“To me style is just the outside of content, and content the inside of style, like the outside and the inside of the human body‒ both go together, they can’t be separated,” Jean-Luc Godard has said. Indeed, style is the parameter that translates ideas into art. It really represents the both polymorphic and transparent canvas on which an artist of every kind delicately draws the impression of his thoughts.
In life, style is what makes us unique. It’s something that we don’t necessarily need so as to survive, but we need it so as to express who we are. In the life of an artist, style plays an even more important role: It’s a signature, a personal visual language, a way of doing art and externalizing the art of an inner, restless culture.
In the case of the seventh art, style occurs as a resultant of various components. An auteur constructs the visual foundation of his work by choosing specific color pallets, camera kinesiology, music, dress codes, characters, expressive means, and many more. Let’s see some of the all-time best filmmakers, whose styles are distinctive, stunning, influential and yet inimitable.
10. Jim Jarmusch
No other filmmaker has ever described common characters, highlighting the beauty and the magic of routine, in the simplistic, thorough and charming way of Jim Jarmusch. Known as “the founding father of indie cinema,” Jarmusch established his style in his very first feature film of 1984 “Stranger Than Paradise,” being artistically consistent and idealistically unspoiled ever since.
Absolutely character-driven and subtractive in relation to their narrative and expositional motifs, all of Jarmusch’s films so far represent paradoxical manifestations of the ordinary. His stories seem to roam aimlessly in the space-time continuum, and so do his heroes. Behind all of his delirious cinematic meanderings, though, emerges a shadow deeply humane in its blurred edged, attributing a both palpable and significant texture to his work.
As for his pictorial interpretations, Jarmusch always inserts specific cinematographic techniques, including essentially slow long takes and firm camera kinesiology, which in combination with minimalist dialogues and dominant use of music result in an unfailingly familiar, stylized and somehow nostalgic result. In vivid colors or in black-and-white contrasts, in such a frame we’ve met Jarmusch’s peculiar characters and their adventures.
9. Sergei Parajanov
Georgian-Armenian film director Sergei Parajanov spent a big part of his life chased, while his artwork largely remains in obscurity for the modern western world. Influenced by Andrei Tarkovsky, Sergei Eisenstein and Pier Paolo Pasolini, the great Soviet artist crafted a strictly genuine and personal visual poetry that differs from every other poetic cinematic creation ever made.
Parajanov’s first terrifying, dark and glaring “fleur du mal” bloomed in his 1964 film “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors,” which stands for an escapist step from the terrain of socialist realism and a self-executed initiation in an one-of-a-kind surrealist art. Serving the sacred imperatives of a sentimental esotericism, Parajanov created some of the most haunting and lyrical pieces of the seventh art.
All of his expressive devices, from camera movement to framing and from color mixing to the use of sounds, aim to portray mental states instead of moving along the naturalistic, linear steps of time. His stories aren’t chains of happenings but emotional wires that constantly spin in an abyss of ideas, as in the case of “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors,” or stay completely firm, as in the case of his 1969 “The Color of Pomegranates.” In any case of his cinematic dreams, you can see Sergei Parajanov and only him.
8. Wong Kar-Wai
A romantic sob, a silent lament for the unfulfilled and unsaturated love always echo in every layer of depth, from the surface and until the darkest ocean floor, in the landscape of Wong Kar-Wai’s cinematic universe. Always dark, always complicated yet simple, and always hushed yet melodic, his stories are ravishing, evolving around troubled and lonesome characters.
It’s in the European looks. It’s behind the black glasses. It’s below the low-key lighting. It’s in the repeating music themes. It definitely is in the day-dreaming. It’s Wong Kar-Wai’s style. Eternally surviving in memory, countless moments of visual and sentimental beauty occur in the filmography of the great Chinese auteur as simply as raindrops rifle small pathways on the wet glass of a window.
Although he has impressively evolved over the years, technically and contextually speaking, along a glorious artistic course, the heart of his ideas is found there, in the curious creatures of “Chungking Express.” Yes, he offered all those reds and shapes of his stunning piece “In the Mood for Love.” And yes, he showcased the melancholic intelligence of “2046.” Essentially, yet, nothing changed since 1994.
7. Lucrecia Martel
In her numerically limited filmography as yet, Argentinian director Lucrecia Martel has accomplished the manipulations of a master of puppets. Her hands hold long, strong ropes of indefinite quality that circumscribe shifting distances between her mind and her puppets: us. She’s not a surrealist; she’s rather a realist of a different hue for the eyes of those willing enough to cut the rope.
Martel always uses her protagonists as points of both observation and notional creation, starting from an external stimulus and heading toward an upside-down yet more than real manifestation of a circumstance that is covered by a cloth of indistinctiveness. If one means to follow her tracks, a complete embracement of an outward aspect is necessary.
From her first feature film “La Ciénaga” until her recent “Zama,” Martel has achieved four steady and audacious steps in the cinematic world, defining a highly calibrated artistic locus of her own. Her work doesn’t offer its holiest treasures to every viewer, but instead recompenses the perceptive spectators through its penetrative and genuine aspects.
6. Gaspar Noé
Gaspar Noé, perhaps the most famous representative director of the “New French Extremity” has stood out not only due to his tendencies to the extreme, but due to his quite distinctive cinematic style all the same. His films have always shocked and gather wide attention in relation to their visual synthesis at the same time.
Once you’ve watched one of Noé’s films, you’ll never break free from its subliminal imprint. That being said, there’s no choice: you either love or hate this persistent memory. He most of the times focuses on the beaten and the damned of this world from a both sympathetic and blatantly exposing point of view. His observations are raw, descriptive, and painful. His political criticism, as it emerges in the background of his stories, adds insults to injury instead of easing any pain.
As for the aesthetic parameters, Noé’s style supports the moral and emotional extravaganza of his work in the most direct and intense way. Unconventional narrative, rotating camera movement, and delirious pace are some of his emblematic techniques that essentially describe chaotic situations of disrupted minds and collapsed societies. Disturbing or not, Noé has always been honest and artistically innovative, ruling a mundane sphere of bewildered tragedy.