Film Directors: A sort-of A-Z: M

More than you might imagine in ‘M’, so lots to choose from.

Regular readers will recall that I am not a great fan of modern cartoons and animated films. Pixar leaves me cold, to be honest, and if I ever have to watch (or listen to ) ‘Frozen’ again, I may just jump out of the window. (It’s OK, I live in a bungalow.) However, and it’s a big however, I am a fan of many Japanese animation films, in the genres known as Anime and Manga. So I will begin by featuring one of the best-known directors from Japan, Hayao Miyazaki, the founder of Studio Ghibli. His outstanding film ‘Princess Mononoke'(1997) was the first one I watched, and I was immediately on the lookout for more. ‘Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind’ (1984) totally captivated me, and I then discovered ‘Spirited Away’ (2001). I watched as many of his films as I could find, including the haunting ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ (2004), and my favourite Ghibli film, ‘The Wind Rises’ (2013). I highly recommend them, but would add this advice. Many versions are dubbed by American actors, for the international market. These films are much better in Japanese, with subtitles. Undoubtedly the best way to watch them.

British director Shane Meadows is best known for his dark and gritty films showing life on the fringes of society in ‘Middle England’. The bleak estates of places like Nottingham, and the remote locations on the East Coast, facing the North Sea. As well as achieving success as a film-maker, he has also worked for TV, and on documentaries. He may not be internationally famous, but he has given us some of the best modern British dramas ever made, starting a one-man ‘New Wave’ in British Cinema that was followed by the likes of Ben Wheatley. I won’t add a long list, but I suggest you should all try to watch Paddy Considine starring in the overwhelming ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ (2004), and the wonderful actress Vicky McClure, in ‘This Is England’ (2006).

French director Jean-Pierre Melville chose that name because he liked the writing of Herman Melville, and he used it as a pseudonym when working with The Resistance, during WW2. His real name was Grumbach, which doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? His stylish films include some of my favourites in the French language, from the WW2 resistance drama ‘Army of Shadows’ (1969) with the great Lino Ventura, to the crime thriller ‘The Red Circle’ (1970). Perhaps his most impressive film for me though was the moody hit-man drama, ‘Le Samourai’ (1967) starring Alan Delon in arguably his best role. A leading man has rarely looked so cool on screen, I assure you.

My top choice today is the modern master of brilliant visuals, making films that look their best on the big screen, and turning tried and tested subjects into small works of art. He may divide critics, and his slow-paced films might be too much for some viewers, but for me, his best work is unparalleld since the heyday of the epic, during the 1960s. Terrence Malik began his carer with the film ‘Badlands’ (1973). This starred Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek, in the 1950s set crime drama about a young couple who rob and murder, then go on the run in the badlands of Montana. As well as memorable performances by the leads, this is just wonderful to look at, and set the style that followed. Using mostly natural light, his next film, ‘Days of Heaven’ set the story in the early 20th century, in the remote farmland of Texas. Richard Gere and Brooke Adams took the leads, in a romantic triangle that also involved the excellent Sam Shepard. But the important thing to note, is that this film is actually photographed. Malik does more than point the camera at his cast, and shout ‘Action!’. Some critics argue that the stories are secondary to the imagery in his films, and that may be true. But I don’t care. Last but not least, his epic WW2 film, ‘The Thin Red Line’ (1998). This is quite simply one of the best war films I have ever seen, and also one of the best films I have seen in any genre. As well as his signature style, and philosophical theme, it produced terrific performances from an amazing cast.
He made other films, and is still working today. But those three are enough for now, believe me.

Here’s the trailer for ‘Days of Heaven’. Ignore the cheesy voice-over.

58 thoughts on “Film Directors: A sort-of A-Z: M

  1. It is great that you mentioned Melville and Le Samouraï, that movie needs more love. My three choices would have been Minghella, Mendes and McQueen. I also like James Mangold. I always feel well his movies and know instinctively what he wants to achieve. Identity, Kate & Leopold and Girl, Interrupted are all good films, though more people would love him for The Wolverine or Logan now, I guess.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Shame that people know Mangold better for the simply awful ‘Wolverine’, rather then the excellent ‘Girl, Interrupted’, I agree. I am a big fan of ‘The English Patient’, though many disagree with that adaptation. ‘Cold Mountain’ is another huge favourite of mine, as was ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’, and the superb ‘The Reader’. Minghella is someone who adapts literature well to the screen, and would have featured, on a longer post.
      As for ‘Le Samourai’, I saw that film at the cinema in London, and was overwhelmed by the sense of 1960s ‘cool’, from both the film, and Delon’s performance. It’s an amazing film, that certainly needs to be better known now. I had a review of it published on this site.
      https://aworldoffilm.com/2014/02/18/le-samourai-1967-jean-pierre-melville-pete-johnson/
      Thanks for adding your thoughts and suggestions.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d like just to add that I cannot imagine anyone disagreeing with the adaptation by Minghella. I am a constant re-reader of the book by Michael Ondaatje, and, though I agree that it is not the most faithful out there, the spirit and the emotion were conveyed perfectly. I love the film more than the book, and what he achieved in adapting should really be beyond any reproach.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Terrence Malick is definitely a great director. I am not always familiar with director’s names. The Coen Brothers are C and so Clint Eastwood is E. I cannot think of an M other than
    recently, I did like “Three Billboards outside of Ebbing, Missouri” and I liked Guillermo for G, as I saw over the weekend the beautiful film, “The Shape of Water.” I guess I just stopped by to learn more of the ones you shared, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Robin. I am eagerly anticipating ‘The Shape of Water’, for Sally Hawkins (well known in England) as well as for Del Toro. I am less bothered about the much-lauded ‘Three Billboards’, as I actually don’t enjoy watching Frances McDormand at all. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

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      1. I have read this about Frances M. on one of your comments or on Cindy Bruchman’s or Jay’s (A- -holes watching movies) blog. 🤔
        Sally Hawkins did well and I have always admired Richard Jenkins. The director is very fine. Each person must decide their own opinions so I rarely try to talk someone into seeing an actor or actress they dislike. My Mom never liked Jim Carrey’s manic characters but she loved his and others in “The Majestic.”😊

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a number of Hayao Miyazaki films on DVD, and enjoy them thoroughly. Unfortunately, I have only the vaguest memory of Terrence Malik’s “Days of Heaven,” and haven’t seen any of his other films.

    But when selecting Sergio Leone as a great director of westerns, I mentioned there was competition out there. Howard Hawks is a given. But another one is Anthony Mann. On my DVD list: “Winchester ’73” (1950) / “Bend of the River” (1952) / “The Naked Spur” (1953) / “The Far Country” (1955) / “The Man from Laramie” (1955). By the way, every one of those films stars James Stewart.

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  4. I love Le Samurai (beautiful and Alain Delon has never looked better, well… I also love him in Rocco and his Brother and Plein Soleil (Purple Moon in English…) the Talented Mr Ripley). Love Malik and Days of Heaven is a long-time favourite (Néstor Almendros was great). It’s probably somewhere but … Murnau?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Murnau didn’t get a mention, Olga, but I did consider him. However, I have only seen ‘Nosferatu’, and though it was the best vampire film ever, I used those names with more films that I have seen. Thanks very much for adding him in ‘M’.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  5. “Call Me Grumbach.” He’s right, it doesn’t have that ring to it. Anyway, I’d like to nominate Alexander Mackendrick because he amuses me so with “Whiskey Galore!”, “The Ladykillers” and most especially “The Man in the White Suit”, the first great sound SF film and a comedy to boot! (Think about it.) I am less partial to what many consider his best film, “Sweet Smell of Success” not because it isn’t expertly directed (it is) but because I have always found Clifford Odets’ writing overbearing. I am also fond of his “A High Wind in Jamaica.” (Mackendrick’s, not Odets’.)
    If I might, I’d also like to mention Yugoslavian director (can we say that anymore?) Dusan Makavejev whose “Man is not a Bird”, “Love Affair, the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator”, WR: Mysteries of the Organism” and (even) “The Coca-Cola Kid” have stuck in my brain like wet plaster. “Sweet Movie” attaches itself like a sore tooth, and is fascinating but should carry a warning label for the faint of heart.
    Finally I’d like to thank Joseph L. Mankiewicz for “All About Eve” (is this the most literate screenplay ever?), “Guys and Dolls” (certainly the best script adaptation of a theatrical musical’s book) and “Sleuth” (not the appalling remake). Even “Cleopatra” would have been interesting had they been able to magically taper away a certain Taylor.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for all of those,Chandler. I too like ‘The Man In The White Suit’, and ‘Whiskey Galore’. I might like ‘The Sweet Smell Of Success’ more than you though. “Match me, Sidney”.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  6. Another great list Pete – “Dead Man’s Shoes” is one of my favorite revenge films, really terrific. For all of your followers who want to try really creative yet somewhat disturbing films from Asia, Director Takashi Miike is an amazing visionary – from such cult classics as “Ichi The Killer” to his “Seven Samurai” homage “13 Assassins” to the shocking horror of “Audition”…here are some of my favorites! – https://johnrieber.com/2016/08/07/japans-cinematic-wild-man-the-visionary-movies-of-takashi-miike-ichi-the-killer-audition/

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Pete, his earlier films are much edgier but the “Dead Or Alive” trilogy is really something – his later films have more “accessible” moments – “13 Assassins” a great example! He has directed more than 100 movies!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Pete you would go along very well with my son who is an anime and manga fan too. He is even learning some Japanese listening and watching them. Now sorry if you will jump out of your window (you live in a bugalow after all) but I do love Disney and Pixar films. Currently my son is trying to turn me into an anime fan so maybe there is hope for me 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Luckily it too cold and wet this evening, so I decided not to jump out onto the muddy grass!
      Glad to hear your son is an anime fan. I love early Disney cartoons like Dumbo and Snow White, but something about Pixar turns me off. 🙂
      Thanks for reading, and commenting.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli! I’m a bit late so many of my picks are already taken, but here’s a few more Pete.
    Norman Mailer – I know he’s known more as a writer but he’s directed a few films like Tough Guys Don’t Dance.
    Michael Moore – He’s an acquired taste, but I loved Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11.
    George Miller – Mad Max(1979) and Mad Max: Fury Road, Happy Feet, Lorenzo’s Oil, Witches of Eastwick…
    Leo McCarey – An Affair to Remember, Rally ‘Round the Flag Boys, Bells of St. Mary’s…
    Vincent’s Minnelli Gigi, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, An American in Paris…
    Nancy Meyers – Somethings Gotta Give, The Holiday, Parent Trap (1998)…

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Oh Miyazaki… How I miss you… I really don’t want Disney to ruin Studio Ghibli… I will also throw in a man that I can’t say I love, but ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’ was humorous and people LOVE Ted. So, throwing in Seth McFarlane.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I keep learning more and more about you through every post. Did not know you liked anime: that is so awesome 😀 Seriously cool!
    As for the director that I myself enjoy most movies from: Michael Mann. Heat as I think I have told you once before is one of my alltime favorite movies! 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Mann is a solid American film maker. As well as ‘Heat’, and the original, ‘L.A. Takedown’, I also enjoyed ‘Manhunter’ (1986). The first outing for Hannibal Lechter, played by Brian Cox in that film. (And spelled Lecktor in that film.)
      As well as the Japanese films I mentioned, I also loved ‘Steam Boy’, and ‘Akira’.
      Happy to know that you are learning more about me, Michel. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You know something? Manhunter was, in my opinion much better than the remake with Anthony Hopkins. It really had such a sinister atmosphere to it.
        Akira and Steamboy 😍😍 Both different, but both such amazing and incredibly powerful films. Have you by chance seen Grave of the Fireflies ? Or When Marnie was there? Both films I highly recommend 😊😊

        Liked by 1 person

  11. “Days of Heaven”, set in the “remote farmland of Texas” … completely filmed in southern Alberta! (This was part of my territory when I was a sales rep, so I’ve been to every location used in this film. And I can vouch for the fact that the scenery is truly breathtakingly beautiful!) 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. At the time it was filmed (late 70s) many US filmmakers were heading north and using Canadian scenery to stand in for the US locales of the stories. Like “Superman”. I believe it was more of a tax situation though, and that they could hire much cheaper crew and extras. The Canadian dollar was quite low in comparison to the US, so their money went much further.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually liked Hanks in ‘Road To Perdition’, and thought it was a very good gangster film.
      (Maybe because he wasn’t being ‘good old’ Tom?)
      I don’t watch Bond films, but I thought ‘American Beauty’ was outstanding.
      Great choice, FR!
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Peter Mullan wrote and directed Orphans and the Magdalene Sisters. Orphans is a black – very black – comedy and the Magdalene Sister is about the fate of unmarried pregnant Catholic girls. Mullan is probably better known to most as an actor – My Name is Joe, Trainspotting, Young Adam. Actually, Young Adam was directed by David McKenzie so there’s another M. Tilda Swinton was in it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know Mullan well, Mary, and mentioned ‘My Name Is Joe’ when discussing Ken Loach. I saw ‘The Magdalene sisters on TV, and I was so impressed, I bought the DVD, and watched it again. It is a heartbreaking film, with memorable performances indeed.
      Thanks for adding him to ‘M’.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I have seen it. (A long time ago) It was a Film 4 production, starring Gary Lewis, one of the most-used Scottish actors, who was also one of the best things about ‘Gangs of New York’.
          Interesting that Lynn was an extra, that’s a story to tell indeed.
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Like

  13. I finally got here in time to beat some of the readers who always mention my choices. I don’t remember that many directors that I can afford to be beaten out!! 🙂
    Trying to think quick (not my specialty) – I came up with Garry and Penny Marshall. Of course that led me directly to Frank Marshall (Raiders of the Lost Ark).

    Liked by 6 people

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