On Facebook*, someone I know (who is welcome to out himself here if he so chooses), posted a fun exercise: "Apparently somewhere on facebook there's a challenge to name your favorite ten movie directors off the top of your head, no research or googling," adding: "It's an interesting personality test."
It is indeed. I'm going to be brave and see what I come up with this morning...
Rainer Werner FassbinderThe list itself took all of one minute (alphabetizing it and finding appropriate links for each took longer), and is probably one that would be similar were I to do it on another day -- certainly, there are a bunch of directors who I thought about including (Orson Welles, David Lynch, Wong Kar-Wai, the Coen Brothers, Robert Altmann, John Ford, Fritz Lang, Akira Kurosawa, John Sayles, Terry Gilliam, Woody Allen, Guy Maddin, Gregg Araki, others) but whose work I am most interested in for only a few films, while a couple of others I love (Preston Sturges) or am fascinated by (Michael Haneke), but I really have to be in the right mood to watch their films. The list is of directors who, if you were to say to me at just about any time, "Let's watch a movie by x," I would probably say, "Let's go!"
Certainly, most of them, particularly the most productive ones, created some films of not particularly great value, but they all still have their interesting moments. And their best movies are ones I could watch forever.
What about the personality test part, since these are the names that came most quickly to mind?
They're all men, which is not entirely surprising, given how sexist the world of filmmaking has been; the number of women who have been directors is scandalously low.
Every person on the list is either European or American, which is a bit of a surprise, because I don't limit myself to those regions as a viewer, but they're clearly the ones I feel most connection to as a viewer. This is probably related to the fact that almost all of them are directors I first connected to before I was 20 years old. My father's interest in German film meant I saw Fassbinder's Ali: Fear Eats the Soul and The Marriage of Maria Braun and Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo when I was in high school, I first saw Truffaut's The 400 Blows in college and spent the then-immense sum of $35 to buy a VHS tape of the film so I could watch it over and over and over. I saw Michael Mann's Heat in the theatre 3 times. Etc. The only ones there I discovered after college (though in my early 20s) are Renoir and Malick; both were love at first sight.
None of those directors specialized in comedy, though some of them created some sublime comedies, Hawks in particular. But on the whole, it's a pretty intense, even bleak group. A pretty "masculine" group, too, which is fairly surprising to me, as I am generally, and happily, a failure at masculinity. None of them are generally considered radically "experimental" filmmakers, though certainly Fassbinder, Herzog, and Lynch have made films that are experimentalist; those aren't my favorites of theirs, though. They all produced innovative work, but none are Stan Brakhage. Relatedly, it's significant that Renoir and Truffaut are there and Godard is not. The only Godard film I've ever really loved is Breathless; I can appreciate some of the others, but I always feel like I'm being dutiful when I watch Godard. I once told a cinephile, only half-jokingly, that I feel like one of the most shameful things I could ever admit is that I love Truffaut over Godard, but there it is.
And now I have succeeded in making myself want to be irresponsible, abandon all the many things I need to do today, and watch a movie...
*By the way, I've never said it here, so will take this opportunity: I use Facebook mostly for just silly and personal stuffs, nothing revelatory, so keep Friends to people I either know or know of in real life, or people with whom I've communicated in some way. Anything of substance I have to say about writing or publishing happens here or via Twitter, and my email address is public, so that works just fine for getting in touch if you need.