Tuesday, March 2, 2010

(My) Best of 09: Director.

5. Marco Bellocchio for "Vincere" (read my review)

Italian director Marco Bellocchio has confessed he had never heard about Ida Dalser's (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) story before he embarked on writing and directing "Vincere". Watching the movie however, you get the sensation that he has always been an expert on the subject.
The way he takes Dalser's tragic story and transforms it into a metaphor for the fate of his country under fascism is an enterprise that recalls Pasolini's "Saló" and perfects what Eastwood failed to do so miserably in "Changeling".
The mastery of combining history with intimacy is rarely achieved to such levels of sublimity and the performances Bellocchio gets from his lead actors are electrifying.

4. Lars von Trier for "Antichrist" (read my review)

Whether you liked "Antichrist" or not, the one thing you can not say is that Lars von Trier doesn't know what he's doing.
From its operatic opening to its Bosch-ian interludes, the movie is defined by the overpowering visions of its creator. The mad Dane has always specialized in polarizing audiences and this might be his most controversial movie in that aspect.
Some are enthralled by his medieval horror techniques, others are disgusted by his alleged misogyny and in my case I was moved by his raw self examination.
If few people acknowledge the existence of a god through their art, less of them would hold a public quarrel with this being like von Trier.

3. Jane Campion for "Bright Star" (read my review)

Poetry is not meant to be understood, it's meant to be felt. I had read that before a million times and even tried to reason it using Edward de Bono's lateral thinking techniques.
I never truly got it until I saw "Bright Star". In the same way you burden your mind trying to crack the codes of a poem, Jane Campion probably wondered how to transport John Keats' (Ben Whishaw) life to the silver screen in a manner that would defy all biopic conventions.
She chose to do it as a visual poem. How "Bright Star" is able to tell and make us feel is owed to Campion's subtly magnificent work.
Every scene in the movie works like a verse. That they were extracted from the prose of her screenplay are only small proofs of her ability to transform the intellectual into the emotional.

2. Kathryn Bigelow for "The Hurt Locker" (read my review)

Whether it's your third or second time watching "The Hurt Locker" your heart will still race and your pulse will still accelerate in the same scenes.
That is Kathryn Bigelow's extraordinary gift. She is able to encode visceral feelings into scenes we've seen a million times and as much as we deconstruct them we never know what is it exactly that she does to maintain eternal suspense.
And that's only in the action sequences! She also observes her characters and creates fascinating worlds for them which they bring into the larger universe of the movie.
Like a master juggler, Bigelow knows when to deliver exactly what we need and she's able to maintain an enigmatic mood that make the movie mean something different to whoever's watching it.

1. Michael Haneke for "The White Ribbon" (read my review)

When strange events start occurring in a small German village, the locals panic and then slowly overcome the unsolved tragedy, until a new one occurs. Then they repeat the process.
Austrian provocateur Michael Haneke once again explores the nature of violence as he's done in some of his best works like "Funny Games" and "Benny's Video".
In Palm d'Or winner "The White Ribbon" one would think he achieves some sort of epiphany but the truth is he still comes up with what might be just an hypothesis about the source of brutality in our world.
As darkly playful as ever, he is represented by a schoolteacher during one key scene in which he comes up with an unexpected suspect regarding the crimes.
"You have a sick imagination" replies another character disgusted by the repercussions the teacher's theories might have on the quiet village life.
Regardless of the not so subtle Freudian fact that Haneke is represented by a scholar, it can't be denied that few working directors muster the courage to make the kind of statements he does.
Not many artists are as fascinated by the human intellect and even less stimulate it as often as he does.


Luke said...

Great write-up of Bigelow's work (which was my favorite direction of 2009)... though I'm a little surprised to not see Pedro showing up here, seeing as though that Broken Embraces poster has been featured on your page for quite some time... :)

Jose said...

I'm glad you liked my entry on Bigelow. Now regarding Pedro haha, that poster's been there because I'm lazy and love Penélope. That spot is reserved for the last four movie star I reviewed which in this case would be "The White Ribbon", until I upload my review for "A Prophet" later on.
Now I didn't include him because as much as I love him, I didn't feel "Broken Embraces" was one of his best directorial works. I felt more strongly towards these five in regards to their directing as opposed to how the movie turns out as a whole. It'll all make sense when you see my top ten for the year though, were "Broken Embraces" does make it to the top five.

Danny King said...

I guess that the thing that keeped me from loving Antichrist like you and so many others did was the fact that I wasn't moved by it in a lasting way. I still valued the experience overall, and I have no problem with seeing Von Trier's name on a list like this, I just didn't feel the emotional impact that so many others did. The overall feel to the film was so off-putting and disturbing that I had trouble connecting with the characters' emotions beyond a surface level.

It's kind of interesting because, for me, it was Von Trier's harsh directorial style that kept me from being moved emotionally, but it was also his expertise that made it a memorable experience. Somewhat of a paradox there, but I still respect the film for what it is, even if I can't say that I loved it.

Jose said...

Interesting Danny but I'm not sure if I made myself clear in the emotional aspect.
In "Antichrist" I was moved despite of von Trier's directorial techniques.
I'm not sure his intention was ever to make us empathize with the characters, I never did for one, so the matter of my being moved by it relies more in my perception of his message and the context in which he made the movie.
I felt the director's pain and depression, not the characters'.