8. Jean-Luc Godard – Takeshi Kitano
Godard: The king of the anti-cinema with dark glasses, the epitome of an auteur, the older brother of the protesters of May 68, and the one director that every young filmmaker wants to be at 25 years old, next to Orson Welles of course.
Kitano: He was called the successor of Oshima and Imamura during the 90s, but then the new millennium began and disappointment came with it, yet some of us are still waiting for his next Hanna-Bi.
Aside from Hanna-Bi, Dolls and Sonatine before that, helped established Kitano as a specialist on Yakuza Japanese 90s and on the roots of the 60s neo-noir. After seeing those films again, one can just watch how Kitano goes straight to the source and tries to provoke a break between the past and the possible future of this genre, in order to go more cinematic and individualistic. In that, we see Godard – the colors, the sadness, and the explosive flowers (also the innovative anger) teaches viewers a lesson about the New Wave’s influence and its powerful presence in the work of the Japanese.
9. Yasujiro Ozu – Abbas Kiarostami
Ozu: The master on dealing with tough everyday issues like the clash of generations, the family’s disintegration, the death of parents and sons, etc. A quiet revolutionary, who thinks beyond formalism, and transforms the way how we look at how human drama teaches us humility and discipline, all through his method of filmmaking.
Kiarostami: Iranian filmmaker who fearlessly, but quietly, speaks about difficult subjects in his society. Today, even the threat of incarceration, instead of stopping him, has given him more strength for questioning the forces that want to impose a particular set of beliefs believes. He questions man made boundaries, and how they are destroying human will and expectations after all these years in control.
As trademarks of both directors, one can see their methodic observations of existence, their respectful view of routine as an instrument for understand the human condition, and their character motivations. With a minimalistic approach to their mise en scene as a key element on how deal with life in front of camera, the least manipulative as possible visual style entrusts the spectator to make up their own mind about the films they are watching.
10. Terry Gilliam – Guillermo Del Toro
Gilliam: A rebellious, surrealistic director with legendary bad luck, who takes on life and film with black humor, irony and oneiric themes.
Del Toro: Gilliam’s biggest fan, who also seems to know how to better deal and settle with the industry.
In his documentary, A Personal Journey…, Scorsese categorizes film directors as smugglers and as iconoclasts. Del Toro is successful in making this transition, and may not have suffered much from being “part of the system,” as his vision was more widely respected especially after Pan’s Labyrinth, even though it has had some consequences on his films (which should be more politically correct now). However, Gilliam is still the stubborn pirate who will keep on fighting the empire without hesitation – thank the film gods for that.
11. Fritz Lang – Tim Burton
Lang: He was most responsible for giving expressionism to the masses, with all the nightmarish and psychological atmospheres of that era, mixed with Aristotelic structures and characters that were more or less simpler than the ones of his German colleagues.
Burton: His camera angles, art direction, lighting design are all obviously expressionist, albeit American expressionism, but, unlike American film noir, which drew upon a lot of harsh realism, Burton mixed his style with cartoonish and fairytale sensibility, which became his own distinctive cinematic quality.
In his early works, Burton was more influence by English and American gothic horror films, but later, as he became more ambitious, he wanted to prove more, and got closer to the epic genre; he wanted to make symphonies, and this is when Lang’s lessons from Metropolis appear most, in a kind of visual universe that defines a taste for deformed reality, and presents a filmmaker at the edge of amazing visual possibilities. After the great Ed Wood, it seems he ran out of steam. Lang had the ability to make interesting films all his life even in adverse conditions, so here’s hoping that Burton can return to his inspiration, and do that too.
12. Erich von Stroheim – Lars von Trier
Stroheim: An artist/dictator, with a sadistic approach towards how to direct an actor, Stroheim’s wild intensity for images that portrayed human tragedy and suffering without concessions became an example of artistic power and authenticity, far ahead of his time.
Von Trier: In him, one sees his inner force and necessity for telling the kinds of stories with borderline off-putting characters, of filming the ugly and secretive face of prestigious institutions. These are his primal targets, and therefore elevate his work to a level of social and human commentary about the place of the renegades (that could be any one of us) and the fate of them. He is almost a blueprint of Stroheim.
Both iconoclasts, the Danish director is a little bit more idealistic (example: Dogme 95), and sees himself as capable of changing the face of cinema, and he has. He managed to form a group and make a team, so he could have allies, and wouldn’t have to sacrifice his filmmaking freedom. Perhaps he learned that from Von Stroheim, who sadly was a victim of a system too powerful and vindictive to allow him to continue his career with his own rules; the master and hero died at the end, but left an astonishing path for his followers.
13. Buster Keaton – Jerry Lewis
Keaton: Black and white film legend who use the streets and locations as his playground, a comedy pioneer and risk-taker at the same level of Charlie Chaplin.
Lewis: A spastic genius, compared only with Tati or Keaton on his use of living spaces, who also wisely used his stardom for making alternative and daring films.
Both were conscious of the role of the artist in a structured society, and how they should be a dissident and a rebel. Their films put their protagonists in situations that illustrate these ideas perfectly, with their alter egos never quite fitting squarely with the absurd world at large, and this is when the comedy would emerge. We could say than Keaton is more naïve (an endearing quality for his types of films), which then leaves Lewis as the skeptic and more satiric auteur.
14. Andrei Tarkovsky – Alexander Sokurov
Tarkovsky: A prophet of cinema, who knew that his destiny was to go deeper into the secret meanings of images, and from that unknown and mysterious place send viewers a cinematic message; his capacity to find new expressive paths for cinema is still unmatched and his legacy is just as immense.
Sokurov: A dense, profound, and ambitious director, who treats cinema as a sacred art and a perfect field for visual experimentation.
Sokurov’s reverence and admiration for Tarkovsky’s work and myth are palpable since his film school days, but now, after a long and great career with more diverse themes, it almost feels as though his worship has turned into a quest for Sokurov, to try to overpass his master’s ideas and become a new light in Russian film himself. One of areas than Sokurov is dealing with now that distinguishes him more from Tarkovsky’s shadow is how to deal with media that is in a constant state of technological evolution. His vision and intelligent use of media has made him a pioneer in combining art with film science; maybe this is the factor that could make him closer to the level of Tarkovsky someday.
15. Jean-Pierre Melville – Nicolas Winding Refn
Melville: A genre auteur with a lot of ego and guts; very concerned with characters that look fearless, unsentimental, and sometimes incomprehensible, but who also wants to show something truthful, complex, and heavy that trespasses far beyond genre.
Winding Refn: A neo-noir visualist, an expert in dramatic silences, and obsessed with the inner conflicts of his characters, who most of the time, have tragic endings.
We could use Winding Refn as an example of how contemporary genre auteurs have a large number of references and want to put more and more ideas in their films. The inevitable density of packing this large amount of information into this form, dramatically or visually, if it works, could lead the film to have more layers of comprehension and interpretation, thus creating a kind of a “maze film” that someone could resolve only step-by-step; Melville was the innovator and master of doing just that.
Author Bio: Cesar Miranda is a filmmaker who graduated from Lodz Filmaschool, he was a film critic from a peruvian film magazine Godard! from 2000 to 2011. His favorite directors are Oshima, Cassavettes, Guney, Rocha, Dreyer, Haneke, Kieslowski, Erice, Murnau, Cocteau, Fassbinder, etc.