A movie is the most complex medium of expression and a movie-makers job, extremely difficult. But something even more arduous is to shortlist Top Ten filmmakers of all time. Here’s my attempt at it.
*The list isn’t in any particular order of preference.
Ingmar Bergman (Swedish, 1918 – 2007)
My first exposure to Mr. Bergman’s craft was inside the darkness of a theater at FTII, Pune, some nine years ago. The movie was Wild Strawberries and it turned me on with its unconventional style of story-telling. Since then I’ve watched and re-watched all of his works.
His subtle and understated exploration of the human condition remains unparalleled.
As a tribute to the man, after he passed away, I had written a piece, which you can read here.
Akira Kurosawa (Japanese, 1910 – 1998)
Apart from giving many new techniques and styles to the world of movies, what really makes Mr. Kurosawa a genius, are the range of subjects that he chose and the perfectionism that he sought in each of his movies.
His subjects vary from a glorious take on Shakespeare (Throne of Blood) to an urban story of kidnapping (High and Low) to a story about a maverick doctor (Red Beard). As for the hunt for perfection, consider this trivia: In the final scene of Throne of Blood, in which the central character is shot by arrows, Kurosawa used real arrows shot by expert archers from a short range, landing within centimeters of actor’s body.
Satyajit Ray (Indian, 1921 – 1991)
Watching De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief changed a young Mr. Ray’s life and later, he went on to change the landscape & grammar of movies in India and putting it on the world map. The multi-talented Mr. Ray was easily the biggest creative force to hit India.
Once again, he chose varied subjects and was a stickler for perfection. In fact, he used to draw each frame of the movie before starting the shoot. Little wonder that he was a fan of Mr. Kurosawa. The Japanese auteur too, had great respect for him.
Stanley Kubrick (American, 1928 – 1999)
Mr. Kubrick was all about choosing radically different themes and executing them big. None of his movies are small. They are all meant for the big-screen experience in a theater. He will take you from horror (The Shining) to sci-fi (Space Odyssey 2001) to satire/comedy (Dr Strangelove) to a futuristic world (A Clockwork Orange) with equal finesse and his trademark feeling of enormity. This giant from the world of movies will always stand tall for me.
Alfred Hitchcock (British / American, 1899 – 1980)
Enough has been written about this master of a particular genre. Nobody did it better. And perhaps nobody will be able to do it better.
One of my all time favorite sequences is in the great concept movie, The Birds when the birds start assembling in the school playground for another attack while the kids are singing in chorus inside the classroom during their music class. What a build-up!
Francois Truffaut (French, 1932 – 1984)
The 400 Blows, Mr. Truffaut’s debut, defined the French New Wave and in what a manner it did so. This film critic turned movie director paved way other greats like Godard and Chabrol. The last sequence of another one of his masterpieces, Jules and Jim will stay with any of its viewer forever. Many contemporary good movies like Amelie, Eight Women keep reflecting this man’s impact. Unfortunately, he died at an early age of 52 due to a brain tumor.
Krzysztof Kieslowski (Polish, 1941 – 1996)
This movie giant from Poland had one of the most unique minds. It gets reflected in all his scripts and their executions. Take Three Colors in which he chooses to interpret the French motto of Liberty, Equality & Fraternity in his own unique style. Or take The Decalogue, wherein he gives his own interpretation to The Ten Commandments.
Apart from these popular works, he has many lesser known gems like No End, Blind Chance, Camera Buff…the list is endless.
Federico Fellini (Italian, 1920 – 1993)This man’s movies are a unique combination of memory, dreams, fantasy and desire. He has given a lot to the world of art, movies and even journalism. The adjectives “Fellinian” and “Felliniesque” are synonymous with any kind of extravagant and fanciful image in the cinema and in art in general. As many of would know that the term “Paparazzi” comes from a photographer character in his masterpiece, La Dolce Vita.
Anybody vaguely interested in the world of movies cannot afford to miss Mr. Fellini’s autobiographical classic, 8 ½.
Roman Polanski ( Polish, 1953 – present)
Mr Polanski is another master of psychological thrillers (and sometimes horror). The Apartment Trilogy (Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby & Tenant), Chinatown and the latest The Ghost Writer just go on to prove this.
Despite going through a very difficult, controversial and a chaotic life (or perhaps because of it) he has continued to make some of the best movies of our times. Rosemary’s Baby remains one of my all time greatest horror movies.
Woody Allen (American, 1935 – present)
His landmark creation Annie Hall gets reflected in contemporary American sitcoms, almost 30 years after the movie was made. He almost never uses newly created music in his movies, opting for the ocean of compositions (varying between Western Classical and Jazz) which are already there in the universe. He has written some of the funniest plays and short stories of the modern times. He is an accomplished Jazz Clarinetist. He has won three Academy Awards and been nominated a total of 21 times. He is Mr. Woody Allen.
There are some other names that were in the short-list and I shall put them up in the comment box. Do share your list if you feel up to it.