The Masters of Cinema
Art is an integral part of human life. And Cinema is the culmination of all art forms ever invented by men. It’s a relatively new art form and very few can disagree with the fact that the last century has been the age of Cinema. It took birth, grew up, fell apart, got its act together again and has never looked back since. With every passing year, cinema has re-invented itself and has flourished beyond human imaginations. And it’s the imaginations that make films so alluring to watch, imaginations of the men who make them. Since films are a visual medium, we tend to deify the actors and appreciate the locations, when the simplest fact of film-making is that, it is completely a director and his “behind the camera” team’s words on motion. It is the director’s dreams that we see on celluloid. In this article, I have discussed 10 of the most essential Directors from around the world, film-makers whose films have shaped the history of the art form, broken boundaries, reach newer heights and exhilarated viewers with their brilliance. Read on to know more about the Masters of Cinema….
Using the term greatest to define someone in their line of work is subjective, but I can safely say, that Stanley Kubrick was and still is the most essential film-maker ever. In a career spanning over 45 years, Kubrick directed a measly 13 films , but each of those provide the most profoundly exhilarating cinematic experience possible. From war, romance, comedy, crime, horror to science fiction, Kubrick explored almost every genre and he made his films with so much attention to detail, that most of them stopped being just films, and became events in the lives of cinema connoisseurs and casual viewers alike. Films to watch – 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket.
In matters of art, very few can beat the French. And cinema got its own breath of fresh air, when a bunch of film critics from France, disillusioned with the way films were being made, decided to take matters into their own hands. Francois Truffaut was a front runner in that movement, aptly called the French New Wave. His debut feature, The 400 Blows revolutionised the way people made and saw films. It questioned the traditional structures of film-making and employed innovative ways of story-telling and characterisation. What followed was a career spanning decades and numerous feats of accomplishment. Films to watch – The 400 Blows, Jules And Jim, Stolen Kisses, Day For Night, The Last Metro.
Nobody could embody surreal lyricism on screen better than this maverick filmmaker from Italy. Fellini’s cinema blended the hard truths of life with fantasy to provide us with a unique genre of film-making that broke boundaries, bettered the art perfected by Luis Bunuel and set benchmarks for the likes of David Lynch. There was also a strong sense of wonder in his films, seldom found in works of serious film-makers. With 5 victories, he still remains the man with the highest number of Best Foreign Film Oscars. Films to watch – La Strada, La Dolce Vita, 8 ½ , Amarcord, Satyricon.
Arguably the greatest film-maker from Japan, some might even say Asia, Kurosawa’s films arrayed the tenets of interesting story-telling and high production design. His films put troubled characters in the backdrop of extremely well orchestrated action and studied them with a magnifying glass. A Palm D’Or and an Academy award later, he still remains one of the most watched and respectable film-maker ever. Films to watch – Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Kagemusha, Rashomon, Ikiru.
There is a closet criminal inside all of us, and nobody tapped into that better than Scorsese. He made troubled men, men on the wrong side of the law, likeable, and spun one great story after another based on them. Filled with doses of curses and violence, Scorsese’s cinema became an exhibition of innovative narrative structure and great dialogues. An early collaboration with Robert DeNiro yielded some of the best films ever to come out of Hollywood. At 71, he still manages to surprise the audience with his brilliance. Films to watch – Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Gangs Of New York.
The man who inspired Woody Allen has to be someone extremely special, and Swedish director Ingmar Bergman was someone beyond special. Old-age, death and illness were recurring themes of his films, and he presented some of the most well written characters on screen. Very few directors understood human fears in their day to day lives better than him. He was also a brilliant writer, carefully constructing scenes and characters that he later directed with aesthetic precision seen in the works of Michelangelo and Rembrandt. Films to watch – Cries And Whispers, Autumn Sonata, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Fanny And Alexander.
Very few film-makers have been as prolific in their careers as Woody Allen. Till date, he has written and directed 45 films and has acted in most of them. A stand-up comic with a flair for the oddball, Woody’s transition to films was an organic process. Humour has always been a constant companion of his works, but his growth as a maker of films with some of the most pertinent questions related to life was something that surprised even some of his harshest critics. Human complexities, unintentional dire situations and the looming figure of Sigmund Freud became the topics of his exploration and he presented it all with regular dollops of humour, witty dialogues and sans any semblance of judgement. Films to watch – Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah And Her Sisters, Crimes And Misdemeanors, Midnight In Paris.
“Poetry in motion” is perhaps the best expression to define the highly acclaimed works of Satyajit Ray, arguably the greatest film-maker ever from India. Embodying the spirit of Jean Renoir and the soul of Vittorio De Sica, Ray became the director India most needed. With 36 films to his credit, dealing with subjects as diverse as poverty, feudalism, fantasy and suspense, Ray’s variety defined him. He was an auteur and took note of every aspect of his films. Two decades after his death, he still remains the most respected Indian film-maker internationally. Films to watch – Pather Panchali, Aparajito, Apur Sansar, Charulata, Ashani Sanket.
A hard taskmaster makes it troublesome for people who work with them, but the beauty of the ultimate result makes it worth the hard work. German film-maker Werner Herzog’s work ethics have made him an epitome of the scary, no-nonsense director stereotype, someone who can go to any lengths to take the perfect shot, but his methods have resulted in films with brilliance nonpareil. Francois Truffaut called him the most important director alive and it wasn’t an exaggeration. His techniques have baffled film theorists and audiences alike, but more often than not, most have been in agreement with the value and importance of his films. Films to watch – Aguirre – The Wrath Of God, Heart Of Glass, Nosferatu The Vampyre, Woyzeck, Fitzcarralo.
Thrill and wonder are a large part of the movie going experience. Steven Spielberg made a career out of providing that in abundance. Very few film-makers can stake claim to the mantle of being the biggest distributor of happiness among the audience, not even Walter Disney. The fact that he has also directed some of the most hard-hitting films to come out of Hollywood, makes him someone extremely special. His critics might throw brickbats at him for infantilising the audience or for misrepresenting history in some of his films, but he still remains one of the most highly awarded as well as commercially successful film-maker in history. Films to watch – Jurassic Park, ET – The Extra Terrestrial, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan.