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10 Great Directors Who Are Currently Dwindling

15 December 2016 | Features, People Lists | by Nick Bugeja

5. William Friedkin

William Friedkin

Friedkin is a director that was very much a part of the New Hollywood (late ‘60s to early ‘80s) film period, characterised by unprecedented creative control for directors. Due to this, Friedkin thrived as a director in Hollywood, asserting his aptitude in every film he made.

The French Connection (1971) is one of the most definitive crime films ever made. Its gritty aesthetic- enabled through Friedkin’s direction of the cinematography, and his hand in choosing to film in NYC. The film is great at building up to the hairier parts, as Friedkin modulates the levels of tension at will. Similarly, the Exorcist (1973), for many, is also a hallmark of the horror genre. Friedkin’s forays across genre shows to us his unlimited ability as a director.

Unfortunately, Friedkin has not been as prosperous in the 21st century. Arguably, his directorial skills have not waned. Rather, his decline has occurred because of studios reclaiming control over films. This has stifled Friedkin’s career, and indeed the career of many other great directors. Additionally, Friedkin has been unable to capture funding for his films, which really is an indictment on the way that Hollywood conducts itself more as a business than as a site of artistic merit.

 

4. Jonathan Demme

Jonathan Demme

Jonathan Demme’s most popular film, Silence of the Lambs (1989) was the director’s first dalliance in the thriller genre. Demme very much made his name with entertaining, witty comedy films in the ‘80s.

This speaks to his understanding of how to construct meaning in film, as he was able to create a psychologically taxing, memorable thriller with such an ease that one would think he was doing it all his life. Since Philadelphia (1994)- an engaging film that highlights the injustice of homophobia in dominant society- Demme has not made a film that aligns with his ability.

He remade The Manchurian Candidate (2004) with moderate success. Nonetheless, the original (1962) remains the definitive version. Ricki and the Flash (2015), headed by Meryl Streep, failed to gain critical success, and Rachel Getting Married (2008) is probably his greatest work of substance in recent times.

 

3. John Carpenter

john carpenter

John Carpenter is a very capable artistically. He is a director, writer and composer, whose ability in all those areas is top class. Carpenter has made films in various genres, though he has been most prominent in the horror genre. Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) is an inspired piece of filmmaking. Importantly, it shows us how a good horror film should be made; with the use of cinematic techniques such as music, restrained staging and mandated camerawork.

His score for Halloween is one of the best instances of film music, absolutely enhancing our experience by adding suspense and paranoia. Ultimately, Carpenter’s success in the 20th century was unbridled, apparent with respect to his success with The Thing (1982) and Escape to New York (1981).

More recently, Carpenter’s rate of output has decreased enormously. He has scarcely added to his filmography in the 21st century, which has been of immense disappointment for many fans of cinema- as we know the heights of Carpenter’s career. Hopefully he can experience a resurgence.

 

2. Roman Polanski

Roman Polanski A Film Memoir

Aside from his egregious acts in his private life, it is undoubtable that Polanski is a skilled director. Primarily using formalism as a way to convey meaning, Polanski is skilled in his understanding of the power of the cinematic medium. His films are often defined by slow-burning intensity, permitting through tight narratives, humanly flawed characters, and resonant themes- particularly with respect to the inherent problems of masculinity.

Polanski’s neo noir Chinatown (1974) is his magnum opus. Chinatown is a film that takes us on a journey; we are only made aware of events as they occur to PI Jake Gittis (Jack Nicholson’s defining performance). As Polanski meticulously peels back the layers of the onion, we are left with an image of widespread corruption in the city of L.A. It is difficult to select standout Polanski films from the ‘60s and ‘70s, as they are all equally meritorious (Knife in the Water (1962), Cul de sac (1966), Rosemary’s Baby (1968)).

Perhaps since the ‘80s, Polanski’s films have lacked the consistency of his purple patch. Although he has of course directed some great films in that time- Frantic (1988), The Pianist (2002)- the majority of them have not possessed the energy and expert formalism that has defined his career.

 

1. Francis Ford Coppola

francis-ford-coppola

Coppola, as we all know, sprung onto the scene as an unknown director with The Godfather (1972). He could not have made his name with a more successful film, as The Godfather is often considered the best film of the second half of the 20th century. Coppola capitalised on this success with The Godfather Part II (1974), making a sequel that is on a par, if not better than, the original. This is something very few directors have done.

The ‘70s was Coppola’s decade, rounding it off with The Conversation (1975) and arguably the best war film ever, Apocalypse Now (1979). It was always going to be hard to top his output after such a sustained period of unprecedented success.

However, Coppola’s fall was greater than most of us expected. Prior to the 21st century, many of his films were merely mediocre (at least in comparison with his best). His 21st century films, though, have been nothing short of disasters- Tetro (2009), Twixt (2011). His daughter, Sofia, has certainly had a much more success comparatively in the 21st century.

Though, one thing that acts to partially absolve Coppola for his poor showing in the 21st century is his inability to access funding for his films.

Author Bio: Nick is a uni student with more interest in film than the subjects he is studying. He is waiting for a reunion between De Niro and Scorsese.

 

 

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  • As far as Polanski and Friedkin are concerned. I have to disagree. The former has made a couple of amazing films in The Ghost Writer and Carnage while the latter has given Matthew McConaughey one of his defining performances in Killer Joe. In defense of John Carpenter, he hasn’t made a lot of films lately due to his disdain for the industry. Sure, The Ward didn’t live up to his standards but it was good to see him return as I think he needs time to come up with another solid film.

    As for Brian de Palma, he has always been polarizing as I’m eager for his next feature whether it’s good or not. Plus, Femme Fatale is extremely underrated.

    • Jeroen Ledderhof

      Carpenter Cigarette Burns (a episode of Masters of Horror) was Brilliant!! 🙂 I think he still got it 🙂

    • Vincenzo Politi

      Yes! That’s exactly what I thought when I read the name of Polanski! I told myself: hold on, how about Carnage? That movie is simply delicious!

      • I know. I fucking love that movie. The audience I saw it with in the theaters, though it was a small audience, laughed their asses off towards the end as it was so fun to watch.

  • Abhishek

    Spike lee is overrated director who should not be in the category of great directors IMHO!

  • Zach

    Annie Hall is 1977 not 1976
    Edward Scissorhands is 1990 not 1994
    Malcolm X is 1992 not 1982
    Do the Right Thing is 1989 not 1990

    Damn son… do some research first

    • Rudi

      That’s just outright lazy.

    • Jacob Lyon Goddard

      Thank you, that was bugging the hell out of me.

  • Eri Taide

    I do agree that Woody Allen hasn’t been on the top of his game, but i disagree when it comes to “Blue Jasmine”, i think its one of his bests and certantly the peak of his 21st century work…Maybe it’s because Cate Blanchett is my little aussie weak spot.

  • Rudi

    The only watchable Woody Allen movies are the ones without himself in it, he’s just so damn annoying. And of course the ones with actors imitating Woody, such as Eisenberg in Café Society and Wilson in Midnight in Paris.

    As for De Palma, his last movie has always been underappreciated. Passion has all the trademarks of a classic De Palma, including some of his best split screens and a tense story that sucks you in from the beginning.

  • Alexander

    Spike Lee was a great director, but it is going to take a while before I can forgive him for the Oldboy remake

  • Gavin Lawson

    Apart from Spike Lee & Tim Burton, this list seems more to do with ageism on the part of the writer than anything. And even then he has got things badly timed, as a number of directors on the list have had comebacks this year, like Oliver Stone with Snowden, Burton with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Spike Lee with Chi-raq. A more appropriate list would have directors in mid-career who are ‘dwindling’, such as Robert Rodriguez, Sophia Coppola or Kevin Smith.

  • Jacob Lyon Goddard

    I hate it when Taste of Cinema goes negative, that’s what the rest of the click-bate internet is for.

  • Jacob Lyon Goddard

    William Friedkin’s recent adaptations of Tracy Letts plays have been some of his strongest work.

  • D Train

    Terrible list and just riddled with factual errors and typos. Embarrassing.

  • Miroslav Maric

    Woody has made some great movies in last decade!

  • Henrik Vinther Sørensen

    I disagree with a lot of those. De Palma in my opinion is at the best he has ever been. Femme Fatale and Passion are two of the most creative and challenging movies in recent years. And damn are they well directed. Woody Allen, Roman Polanski and even Coppola are also bad examples in my opinion, they are still experimenting with their style and try to make something unique. Even if they aren’t as good as they used to be.

    A better example in my opinion is Martin Scorsese, who always get a pass, even though his movies have lacked vision for decades. He is a good craftsman still, but damn his movies have been superficial for years. At least since Casino, and even that one is a slightly flat experience. It seems he is on to something with Silence though.

    Quentin Tarantino: Alright he proved with The Hateful Eight that he can still make an entertaining movie. But his bombastic style and caricature characters he has used since Kill Bill have been much less interesting than what he did in the 90’s.

    And then there’s Ridley Scott who after making one of the greatest films of all time in Blade Runner decided he wouldn’t want to be an auteur, but make tedious blockbuster movies instead.

    But there are so many other directors I could mention, I’m gonna stop now though.

  • Carl Edgar Consiglio

    Im not sure about how I feel about what was said of Woody Allen up here. Anyways, perhaps Roberto Benigni should be on this list.