As my army of regular readers (an Army of one!) is well aware, I have spent the last two months taking a weekly look at my favorite directors. The criteria has been that I am able to come up with a top ten list of said director's films. I have presented lists of films directed by Woody Allen, Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, William Wellman, Martin Scorsese, Howard Hawks, Frank Capra and Billy Wilder. I'd actually planned two more, feting John Huston and Steven Speilberg, but for both gentleman I could only come up with nine films I really liked it.
The question I'm sure everyone has after all this is: so, who is your favorite director? The answer: none of the above. My favorite director is Jean Renoir (the fact that his picture is on the side of this page should have been a giveaway). So why no top ten for him? And for that matter why no top ten for other favored directors of mine from foreign lands such as Renoir's fellow Frenchmen Jean-Pierre Melville, Francois Truffuat and Louis Malle? Or Finland's Aki Kaurasmaki, Sweden's Ingemar Bergman, Italy's Federico Fellini or Japan's Akira Kurosawa? Simple, I've not seen quite enough films by any of them to create a top ten.
There are two basic and simple reasons for this: not enough of their films have been available in this country for long enough and I haven't seen all the those films that are available. Of course none of this would be an issue were I not married to the whole top ten idea, but when you're as obsessive compulsive as I am there's no hope.
Okay, show of hands. Who wants to read what I have to say about Renoir? All right, now who among you would prefer a link to what Peter Bogdanovich wrote about Renoir?
You win. Here it is.
Yes that was a cop out, but after reading Bogdanovich's ode I just couldn't imagine trying to write one myself. I will add that Grand Illusion (1937) is as perfect a movie as has ever been made and is my favorite foreign language film of all time. I've tried countless times to write about it with no success. It's like trying to write about a rainbow. No it's like trying to write about a rainbow that comes with matching orchestration. I had a slice of cheesecake earlier today that was simply scrumptious. Beyond saying that I don't know what else to tell you about it. So it goes.
I offer proof of my personal evolution thusly: Many years ago I rented Renoir's Rules of the Game (1939) and only got through about half an hour of it before deciding it was bunk (I know, I can't believe it, either). Some time later I decided to give it another chance and lo and behold I loved it as I have increasingly with subsequent viewings.
But even that film I don't esteem much more than I do Renoir's Boudou Saved from Drowning (1932), The Lower Depths (1936), The Southerner (1945), The River (1951) and The Human Beast (1938).
My goal is to see enough of his films to come up with a top ten which, judging from my experience with his work means that ten should do it.