Film Directors: A sort-of A-Z: W

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.

49 thoughts on “Film Directors: A sort-of A-Z: W

  1. Fabulous choices. Funnily enough, Paris/Texas makes an appearance in the next book of my Escaping Psychiatry collection (sort of), and we did talk a lot about Wim Wenders in the European Film course I was a teaching assistant at. Wings of Desire was a firm favourite of the professor. I love Weir too and yes, I’m with you on the Orson Wells front. Touch of Evil must be my favourite. What a fantastic opening scene! That is what narration is like in cinema. Great suggestions as well. Thanks, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great films: “Citizen Kane” (1941) / “The Lady from Shanghai” (1947) / “Touch of Evil” (1958). I’m sorry to say I haven’t seen any of Orson Welles’s other films, but I can’t imagine them being anything less than great as well.

    I was glad to see Maddy point out William Wyler. Like her, I’m a huge fan of the very enchanting “Roman Holiday” (1953), which stars Gregory Peck and introduced Audrey Hepburn (she received equal billing) to American audiences. “The Big Country” (1958), which also stars Gregory Peck (with female costars Jean Simmons and Carroll Baker), as well as Charlton Heston, is one of my top favorite westerns. “Ben-Hur” (1959), in which Charlton Heston, fresh off the ranch, is still dealing with horses, remains a masterful epic. And “How to Steal a Million,” which pairs Audrey Hepburn with Peter O’Toole, is a pure delight.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, David. As you may recall, I am not a huge fan of the younger Hepburn, but thought her very dignified when she was older. ‘Roman Holiday’ is an enjoyable ‘tourist guide’ to the sights in Rome, and I own that one on DVD. ‘Ben Hur’ is always watchable, though I prefer the chariot race in the original 1925 silent film.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. No wonder Weir is on your list. His films are some of my personal favorites, too, like Witness and Dead Poet’s Society. Thanks to you, I can now connect the films with the director. Wells is truly a master. I haven’t seen Citizen Kane in ages. Great post, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Theo. I had that curiosity as a youngster. When I liked a film, I looked at the credits, instead of just leaving the cinema. Then I began to look for other films made by the same people. The Internet has been a great help, but I have only had a computer since 2003. 🙂

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  4. The year of living dangerously 😮😮😮 Now that was a film. Seriously terrific. My vote would definitely go to Peter Weir as well. He is truly awesome.
    I also second Fraggle’s choice: Taika Waititi.
    Too bad the series of posts is almost at it’s end. Really enjoyed reading these.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You’re right Pete! There’s tons of choices here. I’m going with:

    Billy Wilder – Sabrina, Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity…
    Joss Whedon – The Avengers, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Much Ado About Nothing, Batgirl (Upcoming)…
    Lana and Lilly Wachowski -Matrix Movies, Cloud Atlas
    Robert Wise – Sound of Music, West Side Story, The House on Telegraph Hill…
    Ed Wood – Plan 9 From Outer Space, Bride of the Monster, Night of the Ghoul…
    Charles Walters – The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, Easter Parade…
    Forest Whitaker – Waiting to Exhale, Hope Floats, First Daughter
    John Waters – Hairspray, Cry-Baby…

    I’m sorry. I got carried away!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Assume you left the legendary Billy Wilder off on purpose – so cinephiles like me could add him – not only “Some Like It Hot”, “The Apartment” and “Day Of Wine & Roses”, but the incredible “Sunset Boulevard” – here is a link to a screening I attended with Nancy Olson, the last surviving cast member! Oh, it lost best picture to “All About Eve” – wow! https://johnrieber.com/2014/06/02/nancy-olsons-sunset-boulevard-screening-hollywoods-classic-tale-discussed-live/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. John, I had to leave off at least six others I would like to have featured.. There has to be something left for all of you to comment about! ‘Sunset Boulevard’ is a great film. I always see something new in that, every time I watch it. Despite my admiration for Monroe, I am actually not a huge fan of ‘Some Like It Hot’, but I do watch it when it comes on.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Your list is impeccable. Might I also suggest:
    Master documentarian Frederick Wiseman could be high on any list of important directors by his film “Titicut Follies” alone. However, his objectively subjective approach to filmmaking has examined a wide range of social, governmental and cultural institutions, of which “High School”, “Primates”, “Basic Training”, “Zoo” and “La Danse” are a recommended representative starting selection.
    Lina Westmuller was briefly a critical darling, and remains one of the most important woman directors in film history. Beyond her most recognized films, “Swept Away”, a Marxist spin on ‘The Admirable Crichton’ with a wonderful performance by Mariangela Melato, and “Seven Beauties”, recommended works include “Love and Anarchy”,”All Screwed Up” and “The Seduction of Mimi”.
    Wong Kar-wai and “In the Mood for Love”. Enough said.
    My top pick would go to Swedish director Bo Widerberg, the director whose beauteous “Elvira Madigan” made a certain Mozart piano concerto one of the staples of 1960’s pop culture. However, there is a stunning intelligence as well as beauty to be found in his films “Adalen 31”, “Joe Hill”, “All Things Fair” and “The Man on the Roof” one of the great police films from the acclaimed Sjowall/Wahloo Martin Beck series (based on ‘The Abominable Man’).

    Liked by 4 people

    1. “Impeccable” is indeed high praise from you, Chandler, for which I thank you.
      As expected, you came up with many films I have never seen.

      I have seen some of Wiseman’s documentaries, (a long time ago now) but the only Widerberg film I have seen is ‘Elvira Madigan’. I was in my late teens, and I mainly recall thinking “this film is actually photographed”, something I have always rated very highly. I have seen a few films from Wong Kar Wei and considered including him, but my love for ‘Picnic At Hanging Rock’ secured Weir’s place instead.
      I have not seen any films made by Westmuller. I will try to correct that omission.

      Away from this A-Z, but on the subject of films being photographed, I should mention Anderson’s film, ‘There Will Be Blood’. It is ‘usual’ to not like this film, citing overacting by Day-Lewis, or other reasons. But it is so beautifully photographed, it could have been made by Malick. I could watch it once a week.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  8. Hello Pete! Once again sorry, for the delay. Missing the Reblog-Button we try another solution bringing postings forward. C&P is only one, the second we test is Mail-Blogging. Sorry for any inconvenience (lost images …). Best wishes for a great weekend to you and Ollie. Michael

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello Pete! It seems to be a internal failure of the system, Martha Frei from freidenkerin.com told me just 40 minutes ago. She visited a forum of the WP.com guys, and they said the button will be back soon. Lets hope the best and celebrate the Sunday. Michael

        Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Sexy Beast’! Now you’re talking. Ben Kingsley was so scary in that film, I felt like I was being terrified by Gandhi! I have yet to see any Waititi films, but I have two on my list. (Not Thor, obviously… Oh, and not Green Lantern either.. 🙂 )
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Pete. I going to stick with the actors who turn to directing (mainly because that’s who I think of first 🙂 ), so today it’ll be Gene Wilder and Henry Winkler – two men who could always make me laugh!

    Liked by 3 people

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