Great Directors (2010)
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Critic Reviews for Great Directors
Though her choice of interview subjects is so random and the discourse so broad that this 2009 documentary never really arrives anywhere... it delights from start to finish and then evaporates.
A pleasing if not surprising sampler of apercus, bon mots and clips.
Ismailos' 10 mini-profiles might have been better used as DVD extras or a cablecast introduction to an individual director's movie. It's not too late.
Rarely have clips from so many good and great movies been put to such dull use.
The number of interviewees makes the film a signpost survey, more meaningful to film- study newbies than veterans.
This is a meat-and-potatoes espionage yarn that passes by quickly enough and meets the requirement of making us try to guess: Who is Salt?
Audience Reviews for Great Directors
Gathering together directors from different milieus and merging their interviews into one film sounds great, but with ineffectual editing and not enough variety in your directors, what you get is this documentary. Director Angela Ismailos travelled the world interviewing directors for, what she calls, clarity in her own film endeavors. It's a very apparent vanity project, which often finds Ismailos edited into the interviews for no apparent reason, so she can give her two cents. Throughout the film I kept thinking, "Why is she onscreen? We don't care about her!" The directors she assembled were an interesting selection, including David Lynch, Todd Haynes, Liliana Cavani, Catherine Breillat, and Bernardo Bertolucci. For the length of the film, and all it covered, it would have been better to see even more directors talk about their films, or else have a narrative within the framework of the documentary to explain bigger concepts. Ismailos lets these people ramble on about aspects of their lives without a clear reason, and so it feels incoherent and dull. The interviews deal in obscurity, gender politics, New Wave cinema, and indie fare, but don't coalesce at any point. We don't learn anything about the directors as people or much about their work, only anecdotes better put to use as blurbs in an online profile in Variety.
The only reason to see this film is because of the significant nuggets of wisdom embedded in the interviews of this strangely disparate group of directors: Bernardo Bertolucci, Catherine Breillat, Liliana Cavani, Stephen Frears, Todd Haynes, Richard Linklater, Ken Loach, David Lynch, John Sayles, and Agnès Varda. Angela Ismailos, the director, is, unfortunately, nothing more than a wealthy dilettante (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/01/fashion/01close.html?_r=0) who has managed to parlay her connections and money into access to these filmmakers. The movie is filled with far too many shots of her, whether she is walking in black & white slo-mo through abstract landscapes or talking with her subjects (including her many reaction shots). It's a vanity project, and she is not even capable of asking interesting questions, since she clearly doesn't have the film knowledge to allow her to do so. Why these particular filmmakers, and why present them in this particular order? And why only ask them about certain movies (for example, Bertolucci never even mentions "The Conformist," the film that put him on the international map! If you get the DVD, skip the actual movie and watch the bonus-feature interviews with each director. If I rate the film higher than my above comments might warrant, it's because not even Ms. Ismailos can ruin the wealth of information pouring from the mouths of the artists.
For the record, great is too loaded a word when it comes to labeling filmmakers and is prone to cause arguments and wars. Let's just agree that the directors included in this informal documentary from Angela Ismailos are all iconoclasts, each with their own distinctive point of view. Along these same lines, the documentary is refreshingly more interested in failure than success, allowing for a clear headed discussion of politics and sex in film. If David Lynch had not failed with "Dune," then his career would have turned out very differently and the film world would be that much poorer, as he rues not having creative control on that film. The wild card here is Liliana Cavani whose films I am mostly unfamiliar with. I really liked "Ripley's Game" starring John Malkovich. Of "The Night Porter," I disagree that people disliked it because the main character is a Nazi and a villain. Rather, it is because the film is ambiguous about him in a sadomasochist kind of way. Plus, I am still not even remotely interested in seeing "The Queen." The thing to remember here is that whenever somebody says they were the first to put something on film, somebody almost always got there before them. For example, this documentary brings up a fascinating looking 1982 documentary called "Room 666" which features interviews with directors of the time and is incredibly available on DVD. Even with the newsmagazine format of "Great Directors," Ismailos would have been better off learning something from her captivating subjects and stayed behind the camera, so as not to take away any attention from them.
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