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.
In an era in which consistent visual style seems perhaps too uniformly held as the prerequisite of the valorized auteur, one can all too easily understand why Robert Mulligan's work has failed to evince any passionate critical interest.
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.
Few of Mankiewicz's contemporaries experimented so radically with narrative form. In The Barefoot Contessa, Mankiewicz (who wrote most of the films he directed) let a half-dozen voice-over narrators tell the Contessa's story, included flashbacks within flashbacks, and even showed one event twice (the slapping scene in the restaurant) from two different points of view.
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.
During the course of his directorial career, Billy Wilder succeeded in offending just about everybody. He offended the public, who shunned several of his movies as decisively as they flocked to others; he offended the press with Ace in the Hole, the U.S. Congress with A Foreign Affair, the Hollywood establishment with Sunset Boulevard ("This Wilder should be horsewhipped!" fumed Louis B. Mayer), and religious leaders with Kiss Me, Stupid; he offended the critics, both those who found him too cynical and those who found him not cynical enough.
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.
The films of Luchino Visconti are among the most stylistically and intellectually influential of postwar Italian cinema. Born a scion of ancient nobility, Visconti integrated the most heterogeneous elements of aristocratic sensibility and taste with a committed Marxist political consciousness, backed by a firm knowledge of Italian class structure. Stylistically, his career follows a trajectory from a uniquely cinematic realism to an operatic theatricalism, from the simple quotidian eloquence of modeled actuality to the heightened effect of lavishly appointed historical melodramas.
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.
Jacques Tati's father was disappointed that his son didn't enter the family business, the restoration and framing of old paintings. In Jacques Tati's films, however, the art of framing?of selecting borders and playing on the limits of the image?achieved new expressive heights. Instead of restoring old paintings, Tati restored the art of visual comedy, bringing out a new density and brilliance of detail, a new clarity of composition.
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.
Along with Sj?str?m, Stiller, and Bergman, Sj?berg must be counted as one of the most significant directors of the Swedish cinema, and indeed as the most important in that long period between the departure of Sj?str?m and Stiller for Hollywood and the establishment of Bergman as a mature talent. However, it is hard not to agree with the judgement of Peter Cowie when he states that Sj?berg "is hampered by a want of thematic drive, for he is not preoccupied, like Bergman, with a personal vision.
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.
Roberto Rossellini has been so closely identified with the rise of the postwar Italian style of filmmaking known as neorealism that it would be a simple matter to neatly pigeonhole him as merely a practitioner of that technique and nothing more. So influential has that movement been that the achievement embodied in just three of his films?Roma, citt? aperta; Pais?; and Germania, anno zero?would be enough to secure the director a major place in film history.
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.
Carol Reed came to films from the theater, where he worked as an assistant to Edgar Wallace. He served his apprenticeship in the film industry first as a dialogue director, and then graduated to the director's chair via a series of low-budget second features.
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.
Arthur Penn has often been classed?along with Robert Altman, Bob Rafelson, and Francis Coppola?among the more ?European? American directors. Stylistically, this is true enough. Penn's films, especially after Bonnie and Clyde, tend to be technically experimental, and episodic in structure; their narrative line is elliptical, undermining audience expectations with abrupt shifts in mood and rhythm. Such features can be traced to the influence of the French New Wave, in particular the early films of Fran?ois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, which Penn greatly admired.
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.
Mikio Naruse belongs in the second echelon of Japanese directors of his generation, along with Gosho, Ozu, and Kinoshita. This group ranks behind Mizoguchi, Kurosawa, Ichikawa, and Kobayashi, who broke out beyond the bounds of the conventions of the Japanese cinema, whereas Naruse and the others were mostly content to work within it. This is not to say that all of them did not tackle contemporary as well as historical subjects.
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.
Anthony Mann incidentally directed films in various genres (the musical, the war movie, the spy drama); however, his career falls into three clearly marked phases: the early period of low-budget, B-feature films noir; the central, most celebrated period of westerns, mostly with James Stewart; and his involvement in the epic (with Samuel Bronston as producer).
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.
William Wyler's career is an excellent argument for nepotism. Wyler went to work for ?Uncle? Carl Laemmle, the head of Universal, and learned the movie business as assistant director and then director of programmers, mainly westerns. One of his first important features, A House Divided, demonstrates many of the qualities that mark his films through the next decades. A transparent imitation of Eugene O'Neill's Desire under the Elms, it contains evidence of the staging strategies that identify Wyler's distinctive mise-en-sc?ne.
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.
There is a sense in which Josef von Sternberg never grew up. In his personality, the twin urges of the disturbed adolescent toward self-advertisement and self-effacement fuse with a brilliant visual imagination to create an artistic vision unparalleled in the cinema. But von Sternberg lacked the cultivation of Murnau, the sophistication of his mentor von Stroheim, the humanity of Griffith, or the ruthlessness of Chaplin. His imagination remained immature, and his personality was malicious and obsessive. His films reflect a schoolboy's fascination with sensuality and heroics.
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 first director Val Lewton hired for his RKO unit was Jacques Tourneur, and the first picture made by that unit was Cat People, an original screenplay by De Witt Bodeen.
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.
John Stahl was a key figure in the development of the Hollywood ?women's melodrama? during the 1930s and 1940s, and quite possibly in the 1910s and 1920s as well. Although he began directing in 1914, and apparently made as many films before sound as after, only two of his silents (Her Code of Honor and Suspicious Wives) seem to have survived. Yet this is hardly the only reason that the ultimate critical and historical significance of his work remains to be established.
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."
Robert Rossen died as he was beginning to regain a prominent position in the cinema. His premature death left us with a final film that pointed to a new, deepening devotion to the study of deteriorating psychological states.
"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.
Jean Renoir's major work dates from between 1924 and 1939. Of his 21 films the first six are silent features that put forward cinematic problems that come to dominate the entire oeuvre. All study a detachment, whether of language and image, humans and nature, or social rules and real conduct. Optical effects are treated as problems coextensive with narrative. He shows people who are told to obey rules and conventions in situations and social frames that confine them. A sensuous world is placed before everyone's eyes, but access to it is confounded by cultural mores.
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.
As a student at the Polish State Film School and later as a director working under government sponsorship, Roman Polanski learned to make films with few resources. Using only a few trained actors (there are but three characters in his first feature) and a hand-held camera (due to the unavailability of sophisticated equipment) Polanski managed to create several films that contributed to the international reputation of the burgeoning Polish cinema.
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.
Ermanno Olmi, born in Bergamo in 1931, is the Italian filmmaker most committed to and identified with a regional heritage.
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.
Chris Marker's principal distinction may be to have developed a form of personal essay within the documentary mode. Aside from his work little is known about him; he is elusive bordering on mysterious. Born in a suburb of Paris, he has allowed a legend to grow up about his birth in a ?far-off country.? Marker is not his name; it is one of a half-dozen aliases he has used. He chose ?Marker,? it is thought, in reference to the Magic Marker pen.
Although Sidney Lumet has applied his talents to a variety of genres (drama, comedy, satire, caper, romance, and even a musical), he has proven himself most comfortable and effective as a director of serious psychodramas and was most vulnerable when attempting light entertainments. His Academy Award nominations, for example, have all been for character studies of men in crisis, from his first film, Twelve Angry Men, to The Verdict.
In 1928 Fred Zinnemann worked as assistant to cinematographer Eugene Sch?fftan on Robert Siodmak's Menschen am Sonntag (People on Sunday), along with Edgar Ulmer and Billy Wilder, who wrote the scenario for this semi-documentary silent feature made in the tradition of Flaherty and Vertov.
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.
Raoul Walsh's extraordinary career spanned the history of the American motion picture industry from its emergence, through its glory years in the 1930s and 1940s, and into the television era. Like his colleagues Alan Dwan, King Vidor, John Ford, and Henry King, whose careers also covered fifty years, Walsh continuously turned out popular fare, including several extraordinary hits. Movie fans have long appreciated the work of this director's director.
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.
Maurice Tourneur is one of the greatest pictorialists of the cinema, deriving his aesthetic from his early associations with Rodin and Puvis de Chavannes. Having worked for Andr? Antoine as an actor and producer, he joined the Eclair Film Company in 1912 and travelled to their American Studios at Fort Lee, New Jersey, in 1914. There he directed films based on successful stage plays. In The Wishing Ring it is possible to see the charm and visual beauty he brought to his work.
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.
Katharine Hepburn had originally been responsible for bringing George Stevens to the attention of those in the front office. He had directed a great many two-reelers for Hal Roach, and was just entering films as a director of features when Hepburn met him, liked him, and asked that he be assigned as director to her next film, Alice Adams. It was a giant step forward for Stevens, but Alice Adams, from the Booth Tarkington novel, was a project right up his alley.
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.
A prolific and innovative ethnographie filmmaker as well as a pioneer of cin?ma v?rit? and improvised film psychodrama, Jean Rouch has not only redefined documentary film practice but also stimulated radical developments in fiction film. It was as a civil engineer preferring West Africa to the German occupation that Rouch came to anthropology through observation of Songhay rituals.
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.
Alain Resnais is a prominent figure in the modernist narrative film tradition. His emergence as a feature director of international repute is affiliated with the eruption of the French New Wave in the late 1950s.
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.
Abraham Lincoln Polonsky's filmography is quite thin: his second film as director, Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, was released twenty-one years after his first, Force of Evil. ?I was a left-winger,? he told Look magazine in 1970. ?I supported the Soviet Union.
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.
Max Oph?ls's work falls neatly into three periods, marked by geographical locations and diverse production conditions, yet linked by common thematic concerns and stylistic/formal procedures: the pre-Second World War European period (during which he made films in four countries and four languages); the four Hollywood films of the late 1940s (to which one might add the remarkable Howard Hughes-produced Vendetta, on which he worked extensively in its early pre-production phases and which bears many identifiable Oph?lsian traces, both thematic and stylistic); and the four films made in
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.
Shooting unobtrusively in sync sound with no instructions to the subject, the Maysles brothers made films in what they preferred to call ?direct cinema.? Albert, gifted photographer and director of all their projects, carried the lightweight, silent camera that he perfected on his shoulder, its accessories built in and ready for adjustment. Maysles characters, who occasionally talk to the filmmakers on screen, seem astonishingly unaware that strangers and apparatus are in the room.
In 1955 Alexander Mackendrick made The Ladykillers, the last of his four Ealing comedies. Two years later, in Hollywood, came his brilliantly acid study of corruption and betrayal, Sweet Smell of Success. At first glance, the gulf is prodigious. Yet on closer examination, it narrows considerably: the apparent contrast between the two films becomes little more than a matter of surface tone.
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.