Film Directors: A sort-of A-Z: A

I had this in drafts, and thought I would publish it today.

My first A-Z series of 2018 is about film directors, or as they tend to be called these days, ‘Film-Makers’. I am calling it a ‘sort-of’ A-Z, as I will only be writing about those whose work I have seen, so some letters will possibly be missed out. But I have seen a lot of films, so who knows? The letters will refer to the surnames of the directors only, not their first names, so please bear that in mind if you add your own choices in the comments later. As before, I will mention some, and add a personal favourite at the end.

I couldn’t miss out the prolific Woody Allen from ‘A’. Although I have not enjoyed his later efforts, his early work offered up some really excellent films, and he even starred in most of them too. ‘Annie Hall’ and ‘Manhattan’ captured the feel of the urbane wealthier classes in big city America so well. The memorable one-liners, sharp scripts, and above all great casting made for a rewarding experience that was not soon forgotten. I could even forgive him for casting himself as the romantic lead, as that delivered a fine sense of irony too.

Robert Altman later specialised in films with a large ensemble cast, and converging story lines. Few carry off that format with such style as he managed to do during his career, with ‘Short Cuts’, ‘Gosford Park’ and ‘The Player’ standing out for me. Add the film ‘M.A.S.H.’, and ‘Nashville’, and you get the idea. He had a long career, starting out in TV, and directing his first film in 1956. He died in 2006, but left behind a long list of credits.

British director Anthony Asquith may not be so well known in the 21st century. But you might know some of the many excellent films he made over the years. From 1927-1964, he directed more than forty feature films, including the wartime drama, ‘We Dive At Dawn’, and the spy thriller, ‘Cottage To Let’. He worked with many of the leading British actors of the day, including David Niven, on ‘Carrington V.C.’, and Robert Donat in the original film of ‘The Winslow Boy’. As late as 1960, he directed ‘The Millionairess’, starring Sophia Loren and Peter Sellers’, and his last film was ‘The Yellow Rolls-Royce’, starring Rex Harrison.

Regular readers know that I love World Cinema, and films with subtitles. Spanish director Pedro Almodovar has had a distinguished career already, and is still young enough to do a lot more. His sometimes farcical comedies are known for their lurid use of colours, ensemble cast, and outrageous plots. But he also makes very serious films too. If you don’t know the name, you might know the films. ‘Bad Education’, ‘Volver’, ‘Tie Me Up, Tie me Down’, ‘Talk To Her’, ‘All About My Mother’, and many more. He is one of my favourite modern directors, and has established a unique and easily identifiable style. Despite the occasional ‘dud’, he has constantly made films on issues that challenge the viewer, and his casting is flawless in the main. Here’s the trailer from one of his earlier films, and one of my personal favourite performances, from Carmen Maura. ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This? (1984)

I hope you will add your own favourites in the comments. I left a lot of scope!

80 thoughts on “Film Directors: A sort-of A-Z: A

  1. Of the ones listed I would choose Robert Altman. I like one of each of the others. I am not sure I will ever watch Woody Allen ever again. There are several films of his where young women seemed inappropriately matched with much older men. I watched them but cringed and won’t repeat seeing them. . . The summaries for each of the letters I read today we’re very entertaining and succinct. Thank you, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Robin. Altman’s films are so well-constructed, and always memorable.
      I know many people have turned against Woody Allen because of events and allegations in his private life. But as I mentioned below, Hitchcock was known for pestering young actresses, and for all we know, many of the adored film-makers of the past may well have had very dark secrets concealed. I am not saying that is right, just that I will give Allen credit for the very good films he made at one time.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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      1. Oh, I agree. I still have watched several he directed just the one where I think it has older man and younger shop clerk in it really bothered me with the age difference. My youngest brother used to rant about Hitchcock, too. He and I both talked about other films in general which showed women as victims or big disparity in ages. ~Robin 😊

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  2. Great start of the series, Pete and yes, although I found Almodovar personally annoying when I was young (I suspect I was pretty annoying myself, I only hope I’m less annoying now), I do love his films. Perhaps because of the Barcelona connection, ‘All About My Mother’ is my favorite, but he is a great director of actresses, in particular. He makes them shine.

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    1. I have often wondered how he is viewed in his home country. I have always loved his style, and the fantastic ensemble cast he uses. I have almost all of his films on DVD, though I was less enamoured with the recent ‘I’m So Excited’.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. Of course, I do like Robert Altman, who was from Kansas City (where I spent more than half of my life), and who directed a film entitled (ahem!) “Kansas City” (1996).

    I don’t think anyone mentioned Dario Argento. I have a number of his films (“The Bird With the Crystal Plumage” (1970) / “Deep Red” (1975) / “Suspiria” (1977) / “Inferno” (1980) / “Tenebre” (1982) / Phenomena” (1985) / “Opera” (1987) / “The Stendhal Syndrome” (1996) / “Mother of Tears” (2007). All but the last one are very good.

    I might also mention that I have two films by Alexandre Aja: “High Tension” (2003) and “Piranha 3D” (2010). I’m pretty iffy on the first one, but “Piranha 3D” is a hoot—a real guilty pleasure. (Also, “Piranha 3D” was filmed at Lake Havasu, which I’ve visited a couple of times, and which is kind of famous here in the Desert Southwest for its imported London Bridge.)

    Getting back to Dario Argento for a moment, he contributed to the screenplay for my favorite western of all time: “Once Upon a Time in the West.” Of course, the director was Sergio Leone.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I left Argento, as I was sure that either you or John Rieber would mention his work. He virtually created his own sub-genre in horror films, and has a huge fan base.
      I have never seen ‘Piranha 3D’, but I think ‘a guilty pleasure’ is definitely the best way to describe it. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh the nostalgia of when I had found your site through your A-Z movie titles. It’s a lovely thing to bring forth from your drafts that you had kept. It’s great to see your foreign movie choices as always. I do favour the quirkness in Andersons movies. I haven’t seen many movies by Pedro Antonio but I enjoyed his work on Volver and The Skin I Live In.

    Sincerely Sonea

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The letter A has a lot of fine directors. I love Altman, too. Still unable to get to the cinema to see Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Phantom Thread’. Wes Anderson is one of my fav quirky directors, and Darren Aronofsky was doing well in my estimation until the hideous ‘mother!’ came around. Still. Black Swan is still a fav film of my of recent years.

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    1. I haven’t seen mother! I saw Noah at the movie theater, and didn’t care for it too much. However, I am a huge fan of Black Swan, The Fountain, Pi, and Requiem for a Dream, all of which I have on DVD. I would eventually like to see mother!, but more so The Wrestler.

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      1. ‘The Wrestler’ is fantastic. And I’m not a wrestling fan. Just a heart-wrenching love story and an amazing performance by Micky R. ‘mother!’ had Michelle Pfeiffer going for it, but honestly, what a bunch of junk he threw at us by trying out an allegory that didn’t work. Some people loved it. I’m in the hate camp (obviously). His movies are best when he keeps the narrative simple, provides well-developed characters, and keeps the gimmicks to a minimum.

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      1. When I was in this home when I was younger, the best foster parents I ever received was this elderly couple and they introduced me to musicals and other classics!🤗😗 I think I have so much life experience because how many people I have encountered in my life and different environments I lived growing up. Well and of course there are other identities I share my body with and one is supposedly a very distinguished older lady!😘🤗

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  6. This is a great idea Pete…as you know I love movies, so it will be very cool to see which directors are going to be featured in this series 😊
    Robert Altman and Woody Allen are both awesome. The one that I would add myself is J.J. Abrams. Not only is he a great director, but he has also made a couple of my alltime favorite tv series.
    Ps….it’s great to see a post from you again, and am happy to read in the comments above that you have managed to get a good sleep. Take care 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Michel, this was already in drafts.
      I am wondering if I have ever seen a J..J. Abrams, film? OK, I checked. I have seen ‘Cloverfield’, and loved it. He should be ashamed of remaking the classic ‘Les Diaboliques’ though, no excuse for that abortion!
      And I have seen ‘Casper’, because of my step-children. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha…I think every director is allowed to make a mistake at times.
        Cloverfield was awesome…really enjoyed that one, one of the best monsterfilms that I have seen.
        You might also want to check out Super 8…it’s one of those films that has a bit of nostalgic Steven Spielberg E.T. kind of feel to it. Really enjoyed that movie 😊

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I have seen ‘Super 8’, Michel. It had a nostalgic element, but I have to say that I found it to be contrived, and stereotypical. Sorry! (And I have still not forgiven ‘Les Diaboliques’, Have you seen the 1955 original, by any chance? That’s a real treat!)
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Haha, that’s quite alright Pete, no worries 😊 If everyone liked the same movies, it would become a very boring world lol 😂
            I haven’t seen the 1955 original, but I have seen the excellent Wages of Fear by the same director, which was a seriously tense and awesome thriller. I have added this movie to my to watch list now. Hearing you being so very enthusiastic for it, I’m really becoming curious 😀😀

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  7. It’s been fascinating reading your post and all the comments. I’m not a film buff. I enjoy watching films but I never take in much about who directed them – sometimes can’t even remember the names of the actors! I think I’m going to learn a lot from this series Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is a fantastic idea for a blogging series, Pete. Robert Altman was a fantastic director who I admire for his ability to do things his way. He really had a lot of control over his work. Other directors I would put are Darren Aronofsky, who knows how to get a reaction from an audience and Gillian Armstrong for her female lead narratives.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Sue. I was ‘hovering’ over Antonioni, because of my love for ‘Blow Up’. But I wanted to keep the post short. Thanks for mentioning him, and I am so pleased that you also love Almodovar!
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pete, tis is a great idea – I have to agree a bit on the Woody Allen comment – although he has made a number of GREAT films, and I have been a lifetime fan, I am also having a more difficult time lately separately his personal life from his films….and Robert Altman – yes! From early stuff like “MASH” and “Brewster McCloud” to later works like “The Player” and “Gosford Park”…and I agree on Lindsay Anderson, for “O Lucky Man” and “…if” – here’s a look: https://johnrieber.com/2013/03/22/o-lucky-man-malcolm-mcdowells-seinfeld-connection/

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      1. Pete, one more Woody Allen comment – one of the things I have really NOT liked is how he has stated for years that he never looks back on his films, just writes it, shoots it and doesn’t care what the reaction is – there has been such a “lack of respect” for fans…I think this guard went up after his personal turmoil, but still, it also sync’d up with some truly horrible films like “To Rome With Love” and “Cafe Society” to name two – lazy, tossed off and dismissive…as a fan, it has soured me, even though “Crime & Misdemeanors”, “Hannah & Her Sisters”,, “Match Point”, “Blue Jasmine”, all measure up to his early classics like “Annie Hall” and “Sleeper”…not sure I can watch “Manhattan” again since the girl was 17 and the story mirrors his personal story too much now…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I can’t really comment about Woody’s personal life. He was accused of stuff, but never convicted. I wasn’t there, and don’t know the truth, either way. And I also haven’t read that much about it, as I never read anything about celebrities. I will accept your detailed ‘insider’ knowledge happily though, John. Trouble is, if I took the personalities and behaviour of actors, musicians, and others into account, I would never be able to get through one of these A-Zs. As for not being considerate of his fans, that also doesn’t bother me too much. I think Scorsese went down the same route, once he became obsessed with Leonardo. 🙂
          As for those early Allen films, right up to and including ‘Sweet and Lowdown’, I have to confess I mostly loved them, and I am happy to watch them again. Since then, I haven’t enjoyed any of his films, and probably won’t watch any more he might make.
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Just realised that Wes was already pointed out. Lol! So… Even though he didn’t really DIRECT a lot, his writing of so many wonderful movies puts him into a ‘film maker’ category for me so I’ll also throw Dan Aykroyd in there! Don’t know if it TECHNICALLY counts… But, I love him. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kim. I preferred Allen’s films before he was embroiled in sex scandals. 🙂 As I know little about the history of older directors, I leave out consideration of their personal life. After all, Hitchcock was a sex-pest to his leading ladies, but everyone raves about him, if you get my drift. 🙂 And for all I know, Asquith might have some skeletons in the closet too…
      Good call with the others. I’m not an Anderson fan, but he has legions of them.
      (I had a good sleep last night, so decided to drag this one out of drafts. 🙂 )
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Arnold’s ‘Creature Features’ were great in their day, and still have lots of appeal. Good call with Anderson, ‘If’ was one of ‘those’ films of the 60s. Thanks, Chandler.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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