Close to the finish line now, with ‘W’. Before we get to the last tricky few, please continue to play along, adding your own choices in the comments. ‘W’ has lots to offer, and I will try to feature the less obvious choices, (with one exception) leaving many for you to select from.
German film-maker Wim Wenders is a man of many talents. As well as directing films, he also makes documentaries, and is an accomplished photographer too. He has made films in both German and English, and in Europe and America. I first noticed his name when watching the film ‘The Goalkeeper’s Fear Of The Penalty’ (1972), a downbeat crime thriller that showed obvious talent. I later saw the experimental ‘Alice In The Cities’ (1973), a black and white film with limited dialogue, that became famous as the first of Wenders’ ‘Road Trilogy’. That theme continued in 1984, with the outstanding ‘Paris, Texas’, starring Harry Dean Stanton in a haunting film about a man’s search for his missing wife. Wenders managed to make the bleak regions of Texas take on a European feel, and the soundtrack by Ry Cooder is unforgettable. He later made other award-winning films, including ‘Wings Of Desire’ (1987), and continues to work to this day.
Australian Peter Weir has been directing films since 1969, and has made some of my personal favourites during that time. ‘Picnic At Hanging Rock’ (1975) took a small story idea, and developed it into a mystical film experience, with tremendous performances from a mainly female cast. His political thriller ‘The Year Of Living Dangerously’ (1982) looked at the turbulent events in Indonesia, through the experiences of journalists based in that country. It starred Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver, and also featured an amazing performance from Linda Hunt, playing a male role. The year before, he had brought the epic war film ‘Gallipoli’ to the screen, with the impressive tale of Australian troops fighting in Turkey, in WW1. His list of credits continues, with ‘Witness’ (1985), and ‘The Mosquito Coast’ (1986), both starring Harrison Ford. ‘Dead Poets Society’ (1989), ‘Green Card’ (1990), and ‘The Truman Show’ (1998).
From Poland, I am featuring Andrzej Wajda. He made films from 1951 until his death in 2016, aged 90. He was the recipient of numerous awards and honours, as well as being acclaimed by critics and audiences all over the world. Perhaps his best known work internationally is the startling War Trilogy, which began with ‘A Generation’ (1954). This was followed by the riveting ‘Kanal’ in 1956, telling the story of resistance fighters during the Warsaw Uprising, fighting the Germans in and around the sewers of Warsaw. The trilogy was completed with ‘Ashes And Diamonds’ (1958), dealing with events immediately after the end of the war in Europe, with the upheaval and retribution that followed victory. It is generally thought to be one of the best 100 films films ever made.
No surprises with my top choice for ‘W’. A writer, actor, producer, director, theatrical wizard. He acted on stage, on the radio, and in many films too. During my lifetime, I can think of few people who have been as talented as Orson Welles. As a director, he made two of my all time favourites, and as an actor, he starred in many more. His 1941 film ‘Citizen Kane’ is hailed by many as the best film ever made, though I prefer some of his others myself. Like ‘Touch Of Evil’ (1958), with its legendary opening tracking crane shot, and Welles magnificent in the role of the bloated has-been detective, Quinlan. Or the wonderful ‘Chimes At Midnight’, something of a flawed masterpiece, with Welles never better as the tragi-comic Shakespearean character, Falstaff. So although I may prefer him for his acting, his directing is at the top of my list too.
Here’s that opening tracking crane shot I mentioned. This is film-making.