Following the BAFTAs this past Sunday it remained a clear notion that in this day and age we are immensely lucky with the current crop of directors working in cinema. From winning director Damien Chazelle, consistently refreshing directors such as Denis Villeneuve and veterans in the form of Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen still plying their trade, they are just as much the stars of Hollywood as the actors themselves.
With this in mind, the team here at Filmoria have thought long and hard to come to the conclusion as to exactly who is their favourite director of all time. Expect some fantastic choices that will be hard to argue against…
The Coen Brothers – Kevin Perreau
Why settle for one, when you can get two for the price of one. The Coen Brothers are probably best known for their cult classics The Big Lebowski and Fargo. Or perhaps for directing the 4 times Oscar winner No Country for Old Men, which included Best Motion Picture in 2008. The Coen Brothers have a very suitable filmography that will be revered for a very long time. No matter the genre, comedy, western, thriller, the Coen Brothers have a very distinct and remarkable style to directing that is easily distinguishable from their competitors.
The directing style of the brothers can be seen through their subtle acting style, the prolonged dialogues, the dark comedy, the cinematography and so much more. There are probably a million things that make a Coen Brothers film what it is, and it is an art they have perfected. Whilst the humour and pacing is definitely not for everyone, it can still be appreciated and loved. The playfulness and intellect they are able to put in a film cannot be surpassed, bringing a new take on stories that nobody else will be able to mimic.
They are never afraid of showcasing their talents; a personal favourite and epitome of a Coen Brother’s film would be Inside Llewyn Davis. A film that is so stunning and daring, a stellar cast and a flawless dialogue routine. A dark and gripping comedy that is so relatable, it is hard to not love what they produce.
Stanley Kubrick – Sarah Buddery
With only a relatively small body of work (13 feature films), under his directing belt, Stanley Kubrick was able to make a huge impact on the world of film with some of the most iconic films of all-time. Dabbling in sci-fi, horror, black comedy and anything and everything in between, the power and influence of Kubrick is hard to deny.
You could argue endlessly about his greatest film, but for me 2001: A Space Odyssey easily takes the prize, with A Clockwork Orange a very close second. The former features the perfect blend of iconic imagery with mesmerising music in a thematically rich magnum opus that stands the test of time impeccably. These visuals and effects were made in 1968. Just let that sink in. The controversial A Clockwork Orange with its juxtaposition of “ultra-violence” and classical music imagines a terrifying dystopian future that is still horrifyingly relevant.
I’m a real sucker for a gorgeous looking film, and Kubrick’s are amongst the most beautiful ever committed to celluloid. The crisp, stark whiteness, the pops of colour, the wonderfully perfect symmetry; Kubrick wasn’t just a director, he was an artist, and his incredible films are testament to this fact. His influence may stretch far and wide, but quite simply, there’ll never be another one like Kubrick.
Michael Haneke – Chris Haydon
Any auteur who has not one, but two Palme d’Or wins, is clearly a master of their craft, but for me, the great Austrian director Michael Haneke is the master; period. He beautifully understand the notion that film can do much more than merely entertain: it can inform, insight, inspire. In truth however, you wouldn’t call any of Haneke’s pictures “entertaining” in the traditional sense. He examines pressing and uncompromising themes, such as sociological estrangement, racial prejudice, and domestic abuse, and paired with his forensically restrained imagery, ensures each frame truly challenges his spectator.
Haneke has been labelled many things, by many people, across his cinematic career – which only started in 1989; rather impressive considering he is nearly 73 years old – with the resounding conclusion arriving at his supposed sadism. That he has zero compassion for his screen subjects, or his viewership; that he is a celebrator of violence and trauma, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The cinema of Haneke is complex, and uncompromising, and themes of violence are pivotal to his drama, but never are the films themselves violent. His measured approach to framing, and calculated mise-en-scène, ensures that the majority of horrors unfold off-screen, leaving our imagination to fill in the blanks. We feel fear, anguish, and anxiety because of our attachment to his characters, and how they serve as potent reminder of our modernised cultures and climates.
Films such as Funny Games (1997), The Piano Teacher (2001), The White Ribbon (2009), and Amour (2012) are all works of true screen genius, but for me, the 2005 psychological thriller Caché is his finest achievement. It’s what one considers to be his favourite film, and is firmly amongst the greatest motion pictures of the 2000s.
Wes Anderson – Jade Sayers
There’s something calming about a Wes Anderson film. No matter how busy the plot (or how many mountainside chase sequences), the pastel colour palette and endless sea of familiar faces never fails to evoke a sense of home. It’s Wes Anderson’s familiarity that I love. Though all of his movies are incredibly different, there are certain constants you can count on; pastel colours, Helvetica font, the Rolling Stones, Bill Murray.
You know exactly what you’re getting with a Wes Anderson film, and that’s why he’s so great. His movies are an experience, a caper not to be missed and best witnessed on the big screen. Wes makes consistently great movies, even proving that he can still bring his signature style to animation, and each one seems to be better than the last. The imagination that runs through the man is astounding, and he must be admired for his creative vision. No detail is too small, and every scene in each of his movies is planned to the most minute detail. His body of work is simply captivating, and will continue to awe as it grows.
Terrence Malick – Liz Tresidder
Terrence Malick has forged working relationships with cinematographers like Emmanuel Lubezki and Nestor Almendros to produce some of the most beautiful films of all time, including critically acclaimed classics such as Badlands and Days of Heaven. Malick’s films feature a subservience to nature and the elements that provide a gorgeous back-drop for naturalistic performances and dreamy narratives.
Malick’s films certainly are not for the faint-hearted; cinema-goers reportedly asked for their money back after leaving screenings of The Tree of Life, and the director’s cut of The New World comes in at over three hours. The director’s tendency towards lengthy, fractured narratives and a focus on image and theme over story can be off-putting – but for the tenacious, Malick’s filmography presents a beautiful array of sensory experiences. A director who finds his film in the edit, Malick’s methods mean actors are often left by the wayside, cut in favour of all-encompassing scenes of nature.
Ben Affleck once commented, after working with Malick, “who’s more important in this – me or the tree?” In answer to Affleck’s question – with Terrence Malick, it’s almost definitely the tree.
Christopher Nolan – James Wheatley
Without knowing anything at all about an upcoming release other than the fact Christopher Nolan is in the director’s chair, I’m still absolutely filled with excitement. Few directors today have as much impact with their films that their release has become a true event.
One of the highest grossing directors of all time, Nolan became a household name when his Dark Knight Trilogy – and in particular the Dark Knight itself – blew up. You couldn’t escape that movie, yet it is still almost universally cited as the best superhero movie (a view I would support), and many would say it’s the best movie, period (it currently sits at number 4 on the IMDB Top 250).
Nolan proved audiences wanted gritty, serious superhero movies that weren’t safe for children. It’s impossible to imagine anybody doing a better job on these than him- a view that’s borne out through the subsequent state of the DCEU.
Whereas with some directors, you can tell it’s one of their movies from a single quote or screenshot, I wouldn’t say this is true of Nolan. Often cited as an auteur, it is hard to separate Nolan the director from Nolan the writer (and Nolan the-everything-else) when appraising his movies, but there are some clear connecting tissues between them. Not least in this is the cast and crew he chooses to work with. Michael Caine and Hans Zimmer would be the prime examples of this, but many actors have appeared in more than one of his releases.
People complain about the lack of non-franchise and standalone movies being released these days, but throughout his career Nolan has flown the flag for these (admittedly the trust afforded to him is probably directly as a result of the sheer amount of money the Batman films brought in to Warner Bros). But in this case Nolan is the franchise. People will show up to watch a Nolan film the same way some people would for the latest film in a franchise- we may not know exactly what we’re going to get, but it’s absolutely guaranteed to be worth a watch.
In Nolan we (will continue to) trust.
Richard Linklater – Darryl Griffiths
An American heavyweight of independent film whom for all the declarations by Matthew McConaughey’s Wooderson in a certain 1993 effort, is far more than ‘Alright, Alright, Alright!’. Director Richard Linklater approaches cinema with a purity and an eloquence that is thrillingly assured, incisive and inquisitive in his fascinating dissection of the world around us, poignant and precious in the time that has passed.
Tapping into the back catalogue of rock greats such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, as Jack Black’s eccentric down-and-out teacher reiterates the ‘hardcore’ power of the arts to his misfit pupils, a message that is as relevant as ever in the wonderfully feel-good School Of Rock. The immediacy and frat-pack sensibilities of Dazed And Confused along with last year’s sort-of spiritual successor Everybody Wants Some, as he stamps his authority on the coming-of-age film, only to serve us an astonishing passion project in Boyhood that could easily be perceived to be the definitive genre offering. At nearly three hours and taking 12 years to make, I was almost guilt-ridden to not be able to spend longer in its remarkable company.
The hope of ‘Sunrise. The fairytale of ‘Sunrise. The harsh reality of ‘Midnight. His ‘Before’ trilogy through its improvisational nature and sumptuous long-takes, beautifully observes Ethan Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Celine’s relationship that thankfully avoids the mechanical storytelling that often cripples romantic fare. His craftsmanship. His sheer versatility. His enduring and distinctive qualities of resonating with audiences. Living life through Richard Linklater’s impeccable back catalogue is a joy.
He may emphasise in ‘sticking it to the man’. But for me, he is THE man.