In Part Two, I’ll look at directors whose cinematic works expand past boundaries and occupy a space of their own, whether between genres or between disciplines. The future is all about crossing, pushing, and dissolving borders!
5. Michael Winterbottom
Michael Winterbottom is one of the most prolific directors in the world, having made a movie (or two) a year for the past two decades! His range is incredibly vast: docudramas such as A Mighty Heart (2007), based on the book by murdered journalist Daniel Pearl’s wife Marianne, and The Road to Guantanamo (2006); A Cock and Bull Story (2006), a postmodern and very funny literary adaptation of the “unfilmable” novel “The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman”; Code 46 (2003), a futuristic noir romance and retelling of the Oedipus myth; 24 Hour Party People (2002), an ode to the iconic band Joy Division and their record label, Factory Records; and 9 Songs (2004), which charts a relationship between two lovers through various rock concerts that they attend, and which became known for its sexually-explicit and non-simulated sex scenes. Phew! No matter what Winterbottom does, I would definitely check it out.
6. Park Chan-wook
The hyperviolence of Park Chan-wook's films is often way over the top and at times, just too much, but in Oldboy (2003), it works with the intensity of the plot to become a poetic crescendo of psychological gore and mayhem. Rumour has it that Will Smith and Steven Spielberg will be remaking the film! J.S.A. (2000) is an earlier film that explored political tensions on the border of North and South Korea with the same kind of unabashed and soap-operatic style. And with his most recent films, I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Okay (2006) and the priest-as-vampire flick Thirst (2009), Park really pushes genre boundaries. Not for everyone, certainly, but some of the most intense cinematic moments you’ll ever experience!
7. Julian Schnabel
Julian Schnabel was previously best known for painting on smashed-up ceramic plates, and was considered a major force in the Neo-expressionist movement in the 1980s. His films are all biopics: Basquiat (1996), about the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, then Before Night Falls (2000), about Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas, portrayed by Javier Bardem who won an Oscar nomination. But it was The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) that really impressed me. Now one of my favourite films of all time, it’s based on a true story, and amazingly, told completely from the subjective point of view of a man who is completely paralyzed, save for his one eye. Incredibly life-affirming and poetic.
8. Charlie Kaufman
Charlie Kaufman is one of the most well-known screenwriters in American cinema, for indeed, how many other screenwriters are famous at all? His work is known for being highly inventive, self-referential, postmodern, and surreal. He wrote Being John Malkovich and Adaptation (both directed by Spike Jonze), Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (George Clooney’s directorial debut), Human Nature and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (both directed by Michel Gondry), the latter winning him an Oscar for best original screenplay. Kaufman made his own directorial debut with Synecdoche, New York (2008).
9. Shirin Neshat
Shirin Neshat is most well-known for her incredible, large scale video installations exploring the roles of men and women in contemporary Islamic societies. Here is a clip on Youtube of Turbulent, which won the International Award at the Venice Biennale in 1999. Imagine being in a small, dark room, in between two wall-sized screens. On one side is the man, his audience at his back, singing to you, submerging you in the song. Then the woman sings, wails, screams. You watch, the man watches. It is an amazing work. Then just this last year, Neshat won the Silver Lion for best director at the 66th Venice Film Festival for her feature film directorial debut "Women without Men". Something to look forward to, indeed!
(women without men)
10. Dave Eggers
Dave Eggers is best known as a writer, it’s true, but his work as publisher of McSweeney’s and all its associated products really extends his influence, and in this last decade, multi-career-tasking is where it’s at. McSweeney’s Wholphin, a DVD-zine collecting short films, documentaries and animations by the likes of Spike Jonze, David O. Russell, Miranda July, and David Byrne. Wholphin’s always fun to browse, and it’s difficult to find good venues for shorts outside of film festivals. And Eggers also co-wrote the screenplays for the most recent Sam Mendes film, Away We Go, and the upcoming Where the Wild Things Are! It seems like Eggers is everywhere. He’s co-founded 826 National, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for kids ages 6-18. In 2008, he was a TED Prize recipient, and was named by Utne Reader as one of "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing the World". The perfect way to top off this list of 10 for 2010.