In Stanley Kubrick’s Words: 3 Most Consistent and Original Contemporary Directors

I believe Ingmar Bergman, Vittorio De Sica, and Federico Fellini are the only three filmmakers in the world who are not just artistic opportunists. By this I mean they don’t just sit and wait for a good story to come along and then make it. They have a point of view which is expressed over and over again in their films, and they themselves write or have original material written for them.

There are very few directors, about whom you’d say you automatically have to see everything they do. I’d put Fellini, Bergman and David Lean at the head of my first list, and Truffaut at the head of the next level.

Stanley Kubrick

The two things Kubrick emphasized in these quotes, in which he names three directors he admires the most are originality and consistency. It is strange that he omitted Japanese directors completely, since Yasujirō Ozu definitely deserves an honorable mention at least, even if he wasn’t included amongst the most original and consistent directors. This leads us to the enquiry, which contemporary directors deserve to be mentioned taking those two criteria in mind. Kubrick speaks of a “point of view which is expressed over and over again in their films” and the original material written for the screen.[1]

Paul Thomas Anderson definitely lives up to these criteria, since he has a near obsession with movies in which family structure, which is often of perverted nature, is portrayed either as a community (Boogie Nights, The Master) or some variation of it in forms of duos or trios (Hard Eight, There Will Be Blood, Phantom Thread). He wrote all the scripts for his movies himself or, he chose deeply original material (Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice for instance) and adapted it by making a film which is notably different from the source and unique. Anderson is remarkably consistent in his work and each and every one of his movies needs to be watched, at least once.

The next director which, I believe, fits the criteria is Michael Haneke. He is the director whose films are built around the notions of extreme violence and philosophical inquiry, but contrary to the postmodern filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, Haneke portrays violence to explore important societal issues like the rise of fascism, European refugee crisis and so on. He writes the material for his films himself, or like P.T. Anderson, chooses important literary works (in the case of The Piano Teacher) and adapts them by making them his own. Haneke’s The Piano Teacher is notably different from the source and entirely original. He is also a consistent director who has not made a bad film and every art enthusiast should watch his oeuvre.

The third, and final director I will include in this petit inquiry is the Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda. His “obsession” is contemporary Japanese society and family structures, which he problematizes in a completely different manner than P.T. Anderson. He makes melodramas of the highest artistic quality; his film Shoplifters was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film this year. It deals with a company of petty thieves who create community which is even more intricately connected than the Japanese nuclear family in contemporary Japan. His film Nobody Knows observes what happens when the family structure is completely torn apart – the children are left by their mother in an apartment basically to starve and we observe their daily struggles. Like Father, Like Son, the film I have written about on this blog, deals with an upper middle-class family and a poor one, whose babies were exchanged in the hospital. Kore-eda explores the differences between classes, but also the idea of blood bonds and social bonds. As can be guessed, Kore-eda writes the screenplays for his own films, and is remarkably consistent in his work.

All in all, Paul Thomas Anderson, Michael Haneke and Hirokazu Kore-eda are the contemporary directors which I find to be most original and consistent in their work.

[1] In this discussion, I selected only the directors who made their first movie 30 years ago (after 1989), so David Cronenberg, Martin Scorsese, Werner Herzog and other directors with iconic status who still work today were not included

If you have any suggestions, want to highlight  some other contemporary directors who fit Kubrick’s criteria (or you believe that these criteria should be modified) please let me know.

Thanks for your thoughts!


2 responses to “In Stanley Kubrick’s Words: 3 Most Consistent and Original Contemporary Directors”

  1. You’re right in how certain skilled directors stick to what they know (and as you say, Yasujirō Ozu is a good example). That does make their output a little predictable, but I think as long as they can use it to good effect, their talent can shine easily. Still, I have to admit I find myself drawn more toward directors who can apply their style in more obviously dynamic ways by changing things up frequently.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I see what you’re aiming at. And to some degree, I agree. Kenji Mizoguchi, for example, was continuosly making “one movie” throughout his whole career (about women being oppressed) and it gets kind of boring and tedious after a while. I like versatile directors as well, but if you want to, you can reduce all the great directors’ oeuvre to one or two themes (as I did with the ones above). It would be a bit reductive, but yes I believe it could be done.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: