10 Directors With Very Long Gaps Between Great Movies
5. Jonathan Glazer
Every Taste of Cinema fan knows how much the sci-fi-of-sorts “Under the Skin” is loved around here, but the fact it came nine years after Jonathan Glazer’s second feature, “Birth”, is perhaps less known mostly because “Birth” wasn’t nearly as popular as “Under the Skin”.
The critical favorite, with many even crowning it the best film of 2013, “Under the Skin” tells the story of a mysterious woman, who is most likely an alien, traveling through both the streets of Scotland and her own mind.
Accompanied by a game changer of a soundtrack from Mica Levi, this one works as both a deeply visual journey and a philosophical question of identity. Perhaps there have been better return films throughout history, but a filmmaker coming back after nearly a decade with the subtlety and the depth displayed here is nothing short of extraordinary.
4. Kenneth Lonergan
To be fair, including Lonergan’s dramatic film, “Margaret”, as a comeback is somewhat unfair as the movie was shot by and supposed to be released in 2007, seven years after his debut, “You Can Count on Me”.
But various disagreements over the final cut and the length of the movie ensued making Lonergan refuse to give his film to the studio at all. Ironically, this delay, which brought the author a great deal of financial trouble, led Matt Damon and John Krasinski to propose him the “Manchester by the Sea” project that has finally brought Lonergan the recognition he deserves.
Four years after the whole mess in 2011, “Margaret” finally turned up and while a delay often means the material just isn’t there, that was certainly not the case this time. Just as in his debut, Lonergan managed to create an extremely versatile portrayal of the titular teen.
It’s an emotionally devastating film, but what makes it truly stand the test of time is the care its screenwriter showed to the people portrayed. Every episode, however distant from the main subjects it may seem at first, is filled to the brim with meaning, feelings, and conflict – all of that while staying true to a completely realistic approach.
Perhaps the biggest compliment for Lonergan’s abilities is Margaret herself. She has plenty of negative qualities and is generally an unlikable character, but one can’t help but empathize with her. Her decisions, which are sometimes rash and sometimes downright stupid, are always deeply rooted in the material, never once coming out of nowhere and at the same time never repeating the same formula, making her seem frighteningly real.
3. Roy Andersson
The longest gap on this list goes to the Swedish tragicomedy genius. Twenty-five years, that’s how long he took to get back to the feature movie business. Whatever writing Roy Andersson did in that time has certainly paid off as the three movies after his return – “Songs from the Second Floor”, “You, the Living” and “A Pigeon Sat on a Bench Reflecting on Existence” – are his three works that everyone loves the most. Curiously though, even after returning, Andersson didn’t exactly spring to work, as the gaps between the three movies are both seven years long.
As for his return, “Songs from the Second Floor” is challenging to even try to summarize. As ever with Andersson, the film is composed of many semi-related scenes, each so horribly heartbreaking that you can’t help but laugh. His compositions are second to none and while it may take awhile to get adjusted to the rhythm of his pieces, it’s a massively rewarding experience that’ll supply you with every emotion in the book.
2. Leos Carax
Leos Carax kept busy during his years of absence, making plenty of short films and music videos, but it was a full 13 years after “Pola X” when he returned with “Holy Motors”. What ranks him as number two on this list is the fact that the latter is his masterpiece and arguably the best picture of 2012.
Featuring Denis Lavant as a plethora of different characters, the movie is a living puzzle, but one that is certainly possible to crack, at least to some degree. The segments, all connected via Lavant, who gives a performance so impressive that you wonder how in the world the Cannes jury didn’t award him the Best Actor prize, it’s a commentary on both modern cinema and the modern man.
It also features Kylie Minogue singing and limos having a chat. Understandably, that may scare of some off some viewers, but “Holy Motors” is one hell of a ride that will make you scratch your head for days, albeit in a pleasant sort of way.
1. Terrence Malick
How could it be anyone else? In the 1970s, Terrence Malick made two absolutely fantastic movies (one of which is a masterpiece at the very least), won Best Director at Cannes, and then retired.
There are many rumors surrounding his long absence from the industry, the most bizarre of which is probably John Travolta claiming it was Malick’s fault that he did not get the lead in “Days of Heaven” (in a role that went to Richard Gere). But whatever it was that triggered his retirement, the man moved to France to teach philosophy for 20 years.
Then, he came back to make one of the greatest war movies ever made and in some accounts, the best movie he’s ever done. “The Thin Red Line” is sometimes overshadowed by “The Tree of Life” or “Days of Heaven” (or even by its own making of the story, featuring A-list stars shooting their parts and finding them cut), but it’s a towering cinematic achievement in every way imaginable.
It’s arguable if Malick’s return has produced better cinema than his first two features – “Badlands” and “Days of Heaven” are probably the two strongest works in his filmography – but even if (especially if) you think his latest couple of movies have not been all that great, “The Thin Red Line” is a must-watch and will make you happy the man came back, even if he then went to somewhat ruin his legacy.
Author Bio: Vladas is a film journalist and a festival programmer with a degree in Philosophy. He is confident that one day he will write a comedy at least as good as Hot Fuzz, although all evidence so far points otherwise. He also likes to read and crush the opposition in old Fifa games.
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