Timo's MEGA-ToM! (Twitch-O-Meter turns 50, part seven)
Ardvark here, presenting you with the seven-of-nine. Yes, this article starts the last third of our MEGA-ToM. Once more one of our writers will list you his 5 most favorite directors as part of our celebration for the 50th Twitch-O-Meter.
And this time that writer is Timo from Germany, who gives us many stellar updates on European DVD-releases.
The floor is all yours, Timo!
So, this idea of 5 different directors has proven kind of difficult for me, as I tend to judge films on their own, trying not to get too caught up in the grand business of namedropping and reputation-based hype. Still, I feel that there are numerous directors who have really given me a new perspective on film as a medium and art form with their work, people which I will always respect no matter how much better - or for that matter, how much worse - they became over time. So let's get started, in no particular order...
Enzo G. Castellari.
Castellari rode each and every wave of Italian cinema fads back at its height in the 60s and 70s - from spaghetti western to police film to Mad Max knock-off. And while he - like many of his colleagues - worked with shoestring budgets and scripts of questionable quality, thus making a fair number of turkeys along the way, his better works are a prime example of what made these kinds of films so incredibly fun. Brilliantly staged action sequences, unique visuals, and completely outrageous ideas became Castellari's trademarks. At no point would he ever claim that his films are supposed to be more than pure, perhaps even cheap entertainment. But hell, entertainment it is. Enzo G. Castellari made me fall in love with genre cinema back then, yet even years later, I never got to know a director who brought more passion, creativity and humor to the Italian B-movie than Castellari did.
I suspect I won't be the only one to mention To in our MEGA-ToM series. With films like Election 1 & 2 as well as Exiled he has become kind of universally appreciated on Twitch, but I've been a fan straight from the start, unconditionally adoring even the films that received a fair share of criticism here and elsewhere (I regard Throwdown as his masterpiece, but that's to be debated somewhere else). Personally, I think the 'hot streak', a phrase Todd likes to pull out in association with To's recent work every now and then, has been going on ever since To founded Milkyway Image.
For all intents and purposes, Johnnie To is not only a fantastic filmmaker, one who takes something as generic as the action film and transforms it into something that couldn't be more unique; but he's also a pretty clever businessman. To's dual strategy of supporting his serious, artsy flicks with a continuous stream of mostly successful, light-hearted mainstream comedies is a phenomenon you won't easily find anywhere else in the film world. And just in that context, it makes his dedication and loyalty to Hong Kong, a place whose pop culture and film industry have become utterly fucked up in the last few years, all the more impressive.
Some people say that Kitano's string of nihilistic crime films - the main reason I'm including him here - are so similar to each other, it's like the same script remade again, and again, and again. While one could argue about his acting abilities (he seems to rely on his trademark 'blank stare / calm face' pose rather often), I would defend his directorial work to the death. Rarely do I actually allow myself to be moved by a film, but Sonatine and Hana-Bi manage to do just that. Combining aesthetic beauty with the grim, ever-present prospect of suffering and depression, Kitano makes death look downright attractive. I have to admit though that I'm not well versed in the world of Japanese film, so I have no idea why an outgoing showbiz figure like Kitano ever felt the need to produce these films, but one thing I know for sure: I'm grateful for it. Very grateful.
And yes, before someone asks: I like Brother too. Contrary to a sizable number of other people, it seems. That's just me, then.
To make up for this more...obvious choice, let me say it straight to your faces: Duck, You Sucker! is my favourite Leone film. Oh, what did I just do? I couldn't even tell you why. 'Because it's beautiful' wouldn't be enough, as Leone films are all beautiful. There is a certain warmth to be found in all of his work, something life-affirming, which of course sounds weird seeing as poor, greedy, brutal people are the main staple in Leone's barren desert landscapes. Let's also not forget that he made one of the greatest gangster films of all time. How much better would our lives be if the man were still alive today? Ah, I could fill a book with my thoughts about Sergio Leone, so we'll leave it at that. Suffice it to say that if aliens landed on our earth in 100 years, not knowing what cinema is all about; why it can be so magical, why it is able to take hold of our imagination, of our dreams, and never let go: A Leone film would make them understand.
Oh, stop the jokes already! You there, in the back! We all know by now that Malick doesn't exactly work at the speed of light. However, his steady pace of putting out a film every 80 years or so has resulted in four wonderful works of art that have accompanied me through all my life so far. Having said that, I'll freely admit that I'm a sucker for pretentious screenplays and visual self-indulgence and consequently hold The Thin Red Line as the best anti-war film ever made. Even if you don't like that one, or The New World for that matter, which I can understand, Badlands and Days of Heaven should be required viewing for anyone claiming to know a thing or two about film. Malick is one of the few remnants from the legendary Hollywood 70s who are still working today. Well, I [i]hope[/i] he's working. With him, you never know. But to see his filmography entering the double digits would be one of the most awesome things to experience before I die. Hey, we all have our dreams, don't we?