This week online film talk has been dominated by commentary on the Sight & Sound poll, and in keeping with that I’m going to use this weeks editorial to take a look at the directors’ list. Think of this as a casual warm-up for a more in-depth piece to follow later in the week on the eventual winner of the poll, Yasujirō Ozu’s Tokyo Story from the perspective of it being selected in a poll decided by directors.
The director’s lists differ from those of the critics in that the directors list can be read not only as a list of favourites or important films, but one of great personal influence too. As such, I look upon the documents as strands of DNA, that bear the hallmarks of everything that has come before them. It’s organic, and evolutionary, an eternally developing work in progress. We can examine where a filmmaker has come from, and where they may be heading. We can understand how our own cinematic make-up crosses over and intertwines with that of those we admire and enjoy, in turn developing further our relationship with the people behind the camera.
It is somewhat reassuring to find that a filmmaker whose work that you appreciate shares with you a similar taste in movies. A kindred spirit of sorts. It’s pleasing to see Richard Ayoade, an example of a contemporary filmmaker whose work I admire and one born of the same generation as I and producing works as appealing as Submarine cite films such as Le Mepris, Ordet, Raging Bull, Badlands, Barry Lyndon and Make Way For Tomorrow as favourites. I like to think that there’s something in our shared cinematic DNA that draws I, the viewer, towards he, the filmmaker. Interestingly, Ayoade is one of the few filmmakers to select both Make Way For Tomorrow and that films own kindred sibling, and a film that shares that works own DNA, Tokyo Story for inclusion on his list.
It’s also encouraging to have ones own readings of a filmmakers work kind of validated, for want of a better word, when their own influences are laid bare. For example, it’s pleasing to see Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne acknowledge Maurice Pialat as a favourite (and as an influence by proxy), or Thom Andersen, whose Los Angeles Plays Itself is one of the perennial city films highlight Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket, a work that helped lay the foundations (quite literally, in one respect) of the architecturally aware cinema of space and place. Bong Joon-Ho’s placement of Psycho adds a neat spin to his own work of matriarchal positioning, 2009’s Mother, while Miguel Gomes provides a list that essentially serves as a breakdown of his own Tabu (out next month and my personal favourite of the year so far), with the likes of Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou, Charles Laughton’s The Night Of The Hunter and Jean Renoir’s The River all making an appearance, alongside the film from which Gomes latest derives it’s title, Murnau and Flaherty’s Tabu: A Tale Of The South Seas.
Perhaps the one list that says the most about the person behind it is that of Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Rather than sticking to the one rule tokenistically applied to by many when supplying such lists of one film per director, here Ceylan simply nominates two works by five directors. Ozu, Bresson, Bergman, Antonioni and Tarkovsky each get a look in, with the list of filmmakers looking like a blueprint of the list of influences referenced in 90% of reviews for Ceylan’s latest work, the majestic Once Upon A Time In Anatolia.
Finally, and while Citizen Kane may not have fallen entirely out of favour with the directors (the film remains in joint second place, alongside 2001: A Space Odyssey), Orson Welles himself is way down at number 10 in the list of directors voted forby directors (as opposed to third on the critics list). Federico Fellini, often cited as a directors director, and the man behind one of the great on-screen deconstructions of the behind the scenes process tops that particular list, suggesting that some things never change.
Adam Batty – Editor-In-Chief
Further reading –How Hitchcock’s Vertigo eventually topped the Sight & Sound critics’ poll – Philip French A Few Calm Words About The List – Roger Ebert