Here is a list consisting of 10 directors who have deeply influenced the cinema of their countries as well as the international scene, but whose names have not been as mentioned as the other directors who are as important as them.
These directors who have had important roles in the history of cinema belong to distinct parts of the world, and have influenced cinema in distinct forms and times. Some of them are pioneers of cinema and other are innovators who continue working today, but all of them have something in common: the need to be discussed and seen more deeply and commonly.
1. Jacques Tati
Born in 1907, Jacques Tati was a French director and actor who worked in cinema from 1932 to 1978. His debut as a director was in 1945 with “Sylvie et la fantôme,” and through the years he made another nine films, the last of which was the short film “Forza Bastia” in 1978.
During his career, he faced several obstacles to make the films he wanted to make. He had one of the most unique styles in film history and his ambitious projects often led him to economic struggles, but this never stopped him from crafting his films with the highest precision and charm.
Tati was a director who took physical comedy to the next level; his films were admired by the greatest critics and filmmakers. One of Bergman’s favorite films was Tati’s “Les vacances de M. Hulot,” and it was with this film that Tati would find one of his greatest collaborators in Jacques Lagrange and would also create his characteristic character Monsieur Hulot.
The production of one of his most acclaimed masterpieces, “Playtime” (1967), would lead him to a financial crisis, but the commercial failure of this film did not stop it from becoming one of the greatest films in history, displaying the transition of Monsieur Hulot into the modern world of technology.
2. Jacques Demy
Not as well known as Francois Truffaut or Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Demy was one of the greatest directors who worked within the frame of the French New Wave. He made his first film in 1960, but one of his most acclaimed works was released in 1964, “Les parapluies de Cherbourg.” This films was awarded at the Cannes Film Festival three times, and won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.
“Les parapluis de Cherbourg” was a musical that was signed from beginning to end, and it displayed the style that Demy would maintain thorough his career, a critical and precise approach to classic narrative that involved both homage and subversion.
Demy would create his own version of musical cinema, in which the traditional escapism of the genre would by subverted with an extremely pessimistic ending that would display the darker perspective of Demy. He also had a very distinctive visual style that consisted of very saturated colors.
The style that was seen in “Les parapluis de Cherbourg” was seen in his later films, in which Demy adapted classic myths such as the Hamlin Flautists or the myth of Orpheus.
3. Victor Sjöström
Victor Sjöström was a pioneer of Swedish cinema. In the early years of silent cinema, it was he and Mauritz Stiller who explored the new art form that cinema was, and developed the dark and pessimistic thematic that filled the Nordic cinema and that were perfected in the films of the great Ingmar Bergman.
It was Stiller and Sjöström who started to attempt to create psychological explorations and portraits with innovative film techniques, and these kinds of attempts were the one that helped cinema turn from entertainment to a recognized art form, with films such as “Körkarlen” in 1921 (“The Phantom Carriage”).
Even though Sjöstrom did not take to the final consequences the pessimism that can be seen in his films, he indeed was a powerful influence in the shape of modern cinema. He was one of the first filmmakers to consciously use the landscape as a means to express the psychological state of the characters, a technique that would be used through the entire century by many great directors.
He also saw the expressive potential of cinema to create a language of his own. All of this can be seen in “The Phantom Carriage,” a film to which Bergman pay homage in his film “Wild Strawberries,” in which Sjöström stars.
4. Jacques Rivette
Another one of the great directors of the French New Wave that is not as mentioned as others but whose style reveals a mastery of cinema and unique perspective of it and the world. Jacques Rivette was an assistant of Jacques Becker and Jean Renoir, and he also wrote in Gazette du Cinema and Cahiers du cinéma.
Rivette’s films are among the most experimental in terms of the dramatic structure of the French New Wave. These films are extremely challenging, sometimes due to their duration (some of his films last longer than five and even 10 hours) and always due to the cryptic manner in which the characters act.
The cryptic style of Rivette can be seen in his first film, “Paris nous appartient,” a project in which other French directors of the generation collaborated. It displays a group of immigrants in Paris, one of whom is a woman trying to figure out a conspiracy behind some murders.
Through the film, we are constantly seeking an explanation that is never delivered, not to us and not to her. The film is full of references and episodic scenes that can be seen in the films of this very unique director.
5. Jonas Mekas
Lithuanian poet and filmmaker Jonas Mekas is one of the filmmakers whose films are more distanced from traditional filmmaking, starting from the fact that he a one-man army who shoots, directs, narrates and edits his own films.
The most experimental films of Mekas are known as diary films, in which he juxtaposes several fragments of his life, sometimes accompanied by music and sometimes by his voice, displaying the way in which he perceives these fragments as both past and presents. One of his most acclaimed diary films is “As I Was Moving Ahead, Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty,” a mosaic that consists of fragments captured in 50 years of his life.
Mekas is a survivor of the Holocaust; he studied theater in a concentration camp and was able to flee to the United States in 1949. In the second half of the 20th century, Mekas founded the cooperative known as The Filmmakers and the Anthology Film Archives. In these decades, he related himself to pop art and artists such as Andy Warhol, Nico, Allen Ginsberg, Yōko Ono, John Lennon and Salvador Dalí.