Favorite Director? Which Period?

Artists of all stripes (writers, painters, filmmakers, musicians) tend to go through different periods of growth.  This can produce smooth transitions or jarring discontinuity depending on the artist and the type of experimentation at hand.   In the world of film, this often produces two or three distinct sets of films that are of a piece within the director’s career but also seem as different from one another as if they had been done by completely different directors.  David Lean is a perfect example, going from smaller, more intimate films, like Brief Encounter, in his first period, to large canvas epics like Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia, in his second.

Not all directors have this.  Plenty of directors in the golden age of Hollywood worked for the studios and directed whatever they were assigned, producing directors so skilled, so talented, so dexterous at handling different genres that they can never be known for any one type of film but, rather, their amazing skill at all types with Howard Hawks standing out as a shining example of this.  Director Michael Curtiz was another, so skilled at different genres that he became known for horror (Doctor X, Mystery of the Wax Museum, The Walking Dead), mystery (The Kennel Murder Case, The Case of the Curious Bride), action/adventure (Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk), noir/melodrama (Casablanca, Mildred Pierce) and even found time for things like Yankee Doodle Dandy, Mission to Moscow, White Christmas and the Elvis Presley movie, King Creole.

But directors with distinct periods usually fuel the more heated debates among cinephiles over which period is their best and picking a side can be met with acceptance, derision or disbelief.   Let’s go back to David Lean.  He has his small, melodramas and historical pieces of the thirties and forties, culminating in the mid-fifties with Summertime before embarking on his second period, one that produced only five movies, including the great Lawrence of Arabia.  And, of course, we all know which period is better, right?  The first one.  No, the second one.  No, wait, the first one.  Yes, the first one.  No, wait.   Let’s start over.

Not every movie David Lean made before the epics or during the epics was great.   I’m not too high on Ryan’s Daughter, for instance, and I know not every film from his early period was a perfect success but I must say, I do prefer the films from his early period to the films of his epic period.   It’s all personal preference of course, especially considering two of his epic films, Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia, are widely considered to be two of the greatest films ever made.  And Kwai is one of my favorite movies of all time to boot.  So, it’s a tough call but when I think of This Happy Breed, Blithe Spirit, Brief Encounter, Hobson’s Choice or Summertime I see a series of films more tightly told and better suited to my tastes.  Your mileage may vary.

Speaking of directors who started out small and ended up big, Cecil B. DeMille is another good example of a director whose later epics found the director his greatest box office successes.  Oh, it’s true, DeMille never really had a time when he wasn’t doing debauchery in one form or another, but in the twenties, he managed to keep it a lot smaller if only because large scale epics weren’t as guaranteed to make money as they were in later years when technicolor and sound got into the game.  Besides, the monumental box office failure of D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance made a lot of studios shy about going too far with both the running time and the budget.  So even when Cecil B. DeMille did The Ten Commandments in 1923, for the first time, it came in at barely over two hours and wasn’t even about the biblical story for half of the movie.  He did movies like Madame Satan and Godless Girl and westerns, yes, westerns.  It’s not a genre one normally associates with DeMille but he did them and quite a few.  Heck, he even directed The Squaw Man no less than three times.

But I’ve got to be honest.  When it comes to DeMille, I’m with his big sound period stuff all the way.   The Buccaneer and Unconquered, yes, but mainly those two biblical epics, Samson and Delilah and The Ten Commandments, complete with it’s two and a half week running time.   The thing is, as far as biblical era epics go, something like William Wyler’s Ben-Hur is much better than either of those but I’ll be damned if those two aren’t a hundred times more entertaining.   DeMille knew how to play up the melodrama of the biblical stories better than anyone.

One of the toughest calls for me is Alfred Hitchcock.  He has his British film period, the late 20s to the late 30s, and his American film period, from 1940 on.  Within that period are several other periods or sub-genres.   There’s the early to mid forties that produced his best espionage works (Foreign Correspondent, Saboteur, Notorious) or the Hitchcock films that investigated the underbelly of America (Shadow of a Doubt, Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, Psycho)  or… well, it just keeps going.  Hitchcock may be known as the Master of Suspense but he was really a Master of Everything.   If I had to pick, under pain of death, one single ten-year Hitchcock period, I’d have to go with the forties.  I love Rebecca, Suspicion, Foreign Correspondent, Saboteur, Spellbound and Notorious all for their own merits but I love them as well for being films in the period when Hitchcock was molding his style but had not yet cemented it.   Don’t misunderstand me, I absolutely love the fully-formed style and confident bravado of films like Vertigo and North by Northwest, but I prefer the films of the forties that seem somehow smaller, more personal.

I suppose now it’s time to streamline this post before it gets out of hand.  Let’s cut to the quick:

John Ford:  Early Period (Late 1920′s through Late 1940′s) or Late Period (1950′s on):  Late by a nose.  I love The Informer, How Green was My Valley, The Grapes of Wrath and Stagecoach and I think he had more consistently good movies from She Wore a Yellow Ribbon on back but I love The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance so much, I have to go with them.

Ingmar Bergman:  The early period (Sawdust and Tinsel, Wild Strawberries), The Middle Period (Persona, Hour of the Wolf), The Late Period (Fanny and Alexander, After the Rehearsal):  Middle Period, wide margin.

Federico Fellini:  Early and Late.   For me, Fellini is easy:  Early equals black and white and small, keenly observed stories of the dark side of life (La Strada, Nights of Cabiria, La Dolce Vita) and late equals color, excess and nostalgia (Satyricon, Juliet of the Spirits, Amarcord).  Early period, big time.

Woody Allen:  Early Period (1969-1975), Middle Period (1977-1997), Late Period (1998 – present).  I’ll take Middle Period, specifically from Annie Hall through Husbands and Wives with the highlight being Broadway Danny Rose.  Least favorite?  Eh, I’m not too big of a fan of his early slapstick but the 2000′s haven’t thrilled me at all.  I like some of it but not nearly as much as I used to.  I’d have to go with Late Period for my least favorite.

Steven Spielberg: Okay, where do his periods delineate?  For the sake of simplicity, I’ll say 1993.  That year produced Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List so you can take the first (Jurassic Park) and travel back to his Night Gallery work and Duel to form his first period and take the second (Schindler’s List) and travel forward to his less commercial work like Munich and War Horse to form his second period.  I’m in the minority here, and I know it, but I’ll take his second.

Martin Scorsese: For me, the movies Scorsese made prior to Age of Innocence had more of an independent feel (true or not, I can’t say, that’s just how I view them) and the movies made after have a more polished studio feel.  Again, that’s just how I see it.  Nonetheless, first period, by far.

There are so many more but I’ll let that be it for now.  I’m sure more will come up and there’s a good chance (more than good, actually – even odds, I’d say) that my breakdown of the periods themselves are highly contentious demarcation points and perhaps different for each person.  I do know this:  In my own life, I’ve entered my Middle Period, which means I’m given to looking back on favorite directors and breaking their careers down, usually discovering along the way that what I may like in one period of my life is quite different from what I might like in the next.   For now, I’ll keep looking, keep digging, keep delineating.  The films remain the same but my preference for one director’s period over another is subject to change.  Periodically, that is.

0 Response Favorite Director? Which Period?
Posted By dukeroberts : March 14, 2012 9:18 am

As much as I love Shadow of a Doubt, Notorious, Rebecca, Foreign Correspondent and Rope, I have to choose 50′s Hitchcock. Rear Window is in my top 5 of all time, but this period also brought us Strangers On a Train, Dial “M” for Murder, To Catch a Thief, Vertigo and North by Northwest. You might also include Psycho, although it was released in 1960. This period also had interesting little “failures” like Stage Fright, much maligned for it’s lying protagonist’s deceptive storytelling and I Confess which has some fantastic black and white cinematography of Montreal and loads of religious imagery. This period also includes the start up of Hitch’s long running TV show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which I absolutely love.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 14, 2012 9:18 am

As much as I love Shadow of a Doubt, Notorious, Rebecca, Foreign Correspondent and Rope, I have to choose 50′s Hitchcock. Rear Window is in my top 5 of all time, but this period also brought us Strangers On a Train, Dial “M” for Murder, To Catch a Thief, Vertigo and North by Northwest. You might also include Psycho, although it was released in 1960. This period also had interesting little “failures” like Stage Fright, much maligned for it’s lying protagonist’s deceptive storytelling and I Confess which has some fantastic black and white cinematography of Montreal and loads of religious imagery. This period also includes the start up of Hitch’s long running TV show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which I absolutely love.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 14, 2012 9:21 am

John Ford. You actually hit that nail on the head. I might begin it The Quiet Man and go forward to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. This period includes my second favorite and fourth favorite movies of all time: The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance respectively.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 14, 2012 9:21 am

John Ford. You actually hit that nail on the head. I might begin it The Quiet Man and go forward to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. This period includes my second favorite and fourth favorite movies of all time: The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance respectively.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 14, 2012 9:29 am

Steven Spielberg: Excluding his TV work (because it was TV work), I would have to say his greatest period was 1974-1984. Although I’ve never seen The Sugarland Express (it’s on my list), it serves as the bookend with Temple of Doom. In this period: Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. This is possibly the greatest collection of popular movie fare by one director over a brief period of time ever. I cut it off at TOD because after that he made The Color Purple and Empire of the Sun, which eventually led to Schindler’s List. I did not include 1941 on purpose.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 14, 2012 9:29 am

Steven Spielberg: Excluding his TV work (because it was TV work), I would have to say his greatest period was 1974-1984. Although I’ve never seen The Sugarland Express (it’s on my list), it serves as the bookend with Temple of Doom. In this period: Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. This is possibly the greatest collection of popular movie fare by one director over a brief period of time ever. I cut it off at TOD because after that he made The Color Purple and Empire of the Sun, which eventually led to Schindler’s List. I did not include 1941 on purpose.

Posted By Tom S : March 14, 2012 9:56 am

There’s also someone like Orson Welles, who has two distinct modes (Hollywood and independent) which aren’t perfectly separated chronologically- and I would argue that’s the case for Scorsese, who was making studio pictures in the 80s (The Color of Money, for one) and low budget, personal movies in the 90s (Bringing Out the Dead.) In both cases, I adore both modes, but I think I’d take Welles’ Hollywood movies (if only for Touch of Evil) and Scorsese’s smaller ones (though I’m a great defender of his blockbuster work.)

Is there anyone, anywhere, who wouldn’t count Coppola’s run from Godfather through Apocalypse Now as his great period? I actually really like some of the movies outside of there- The Rain People is pretty great, I’m a defender of his Dracula, and One From the Heart has a lot to recommend it- but even a Godfather hater like Jonathan Rosenbaum has to admit that The Conversation is pretty amazing.

Duke- you should watch Spielbergo’s TV work, it’s pretty entertaining. Duel is good enough to qualify as a real movie, and his Columbo episode is a lot of fun. Also, Poltergeist should probably count as a movie he at least co-directed, since he did.

Posted By Tom S : March 14, 2012 9:56 am

There’s also someone like Orson Welles, who has two distinct modes (Hollywood and independent) which aren’t perfectly separated chronologically- and I would argue that’s the case for Scorsese, who was making studio pictures in the 80s (The Color of Money, for one) and low budget, personal movies in the 90s (Bringing Out the Dead.) In both cases, I adore both modes, but I think I’d take Welles’ Hollywood movies (if only for Touch of Evil) and Scorsese’s smaller ones (though I’m a great defender of his blockbuster work.)

Is there anyone, anywhere, who wouldn’t count Coppola’s run from Godfather through Apocalypse Now as his great period? I actually really like some of the movies outside of there- The Rain People is pretty great, I’m a defender of his Dracula, and One From the Heart has a lot to recommend it- but even a Godfather hater like Jonathan Rosenbaum has to admit that The Conversation is pretty amazing.

Duke- you should watch Spielbergo’s TV work, it’s pretty entertaining. Duel is good enough to qualify as a real movie, and his Columbo episode is a lot of fun. Also, Poltergeist should probably count as a movie he at least co-directed, since he did.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 10:52 am

Duke, like I said, Hitchcock’s tough for me because the forties and fifties are both so great. And Vertigo and Psycho are two of my favorites of his.

As for Spielberg, I actually like a lot of 1941 but can understand its reputation for excess.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 10:52 am

Duke, like I said, Hitchcock’s tough for me because the forties and fifties are both so great. And Vertigo and Psycho are two of my favorites of his.

As for Spielberg, I actually like a lot of 1941 but can understand its reputation for excess.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 10:56 am

Tom, there’s probably a little overlap with all of these.

I think I’d take Welles’ Hollywood movies (if only for Touch of Evil) and Scorsese’s smaller ones (though I’m a great defender of his blockbuster work.)

I totally agree with that. I think Scorsese rarely makes an unsuccessful movie so I don’t dislike his bigger epic works like Gangs of New York or The Aviator, I just like Mean Streets, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and Taxi Driver a lot more.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 10:56 am

Tom, there’s probably a little overlap with all of these.

I think I’d take Welles’ Hollywood movies (if only for Touch of Evil) and Scorsese’s smaller ones (though I’m a great defender of his blockbuster work.)

I totally agree with that. I think Scorsese rarely makes an unsuccessful movie so I don’t dislike his bigger epic works like Gangs of New York or The Aviator, I just like Mean Streets, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and Taxi Driver a lot more.

Posted By Tom S : March 14, 2012 11:12 am

Another interesting case here is Otto Preminger, whose pre-The Moon is Blue studio period is almost unrecognizably different from his independent movies (though, as with Anthony Mann, there’s a certain noir inflection that always stayed with him.) I love Laura and like Angel Face, but I don’t think there’s any early Preminger to match Anatomy of a Murder or Bunny Lake is Missing (though none of it’s as bad as Skidoo, either.)

Posted By Tom S : March 14, 2012 11:12 am

Another interesting case here is Otto Preminger, whose pre-The Moon is Blue studio period is almost unrecognizably different from his independent movies (though, as with Anthony Mann, there’s a certain noir inflection that always stayed with him.) I love Laura and like Angel Face, but I don’t think there’s any early Preminger to match Anatomy of a Murder or Bunny Lake is Missing (though none of it’s as bad as Skidoo, either.)

Posted By tdraicer : March 14, 2012 11:27 am

I certainly recognize the validity of dividing certain director’s styles into periods; the problem is my tastes just don’t match up with those divisions. Take Lean: my favorites are Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, Kwai, and Lawrence. Hitchcock: Notorious, Vertigo, North by Northwest and The Birds. Ford: How Green Was My Valley and Liberty Valance. Woody: Love and Death, Annie Hall, and Everyone Says I Love You. Etc.

But then I’m a fan of 1941. :)

Posted By tdraicer : March 14, 2012 11:27 am

I certainly recognize the validity of dividing certain director’s styles into periods; the problem is my tastes just don’t match up with those divisions. Take Lean: my favorites are Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, Kwai, and Lawrence. Hitchcock: Notorious, Vertigo, North by Northwest and The Birds. Ford: How Green Was My Valley and Liberty Valance. Woody: Love and Death, Annie Hall, and Everyone Says I Love You. Etc.

But then I’m a fan of 1941. :)

Posted By vp19 : March 14, 2012 11:38 am

How about Ernst Lubitsch? You have three separate periods: Silents (though you arguably could split those between his European and U.S. output to make it four), pre-Code (“The Love Parade,” “The Smiling Lieutenant,” “Trouble In Paradise,” “Design For Living”) and his post-Code (“Ninotchka,” “The Shop Around The Corner,” “To Be Or Not To Be,” “Cluny Brown”). I’m not that well versed on Lubitsch’s silent-era work, but it would be darned difficult to choose between Ernst pre-Code and Ernst post-Code.

Posted By vp19 : March 14, 2012 11:38 am

How about Ernst Lubitsch? You have three separate periods: Silents (though you arguably could split those between his European and U.S. output to make it four), pre-Code (“The Love Parade,” “The Smiling Lieutenant,” “Trouble In Paradise,” “Design For Living”) and his post-Code (“Ninotchka,” “The Shop Around The Corner,” “To Be Or Not To Be,” “Cluny Brown”). I’m not that well versed on Lubitsch’s silent-era work, but it would be darned difficult to choose between Ernst pre-Code and Ernst post-Code.

Posted By Tom S : March 14, 2012 11:43 am

Trouble in Paradise and Design for Living might be the two most perfect comedies of the 30s, particularly if you watch them back to back. Lubitsch silents are fun- I’ve seen half a dozen of them so far- but I think his wit comes out more in the sound period, because so much of it relies on choosing to be silent, or in using sound that seems cross purpose to what’s actually going on.

Posted By Tom S : March 14, 2012 11:43 am

Trouble in Paradise and Design for Living might be the two most perfect comedies of the 30s, particularly if you watch them back to back. Lubitsch silents are fun- I’ve seen half a dozen of them so far- but I think his wit comes out more in the sound period, because so much of it relies on choosing to be silent, or in using sound that seems cross purpose to what’s actually going on.

Posted By Paul R. : March 14, 2012 1:14 pm

I can see someone preferring middle-period Bergman, but by a WIDE margin? If you include as early works Stardust and Tinsel, The Magician, Wild Strawberries, The Virgin Spring, Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal? (Not sure where you’d put Through a Glass Darkly, one of my favorites — maybe that’s the beginning of a middle period). But almost all of Bergman’s misfires (as with a lot of directors) occurs in the late 60s and early 70s. I’d also say that a division between middle and late Bergman is meaningless, because once he developed his experimental style (in Persona and other films) he tended to go back and forth between a “classical” and an “experimental” style.

Posted By Paul R. : March 14, 2012 1:14 pm

I can see someone preferring middle-period Bergman, but by a WIDE margin? If you include as early works Stardust and Tinsel, The Magician, Wild Strawberries, The Virgin Spring, Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal? (Not sure where you’d put Through a Glass Darkly, one of my favorites — maybe that’s the beginning of a middle period). But almost all of Bergman’s misfires (as with a lot of directors) occurs in the late 60s and early 70s. I’d also say that a division between middle and late Bergman is meaningless, because once he developed his experimental style (in Persona and other films) he tended to go back and forth between a “classical” and an “experimental” style.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 1:14 pm

Tom, we agree again. I love ANATOMY and BUNNY LAKE most of all out of anything Preminger did.

tdraicer – As you know from a post at Cinema Styles, I love the look of 1941 more than the movie itself. But that look and feel, and the great effects at the end, are enough to make me watch it anytime I come across it. Well, that and Eddie Deezen saying “Trapped like beavers!”

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 1:14 pm

Tom, we agree again. I love ANATOMY and BUNNY LAKE most of all out of anything Preminger did.

tdraicer – As you know from a post at Cinema Styles, I love the look of 1941 more than the movie itself. But that look and feel, and the great effects at the end, are enough to make me watch it anytime I come across it. Well, that and Eddie Deezen saying “Trapped like beavers!”

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 1:15 pm

vp19, I love early Lubitsch so much. Nobody did better early sound musical comedy anywhere near as well.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 1:15 pm

vp19, I love early Lubitsch so much. Nobody did better early sound musical comedy anywhere near as well.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 1:17 pm

Paul, I just love that period of Bergman so much. I did a post on it here at some point in the past. Movies like Shame, Hour of the Wolf and Persona stand out for me among so much of his work that I love, like Wild Strawberries for reasons probably much more personal than logical. I just love that period of his movies immensely.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 1:17 pm

Paul, I just love that period of Bergman so much. I did a post on it here at some point in the past. Movies like Shame, Hour of the Wolf and Persona stand out for me among so much of his work that I love, like Wild Strawberries for reasons probably much more personal than logical. I just love that period of his movies immensely.

Posted By Paul R. : March 14, 2012 1:33 pm

That’s cool. It really is a matter of personal taste, I think. I actually do like these more than many reviewers have. I’m such a sucker for his period pieces though.

Posted By Paul R. : March 14, 2012 1:33 pm

That’s cool. It really is a matter of personal taste, I think. I actually do like these more than many reviewers have. I’m such a sucker for his period pieces though.

Posted By Tom S : March 14, 2012 1:48 pm

I made the mistake of watching Persona before any other Bergman, and while I’ve enjoyed and been impressed by the other things I’ve watched, particularly The Seventh Seal, I’ve also been consistently a bit let down- Persona is such a striking work, and so far from normal narrative structure, that Bergman’s less experimental works seem a bit restrained afterwards, and I don’t think any of his other equally experimental efforts hang together as well. Though there are a few of his other movies that have a real sense of humor, which Persona totally lacks- it’s an under commented-upon part of The Seventh Seal, say, but it’s there, and it’s definitely there in his film of The Magic Flute (which is an unbelievably goofy work.)

Posted By Tom S : March 14, 2012 1:48 pm

I made the mistake of watching Persona before any other Bergman, and while I’ve enjoyed and been impressed by the other things I’ve watched, particularly The Seventh Seal, I’ve also been consistently a bit let down- Persona is such a striking work, and so far from normal narrative structure, that Bergman’s less experimental works seem a bit restrained afterwards, and I don’t think any of his other equally experimental efforts hang together as well. Though there are a few of his other movies that have a real sense of humor, which Persona totally lacks- it’s an under commented-upon part of The Seventh Seal, say, but it’s there, and it’s definitely there in his film of The Magic Flute (which is an unbelievably goofy work.)

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 1:55 pm

Paul and Tom – I feel much the same way about Persona that Tom does (can’t stop agreeing with him today). It’s high contrast black and white, relentless non-commercialism, fearless foray into “art film” areas that make easy targets for detractors, etc. all stand out for me and I kind of carry it over to the immediate Bergman films in it’s vicinity. It was a brief period where he seemed very experimental, in stark contrast (to me, at least) to what came before and after.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 1:55 pm

Paul and Tom – I feel much the same way about Persona that Tom does (can’t stop agreeing with him today). It’s high contrast black and white, relentless non-commercialism, fearless foray into “art film” areas that make easy targets for detractors, etc. all stand out for me and I kind of carry it over to the immediate Bergman films in it’s vicinity. It was a brief period where he seemed very experimental, in stark contrast (to me, at least) to what came before and after.

Posted By Jim Morton : March 14, 2012 1:58 pm

Luis Buñuel would be my choice. I suppose most people would cite his early films, such as Un Chien Andalou and L’Age d’Or as his best period, but for me it was his final films that shined. He finally found a way to balance his natural sarcasm with comedy, creating films like no others.

Posted By Jim Morton : March 14, 2012 1:58 pm

Luis Buñuel would be my choice. I suppose most people would cite his early films, such as Un Chien Andalou and L’Age d’Or as his best period, but for me it was his final films that shined. He finally found a way to balance his natural sarcasm with comedy, creating films like no others.

Posted By Kingrat : March 14, 2012 2:03 pm

I prefer 1950s Hitchcock through THE BIRDS, though 40s Hitchcock isn’t too shabby, and 30s Hitchcock is quite enjoyable. Post-BIRDS Hitchcock is a separate, and, alas, quite inferior phase.

Lean: I love both periods. Directors have stolen more from the epics. Don’t overlook THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS in the early works–the cab scene is beyond praise–and if you can take the story, it’s gorgeously directed. MADELEINE is also much undervalued. The shot where Madeleine enters the court from below will take your breath away.

Early Fellini is movie heaven. Later Fellini, someone else can watch.

Let’s add a couple of less familiar directors. Jean Negulesco’s black and white films of the forties are the work of a very ambitious and equally talented director. THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS shows how much he learned and borrowed from CITIZEN KANE. Most of these films blend noir and women’s films with much more interest in three-dimensional characters than you’ll find in most noirish films of the period. DEEP VALLEY is the film I’d pick as his masterpiece, but NOBODY LIVES FOREVER and THREE STRANGERS are also remarkable. With his success, especially with the fine JOHNNY BELINDA, he moves on to become an efficient but not particularly individual big name director. These films, as good as some of them are, have prevented our seeing what he accomplished in the early black & white films.

Bryan Forbes’ career divided into black & white films, all good, with two masterpieces, WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND and KING RAT. THE L-SHAPED ROOM has much to recommend it, if you saw that this week. The color films, even the amusingly campy THE WRONG BOX, can’t compare to the explorations of character and society in his blakc and white films.

Posted By Kingrat : March 14, 2012 2:03 pm

I prefer 1950s Hitchcock through THE BIRDS, though 40s Hitchcock isn’t too shabby, and 30s Hitchcock is quite enjoyable. Post-BIRDS Hitchcock is a separate, and, alas, quite inferior phase.

Lean: I love both periods. Directors have stolen more from the epics. Don’t overlook THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS in the early works–the cab scene is beyond praise–and if you can take the story, it’s gorgeously directed. MADELEINE is also much undervalued. The shot where Madeleine enters the court from below will take your breath away.

Early Fellini is movie heaven. Later Fellini, someone else can watch.

Let’s add a couple of less familiar directors. Jean Negulesco’s black and white films of the forties are the work of a very ambitious and equally talented director. THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS shows how much he learned and borrowed from CITIZEN KANE. Most of these films blend noir and women’s films with much more interest in three-dimensional characters than you’ll find in most noirish films of the period. DEEP VALLEY is the film I’d pick as his masterpiece, but NOBODY LIVES FOREVER and THREE STRANGERS are also remarkable. With his success, especially with the fine JOHNNY BELINDA, he moves on to become an efficient but not particularly individual big name director. These films, as good as some of them are, have prevented our seeing what he accomplished in the early black & white films.

Bryan Forbes’ career divided into black & white films, all good, with two masterpieces, WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND and KING RAT. THE L-SHAPED ROOM has much to recommend it, if you saw that this week. The color films, even the amusingly campy THE WRONG BOX, can’t compare to the explorations of character and society in his blakc and white films.

Posted By Paul R. : March 14, 2012 2:04 pm

Greg and Tom — because Bergman can be so radically different in his films, I’d be curious to know where Greg thinks “middle Bergman” begins and ends. I recognize there is a “middle period,” though I’m not sure where it is, exactly. It seems to me a tough call (though if you addressed this in a previous post, sorry for missing it).

Jim — Buñuel is a great choice for this game! I love the later films, though I think many of the 50s Mexican popular films don’t get enough attention (personal favorite: The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz).

Posted By Paul R. : March 14, 2012 2:04 pm

Greg and Tom — because Bergman can be so radically different in his films, I’d be curious to know where Greg thinks “middle Bergman” begins and ends. I recognize there is a “middle period,” though I’m not sure where it is, exactly. It seems to me a tough call (though if you addressed this in a previous post, sorry for missing it).

Jim — Buñuel is a great choice for this game! I love the later films, though I think many of the 50s Mexican popular films don’t get enough attention (personal favorite: The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz).

Posted By jennifromrollamo : March 14, 2012 2:28 pm

I have been reading up on Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger for an upcoming blog I’m going to write for The Archers blogathon. I have to compare Powell’s films that he did with Pressburger as excellent films, telling interesting stories, fabulous techniclor, and then there is the jarring pic he directed solo, in 1960, Peeping Tom. It was so vilified by the movie critics that it did damage his career as film director.

Another “small” film Lean directed is his version of Oliver Twist. I think that is the definitive film of Dicken’s classic work. Alec Guiness is uncanny as Fagin, Robert Newton as the sinister Bill Sykes, the lights and darks and shadows of this black and white are outstanding. Lean even got Sykes’s dog to shake with fear!(Probably don’t want to know how that was accomplished!)

Posted By jennifromrollamo : March 14, 2012 2:28 pm

I have been reading up on Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger for an upcoming blog I’m going to write for The Archers blogathon. I have to compare Powell’s films that he did with Pressburger as excellent films, telling interesting stories, fabulous techniclor, and then there is the jarring pic he directed solo, in 1960, Peeping Tom. It was so vilified by the movie critics that it did damage his career as film director.

Another “small” film Lean directed is his version of Oliver Twist. I think that is the definitive film of Dicken’s classic work. Alec Guiness is uncanny as Fagin, Robert Newton as the sinister Bill Sykes, the lights and darks and shadows of this black and white are outstanding. Lean even got Sykes’s dog to shake with fear!(Probably don’t want to know how that was accomplished!)

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 2:39 pm

Jim, my favorite Buñuel is Viridiana which is, I suppose, his later period. I also love Discreet Charm…. I haven’t seen enough of his early work outside of those you mention to really make a judgement call, sadly. Must correct this.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 2:39 pm

Jim, my favorite Buñuel is Viridiana which is, I suppose, his later period. I also love Discreet Charm…. I haven’t seen enough of his early work outside of those you mention to really make a judgement call, sadly. Must correct this.

Posted By tdraicer : March 14, 2012 2:41 pm

>THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS

Just wanted to note that I love that movie-particularly the ending.

Posted By tdraicer : March 14, 2012 2:41 pm

>THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS

Just wanted to note that I love that movie-particularly the ending.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 2:45 pm

Early Fellini is movie heaven. Later Fellini, someone else can watch.

Ha, I love that. I don’t hate late Fellini but I don’t really watch any of his later works more than once. The early ones keep my coming back again and again.

Great analysis of Jean Negulesco. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen The Mask of Dimitrios yet and whenever someone mentions a film I haven’t seen I immediately go to Netflix and Amazon to see if it’s available for streaming. It is not. Nor is it available at all! Aaarrggh!!! That doesn’t happen often these days so when it does, it’s enormously frustrating. Now, even more, I really want to see it!

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 2:45 pm

Early Fellini is movie heaven. Later Fellini, someone else can watch.

Ha, I love that. I don’t hate late Fellini but I don’t really watch any of his later works more than once. The early ones keep my coming back again and again.

Great analysis of Jean Negulesco. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen The Mask of Dimitrios yet and whenever someone mentions a film I haven’t seen I immediately go to Netflix and Amazon to see if it’s available for streaming. It is not. Nor is it available at all! Aaarrggh!!! That doesn’t happen often these days so when it does, it’s enormously frustrating. Now, even more, I really want to see it!

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 2:48 pm

Now I see tdraicer’s comment on The Mask of Dimitrios as well. Double aaarrggh!!! Hate it when a movie isn’t on DVD.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 2:48 pm

Now I see tdraicer’s comment on The Mask of Dimitrios as well. Double aaarrggh!!! Hate it when a movie isn’t on DVD.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 2:54 pm

Paul, my definition of Bergman’s middle period is about as weak as it can be. Probably just Through a Glass Darkly through Shame. Basically, the sixties, with kind of a slow ramp-up to experimentation followed by a slowdown with Wolf and Shame. Basically. Very basically.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 2:54 pm

Paul, my definition of Bergman’s middle period is about as weak as it can be. Probably just Through a Glass Darkly through Shame. Basically, the sixties, with kind of a slow ramp-up to experimentation followed by a slowdown with Wolf and Shame. Basically. Very basically.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 2:58 pm

Jenni, my favorite period for Powell/Pressburger is definitely Colonel Blimp, A Matter of Life and Death, Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes.. Those four films are all favorites of mine. Just saw A Matter of Life and Death for the first time last year and it immediately joined the group.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 14, 2012 2:58 pm

Jenni, my favorite period for Powell/Pressburger is definitely Colonel Blimp, A Matter of Life and Death, Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes.. Those four films are all favorites of mine. Just saw A Matter of Life and Death for the first time last year and it immediately joined the group.

Posted By Arlene McCarthy : March 14, 2012 4:02 pm

John Ford, IMHO no other comes close to the humanity that is shown in his films.

Posted By Arlene McCarthy : March 14, 2012 4:02 pm

John Ford, IMHO no other comes close to the humanity that is shown in his films.

Posted By tdraicer : March 14, 2012 4:11 pm

Greg, TCM does show MoD about once a year or so (I have it saved on my dvr, but unfortunately I don’t think I can send that to you).

Posted By tdraicer : March 14, 2012 4:11 pm

Greg, TCM does show MoD about once a year or so (I have it saved on my dvr, but unfortunately I don’t think I can send that to you).

Posted By Kingrat : March 14, 2012 4:35 pm

Greg, there’s an early Bergman phase before SAWDUST AND TINSEL/THE NAKED NIGHT and WILD STRAWBERRIES, none of which I’ve seen. SUMMER WITH MONIKA is perhaps the best known. Then the “American discovery of Bergman” phase, for lack of a better term, and he does go into a related, but more experimental, phase, with the films you mentioned. Perhaps SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE begins the last phase.

Kazan’s work perhaps falls into three phases: 1) the stage director in Hollywood; 2) starting with, perhaps, PANIC IN THE STREETS, Kazan knows how to do much more with the visuals; right on through AMERICA, AMERICA, this is his major phase, which only lasts about a dozen years; 3) later misfires.

Mike Nichols had the brief “white hope of American directing” phase which lasted through, say, CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, after which he just becomes another director, though some of those films are enjoyable.

Posted By Kingrat : March 14, 2012 4:35 pm

Greg, there’s an early Bergman phase before SAWDUST AND TINSEL/THE NAKED NIGHT and WILD STRAWBERRIES, none of which I’ve seen. SUMMER WITH MONIKA is perhaps the best known. Then the “American discovery of Bergman” phase, for lack of a better term, and he does go into a related, but more experimental, phase, with the films you mentioned. Perhaps SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE begins the last phase.

Kazan’s work perhaps falls into three phases: 1) the stage director in Hollywood; 2) starting with, perhaps, PANIC IN THE STREETS, Kazan knows how to do much more with the visuals; right on through AMERICA, AMERICA, this is his major phase, which only lasts about a dozen years; 3) later misfires.

Mike Nichols had the brief “white hope of American directing” phase which lasted through, say, CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, after which he just becomes another director, though some of those films are enjoyable.

Posted By Anonymous : March 14, 2012 11:02 pm

Woody Allen. Early period. I mean, “Take the Money and Run,” “Bananas,” even “Sleeper,” they all can still reduce me to helpless, laugh-my-ass-off jelly. The later stuff? Self-indulgent, self-important crap, for the most part, though with moments of the old Woody.

Posted By Anonymous : March 14, 2012 11:02 pm

Woody Allen. Early period. I mean, “Take the Money and Run,” “Bananas,” even “Sleeper,” they all can still reduce me to helpless, laugh-my-ass-off jelly. The later stuff? Self-indulgent, self-important crap, for the most part, though with moments of the old Woody.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 14, 2012 11:26 pm

Greg- I became a huge fan of Powell & Pressburger last year when I loaded up on their movies. All of those you mentioned are wonderful. I would also add I Know Where I’m Going and A Canterbury Tale to that list. I think Tom might agree.

Tom- I love Duel. I just consider it separate because it was TV work/pre-feature work. I also saw his Night Gallery episode with Joan Crawford. That was a funky episode.

After piling up viewings of The Archers, I will soon begin my early David Lean phase. I’ve seen and really liked Brief Encounter and look forward to the others. It will be difficult to top Kwai and Lawrence.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 14, 2012 11:26 pm

Greg- I became a huge fan of Powell & Pressburger last year when I loaded up on their movies. All of those you mentioned are wonderful. I would also add I Know Where I’m Going and A Canterbury Tale to that list. I think Tom might agree.

Tom- I love Duel. I just consider it separate because it was TV work/pre-feature work. I also saw his Night Gallery episode with Joan Crawford. That was a funky episode.

After piling up viewings of The Archers, I will soon begin my early David Lean phase. I’ve seen and really liked Brief Encounter and look forward to the others. It will be difficult to top Kwai and Lawrence.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 14, 2012 11:27 pm

I’m ashamed to say, that of Bergman’s films, I have only seen Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal. Both are great.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 14, 2012 11:27 pm

I’m ashamed to say, that of Bergman’s films, I have only seen Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal. Both are great.

Posted By maroon5gurl88 : March 15, 2012 12:48 am

I’d say 1960s Robert Wise films are my favorite, although he did make some excellent movies before and after. 1990s Steven Spielberg is also a given.

Posted By maroon5gurl88 : March 15, 2012 12:48 am

I’d say 1960s Robert Wise films are my favorite, although he did make some excellent movies before and after. 1990s Steven Spielberg is also a given.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 15, 2012 1:31 am

Greg is not a Robert Wise fan. I do like The Sound of Music and The Haunting, but I love The Day the Earth Stood Still and Executive Suite. The Set-Up is damn good too.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 15, 2012 1:31 am

Greg is not a Robert Wise fan. I do like The Sound of Music and The Haunting, but I love The Day the Earth Stood Still and Executive Suite. The Set-Up is damn good too.

Posted By Tom S : March 15, 2012 2:58 am

The Haunting, the Set-Up, and the Lewtons- Curse of the Cat People in particular- are great movies, but I never think of Robert Wise as a director with any real stamp on his material. Though I’d say the same of Mike Curtiz: They’re both guys who make good movies out of good material and crap out of crap.

It’s hard not to hold the mangling of Magnificent Ambersons against Wise, though.

Posted By Tom S : March 15, 2012 2:58 am

The Haunting, the Set-Up, and the Lewtons- Curse of the Cat People in particular- are great movies, but I never think of Robert Wise as a director with any real stamp on his material. Though I’d say the same of Mike Curtiz: They’re both guys who make good movies out of good material and crap out of crap.

It’s hard not to hold the mangling of Magnificent Ambersons against Wise, though.

Posted By quicksand : March 15, 2012 4:53 am

One of my all-time fave directors is Ken Russell (RIP:() especially the State of Hallucinations (movie) period and Milos Forman (Hair).

Posted By quicksand : March 15, 2012 4:53 am

One of my all-time fave directors is Ken Russell (RIP:() especially the State of Hallucinations (movie) period and Milos Forman (Hair).

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 15, 2012 7:51 am

Arlene – It’s an opinion shared by many, I think. John Ford is easily one of the top directors ever.

tdraicer – I’ll keep my eyes on the schedule then.

Kingrat – Mike Nichols had a tough time after the failure of Catch-22, a movie I rather like. Carnal Knowledge also performed poorly and Day of the Dolphin doomed him. The high he’d been riding since Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf was officially over. But, like you, I still like a few of his later films, including his last, Charlie Wilson’s War.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 15, 2012 7:51 am

Arlene – It’s an opinion shared by many, I think. John Ford is easily one of the top directors ever.

tdraicer – I’ll keep my eyes on the schedule then.

Kingrat – Mike Nichols had a tough time after the failure of Catch-22, a movie I rather like. Carnal Knowledge also performed poorly and Day of the Dolphin doomed him. The high he’d been riding since Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf was officially over. But, like you, I still like a few of his later films, including his last, Charlie Wilson’s War.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 15, 2012 7:55 am

Duke and maroon5gurl88 – I don’t hate Wise but Duke’s right, he’s not a favorite. I like Curse of the Cat People and The Body Snatcher a lot and still think Karloff is at his absolute best in that one. But when I do like a Wise movie, like Day the Earth Stood Still or Andromeda Strain, I still find them rather lackluster and acknowledge that it’s the story I like but the pacing and energy just isn’t there.

I promise though, for my series where I watch a movie again I haven’t seen in years and re-evaluate it, I’m going to do Sound of Music soon. I may even end up really liking it. Who knows?

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 15, 2012 7:55 am

Duke and maroon5gurl88 – I don’t hate Wise but Duke’s right, he’s not a favorite. I like Curse of the Cat People and The Body Snatcher a lot and still think Karloff is at his absolute best in that one. But when I do like a Wise movie, like Day the Earth Stood Still or Andromeda Strain, I still find them rather lackluster and acknowledge that it’s the story I like but the pacing and energy just isn’t there.

I promise though, for my series where I watch a movie again I haven’t seen in years and re-evaluate it, I’m going to do Sound of Music soon. I may even end up really liking it. Who knows?

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 15, 2012 8:00 am

Quicksand – Ken Russell was one of a kind. I don’t know if he has any distinct periods, he just directed movies his way from start to finish and they are what they are. He’s one of the few directors whose excess on film I find not only acceptable but enjoyable. I think Paddy Chayefsky really missed what Russell was doing with Altered States and how the satire about the baby boomers (self-absorbed monsters inside, unable to connect to another because of self-obsession) totally comes through while providing a sci-fi/horror backdrop that not only works at face value as a sci-fi/horror film but adds to the humanity of the characters so that when they finally do connect, it’s meaningful. Chayefsky should have been proud to have his name on that movie.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 15, 2012 8:00 am

Quicksand – Ken Russell was one of a kind. I don’t know if he has any distinct periods, he just directed movies his way from start to finish and they are what they are. He’s one of the few directors whose excess on film I find not only acceptable but enjoyable. I think Paddy Chayefsky really missed what Russell was doing with Altered States and how the satire about the baby boomers (self-absorbed monsters inside, unable to connect to another because of self-obsession) totally comes through while providing a sci-fi/horror backdrop that not only works at face value as a sci-fi/horror film but adds to the humanity of the characters so that when they finally do connect, it’s meaningful. Chayefsky should have been proud to have his name on that movie.

Posted By Kingrat : March 15, 2012 1:02 pm

Carol Reed’s career falls into four phases: 1) early – only one of these I’ve seen is NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH; 2) the late 40s masterpieces like ODD MAN OUT, THE FALLEN IDOL, and THE THIRD MAN; 3) the 50s – the little-known A KID FOR TWO FARTHINGS and THE KEY probably are the deepest emotionally of his films, and TRAPEZE has its moments; 4) Hollywood, OLIVER!, and critical oblivion.

As for Robert Wise, whose films I almost always like, isn’t self-effacement the key here? Rather than not having a strong personality, doesn’t Wise express his personality by choosing to let the story stand forth? He chooses different approaches for different films; even noirs like THE SET-UP, BORN TO KILL and THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL are each different in approach. But I don’t see distinct phases to his work.

Posted By Kingrat : March 15, 2012 1:02 pm

Carol Reed’s career falls into four phases: 1) early – only one of these I’ve seen is NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH; 2) the late 40s masterpieces like ODD MAN OUT, THE FALLEN IDOL, and THE THIRD MAN; 3) the 50s – the little-known A KID FOR TWO FARTHINGS and THE KEY probably are the deepest emotionally of his films, and TRAPEZE has its moments; 4) Hollywood, OLIVER!, and critical oblivion.

As for Robert Wise, whose films I almost always like, isn’t self-effacement the key here? Rather than not having a strong personality, doesn’t Wise express his personality by choosing to let the story stand forth? He chooses different approaches for different films; even noirs like THE SET-UP, BORN TO KILL and THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL are each different in approach. But I don’t see distinct phases to his work.

Posted By blauriche : March 15, 2012 1:53 pm

I think the work of Fassbinder, my favorite director, is easily broken up into periods, from his stagy Godard inspired early movies to his low key melodramas to his hyperstylized melodramas. Of course, now that I’ve seen WORLD ON A WIRE that doesn’t seem as neat anymore. Despite my affection for many of his earlier films, particularly from the middle period, I really love the style of his later films. Looking at the filmography though, it’s hard to decide where that break goes. No later than MARIA BRAUN, surely, but possibly as early as CHINESE ROULETTE.

Posted By blauriche : March 15, 2012 1:53 pm

I think the work of Fassbinder, my favorite director, is easily broken up into periods, from his stagy Godard inspired early movies to his low key melodramas to his hyperstylized melodramas. Of course, now that I’ve seen WORLD ON A WIRE that doesn’t seem as neat anymore. Despite my affection for many of his earlier films, particularly from the middle period, I really love the style of his later films. Looking at the filmography though, it’s hard to decide where that break goes. No later than MARIA BRAUN, surely, but possibly as early as CHINESE ROULETTE.

Posted By jbryant : March 15, 2012 2:53 pm

One of Carol Reed’s best films (certainly near the rarefied air of THE THIRD MAN and THE FALLEN IDOL) is OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS from 1952. Unfortunately, it’s been very difficult to see for a long time (though I seem to recall TCM running it once in the last few years).

I attended a tribute to Robert Wise a few years ago at the Alex Theater in Glendale, where he was interviewed by Leonard Maltin and showed clips from several of his films. He seemed like a nice man who adjusted his style to fit the project, as Kingrat suggests above. Without a strong artistic viewpoint, he was mostly ignored by auteurists, so we don’t see many defenses of him. As for the AMBERSONS debacle, he was a young editor with no clout–if he hadn’t done it, someone else would have. It sure would have helped his future reputation if he had refused on moral grounds, but at the time he was probably just worried about steady employment.

Anthony Mann has at least four fairly distinct phases: early programmers, noirs, Westerns and epics. The middle two strike me as about equally great, but I still haven’t seen some of the epic stuff.

Posted By jbryant : March 15, 2012 2:53 pm

One of Carol Reed’s best films (certainly near the rarefied air of THE THIRD MAN and THE FALLEN IDOL) is OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS from 1952. Unfortunately, it’s been very difficult to see for a long time (though I seem to recall TCM running it once in the last few years).

I attended a tribute to Robert Wise a few years ago at the Alex Theater in Glendale, where he was interviewed by Leonard Maltin and showed clips from several of his films. He seemed like a nice man who adjusted his style to fit the project, as Kingrat suggests above. Without a strong artistic viewpoint, he was mostly ignored by auteurists, so we don’t see many defenses of him. As for the AMBERSONS debacle, he was a young editor with no clout–if he hadn’t done it, someone else would have. It sure would have helped his future reputation if he had refused on moral grounds, but at the time he was probably just worried about steady employment.

Anthony Mann has at least four fairly distinct phases: early programmers, noirs, Westerns and epics. The middle two strike me as about equally great, but I still haven’t seen some of the epic stuff.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 15, 2012 3:27 pm

Kingrat and jbryant – I certainly don’t doubt Wise is a nice man. Interviews I’ve seen with him cast him in a very good light and I don’t recall stories of people having a difficult time working with him. As for his films, it’s not a lack of personality I see, it’s a lack of energy. I think his personality does show through in his films, in that they are slowly paced (not methodically but slowly) and generally static. Those opening aerial shots from West Side Story and Sound of Music provide more visual imagination than the rest of the film, especially West Side Story where it works as a way of taking us from the whole of the city to this one little piece of turf fought over by kids playing dangerous games.

So I got nothing against him personally, not even the Ambersons thing (which I agree with jbryant on), I just find his directorial style listless.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 15, 2012 3:27 pm

Kingrat and jbryant – I certainly don’t doubt Wise is a nice man. Interviews I’ve seen with him cast him in a very good light and I don’t recall stories of people having a difficult time working with him. As for his films, it’s not a lack of personality I see, it’s a lack of energy. I think his personality does show through in his films, in that they are slowly paced (not methodically but slowly) and generally static. Those opening aerial shots from West Side Story and Sound of Music provide more visual imagination than the rest of the film, especially West Side Story where it works as a way of taking us from the whole of the city to this one little piece of turf fought over by kids playing dangerous games.

So I got nothing against him personally, not even the Ambersons thing (which I agree with jbryant on), I just find his directorial style listless.

Posted By Kingrat : March 15, 2012 3:52 pm

Greg, I often complain about slow pacing in films–TRISTANA, just on TCM, was like a Bunuel film directed by Henry King, where the lack of variety in pacing of scenes was a huge problem–but Robert Wise’s films don’t usually strike me that way.

Jules Dassin has at least three phases: the early films like REUNION IN PARIS (Joan Crawford and John Wayne, your favorite screen couple, yes?), then the noirs he’s best known for (including RIFIFI after he had to work in Europe), then the “Zhool Das-SAN” foreign phase of TOPKAPI and NEVER ON SUNDAY.

Posted By Kingrat : March 15, 2012 3:52 pm

Greg, I often complain about slow pacing in films–TRISTANA, just on TCM, was like a Bunuel film directed by Henry King, where the lack of variety in pacing of scenes was a huge problem–but Robert Wise’s films don’t usually strike me that way.

Jules Dassin has at least three phases: the early films like REUNION IN PARIS (Joan Crawford and John Wayne, your favorite screen couple, yes?), then the noirs he’s best known for (including RIFIFI after he had to work in Europe), then the “Zhool Das-SAN” foreign phase of TOPKAPI and NEVER ON SUNDAY.

Posted By Emgee : March 15, 2012 4:56 pm

I kinda, sorta agree with you on early or later David Lean, although Lawrence Of Arabia is one of my Top 10 all-time favourites. But why no mention of his splendid and deeply moving Dickens adaptations? To my mind nobody caught Dickens on film as Lean did with Great Expectations and Oliver Twist. He thankfully cut out most of the sentimentality which makes reading some of Dickens such a chore.

How about Kurosawa? Anybody prefer Ran or Kagemusha over Seven Samurai or Hidden Fortress? I admire the first two, but totally love the others. Can’t or won’t imagine a world without them.

Posted By Emgee : March 15, 2012 4:56 pm

I kinda, sorta agree with you on early or later David Lean, although Lawrence Of Arabia is one of my Top 10 all-time favourites. But why no mention of his splendid and deeply moving Dickens adaptations? To my mind nobody caught Dickens on film as Lean did with Great Expectations and Oliver Twist. He thankfully cut out most of the sentimentality which makes reading some of Dickens such a chore.

How about Kurosawa? Anybody prefer Ran or Kagemusha over Seven Samurai or Hidden Fortress? I admire the first two, but totally love the others. Can’t or won’t imagine a world without them.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 15, 2012 6:32 pm

Mask of Demetrios plays on TCM on May 1 at 4:15 AM.

I have only seen one cut of The Magnificent Ambersons and it is great. If that’s a mangling I’ll take it. It would be interesting to have seen an Orson Welles cut, but I think the final product is great.

I think Kurosawa, beginning with Rashomon and ending with High and Low, was a great period and was unmatched by his later films.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 15, 2012 6:32 pm

Mask of Demetrios plays on TCM on May 1 at 4:15 AM.

I have only seen one cut of The Magnificent Ambersons and it is great. If that’s a mangling I’ll take it. It would be interesting to have seen an Orson Welles cut, but I think the final product is great.

I think Kurosawa, beginning with Rashomon and ending with High and Low, was a great period and was unmatched by his later films.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 15, 2012 6:34 pm

Sorry, that should have been Mask of Dimitrios.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 15, 2012 6:34 pm

Sorry, that should have been Mask of Dimitrios.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 15, 2012 6:45 pm

I have never seen an Anthony Mann movie that I didn’t like. Some of them I absolutely love.

How often do you praise a film based mostly on its cinematography? T-Men is one of those movies. I’m glad that Mann allowed John Alton to do everything he did in that movie because it is one of the most uniquely shot movies I’ve ever seen.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 15, 2012 6:45 pm

I have never seen an Anthony Mann movie that I didn’t like. Some of them I absolutely love.

How often do you praise a film based mostly on its cinematography? T-Men is one of those movies. I’m glad that Mann allowed John Alton to do everything he did in that movie because it is one of the most uniquely shot movies I’ve ever seen.

Posted By Tom S : March 15, 2012 9:56 pm

@Duke

Yeah, the extant version of Magnificent Ambersons (depressingly, the only cut there is, as the rest of the footage was destroyed) is still an amazing movie, one of my favorites. It’s just that it’s like an hour and a half out of a two and a half hour movie, and that includes shit that the studio reshot. It’s almost hard to imagine what it would have been like un-crippled.

And I can’t legitimately blame Wise for what happened with the movie, not even Orson Welles blamed him. It’s just that I really kind of want to.

As for Kurosawa, I think there’s a distinct difference between his films of the 50s and his films of the 60s- which is arguably a late part of his career, as his output was pretty slow in the 70s and 80s- and I absolutely love Yojimbo, Sanjuro, and High and Low. So whatever period those are part of is my favorite.

Posted By Tom S : March 15, 2012 9:56 pm

@Duke

Yeah, the extant version of Magnificent Ambersons (depressingly, the only cut there is, as the rest of the footage was destroyed) is still an amazing movie, one of my favorites. It’s just that it’s like an hour and a half out of a two and a half hour movie, and that includes shit that the studio reshot. It’s almost hard to imagine what it would have been like un-crippled.

And I can’t legitimately blame Wise for what happened with the movie, not even Orson Welles blamed him. It’s just that I really kind of want to.

As for Kurosawa, I think there’s a distinct difference between his films of the 50s and his films of the 60s- which is arguably a late part of his career, as his output was pretty slow in the 70s and 80s- and I absolutely love Yojimbo, Sanjuro, and High and Low. So whatever period those are part of is my favorite.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 15, 2012 10:18 pm

I love Yojimbo and Sanjuro, but also Seven Samurai and Rashomon.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 15, 2012 10:18 pm

I love Yojimbo and Sanjuro, but also Seven Samurai and Rashomon.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 16, 2012 7:59 am

Kingrat – I love Topkapi so much. Definitely go with Dassin’s fifties/forties movies overall but Topkapi from the sixties is my favorite.

Emgee – Agreed on both counts. I think Lean’s Dickens adaptations are wonderful. Also, love Kagemusha and Ran. Thing is he had so many great films in the fifties and early sixties, it would be the same as Dassin: early stuff gets a bigger overall vote but I love the two later ones.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 16, 2012 7:59 am

Kingrat – I love Topkapi so much. Definitely go with Dassin’s fifties/forties movies overall but Topkapi from the sixties is my favorite.

Emgee – Agreed on both counts. I think Lean’s Dickens adaptations are wonderful. Also, love Kagemusha and Ran. Thing is he had so many great films in the fifties and early sixties, it would be the same as Dassin: early stuff gets a bigger overall vote but I love the two later ones.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 16, 2012 8:01 am

Duke – oh well. I don’t have a DVR so 4:15 a.m. may as well be never.

Love Anthony Mann too. In fact, I seem to recall Fall of the Roman Empire coming up in one of these comment threads recently and how much we liked it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 16, 2012 8:01 am

Duke – oh well. I don’t have a DVR so 4:15 a.m. may as well be never.

Love Anthony Mann too. In fact, I seem to recall Fall of the Roman Empire coming up in one of these comment threads recently and how much we liked it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 16, 2012 8:06 am

And I can’t legitimately blame Wise for what happened with the movie, not even Orson Welles blamed him. It’s just that I really kind of want to.

Hey, that’s an honest reaction. Welles is to blame to an extent as well. He could have stayed and made sure the film was edited and finished and put It’s All True on hold (which, ironically, it was, indefinitely). I mean, it was his damn film after all.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 16, 2012 8:06 am

And I can’t legitimately blame Wise for what happened with the movie, not even Orson Welles blamed him. It’s just that I really kind of want to.

Hey, that’s an honest reaction. Welles is to blame to an extent as well. He could have stayed and made sure the film was edited and finished and put It’s All True on hold (which, ironically, it was, indefinitely). I mean, it was his damn film after all.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 16, 2012 1:04 pm

Blauriche, your comment just came through so I didn’t see it until now. You know, Fassbinder had such a short and tantalizing career I’ve never broken it into parts but you’re right. When I think about it, he did travel along distinct lines. If only we could have seen what he would have done in the last thirty years.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : March 16, 2012 1:04 pm

Blauriche, your comment just came through so I didn’t see it until now. You know, Fassbinder had such a short and tantalizing career I’ve never broken it into parts but you’re right. When I think about it, he did travel along distinct lines. If only we could have seen what he would have done in the last thirty years.

Posted By Sergio : March 16, 2012 8:00 pm

Let me add that I too am I great admirer of The Mark of Dimitrios and what a great ending that film has. I keep excepting it to come out on the Warner Archive label one day. it’s a perfect choice. And also let me add that its great news that Warner’s is finally releasing the blu-ray DVD of Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun in June. A film I’ve long believed and still do was one of best and most emotionally powerful films (though he does over play his hand in a few scenes) With Empire and Jaws both coming out in blu-ray this summer 1941 can’t be far behind

Posted By Sergio : March 16, 2012 8:00 pm

Let me add that I too am I great admirer of The Mark of Dimitrios and what a great ending that film has. I keep excepting it to come out on the Warner Archive label one day. it’s a perfect choice. And also let me add that its great news that Warner’s is finally releasing the blu-ray DVD of Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun in June. A film I’ve long believed and still do was one of best and most emotionally powerful films (though he does over play his hand in a few scenes) With Empire and Jaws both coming out in blu-ray this summer 1941 can’t be far behind

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