More of my 20 favorite living directors...
15/ Spike Jonze + Michel Gondry. I’m going with twins here with these two one time music video directors who have been fortunate to be touched by the hand of Kaufman (as in Charlie) in their combined best films: Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. How much of those films wildly thrilling and interesting work was Jonze/Gondry and how much was the eccentric Kaufman? Jonze has not stepped away from Kaufman-land yet. I really liked The Science of Sleep by Gondry and his next one (Be Kind Rewind) seems like another bizarre romp. Time will tell.
14/ Jim Jarmusch. I’ve been a fan of Jarmusch since I saw Stranger Than Paradise in the mid ‘80s. Like a lot of the directors on this list, you’ll recognize the pattern that most have signature themes or styles they return to, over and over again. Jarmusch is no different. He makes idiocentric films, full of lots of super long takes, non-action, silences, characters that are on the periphery of society and quirky humor. Check out my favorites: Down By Law, Mystery Train, Night on Earth, Ghost Dog and his most recent, Broken Flowers.
13/ Jean Pierre Jeunot. I guess most know Jeunot for his masterpiece of French romanticism Amelie but he’s got more than a one-film man. As soon as you can watch 1995’s The City of Lost Children (co-directed with Marc Caro) and get ready to be blown away. Or Delicatessen from 1991.. I even liked Jeunot’s attempt to revive the Aliens franchise (and his only English speaking film) in Aliens4 (Winona Ryder as a sexy android might have swayed my opinion of this one!). Jeunot doesn’t make a lot of films, nothing in development and A Very Long Engagement in 2004 being his most recent, but when he does, expect wonder and greatness.
12/ David Cronenberg. DC has kind of reinvented himself with his past few films, sort of. For the majority of his career he’s made a living delivering captivating, chilling takes on terror via horror and other genres. Check out Scanners, Videodrome, The Fly, Dead Ringers and The Dead Zone (to name but a few!) to see Cronenberg deliver some genre fun. His most recent two films (A History of Violence and Eastern Promises) would appear to be more mainstream but they are chock full of all the same atmosphere, nuance and blasts of violence that Cronenberg has loved to put in his films since he started making them. Watching a Cronenberg film is to experience a director so in control of the frame and performance it’s almost too technical and cold but I sure love the ride he takes me on when I see his films.
11/ Ang Lee. Here is a director who has done it all and done it well: family drama, dysfunctional coming of age films, Civil War action, Jane Austin adaptations, gay westerns, martial arts films and even Hollywood blockbusters (okay, Hulk sucked but that’s Lee’s only failure so far). Lee seems interested in trying every kind of film but he usually has one thing in all his films—the relationships between people. Those relationships form the core of his stories and make it possible to find the running theme in all his films no matter how different they may appear on the surface.