"If your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything." David Foster Wallace
Here is what I said before part one of this series which I have by the way decided will have three parts:
The title says it. I take a favorite director and pick my three favorite films he's done or did. Then I write something though sometimes off topic and not necessarily about all three films. I'm calling this part one which suggests that there will be parts to follow. When I don't know. Who can know such things. Truly.
There was -- as you may have guessed -- a part two which preceded this un and followed the first part. I'm very ordered. (Anal?)
Lars von Trier. Europa (1991). Melancholia (2011). Breaking the Waves (1996). Long nights of wondrous moonlight and paintings produced before your very eyes while you contemplate that concerto and the ethereal beauty of a lover in repose. Stories of revolution and death and contemplations of forever and musings on never. A play at understanding and an acceptance of the unknown and a wink a the unknowable. von Trier iconic enigmatic and challenging and there have been some misfires but oh what home runs he has hit.
Francis Ford Coppola. The Godfather (1972). The Godfather: Part II (1974). Apocalypse Now (1979). Beyond these three masterpieces he made one other great film (The Conversation) and all in an eight year span. And then....But once you've made these kind of movies you are forever in the pantheon of legendary film makers. Period.
Jean-Luc Godard. Vivre Sa Vie (1962). Band of Outsiders (1964). Breathless (1960). Mister New Wave, A career that has stretched on for five decades and has included some real howlers. The self indulgent film maker showing off. But when he's gotten it right -- and boy howdy has he gotten it right -- there are some shiny golden nuggets of cinema. Those fast cuts that narration those dances that spontaneous action. The more out of bounds Godard goes the more real his stories seem. They capture not just a time that was but a time that is with us still and always. There is the willingness to experiment or perhaps it is a need but it is done and it fun.
Vittoria De Sica. Umberto D (1952). Two Women (1960). Bicycle Thieves (1948). Mister Neo Realism. He seems to say that this is story and you may not be pleased with how it ends but consider how it gets there. Consider the truth of it. The courage to make stories true to the characters and their circumstances. De Sica's stories feature the young the old the unlucky and the unhappy but they also feature people trying. Trying to survive and prosper and to hell with the odds. Beautiful.
Howard Hawks. The Big Sleep (1946). His Girl Friday (1940). Red River (1948). Mr. Everything. You want a noir you got one you want a western that's done who's looking for a screwball comedy because we got it right here. He could even toss in a gangster film, Whatever you need. Hawks was extraordinary for a prolific career that featured most of the stars of the day. Muni Grant Hepburn Barrymore (John) Lombard Cooper Arthur Monroe Robinson McCrea Hayworth and Bacall.
Joel and Ethan Coen. No Country For Old Men (2007). A Serious Man (2009). The Man Who Wasn't There (2001). Whatever will they think of next? However will they tell us this next story? Such clever lads but not in love with their talents but with what their talents can produce. And they are meticulous. There is an attention to detail and details that grab our attention. Their are characters that stretch bounds and help us access the story and the wonders of these amazing story tellers.
Preston Sturges. Sullivan's Travels (1941). The Lady Eve (1941). Hail the Conquering Hero (1944). Six great films made in five years with nothing to speak of before or after. But what greatness he used up in that short time. Whacky characters and stories but never silly. Often pointed. Stanwyck Lake McCrea Fonda Colbert and a cast of reliably entertaining regulars led by Demarest Pangborn and Donlevy. Sturges made comedies without cheap laughter he was smart enough to appeal to smart audiences. He also had some points to make and make them he did. He was a comet.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974). The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979). The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972). The mad German. A prolific director writer addict wild man who poured everything into anything he did. Thankfully this included the films he made and there were some doozies. His stories could be a bit strange and unpredictable just like their director. But they were compelling for their lack of self consciousness and their forward movement. Propelled toward waiting denouements of
Well that's rather the point isn't it.
It could be a kiss or a murder of a melancholy moment of reflex....You know.
(If I were doing more parts of this -- which I am not -- I would have included directors such as Josef von Sternberg Akira Kurosawa Quentin Tarantino King Vidor Fritz Lang Luis Bunuel Jean-Pierre Melville and John Huston.