So, in the elaborate, ethereal and high maintenance stratosphere of film, I am on a quest to find the ultimate director…and to also understand why Kathryn Bigelow was the first (and to date, only) female to win an Oscar for best director.
I like to think of the director as the parent of the film, or legal guardian if you will; they nurture its development and shape the direction in which it travels. They are also responsible for selecting a transcendent cast and ensuring they deliver to the highest standards. Overarching these duties is the job of directing in such a way that a certain style is tangibly conceived, thus permeating every film they ever produce. This final point is far from an easy task, but one in which our first nominee does with aplomb.
We simply can’t talk directors without the legendary Tarantino getting a mention. His filmography includes Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and the latest triumph, Django Unchained, to name but a few. Even people with the most amateur of film knowledge are likely to recognise a Tarantino film when they see one. He delivers often dark and political messages in a bemusingly humorous manner and with such grotesque style, you can’t help but sit back and enjoy the show. Outstandingly witty dialogue and non-linear plots are an essential part of the Tarantino film DNA. A man who is a clear ambassador for those wannabe moviemakers who went ‘to film’ instead of film school, he certainly deserves a place up there with the best.
Next on the list and continuing the theme of distinctive style, is Tim Burton. If you’re not au fait with Burton’s film repertoire, think of films you know starring either Johnny Depp and/or Helena Bonham Carter and you’ll most likely have thought of a Tim Burton movie. He is a director who repeatedly does what movies are great for – creating a whole new world in which we can escape the mundane and live in a fantasy land where anything is possible. The Tim Burton arsenal includes Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and most recently Dark Shadows – unsurprisingly all starring Johnny Depp.
Now, to a genre that’s notoriously hard to perfect…horror. The king of the horror genre has to be a certain Mr Alfred Hitchcock, who I can proudly state is a fine British addition to the list. This is a man with titles to his name such as Rear Window, Birds and of course, Psycho. This arguably ‘old skool’ approach to horror has left a legacy of expertly shot psychological and suspense fuelled films. Hitchcock has a directorial style that leads the viewer to an almost voyeuristic experience, creating an engagement that’s second to none.
In the land of the great directors, there is a distinct space reserved for the undeniable Steven Spielberg whose cache includes classics such as Jurassic park, E.T and a personal favourite, Duel. Spielberg can attract universal audiences with ease and create films to last multiple lifetimes; often through the inclusion of innocent and angelic characters. The Spielberg experience will often involve a relationship between the routine and the phenomenal – E.T being the perfect example of a regular school boy coming into contact with an extra-terrestrial being. It can certainly be said, that the film industry has been not only influenced but sculpted by Spielberg, creating a benchmark for all future directors.
So, with this testosterone fuelled list, I must ask, where are the women? I could harbour this point for days, but instead I will simply state that female directors do seem to be significantly underrepresented in the film industry. I find this to be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy which continually perpetuates the problem – promoting the dominance of male presence thus deterring women. Chauvinist industries are notoriously difficult for women to crack, however this has changed (for the better) in recent years. It has been said that the film industry is based on ‘demonstrable success’, which is challenging for female directors as there is less evidence of their success in comparison to male counterparts. I must add quantity may not outweigh quality in this topic; Lost in Translation directed by Sofia Coppola remains to be one of my favourite films of all time, and Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker was an explosive and expertly shot piece of cinema which was fully deserving of its Oscar. With such talented role models as this, we can only hope that their influence will be tangible.
To conclude, it has to be reiterated, this is far from an exhaustive list, with many more worthy directors out there. This is a mere pick of some preferences, largely influenced by my enjoyment of their films. So, without further ado, I must name my personal favourite which would have to be – Quentin Tarantino. His style rivals no other and his razor sharp dialogue creates repeatedly excellent cinema, which I know I will be enjoying for many years to come.