Blog Directory CineVerse: Changing directions

Changing directions

Thursday, April 8, 2010

When directors switch genres, results can be hit or miss

by Erik J. Martin

(Note: This is part 1 of a 2-part article that will conclude next week.)

Quick trivia: What do the cult classic horror films “Hellraiser” and “Night Breed” have in common with “Music of the Heart,” the weepy feelgood drama starring Meryl Streep, now in theaters?

Answer: They’re all films directed by macabre master Wes Craven.

As if that celluloid paradox isn’t enough to make film fans do a double take, consider other current examples of an unspoken trend resurgent in Hollywood—that of directors firmly established in one genre switching gears to helm a movie in a completely different category.

For more proof, simply look to “The Straight Story,” a currently playing G-rated family film brought to you none other than director David Lynch, the same twisted imagination who gave the world “Twin Peaks” and “Eraserhead.”

Or consider the recent Kevin Kostner romantic comedy “For the Love of the Game,” directed by gore guru Sam Raimi of “Evil Dead” and “Darkman” fame.

Whether it’s to explore uncharted moviemaking waters, avoid being pigeonholed in one genre, or to boost a sagging cinematic career, many film directors make the jump from familiar to foreign phylum, often with mixed results.

The late Stanley Kubrick pulled it off successfully in 1964 with “Dr. Strangelove,” a bold political spoof in which the auteur of violent, brooding fare such as “Spartacus” and “The Killing” harnessed the evasive power to make audiences laugh.

And then there was Roman Polanski, the esteemed director of “Chinatown” and other dark masterpieces, who tried it in 1986 with the absurdly awful Walter Matthau comedy adventure “Pirates,” and failed miserably.

Next week: Part 2

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