Image by Erinc Salor
There are few filmmakers alive today who have the mystique of Werner Herzog. His feature films and his documentaries are brilliant and messy, depicting both the ecstasies and the agonies of life in a chaotic and fundamentally hostile universe.
If you call yourself a film fan, you may have heard of Trailers from Hell, a video series wherein famous directors introduce and provide commentary on trailers of the films they love, the films they’ve made, or both.[...]
Film fans have few stronger vices, I would submit, than the making of lists. But we can take some small measure of consolation from the fact that certain auteurs have occasionally done it too. Yes they make their own lists of favorite films. Quentin Tarantino has done it. So have Stanley Kubrick and Woody Allen.[...]
In 2013, Steven Soderbergh told me during an interview that he was retiring. “Five years ago, as we were finishing Che, I said, ‘OK, when I turn 50, I want to be done. I’m going to jam in as much as I can, but when I turn 50, I want to be done.’”
Yet Soderbergh’s concept of retirement must be different from most mortals.
In 1968, years before American Graffiti, Raiders of the Lost Ark and, shudder, the Star Wars prequels, George Lucas was a struggling filmmaker with a couple of experimental films movies under his belt.[...]
Seeing how the ever-more-distinctive cinema of Paul Thomas Anderson has developed from his feature debut Hard Eight to his new Thomas Pynchon adaptation Inherent Vice, you have to wonder how he learned his craft.[...]
Where do artistic ideas come from?
The collective unconscious?
Cheesy covers of 50s pop tunes?
The ghost of Jerry Garcia?
Perhaps rather than trying to identify the source, we should work toward being open to inspiration in whatever guise it presents itself.
Remember courtroom sketch artists? The mere fact that they did what they did captured my imagination as a kid, representing as it seemed one of the few remaining vestiges of an older, more askew America, one bound by fewer yet stricter rules and all the more fascinating a component of history for it.[...]
In movies like Seven Samurai and High and Low, director Akira Kurosawa took the cinematic language of Hollywood and improved on it, creating a vigorous, muscular method of visual storytelling that became a stylistic playbook for the likes of Martin Scorsese, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola.[...]
Iconoclastic art movements need manifestos—to explain themselves, perhaps, to announce themselves, surely, but also, perhaps, to soften the blow of the work that is to come. In the case of Dadaism, the manifesto issued by Tristan Tzara in 1918 presents us with a curious paradox.[...]