“The Directors Series” Presents Free Immersive Studies of Stanley Kubrick, the Coen Brothers, David Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson & Christopher Nolan

Humorist and movie crit­ic Joe Queenan once stood out­side a the­ater after a screen­ing of Juras­sic Park and asked each exit­ing view­er if they knew who direct­ed the film they’d just seen. Only five out of the ten who talked to him, he report­ed, could name Steven Spiel­berg. (Not just one but two of those who could­n’t said, inex­plic­a­bly, that the Michael Crich­ton adap­ta­tion had been direct­ed by Stephen King.)

Queenan pulled this stunt as an infor­mal test of “auteur the­o­ry,” which holds that the direc­tor, despite the inher­ent­ly col­lab­o­ra­tive nature of the medi­um, is ulti­mate­ly the “author” of a motion pic­ture. But what does it say about auteur the­o­ry that half of his sam­ple of view­ers could­n’t come up with the name of quite pos­si­bly the most famous film­mak­er alive? Does the iden­ti­ty of a film’s direc­tor mat­ter as much as those of us who sub­scribe to auteur the­o­ry believe it does?

As for the case for the auteur, if you’ve got fif­teen hours or so to spare, you can watch it made in depth by the Direc­tors Series. These mul­ti-part video essays by writer-direc­tor Cameron Beyl exam­ine what makes an auteur an auteur not just one fil­mog­ra­phy, but one film at a time.

Beyl launched the series with the ide­al selec­tion of Stan­ley Kubrick, an almost Pla­ton­ic ide­al of the mod­ern auteur, whose career-long jump­ing from sub­ject to sub­ject and even genre to genre reveals all the more clear­ly the ele­ments of his bold cin­e­mat­ic sig­na­ture.

Then came series-with­in-the-series on direc­tors from the gen­er­a­tion after Kubrick: David Finch­er, Paul Thomas Ander­son, the Coen Broth­ers, and Christo­pher Nolan. Though all alive and vey much still active, they’ve all forged the kind of strong styles that inspire wor­ship­ful ret­ro­spec­tives at cin­e­math­e­ques the world over. Even the kind of movie­go­er who thinks Stephen King direct­ed Juras­sic Park sure­ly sens­es, on some lev­el, the com­mon sen­si­bil­i­ty shared by films as out­ward­ly dif­fer­ent as Fight Club and Gone GirlBoo­gie Nights and There Will Be BloodRais­ing Ari­zona and Far­goMemen­to and Inter­stel­lar.

In the Direc­tors Series, Beyl reveals the tech­niques these film­mak­ers use to make their body of work a uni­fied cin­e­mat­ic project, and so rise to the sta­tus of true auteurs. Try to repli­cate Queenan’s exper­i­ment today, and you may well find that many, if not most, of the view­ers who’ve just seen one of their movies won’t know the direc­tor’s name. That, of course, does­n’t mean that they did­n’t enjoy or appre­ci­ate the direc­tor’s art — but it also does­n’t mean that, equipped with the kind of insight pro­vid­ed by the Direc­tors Series, you won’t enjoy and appre­ci­ate it even more.

Fol­low these links for more on each series: Stan­ley Kubrick (3 hours), David Finch­er (3.5 hours), Paul Thomas Ander­son (2.5 hours), the Coen Broth­ers (4 hours), and Christo­pher Nolan (3.5 hours).

The first video from each series appears on the page above.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Com­plete Col­lec­tion of Wes Ander­son Video Essays

“Auteur in Space”: A Video Essay on How Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris Tran­scends Sci­ence Fic­tion

Four Video Essays Explain the Mas­tery of Film­mak­er Abbas Kiarosta­mi (RIP)

An Intro­duc­tion to Jean-Luc Godard’s Inno­v­a­tive Film­mak­ing Through Five Video Essays

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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