Lots to choose from in B. You are still left with a lot of scope for your own favourites.
Bruce Beresford is an Australian director of some renown, though it has been some time since he worked on a major film, as he is involved in a lot of TV productions these days. He is responsible for three of my personal favourite films in certain genres though, so was always going to feature on my list. Few films have ever been made about the Boer War, but in 1980 Beresford directed the wonderful ‘Breaker Morant’, based on the true story of the Court Martial of Australian soldiers serving in the British Army during that war, in 1902. As well as remarkable performances from a cast including Edward Woodward and Bryan Brown, Beresford delivered a film that was completely convincing, and unforgettable too. In 1989, he took on the adaptation of the play, ‘Driving Miss Daisy’, lovingly recreating life in the deep south of America, following WW2. This little gem of a film walked away with four Oscars, and deservedly so. Two years later, Beresford showed his real flair as a director, with the breathtaking ‘Black Robe’, the biopic of a Jesuit missionary in 17th century Canada. This rarely-mentioned film is one of the best historical dramas I have ever seen, and the cinematography by Peter James is simply outstanding.
More people should watch this film, believe me.
A female director is still something of a rarity, even in the 21st century. But there are many excellent examples of the work of a dedicated woman behind the camera, including the films of Kathryn Bigelow. I first noticed her with the 1987 film, ‘Near Dark’. This tale of modern-day vampires in the badlands of America is still one of the best in the genre. With a great cast, tight script, and remote locations, it delivered so much more than it got credit for back then. After that, she was on a roll. The unusual crime caper, ‘Point Break’ was followed by the dark and compelling ‘Blue Steel’. By the year 2000, Bigelow had become a big name in the industry, and went on to make huge hit films like ‘The Hurt Locker’, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, and ‘Detroit’.
French director Luc Besson tends to divide audiences, with his often over the top style, and choice of stories. I am firmly in the ‘like’ camp, as far as most of his films go. Starting out in the modern school of French film-making, Besson impressed immediately, with ‘Subway’, and ‘The Big Blue’. This was followed in 1990 by one of my all-time favourite films, ‘Nikita’. Besson got the best from a wonderful cast, and showed how well he could direct action, and exciting set-pieces too. This got him noticed in America, and he began to work on films in the English language. ‘Leon’, ‘The Fifth Element’, and ‘The Messenger’ were all substantial hits, and two of those saw him working with Milla Jovovitch, who he was once married to. He also introduced the world to the young Natalie Portman, with her outstanding performance in ‘Leon’. Since then, he hasn’t stopped working, and despite a hit and miss career, his output continues to attract critical acclaim. (Or sometimes not)
One of my personal favourites again, and luckily both his names start with a ‘B’. Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci has made some simply sublime films, many of which would feature in my top fifty of the best ever made. He has an amazing eye for sweeping panoramas and impressive crowd scenes, as well as the art and design of his sets and locations. He made his first film in 1962, and is still working today, receiving numerous awards along the way, including a Golden Lion, and a Palme D’or, for his career achievements. From the long list of the films he has directed, I have to mention ‘The Conformist’, ‘The Last Emperor’, and of course his magnificent historical epic, ‘Novecento’.
Here is a trailer for that one.