“Gone are the good old days” might sound like a clichéd statement expected from a retired civil servant but it applies perfectly to movies. With the modern cinema loaded with genetically engineered actors and CGI, the days of robots in the director’s chair are not far off. Here are ten geniuses from an extinct species which once ruled the reel jungles.
1. David Lynch
Perhaps the mostly intensely creative director in the history of cinema, David Lynch doesn’t merely make movies, he paints expressionist masterpieces. His beautiful, noiristic pictures often leave us confused and lost in an obscure, colorful world. His taste for powerfully bizarre and surreal personalities has given birth to some of the most extreme characters of modern cinema; from the most sadistic gangster to the most spiritual sideshow freak and from the most voluptuous amnesiac lesbian to the most nightmarishly deformed infant.
2. Roman Polanski
Polanski’s life and works are an intricate mix of success and failure, with some tragedy and depravity tossed in. His wounds are apparent with his exploration of human psyche and expressed in their most graphic form in the apartment trilogy. After directing the municipal corruption classic Chinatown, he was forced to leave Hollywood but continued an output of varying quality. But Polanski is a man of resilience and he stamped his foot down in the most authoritative manner possible by unleashing the World War II drama “The Pianist” in 2002. Perhaps the cinema world needs Polanski back in Hollywood to furnish one last Magnum Opus… ah forget it Roman, its Chinatown!
3. Fritz Lang
German expressionistic cinema was instrumental in shaping Hollywood and Fritz Lang was its undisputed king. He baptized himself in waters of immortality with two incredible works; Metropolis and M. Metropolis was a science fiction concept of sheer genius, silent but eons ahead of its time, a quality he maintained when he transferred to talking pictures with M and in the process almost singlehandedly invented Film Noir.
4. Billy Wilder
With Double Indemnity, Billy Wilder gifted us the most thrilling picture ever made. He moved from thrillers to romantic comedies with ease and brilliance while retaining his trademark razorsharp dialogue. Wilder injected his pictures with such venomous passion that they still bite audiences into numbing states of amazement.
5. Francis Ford Coppola
A product of UCLA film school, Coppola’s directional career has been hit or miss. However, when he connected, he sent the ball flying high and long. In two seminal years, the first two Godfathers and The Conversation firmly established his reputation as the one of the greatest ever. His next effort Apocalypse Now still reins supreme as the quintessential Vietnam War movie. Unfortunately the quality of his work declined after these classics but the Coppola name is still being carried on with varied degrees of success by his daughter.
6. Akira Kurosawa
No words can do justice to the immense influence Akira Kurosawa has had on Hollywood. His works inspired some of the acknowledged classics of our time, from Spaghetti Westerns to Sci Fi. He so cleverly infused western styles in his highly cultural movies that they amazed audiences of opposite worlds. With limited resources, Kurosawa helmed some of cinema’s grandest most eloquent epics.
7. Ingmar Bergman
Ingmar Bergman was the prince of darkness. His pictures were so gloomy that he could not bear to watch them himself, but he was undoubtedly the greatest arthouse film maker ever. His exploration of faith and alienation was supplemented by cinematographic genius Sven Nykvist and together, they created some of the most artistic sequences ever committed to reel. Bergman was a prolific director and made a host of classics including immortal giants like The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries; the former perhaps being the greatest ever non-Hollywood film.
8. Alfred Hitchcock
The master of suspense was a bit of a sadist, since most of his movies left audiences with bloodied fingers and edge of the seat marks on their bottoms. The word Hitchcock has become synonymous with the word Thriller. His anxiety inducing output spans over half a century and explores almost every thriller subgenre. Ruthlessly imitated but never bettered, he lost some steam in his later years but had long founded the modern cinema.
9. Stanley Kubrick
With take after take, Stanley Kubrick gently wove the perfect web and trapped every viewer daring to tread in the vicinity. His works span a variety of genres and he left an indelible mark on every avenue visited. Kubrick’s pictures are never straightforward but are built upon layers of symbolism, topped with a rich complex of surprises. Enigmatic and controversial, he fittingly exited the stage with a clandestine tale of sexual infidelity.
10. Martin Scorsese
The tough streets of little Italy were the perfect school of violence and human psyche for Martin Scorsese, themes he explored with ruthlessness. His legendary association with Robert De Niro gave birth to masterpieces like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Casino, King of Comedy and Goodfellas. Most of his movies are like a furious storm of brutality and violence, with him walking a tightrope of tragedy and emotion. He has often switched genres with incredible ease but there is always that unmistakable specter of violence and loneliness haunting the picture – The signature Scorsese charm.