Cinema can be considered an orchestrated consequence of several arts. Since its birth, the audiovisual medium has imbibed and borrowed from arts that infiltrate by virtue of seniority and experimentation.
Over the course of its evolution from amusing spectacles to cultural statements, cinema has witnessed directors who bear profound sensitivity, encompassing its miscellaneous parentage. This parentage obviously includes stage, music, literature, and photography; and less obviously, fine arts, magic, choreography and basically every disciplinary expression to ever address the collective human consciousness.
It is safe to assume that the director who artistically commands the totality of the enterprise must be a person of diverse talents. It is true that some of cinema’s greatest innovators have treated the medium as an extension of their individual expressions; mainly, for instance, Andy Warhol or Georges Melies. There is another group that claims the director is the least talented person on the set.
Formal training in filmmaking has often been deemed unnecessary, therefore opening the field to men and women of seemingly unrelated qualifications. Whatever the methods have been for these geniuses, we have been rewarded with quality cinema. This article enlists personalities who have had a glowing repertoire beyond the set, which may or may not have contributed to the meritorious cinema they have made.
Cinema now has achieved greater proximity with the masses, and has adopted the tradition of quotations that were considered instrumental in literature. Many filmmakers like Luis Bunuel and Jean-Luc Godard found it exciting to insert frequently-referential cultural dialogue in their films to enhance transparency, so that the various sources can be perceived without any kind of deception.
A general curiosity and insight into the peripheral endeavors of our favorite directors is always important to appreciate the personalities in a complete sense. The choices that are often overlooked in this medium might find a more motivated portrayal in other mediums.
Many of these works have been obscured by a lack of preservation and archival effort. Exponents of cultures have often ignored the multidimensional nature of many artists. Here, we discuss 15 filmmakers who are, by simple definition, multi-talented.
1. Charlie Chaplin (actor / director / screenwriter / composer)
In the absence of industrial disciplines, the infancy of the craft was characterized by largely individual and personal endeavors. The silent era actually included an abundance of such experimentation, where the director handled almost every aspect of the film.
Sir Charlie Chaplin did not belong to this developing period. When he made films, an elaborate studio system had already emerged. Therefore, his influence and display of talents pertaining to almost all aspects of the craft must be applauded as a pioneering effort. Chaplin, though not associated by nomenclature, could be attributed to the emergence of auteur cinema in general.
The extent of his influence over the craft has been frequently seen over time. Chaplin, however, can be distinguished in the sense that apart from phenomenal achievements within the craft itself, his films so inseparably belonged to him in symbols and thought that he can be considered an example of a creator with absolute vision of a film, who directly contributed to many of the filmmaking elements to uphold this connect.
His talent as an actor is hardly disputed. Originally a stage actor, the impact of his mute and emotive slapstick immortalized the loveable Tramp.
The “Tramp” became the unsurpassed cultural emblem of adorability and realism. He had taken immensely innovative choices in his films as a director regarding the geometry of shots, the unconventional pacing, and spectacular scenes of movement and stunning visuals. His gifts as a writer is evident from the humane realistic statements he delivered through comedic elements. Imaginative plots and scenes that characterized his works could have only been products of a thoroughly inventive mind.
Since he is primarily known for silent films, our exposure to Chaplin as a writer of dialogue has been minimal. However, scenes from “The Great Dictator” happen to contain some of the most quoted and memorable dialogues in film history.
Chaplin also wrote the score for many of his films. In the absence of dialogue, the soundtrack was entirely occupied by music, and it played an integral role as a persistent narrative device. He therefore chose to harness this tool as well, and composed scores of undisputed merit and narrative effectuality.
2. Orson Welles (actor / director / screenwriter / novelist/ ist / pianist / playwright / radio personality / amateur magician)
Orson Welles was another Renaissance man who defined stylistic innovation as the primary component of the creative entity that is the director. His debut film, made at a tender age, happens to be (by assimilation of critical votes) considered the Greatest Film Ever Made. The fact that “Citizen Kane” reeked of fierce experimentation and creativity is hardly doubted.
It was a landmark in the discipline, only possible because Welles had attained rewarding creative autonomy over the project, after having been persuaded by Hollywood to make a film. From that point, he was better known as a director.
However, the several triumphs that led to this pampering from Hollywood is what establishes him as a man of many talents. A proven prodigy, he was established as a playwright, performer and director for stage and radio. He erected landmarks in both these areas.
The Broadway production “Caesar” (adapted from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”) and the radio play “The War of The Worlds” earned him great critical and commercial acclaim as a storyteller in general. He seemed to possess an inherent artistry in handling the camera, and this in addition to his formerly familiar skills made him a truly immortal creator of cinema.
Welles is best known as an actor in his own films, and he also performed on stage and in radio. Some of his films were almost tributes to important theatrical motifs. His performances were always critically exalted for their realistic waves.
Welles had his own theatre company called Mercury Theatre, and was known as Broadway’s youngest impresario. Apart from writing his own engaging and thoughtful screenplays for films, he was also an accomplished author with several published titles including “Mr. Arkadin”, “Les Bravades”, and “Orson Welles on Shakespeare”, among others. These pieces were diverse in style and thought. He was also an announcer and anchor for radio shows.
Though not recognized as a composer, Welles could play the piano and learned to play very early in life under the guidance of his mother. He was also an amateur magician, largely self-taught but certainly familiar with many famous tricks.
3. Woody Allen (actor / director / screenwriter / short story writer / humorist / standup comedian / playwright / musician)
With his trademark neurotic stutter, small build, and thick rimmed spectacles, this adorable and controversial icon has (like Chaplin) used the medium to not only create films embroidering very personal visions, but to also brew a cultural entity that completely transcends the craft. Despite his self-deprecating brand of comedy, this high school dropout from Boston who revolutionized show business is conscious of his many talents in his portrayals.
Woody Allen is a writer-director. His alarming productivity of one film a year indicates his great skill in conceiving original fiction at an appreciable rate. As a stand-up comic with imaginative narrative sketches for material, and as a writer of hilarious short stories, plays and humorous , this skill of his has been wholesomely employed.
Aside than that, he had a literary proficiency brought on by qualified academic exposure to serious works of satire and comedy. His informal conversational style of writing did great justice to his stories, which often contained graphic elements of hilarity.
Regarding his standup work, comedy historian Gerald Nachman said “He helped turn it into biting, brutally honest satirical commentary on the cultural and psychological tenor of the times.” He states that the impact of his school of comedy would endure more in the absolute beginnings of the art form than any of his better-known contemporaries.
His films also evolved from quirkily intelligent slapstick comedies, to a form of bookish humour in stories resembling European arthouse films, largely since “Annie Hall” (which is one of the wildest stylistic exploitations of the medium). This convergence of inspirations gave his films a demanded unique craftsmanship. Allen, as a director, is a minimalist who makes shockingly effective decisions.
Allen played the role of the protagonist in many of his films. While a major part of his popular filmography might expose us to repetitiveness as far as the behavior of the protagonist and the crises dealt are concerned, several subtle variations highlight the difficult balance between a natural and an extremely quirky performance, which he effortlessly maintains.
Thus, Allen as an actor is just as much of a genius. He has also acted in films aside from his own, and has written scripts for films by other directors as well.
Allen skillfully plays the clarinet and possesses an encyclopedic interest in jazz music, which almost always shows up as the principal sound in his films. He was a performer of some repute since the late 60s who plays with his New Orleans jazz band, and performed on the soundtrack for “Sleeper” with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
4. Pier Paolo Pasolini (director / screenwriter / poet / journalist / novelist / philosophical writer / playwright / politician / painter / actor)
Easily one of the greatest Italian intellectuals, it would be a sin to contain Pier Paolo Pasolini in any one of his many fields of activity. An openly gay, critical leftist and artist who explores the harshest realities of the psychological, political and sexual traumas of a flawed civilization, he was never a congenial personality and was certainly not easy to like in his time.
A fierce modernist, he never portrayed what was pleasant. His cinema addressed the bizarre and savage in its own brutal randomness, and did so in a firm manner. He wrote and directed 12 films and many documentaries, which earned him prestigious accolades, before his death by assassination. His movies distorted a socio-religious familiarity by finding a twisted referential premise in texts and traditions.
An effortless and ascetic executor of large settings, scopes, terrors and low emotions, his employment of the medium was an obvious departure from most conventions of embellishment.
He was a poet of exquisite merit, and he published seven books of poems in Italian that have been translated and compiled in many other languages. His poems, according to some experts, surpass his films in terms of significance. He took up journalism as a serious platform for his voice throughout his life; he worked as the chief editor of il Setaccio magazine until he was fired over a conflict.
He made his debut as an actor in “Il Gobbo” and as a screenwriter, aside from writing his own films, famously co-wrote the dialogues for “La Dolce Vita” and “Nights of Cabiria”. In “Le ceneri di Gramsci”, his famous collection of poetry, Pasolini voiced anguished tensions between logic and heart. He addressed the ideological dialectics within communism, a debate over artistic freedom, socialist realism, and commitment.
A little known area of expertise for Pasolini was undoubtedly the fine arts. He was a painter of great style; his portraits, self-portraits, and landscapes have been widely exhibited. He was a self-professed dilettante as far as painting was concerned. He was purely experimental in his naïve restlessness in this field, fusing mediums and making outsider commentaries just like in every other artistic medium he explored.
As a novelist, he published highly-acclaimed works like “Ragazzi di vita”, “Una Vita Violenta”, and “Teorema” (which he also made into a film). A popular playwright, he wrote and worked on about a half-dozen Italian dramas that were quite popular and effective in what they conveyed. He had written innumerable philosophical and political that contained noble propositions and insightful meditations, in a rare lingual artistry.
5. Satyajit Ray (director / screenwriter / short story writer / novelist / composer / illustrator / calligrapher / lyricist / poet / film ist / translator)
In his native Bengal, a portrait of Satyajit Ray might as well summarize the postcolonial intellectual life of his people. While the Western testimonials and the plethora of accolades received from the festival circuit helped elevate Indian cinema to global auteur leagues, Bengal exalts a personality far beyond this area.
One of the greatest humanists of cinema, his films are known and referred to by students of film for their profound and adaptive visual and compositional beauty, and their diverse thematic choices reflecting the human moral attitude. His serene perfectionism and subtleties can be almost directly attributed to his education in fine arts and literature from all over the world.
He was a direct product of a period of social and artistic empowerment in his culture, often nicknamed the Bengal Renaissance. His forefathers had been active figures in this historic infancy of the Westernized intelligentsia that would later produce all significant exponents of India.
He had inherited great talent and exposure from the remnants of this period. He was drawn to Western classical music from an early age and learned to play the piano, which would eventually help him compose brilliant contributory narrative scores for his films. He had also written scores for films produced by Merchant Ivory.
He was a diverse writer of dialogue adapting to the several backgrounds he toyed with, ranging from rural realism to crime fiction, urban political films to 19th century period pieces, children’s fantasies to comedies. His work within the craft itself was marked by formal diversity.
He was formally trained in the fine arts at Shantiniketan University, which was founded by Rabindranath Tagore, and he would later work as an ad visualizer, illustrator, and calligrapher. All of these talents would later be employed in producing promotional material for his films, as well as designing important emblems for the Indian government; a literate Bengali child would have witnessed Ray more through his writing than his films.
He wrote short stories and novellas for the ancestral young adult magazine that he ran, and for which he also edited and illustrated; these would range thematically from magical realism and science fiction to extremely popular detective stories and Chekhovian pieces.
He had written numerous film primarily to instill a cinematic consciousness in his people. He wrote lyrics for the songs that were featured in his movies, and translated the work of important authors (like Arthur Conan Doyle) to Bengali for his magazine.