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10 Movie Directors Who Make The Coolest Films

15 February 2018 | Features, People Lists | by Antoni Urbanowicz

5. Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino, same as one of his idols – Jean-Pierre Melville – is an autodidact filmmaker. As a true postmodern director and movie lover, he takes inspirations from many cinematic sources that he’s worshipping, such as the French New Wave, Spaghetti Westerns, giallo, macaroni combat, samurai films, exploitation cinema, Hong Kong action cinema and many, many more.

Instead of simply making the copies of these movies, Tarantino mixes their certain themes in a blender and adds his own unique cinematic flavor to it. He also writes the scripts himself and sometimes acts in his movies as well. It’s impossible to confuse these movies – full of violence, pop cultural references and long, witty dialogues (not to mention the famous usage of trunk shots) – with anything else, although his style awaited many better or worse imitators.

His impressive movie career started with directing the gangster/heist film “Reservoir Dogs” (1992), which is one of the best debuts in cinema history and has all of the trademarks that will appear in his future body of work. Everyone knows him mostly from his sophomore movie, the black comedy “Pulp Fiction” (1994), which gained a cult following almost right after the premiere and to date is considered one of the best 90’s movies ever made, and one of the most influential movies in cinema history.

In his still pending career, Tarantino created movies that express his fascination for cult cinema, mainly referring to the blaxploitation in “Jackie Brown” (1997); Asian kung-fu and samurai films in “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” (2003) and “Kill Bill: Vol. 2” (2004); grindhouse in “Death Proof” (2007); war themes in “Inglourious Basterds” (2009); Spaghetti Westerns in “Django Unchained” (2012); and “The Hateful Eight” (2015).

 

4. Sergio Leone

Fortunately for cinephiles, Sergio Leone didn’t listen to advice of his father, Vincenzo Leone (director of silent movies), to become a lawyer. His first steps in the movie industry were as an assistant director on the classic Italian neorealism film “Bicycle Thieves” (1949).

Leone’s debut as a director was the sword and sandal film “The Colossus of Rhodes” (1961), but the whole world heard about him after directing a true classic of Spaghetti Western, “A Fistful of Dollars” (1964) – a violent sort of remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo” (1961). The movie succeeded internationally, so that it not only contributed to the renaissance of Spaghetti Westerns, but also gave rise for Clint Eastwood to become a recognizable actor.

To present day, Eastwood’s character – ruthless bounty hunter, Man with No Name – is recognized as one of the icons of western movies. While making “A Fistful of Dollars,” Leone started a long-term working relationship with famous movie composer Ennio Morricone, who wrote the unforgettable music for all of his movies since.

“A Fistful of Dollars” awaited two sequels – “For a Few Dollars More” (1965) and famous “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966). This trilogy, named “Dollars Trilogy,” is a rare example in movie history where each sequent part is better than the previous one.

Leone directed two more westerns – an epic, multi-layered “Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968), considered by many critics as the best Spaghetti Western in movie history; and very overlooked “Duck, You Sucker” (1971), which takes place during the Mexican Revolution. His last movie, “Once Upon a Time in America,” is a gangster film classic, a movie so perfectly made and touching that even “The Godfather” pales in comparison.

 

3. Takeshi Kitano

Carved from stone, endowed with a sardonic smile and nervous twitch, the characteristic face of Takeshi “Beat” Kitano is known by every fan of Asian cinema. His nickname “Beat” comes from the time he had a career as a popular TV comedian.

He was one-half of the comedy duo “The Two Beats,” established with Beat Kiyoshi. His nickname also fits the movies he directs, and in most cases it plays as a leading actor, because in a lot of scenes his character is beating someone to a pulp. His famous yakuza flicks combine the coolness and violence of John Woo’s films and the intelligence, poetry and sensibility of Akira Kurosawa, who put Kitano’s “Hana Bi” (1997) on the list of his favorite movies of all time.

Kitano’s debut as a director was ”Violent Cop” (1989), where he played the main character – a hard-boiled cop, Azuma, who is for his violence and brittle temperament while dealing with criminals. Initially, Kitano imagined the movie as a comedy, but it ended as a “Dirty Harry”-like, straightforward police film.

It is also one of the most accessible of Kitano’s movies and a position to start with in getting to know his fascinating filmography. The slow, dreamlike pace mixed with scenes of sudden, unexpected outbursts of violence and haiku-like constructions of the script were the elements of his style that he heavily expanded in later movies, such as the famous “Sonatine” (1993) and “Hana-Bi.”

The most entertaining and coolest films by Kitano are the bloody samurai film “Zatoichi” (2003); and the trilogy of yakuza films featuring “Outrage” (2010), “Beyond Outrage” (2012) and “Outrage Coda” (2017), which depict the gang wars as an elaborate and graphically violent chess game.

 

2. Jim Jarmusch

A master of minimalism and one of the most recognizable faces of American independent cinema – Jim Jarmusch, since his fascinating debut “Permanent Vacation” (1980), stood against the classic movie narration and schemes of the American cinema; same as his idol, John Cassavetes.

The inspirations for his movies were taken from Japanese and European cinema, paintings, poetry, and relicts of American pop culture, which are visibly fetishized by him.

Similarly to another cult representative of cinema postmodernism, Tarantino, Jarmusch’s films are the sum of borrowings from various sources and concentrate mostly on the long, characteristically written dialogs. In the opposite of Tarantino, his movies are significantly more sophisticated and existential, which certainly doesn’t mean that they can’t be cool.

Jarmusch’s works usually have an episodic structure, are filled with misfits taken directly from “beat generation” literature, and are focused mainly on the randomness and nonsense of the existence, all with the urban decay in the background that gives its specific noir taste, especially when made in black and white.

He often cast music stars in smaller or bigger roles, such as Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Jack White, Method Man and Joe Strummer. His movies are sometimes very close to pretentiousness, but even at worst, they fascinate and hypnotize (the best example is “The Limits of Controls” from 2009).

A trio of Jarmusch’s coolest films are:

“Down by Law” (1986) – A story of three convicts (Tom Waits, John Lurie, Roberto Benigni), who became friends in a cell in New Orleans and decide to escape from prison through the swamps of Louisiana.
“Dead Man” (1995) – A deconstruction of both rules of western movies and the American myth of the Wild West, with Johnny Depp in a leading role and unforgettable music by Neil Young.
“Ghost Dog” (1999) – a hip-hop era, quasi re-imagining of “Le Samourai.” The eponymous Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker) is a hired killer working for the Italian Mafia, who follows the rules of Hagakure – the book of the samurai. When his employers sentence him to death, Ghost Dog starts a lonesome, unequal fight against them. All of that is made in a rhythm of soundtrack made by RZA himself.

 

1. Jean-Pierre Melville

The forefather of French New Wave cinema and tough-minded independent director, Jean-Pierre Melville was in love with American crime/noir films. It’s visible just how much he was influenced by them through his whole career, but also how unique, ambitious and innovative was his vision.

Instead of making “pulpy” imitations of American classics, he made crime films as though they were written by Jean-Paul Sartre himself. While exploring existential, philosophical subjects, his films remain heavy on style, and thrilling and simply cool at the same time. His main characters were often idealistic criminal outsiders and tragic heroes, whose only destiny is a violent death from gunshots.

Melville is mainly known for “Le Samourai” (1967), a minimalistic neo-noir story about lonely hitman Jef Costello (Alain Delon), who has to face a crime syndicate that’s waylaying him and, at the same time, is avoiding the police, which is trying to get him for murder in a nightclub.

“Le Samourai” was a massive inspiration for the next generation of filmmakers, such as John Woo, Jim Jarmusch and Nicolas Winding Refn. Also, Delon’s role is considered iconic in that movie. His character, dressed in a trench coat and a hat, is probably the most characteristic and stylish hitman that appeared in European cinema.

Melville and Delon created two more films together: another crime classic “Le Cercle Rouge” (1970), and little disappointing (but still having its moments, proofing the directors genius) a cop story “Le Flic” (1972), which is also the last Melville picture. The other great films by Melville that every noir lover should see are “Bob le Flambeur” (1956), “Le Doulos” (1963) and “Le Deuxieme Souffle” (1966).

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