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The most influential filmmakers of the world

1. David  LYNCH

After all the discussion, no one could fault the conclusion that David Lynch is the most important film-maker of the current era [Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive]. He is interesting through a world of dancing dwarves, femme fatales and little blue boxes that may (or may not) contain all the answers. We wouldn’t want to live in the places he takes us. Somehow, we suspect, we do. Substance 17 Look 18 Craft 18 Originality 19 Intelligence 17 Total 89 TRAILER  

  2. Martin SCORSESE

Scorsese’s + 88  influence is impossible to overstate. His red-blooded canon has spawned a generation of copycats while his muscular style has become a template. That said, opinion is divided over the man’s recent output. [Gangs of New York as a classic to rank alongside Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.   Substance 17 Look 18 Craft 18 Originality 17 Intelligence 18 Total 88  TRAILER  

3. Joel and Ethan COEN

Their latest film, Intolerable Cruelty, may have marked a new, „commercial“ phase in their career, but no one could ever accuse the Coen brothers of selling out. The Coens‘ special mix of arch, sculpted dialogue, film-history homage and scrupulously-framed cinematography has never failed them yet, and through their associations with Sam Raimi and Barry Sonnenfeld, have exerted a powerful, if unacknowledged, influence on mainstream event cinema. [Fargo]  Substance 14 Look 18 Craft 18 Originality 18 Intelligence 18 Total 86      TRAILER    

4. Steven  SODERBERGH 

Steven Soderbergh is a one-off: an independent-minded film-maker who has forged a happy working relationship with Hollywood. This is thanks to a brilliant balancing act. Soderbergh soothes the studios with expert, intelligent crowd-pleasers like Erin Brockovich and Ocean’s Eleven then shifts gear for more esoteric, personal projects (Solaris, Full Frontal). His ongoing alliance with George Clooney, moreover, is the most reliable director-star double act since Scorsese found De Niro [Solaris].  Substance 16 Look 17 Craft 18 Originality 16 Intelligence 18 Total 85  TRAILER   

5. Terrence MALICK 

The lofty ranking of Terrence Malick just goes to show that it’s quality, not quantity, that counts. Renowned as a ghostly, Garbo-style recluse, this fabled figure has made just three films over three decades. Even so, the wild beauty of his 1973 debut Badlands casts a formidable shadow, while his sprawling 1999 war epic The Thin Red Line at least proved that the master had lost none of his magic. Next up, apparently, is a biopic of Che Guevara.  Substance 16 Look 18 Craft 17 Originality 17 Intelligence 17 Total 85  [The Thin Red Line]   TRAILER    


The highest ranking non-American, and one of the most respected film-makers working today – by his peers if not the general public. Kiarostami has often concealed potentially life-threatening political commentary within films of simplicity and compassion. But he has complicated his medium, too, by mixing drama and documentary, and actors and non-actors, to dizzying effect. His recent in-car drama Ten provided a daring Tehran exposé as well as a radical new film-making technique – one that almost does away with the director entirely. Substance 18 Look 15 Craft 16 Originality 17 Intelligence 18 Total 84    TRAILER  

7. Errol MORRIS 

Morris is the joker in this top 10, in that his position is solely down to his documentaries. Put simply, Morris is the world’s best investigative film-maker. He possesses a forensic mind, a painter’s eye and a nose for the dark absurdities of American life. High points include The Thin Blue Line (which unearths the nightmarish truth behind a Dallas cop killing), Mr Death (a treatise on execution-device inventor and Holocaust denier Fred Leuchter Jr), and the forthcoming Fog of War, his compelling autopsy on the war in Vietnam. Substance 17 Look 16 Craft 17 Originality 17 Intelligence 17 Total 84 [Fog of War] 

8. Hayao  MIYAZAKI 

It’s about time the rest of the world came to appreciate the genius of Japanese animator Miyazaki, whose films have been breaking box-office records in Japan for years. He’s now in his 60s, but as this year’s Spirited Away proved, the work just keeps getting better. His films create the world anew, literally. Each is set in an intricate, self-contained fantasy world that’s been built from scratch and drawn with devotion. Miyazaki’s stories are frequently considered children’s fare but they are deeper than they look – like the best fairy tales, they conceal dark, very adult themes beneath their surfaces. Substance 15 Look 18 Craft 17 Originality 18 Intelligence 16   Total 84    TRAILER


Few directors have ploughed such distinctive furrows as Cronenberg. And now in his fourth decade of film-making, he is still at the cutting edge. Crash set the entire film world agog with its bizarre sexual constructs; eXistenZ examined the implications of the virtual world more thoughtfully than most; and Spider superbly summoned up a bleak, decaying Britishness (largely forgotten by our own film-makers). His next film, with Nicolas Cage playing a plastic-surgery fetishist, is already inducing shudders. Substance 16 Look 17 Craft 16 Originality 18 Intelligence 16 Total 83  TRAILER  

10. Terence DAVIES 

Our highest-placed British film-maker is here because of his uncompromising and unique cinematic vision; but, with painful irony, it’s also made him the highest-profile victim of Britain’s commercial film industry revival. Emerging from the state-sponsored art-film sector in the mid-80s, Davies completed a trilogy of short films and two features – Distant Voices, Still Lives and The Long Day Closes. But, in a more cut-throat environment, the sensitive Davies has suffered, making only two films in a decade – one of them the international hit The House of Mirth. So it seems a shame – and somehow scandalous – that his current project, an adaptation of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song, should be facing major funding obstacles. Substance 17 Look 17 Craft 16 Originality 16 Intelligence 17 Total 83   TRAILER   

11. Lukas MOODYSSON  

You would assume that the surest way to hobble a young Swedish film-maker is to label him „the new Bergman“. Fortunately, Lukas Moodysson seems immune to such pressure. His 2001 hit Together – about hippies living communally in 1970s Stockholm – was warm, witty and altogether disarming. By contrast, his follow-up, Lilya 4-Ever (about a Russian teen dragooned into prostitution), was a social-realist vision of hell. Heartfelt and uncompromising, Moodysson treads his own path. Substance 17 Look 16 Craft 17 Originality 17 Intelligence 16 Total 83  TRAILER  

12. Lynne RAMSAY   

Ramsay,  the second highest-placed Brit – and the highest woman of any nationality – has trodden a distinctive path through the lottery-fuelled sludge of modern British cinema. Her first film, Ratcatcher, set during the binmen strikes of 70s Glasgow, was the anti-Billy Elliot; her second, adapted from Alan Warner’s novel More about Morvern Callar, confirmed her promise. Morvern is an authentic modern classic, with an actress, Samantha Morton, whose blank-faced performance is a perfect complement to Ramsay’s studied camerawork. TRAILER

 13. Béla TARR 

In just a few years, the Hungarian director has emerged from obscurity to be revered as the Tarkovsky of his generation, with his dark and mysterious monochrome parables, shot with uncompromisingly long, slow single camera takes. His recent Werckmeister Harmonies was a dreamlike film: compelling and sublime. From 1994, Satantango has cult status on the festival circuit, not least for its awe-inspiring length: seven hours. He is now developing a movie at least partly set in London. Substance 16 Look 16 Craft 16 Originality 18 Intelligence 16 Total 82  14. Wong Kar-wai  Hong Kong has become synonymous with action cinema, but Wong Kar-Wai is one of few exceptions. His trademark portraits of quirky urban longing have influenced Asian film as a whole, but the delectably sensuous In the Mood for Love proved that Wong is still improving (and that he has one of the best cinematographers in the business in Christopher Doyle). Next up he’s making a sci-fi movie – should be interesting. Substance 14 Look 18 Craft 17 Originality 17 Intelligence 16 Total 82


15. Pedro ALMODOVAR   

Post-Franco Spain needed Almodovar like a desert needs rain. His early films were gaudy, bawdy and loud; drunken celebrations of the country’s new-found social and sexual freedoms. But Almodovar is much more than some posturing agent provocateur. He spins soulful, spellbinding stories and creates characters that ring with life. All About My Mother and Talk to Her were exotic masterpieces that confirmed their creator as the most important Spanish director since Luis Buñuel. Substance 15 Look 16 Craft 16 Originality 18 Intelligence 16 Total 81  16. Todd Haynes  In retrospect, it seems such a simple idea – take your favourite director (in Haynes‘ case, Douglas Sirk) and faithfully imitate their style and meaning, subtly changing things enough to throw a whole new meaning on an entire historical epoch and film genre. In 1996 Haynes had made an earlier masterpiece, Safe; few directors could have topped that, but Far From Heaven managed it. Substance 16 Look 16 Craft 16 Originality 16 Intelligence 17 Total 81  TRAILER

17. Quentin TARANTINO

 The jury may still be undecided on the virtues of Kill Bill, but no one can deny the massive impact the former video-store clerk has had on cinema across the world. The chewy, minutiae-obsessed dialogue and abundant bloodletting of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction catapulted him to era-defining stature and influence beyond the wildest dreams of any director; had this poll been taken in 1995, he would have been top three, no question. But Tarantino has since been the victim of his own success: he took three years to make his third film, Jackie Brown, and another six to make his fourth. Perhaps inevitably, neither of them made the splash of his first two, but whatever else, Tarantino can still make the simple act of watching a film seem oh-so-exciting. Substance 14 Look 17 Craft 18 Originality 18 Intelligence 14 Total 81 TRAILER

18. Tsai MING-LIANG   

One of the least well-known names on the list, but a director who has steadily refined his own gentle, bittersweet style. Using his native Taipei as a backdrop, Tsai distills the complexity and alienation of city life into films that are austere, unhurried and emotional, but also comical. His pre-apocalyptic The Hole included 1950s musical numbers, for example, while What Time Is It There? paid homage to Harold Lloyd in a movie about death and loneliness. In his latest, Goodbye Dragon Inn, he has almost done away with dialogue altogether. Substance 15 Look 16 Craft 16 Originality 16 Intelligence 17 Total 80


Cinema needs the occasional breath of fresh air, and you can always rely on Kaurismaki to provide it. Coming from Finland, he had a head start, but where other quirky directors last a film or two, Kaurismaki seems to have a bottomless pool of eccentric ideas to draw from. His films are an acquired taste, but they never pander to good taste. For a supposed director of art films, he’s more interested in the world out on the street, or in the gutter. And his most recent, The Man Without a Past, saw him re-emerge into the global spotlight after some years at its fringe. Substance 15 Look 15 Craft 16 Originality 18 Intelligence 16   Total 80   TRAILER

20. Michael WINTERBOTTOM  

 Winterbottom’s career presents a study in motion. His films spirit us from Hardy’s Wessex (Jude) to war-torn Bosnia (Welcome to Sarajevo), and from post-punk Manchester (24 Hour Party People) to the asylum-seekers‘ „silk road“ out of Pakistan (In This World). As well as being technically brilliant and a seeming workaholic, Winterbottom is arguably the most politically astute director in the business, with an unerring eye for the stories that matter. British cinema would be lost without him. Substance 16 Look 15 Craft 17 Originality 16 Intelligence 16 Total 80  TRAILER

21. Paul Thomas ANDERSON  

There is something wonderfully fearless about 33-year-old Paul Thomas Anderson. His two best pictures (Boogie Nights and Magnolia) are works of gob-smacking ambition in one so young – lush, multi-layered ensemble pieces that spotlight the damaged souls of his native San Fernando Valley. But let’s not forget the recent Punch-Drunk Love, starring Adam Sandler and Emily Watson. Smaller in scale but no less turbulent, this undervalued effort is like a nail bomb in the guise of a romantic comedy. Substance 15 Look 16 Craft 16   Originality 17 Intelligence 15 Total 79   TRAILER 22. Michael HANEKE   

No one, perhaps not even Gaspar Noé, delivers more hardcore horror than the German-born Austrian Haneke – even when his shocks are happening off camera, which they mostly do. After a long career in TV, Haneke graduated to the big screen in the early 90s and audiences quickly came to know they were in for a profoundly uncomfortable experience.The Piano Teacher, with Isabelle Huppert, was a disquieting study of a musician driven to agonies of despair and self-loathing. More recently, Time of the Wolf was an almost unwatchably horrible vision of post-apocalyptic Europe. Substance 16 Look 13 Craft 16 Originality 17 Intelligence 17 Total 79 –


Realism is the real attempt to recreate life as it is in the portfolio of an artistic sorce. The function of artistic mediality is to present what he sees as accurately and honestly as possible.

His initial source began as an artistic movement in the 18th century in Europe and America. It was a revolt against the conventions of the classic view of art which suggested that life was more rational and orderly that it really is. It was also a revolt against the romantic traditions in art which suggested that life was more emotionally satisfying that it really is. Realism tries to portray life as objectively as possible. The realistic artist tries to keep his own preconceived notions out of his art but rather to just report what he sees as accurately as possible, “warts and all.”

Realism developed historically in tandem with the rise of modern science with its emphasis on observation, accurate recording and theorizing about natural phenomena. It also developed at the same time that writer started to have a social conscience, seeing the evils of society and calling for reform. Some of the leading French writers in the realistic tradition were de Balzac, Flaubert and Zola.

Realism was a broad spectrum movement involving painting, literature, drama in several European countries. Some of the leading French realist painters were Corat, Courbet and Daumier.

When the 20th century arrived with the invention of the moving picture camera, one of the first motion picture ever made was titled “Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory” by the French film pioneers, the Lumiere brothers.

This film was one of the first realistic films ever made because its subject matter was exactly what the title stated. This was in direct contradistinction to another French film of the period “Trip to the Moon” which was an overt fantasy and one of the first science fiction films ever made. Since its inception, the world of cinema has descended from these two progenitor film approaches:

Realistic films that try to show the world as it actually is, and Fiction/fantasy films that try to present the artist’s imaginative view of the world in an entertaining manner.


Cinema Verite / literally film truth/  was a style of film making developed by French film directors in the 1960’s. Their production techniques did not depend on star quality actors, sets, props, casts of thousands, special effects and big budgets which was the trend in Hollywood films then as now. The cinema verite directors used non-actors, small hand- held cameras, and actual homes and surroundings as their location for a film. One of their production techniques was to tape record actual conversations, interviews and statements of opinion make by real people. Then they would find pictures to illustrate the actual sound recordings. The final production was put together in the editing room (which is also true of fiction/fantasy films). Cinema verite was characterized by the use of real people (not actors) in unrehearsed situations. Filming was done with unobtrusive cameras so the subjects of the film would forget the presence of the camera and just be themselves. The filmmakers goal was to show life as it really is using the film as his artistic medium. Sets and props were never used and everything was shot on location, often with a small, portable camera. The camera could be taken into peoples homes, automobiles, and other places where the heavy, bulky feature film cameras could not easily go.

Famous French examples of cinema verite are “Chronicle of a Summer” (1961) by Jean Rouch and “Le Joli Mai” (1962) by Chris Marker. A famous French film director who was influenced by cinema verite was Jean-Luc Godard. His first feature film “Breathless” (1960) was shot without a script. He improvised the film as he went along, sometimes writing dialogue and rehearsing actors on the spot just before he would “roll cameras for a take.”

Problem of Cinema verite stands at the other end of the spectrum from the Hollywood feature film. The typical Hollywood film has a complete script that has been through several revisions, movie star actors with million dollar salaries, costly special effects, expensive sets, props and locations, and a multi-million dollar budget to pay for it all. The producers of such films to try to attract a huge mass audience. To get their money back, the producers and the financiers mount an equally expensive and wide-ranging promotional campaign complete with newspaper, radio and television advertising.

Films made in genre of cinema verite  usually have none of the above. Cinema verite films are usually shot with light, easily portable, inexpensive equipment, hand-held cameras, actual locations, real people (not actors) and a relatively small budget. The films are usually shot without a script and assembled later in editing.

A difference between the Hollywood-type fiction/fantasy film and the cinema verite film is the respective goals of each.  While the Hollywood film is usually aimed at creating a fantasy of some kind which will be sufficiently attractive to the mass audience that millions of them will come to the movie theater and pay enough admission charges so the film can make back its multi-million dollar budget and make a profit on top of that, the cinema verite film is aimed at showing the mundane truth of peoples’ everyday lives and the social context in which they live their lives. Cinema verite is part of the broader artistic tradition of realism and the cinematic tradition of documentary film making. These realistic traditions in are aimed at showing man’s real situation in life rather than at providing him with an escapist fantasy experience which and audience will enjoy watching and will pay for by coming out to the movies in very large numbers. Realism and cinema verite try to show man as he is and the world as it is because the film maker often has a social conscience and sometimes a political agenda. His purpose is to enlighten his audience, to show them the truth a he sees it, so they will have the information they need to live better lives or to, in some cases, to take political action to right the wrongs the film maker often exposes.

It is in this proud tradition of realism and cinema verite that Sarah McConnell, a 1990’s video producer, presents her realistic pieces about French life and French culture. As a serious student of all things French, she wants to show her audience what really goes on in French social and cultural institutions. [Written by Robert McConnell, Ph.D.]