20 July 2009

I'm Not Quite Done With Directors Yet, This Time I Look at Directors as Characters

Yesterday I finished my two month long look at my favorite directors. But I'm still not ready to let go of the topic. I now proudly present directors as characters in films. These six movies give varying degrees of insight into the film-making process but all are excellent films. I give each a hearty recommendation.
Johnny Depp as Ed Wood in Ed Wood (1994). Ladies and gentleman the world's worst director of all time Mr. Ed Wood. Here is the incredibly true story of Ed Wood who made such classic bombs as Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959). This bit of dialogue says it all:

Edward D. Wood, Jr.: And cut! Print. We're moving on. That was perfect. Ed Reynolds: Perfect? Mr. Wood, do you know anything about the art of film production? Edward D. Wood, Jr.: Well, I like to think so. Ed Reynolds: That cardboard headstone tipped over. This graveyard is obviously phony. Edward D. Wood, Jr.: Nobody will ever notice that. Filmmaking is not about the tiny details. It's about the big picture. Ed Reynolds: The big picture? Edward D. Wood, Jr.: Yes. Ed Reynolds: Then how 'bout when the policemen arrived in daylight, but now it's suddenly night? Edward D. Wood, Jr.: What do you know? Haven't you heard of suspension of disbelief?

And, oh by the way, Wood is a cross dresser and his life is full of romantic complications (not that the two are mutually exclusive.) Tim Burton directed and an excellent supporting cast includes Martin Landau who won an Oscar for his portrayal of an aging Bela Lugosi.
Francois Truffaut as Director Ferrand in Day For Night (1973). Truffaut directed himself playing a director. I actually think it's more confusing than it sounds but that's just me. Anyway the great French director pulled it off on this story of the complexities faced on a a film shoot, especially when off set relationships interfere.
Marcello Mastroianni as Guido Anselmi in 8 1/2 (1963). Guido is a famous director who is in need of inspiration for his next picture. He is harried wherever he goes by wife, mistress, friends and memories. This beautiful film is clearly semi autobiographical. Just as its protagonist finds what he's looking for through dreams 8 1/2 is itself clearly the stuff of dreams. As esteemed as 8 1/2 is, Mastroianni's performance is actually under appreciated.
Woody Allen as Sandy Bates in Stardust Memories (1980). Many critics savaged this film in large part because Allen had used the film to lampoon critics and audiences. This only proves that many critics are big cry babies. Stardust Memories is classic Allen. Sandy Bates is a not at all thinly veiled version of Allen himself. Beleaguered by fans, obligations, lovers, past and present, and the vagaries of being a famous artist in a celebrity obsessed culture. This is, depending on how you look at it, somewhat of spoof or homage to, 8 1/2.
Joel McCrea as John Sullivan in Sullivan's Travels (1941). Sully is a successful director, mostly of light comedies and musicals but he wants to do more. Sully yearns to tell the story of the down and out. He further decides the only way to do so is by living among the poor. See my recent post on this great film for more.
Steve Martin as Bobby Bowfinger in Bowfinger (1999). Bowfinger is a director given one last chance to come up with a hit. The star that he wants for the film won't do the picture but there's no stopping our determined director who films him anyway. Martin is terrific in the title role as is Eddie Murphy in two roles including that of the reluctant star. A high-larious film.


R. D. Finch said...

What an interesting way to finish your series on directors. The inventiveness of your subjects always amazes me. To the great choices you presented, I might add Kirk Douglas in "The Bad and the Beautiful" and Humphrey Bogart in "The Barefoot Contessa," both movies products of the Hollywood studio system just before its fall (and therefore in a way idealized self-images), and both anchored by those two excellent performances, fairly restrained ones for those two intense actors. (Minnelli's film also contains what is for me the best performance by Lana Turner.)

Colt said...

I would have to add Peter O'Toole as Eli Cross in The Stunt Man. There has never been a better portrayal of madness meets genius as a film maker.

The only other one I might add would be Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in The Aviator.