Film Directors: A sort-of A-Z: D

Continuing with this series of posts that I had in drafts, we are up to ‘D’. I will leave you the obvious ‘D’ (Walt) and feature some different choices. Please continue to offer your own selections in the comments.

One name that may not come to mind straight away is that of Edward Dmytryk. This Canadian director was responsible for some excellent films though, and most may sound familiar, once you hear the titles. From 1935 until 1976, he directed more than fifty feature films, many starring the big names of the day. One of his entries in the film noir genre was ‘Crossfire’ (1947), a classic ‘B’-film thriller with a cast including Robert Mitchum, Robert Young, and Gloria Grahame. It doesn’t get much better than this, and the film rightly received five Oscar nominations. Dmytryk was also famous for his war films ‘Back To Bataan’ (1945) starring John Wayne, and ‘The Young Lions’ (1958), with Marlon Brando, and Montgomery Clift. Later on, he worked with Robert Mitchum again, on the war epic, ‘Anzio’ (1968).

Brian De Palma (Yes, the De counts as ‘D’) has had a long career, with over fifty years in the film industry. Perhaps best known for his often lurid psychological thrillers, his distinct style has often been copied, but rarely bettered. But did you know he also directed ‘Carrie’ (1976), the great adaptation of the Stephen King novel? After that, his film credits are too numerous to list here, but I am sure that most of you have seen and enjoyed many of his films. Here are just some that you will know, even if you never knew (nor cared) who directed them. ‘Dressed To Kill’ (1980), ‘Blow Out’ (1981), with John Travolta starring in a very gripping thriller. Al Pacino’s over the top gangster in ‘Scarface’ (1983), ‘The Untouchables’ (1987), ‘Carlito’s Way’ (1993), and ‘The Black Dahlia’ (2006). Just a selection of his body of work, and he still continues to direct today.

My next choice is Terence Davies, an English film-maker who may not be that well known to many readers. However, I respectfully suggest that you explore his work, and seek out some of his outstanding dramas.
He is most famous for his two autobiographical dramas set in the 1940s and 1950s. ‘Distant Voices, Still Lives’ (1988) is a beautifully-filmed nostalgic story of family life in Liverpool. It feels completely authentic, and the whole cast is never less than totally convincing in their roles. ‘The Long Day Closes’ (1992) is set in post-war Britain too, and shows the life of a young boy at the time, unflinching in its portrayal of working class life in the 1950s.

Someone else whose name gets into ‘D’ by virtue of its foreign origin is Guillermo Del Toro. He also gets today’s top spot. Guillermo is currently being lauded in the Oscar nominations for his new film ‘The Shape of Water’, which I haven’t seen. But I was always going to include this Mexican film director for other films I have already enjoyed. Leaving out his unseen (by me) blockbuster films like ‘Pacific Rim'(2013), and the ‘Hellboy’ franchise, I have chosen this film-maker for just three films. Not many, to include someone in such articles, I agree. But each one had such a profound affect on me, I just had to put him in.
‘Cronos’ (1993) is a Spanish-language horror film with a difference. With minimal shocks, and a creeping sense of menace, it delivered just the right combination of B-film scares, alongside some superb casting, and a great atmospheric feel. I really recommend that one. Two of his films were set during and after the Spanish Civil war, using fantasy and child actors to portray the confusion of war, and their escape through surreal worlds and ghostly happenings. ‘The Devil’s Backbone'(2001) was also produced by Pedro Almodovar, and the combined talents of the two resulted in a powerful and often spine-tingling film, with tremendous performances from the mainly young cast. The third, and by far the best, film that gets Del Toro into this list is ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’.(2006) This is just a stunning fantasy, with the unforgettable performance of a young actress (Ivana Baquero) in the lead. It would need its own post to fully describe just how good this film is, so I will leave you with the American trailer instead.

44 thoughts on “Film Directors: A sort-of A-Z: D

  1. I love Del Toro and keep thinking I’ve missed his last movie (I came back from Spain when it was about to open there convinced I’d missed it here, but now I’ve read it won’t be out until Valentine’s day). I remember watching Cronos many years back and being fascinated (with the fabulous Federico Lupi), and I’ll never forget many of his movies (I was recently watching a program about a pawnshop in LA and somebody brought them he hands (with the eyes) of the strange monster in Pan’s Labyrinth and they sold them back to the actor who played the part. He was a lovely bloke and fascinating to hear him talk about the experience). Great suggestions too. I remember writing a paper on Agnes De Mille (De Mille’s niece) who was a well-known choreographer and worked with Rogers and Hammerstein in some of their early musicals. She was a fascinating character as well, but I guess her uncle was never very fond of her…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. De Palma and Del Toro are two outstanding directors it must be said. De Palma for his visual style and Del Toro for his imaginative and strange stories. I am very interested in Terence Davis, I believe he directed The House of Mirth if I’m not mistaken.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I would also like to choose your great choice of Edward Dmytryk. I enjoyed his adaptation of Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler as it is one of my favourite novel and the movie was captivating. And ofcourse Pans Labryrinth is a spectacular movie. As are most of his movies. The harsh reality of war mixed in with fantasy is quite powerful and often heartbreaking. I shall add : Claire Denis for her movies – Chocolat (1988) and The Intruder (2004).

    Sincerely Sonea

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m a huge fan of BRIAN DE PALMA! Although I own on DVD, or have seen, other films of his, I especially fancy his thrillers: “Dressed to Kill” *(1980) / “Body Double” (1984) / “Raising Cain” (1992) / “Femme Fatale” (2002).

    Are you ready for this?

    I’m going to mention JACQUES DEMY, for a specific and very oblique reason. It’s not because he was a French director, or because I own one of his films (“Les Parapluies de Cherbourg”). It’s because I had the great honor of not only meeting, but talking at length with, his widow, director Agnès Varda, who is still alive and soon to celebrate her 90th birthday. The discussion took place at the Salon du Livre in Paris. She’d just published a book: “Varda par Agnès” (1994). I had something to show her…

    I showed her a bright pink program I’d brought with me from the States. We discussed it for half an hour. Here are the highlights: (I’ve selectively capitalized the names of certain individuals for emphasis.)

    FILM SOCIETY OF GREATER KANSAS CITY and ALLIANCE FRANÇAISE DE KANSAS CITY present…”GATT and its Impact on the US Audio/Visual Industry”

    Our Panel:
    Judy Hancock (GATT expert; international lawyer)
    David Seal (President of AMC Entertainment International)
    Raymond Riva (Professor of French; University of Missouri-Kansas City)

    Roger Hiatt (President of the Alliance Française de Kansas City)

    This program was organized by DAVID MILLER and Robert Hotes of the Alliance Française and Connie Vitale and John Shipp of the Film Society. Thanks for the great idea, DAVID. …

    Thursday, January 6, 1994
    6:30 pm John Shipp and DAVID MILLER will open the program.
    6:35 pm Roger Hiatt, moderator, will introduce the panel and open the discussion.
    7:15 pm A short break.
    7:30 pm Jacquot de Nantes, AGNÈS VARDA’s new film, will unspool.

    Pete, as you can see, it was my idea to bring together a panel discussion of GATT and to premiere “Jacquot de Nantes.” Subject of the film? Here is how Wikipedia describes it:

    “The film is a portrait of the making of an artist; recreating the early life of Varda’s husband, JACQUES DEMY, in Occupied France and his interest in the various crafts associated with film making, such as casting, set design, animation and lighting.”

    Needless to say, Agnès Varda was very happy to chat with the American who spawned the idea to bring her film about Jacques Demy to the States—and in such an interesting way! I don’t recall whether we discussed a film of hers that I owned at the time on VHS—”Sans toit ni loi” (“Vagabond”) (1984)—but I’d be surprised if I didn’t.

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    1. That’s a great story, David. Of course Ms Varda is lauded in her own right as a director, including the charming ‘Cleo from 5-7’.
      My second wife loved ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’, in fact it was one of her favourite films. To be honest, I don’t care for it that much, but I would always watch it, if only to see Catherine Deneuve.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I remember being totally gripped by Pan’s Labyrinth. My son had friends round for a film night and I wandered into the living room just to say hello and provide snacks. I never moved until it was over. I think I ate all their crisps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it that much, Mary. I have seen it four or five times, and I am still overwhelmed by how inventive it is. I am sure you would enjoy ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ too.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not that important, in the grand scheme of things. But if you enjoyed a film, then there’s a chance you might enjoy more from the same director. So it’s sometimes worth knowing who tends to make the good films.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Another great list, Pete…I really enjoy the comments from others as well, as the list grows and grows with great filmmakers…I will say Danny DeVito is an interesting choice – “The War Of The Roses” is a perfectly made black comedy, and while he is a bit manic in his onscreen, he shows a deft touch behind the camera…oh, and I am an “obsessed” DePalma fan, so here is a post I did that looked at some of his greatest – and least known – work!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for the link, John. I could never get past Cliff Robertson’s toupee, but I have seen ‘Obsession’, and ‘Phantom of The Paradise’ too. I watched ‘Scarface’ again last week, on a TV showing. I was once again impressed with Pfieffer, who carried off her part with some style.
      As a complete gangster film, I much prefer ‘Carlito’s Way’ though.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I hoped you might pitch in with Dassin and De Sica, Chandler. ‘Rififi’ and ‘Night and The City’ are firm favourites of mine.
      Deren is certainly one of the best-known in the avant-garde school, but I have never actually seen any of her films.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Well I’ve heard of the ones mentioned and seen a couple of the movies, Carlito’s Way was one I remember. The only person I can think of for D is a chap called Walt Disney, think he made a couple of movies here and there 😊.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Del Torro gets my vote… Haven’t seen Cronos, Pan’s Labyrinth is excellent, but for me the slowly unfolding, seriously menacing Devil’s Backbone is the best. The horrors of the Spanish Civil War told through the eyes of a child…and a very Gothic horror film it is

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was wondering who would mention that king of the Hollywood epics, GP. Few directors threw everything including the kitchen sink into their films in the way he did. He also generated one of the most famous film quotes ever, “Ready when you are, Mr. DeMille!”
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. My God Pete. I did not know that you had such a vast Knowledge of movies. I mean I suspected it, but did not really realise it fully until today. So…my bad😀 For a change I don’t have any names to add this time. This list certainly ranks some of my favorites, Del Toro being one of them 😊 And wow Carlito’s Way: my alltime favorite Al Pacino flick right after Heat 😀 Terrific post once again Pete 😊😊

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, yeah I have seen way too many films myself but honestly I would not have it any other way: movies I can’t live without 😉
        As for Heat, it’s my third alltime favorite movie. I know about the original, but it’s unfortunately one that I to date haven’t yet been able to see. It’s still on my list though 😀(which is currently about 200 miles long lol 😂😂).

        Liked by 1 person

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