken part in, succeeded in further establishing the Italian cinema in the international market and, unlike many of his colleagues' works, also proved popular in the domestic market.
There is a trajectory that emerges from the shape of David Lean's career, and it is a misleading one. Lean first achieved fame as a director of seemingly intimate films, closely based on plays of Noel Coward. His first directorial credit was shared with Coward, for In Which We Serve. In the 1960s he was responsible for extraordinarily ambitious projects, for an epic cinema of grandiose effects, difficult location shooting, and high cultural, even literary, pretention. But, in fact, Lean's essential approach to the movies never changed.
It is ironic that A Hard Day's Night, the one film guaranteed to ensure Richard Lester his place in cinema history, should in many ways reflect his weaknesses rather than his strengths. If the film successfully captures the socio-historical phenomenon that was the Beatles at the beginning of their superstardom; it is as much due to Alun Owen's ?day in the life? style script, which provides the ideal complement to (and restraint on) Lester's anarchic mixture of absurd/surreal humour, accelerated motion, and cinema v?rit?, to name but a few ingredients.
A genuine Hollywood highbrow, Albert Lewin trod the line between the commercially viable and the artistically daring in his own inimitable way. Friends with the likes of writers Djuna Barnes and Robert Graves, artist Man Ray and director Jean Renoir, Lewin had given up a nascent career as scholar and critic to pursue the grail of movies. Impressed especially by the most stylized and fantastic aspects of silent cinema, from Sj?str?m to Stroheim, Caligari to Keaton, Lewin left New York for Hollywood in 1922 and?just prior to Sam Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer?joined Metro Pictures early in 1924.
Joseph H. Lewis simultaneously supports and confounds the critical methodology of authorship.
Joseph Losey's career spanned five decades and included work in both theater and film. Latterly an American expatriate living in Europe, the early years of his life as a director were spent in the very different milieus of New Deal political theater projects and the paranoia of the Hollywood studio system during the McCarthy era. He was blacklisted in 1951 and left America for England where he continued making films, at first under a variety of pseudonyms.
Ernst Lubitsch's varied career is often broken down into periods to emphasize the spectrum of his talents?from an actor in Max Reinhardt's Berlin Theater Company to head of production at Paramount. Each of these periods could well provide enough material for a sizeable book. It is probably most convenient to divide Lubitsch's output into three phases: his German films between 1913 and 1922; his Hollywood films from 1923 to 1934; and his Hollywood productions from 1935 till his death in 1947.