Blog Directory CineVerse: Who's the finest filmmaker?

Who's the finest filmmaker?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

by Erik J. Martin

Here's a question that could make for an interesting future CineVerse poll: Who is the greatest living film director? Here's my two cents on the matter:

In my opinion, no one is ever going to come close to touching the mastery and track record of Hitchcock, who directed more than 50 films, more than a dozen of which are absolute masterpieces. Consider the achievements: “Vertigo,” “Psycho,” “Rear Window,” “North by Northwest,” “Notorious,” “Shadow of a Doubt,” “Strangers on a Train,” “The Birds,” “The 39 Steps,” “Frenzy,” “The Lady Vanishes,” and “Rebecca,” among other top-notch works.

Orson Welles could have very well been the most talented film director in history, but he had creative control taken away from him early in his career and only outputted a handful of cream-of-the-crop works.

Kurosawa is awfully close in my book (with at least 10 perfect films), as is Fritz Lang, to the top of the ranks.

Not to be overlooked is the work of John Ford, an undisputed master with multiple 5-star films, or the oeuvre of John Huston, Frank Capra and Howard Hawks.

Film scholars point to D.W. Griffith as the true pioneer who established the grammar of cinema, but his movies are more like archaic museum pieces that can be admired from a distance but which have not dated well.

Many fans and critics also tip their cap to Kubrick, but in my humble opinion, his films are emotionally cold and somewhat laborious, although anyone who directs “Paths of Glory,” “Dr. Strangelove” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” is no slouch.

But when you consider their body of work, Spielberg and Scorsese are virtually neck and neck as far as all-time classics go and are virtually tied on my list of “greatest living directors”.

Many critics and historians are quick to dismiss Spielberg as a populist artist who ushered in the era of the blockbuster, which signaled the death knell of the silver age of cinema (the 1970s) and set back the independent film movement for years. But how can you argue with the sheer entertainment value and excellence of “Jaws,” “Close Encounters,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “E.T.,” (the first) “Jurassic Park,” “Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and "Lincoln"? This man knows how to satiate our pleasure zone.

Then again, Scorsese can counter with “Mean Streets,” “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” “The Departed,” and “Hugo.” Here’s a guy who knows how to depict the grit and allure of the underworld and fascinate us with warped but mesmerizing male characters.

For that matter, there’s also Woody Allen, who has probably been the most prolific of all over the last 40 years, and who amassed an output of consistently high-quality features between 1977 and 1992 that ranks among the very finest of that period, including “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan,” “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Radio Days,” “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” and “Husbands and Wives”. It’s much harder to make people laugh than it is to pull off a good drama, so I have to give the Woodman props here.

Coming close for me are the wonderfully weird creations of the Coen Brothers, who have yielded “Blood Simple,” “Raising Arizona,” “Miller’s Crossing,” “Barton Fink,” “Fargo,” “The Big Lebowski,” and “No Country for Old Men,” among other greats.

Many filmmakers are lucky if they helm only one magnum opus. Arguably, Spielberg has 8, while Scorsese has 6-7, Woody has 5-6, and the Coens have 4-5. In my book, that makes Spielberg the greatest living director.

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