Most of my favorite movie directors are good examples of what film aficionados like to call auteurs. And, yes, my five favorites are all dead, so they can‘t keep doing what the prolific Martin Scorsese has been doing to beat up on his once-stellar reputation.
Hopefully, a reader will suggest some of the other contemporary directors I should have given more consideration. What counts is that all five directors on my list made several excellent feature films and they had a distinctive style that can be seen consistently in their body of work. In my salad days their story-telling opened my eyes to the possibilities moving pictures had/have to inspire an audience.
They shaped their films far more than did the typical studio system directors in the first 30 or 40 years of the movie business. Frequently they wrote or co-wrote the screenplays. Somehow, perhaps because they were so good at making good movies, most of the time they managed to get their projects financed without having to make the artistic compromises many of their fellow filmmakers had to make, in order to get steady work.
In recent years it seems that making movies has gotten so expensive that the accountants and lawyers who raise the dough to produce feature-length motion pictures don’t want to finance projects that don’t fit in with focus group wisdom.
So we hear less about auteurs these days. Meanwhile my favorite five directors, along with five of their most representative films, are (I‘ve used the foreign titles as they are best known in America):
Luis Buñuel (1900-83; born in Spain, made some films in Spanish, some in French): “Los Olvidados” (1950), “Belle de Jour” (1967), “Tristana” (1970), “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” (1972), “The Phantom of Liberty” (1974).
Federico Fellini (1920-93; born in Italy, made films in Italian): “Nights of Cabiria” (1957), “La Dolce Vita” (1960), “8½” (1963), “Juliet of the Spirits” (1965), “Amarcord” (1973).
John Huston (1907-87; born in America, made films in English): “The Maltese Falcon” (1941), “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948), “The Asphalt Jungle” (1950), “The African Queen” (1951), “Wise Blood” (1979).
Elia Kazan (1909-2003; born in Istanbul and immigrated to America at the age of four, made films in English): “Panic in the Streets” (1950), “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951), “On the Waterfront” (1954), “East of Eden” (1955), “A Face in the Crowd” (1957).
Stanley Kubrick (1928-99; born in America, made films in English): “The Killing” (1956), “Paths of Glory” (1957), “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964), “A Clockwork Orange” (1971), “Full Metal Jacket” (1987).
— F.T. Rea