The Untouchables: Third Ballot
We’re back again with the third installment of our feature The Untounchables, the FilmNerds staff’s attempt at creating a Hall of Fame for filmmakers. Each month, a panel of contributors here at Filmnerds including Ben Flanagan, Corey Craft, Graham Flanagan, Benjamin Stark and myself, Matt Scalici, will cast our ballots for who we believe to be the greatest filmmakers to ever live. This month we welcome a new voter to the panel, Craig Hamilton who writes a fantastic film blog for The Examiner in Nashville. The top three vote receivers each month will be inducted into our list of Untouchables and enshrined here on this site. You can find a link below to the first two groups of directors admitted to our virtual Hall of Fame but today we present to you the winners of our third ballot, the next three members of The Untouchables.
It’s easy to see Akira Kurosawa as a filmmaker of grand, full-scale epics. All those flapping banners, wide vistas, volatile relationships, and period settings take his audiences on temporal vacations, visiting themes and stories usually reserved for Shakespeare or Homer. However, for every Ran or Kagemusha, Kurosawa gave us a Stray Dog or Ikiru… stories about the societal pressures and tensions of modern Japanese culture. Even at the heart of his legendary samurai films lay small-scale stories about individuals clashing with social structures. Yojimbo’s Sanjuro disrupts the order of a crime-ridden village. The Seven Samurai remind their patron farmers of their own system’s hypocrisy and rot. Kurosawa is high in the pantheon of the great directors because he was able to combine aching, humanist performances with equally expressive frames that show off exquisite blocking, composition, and decor. A filmmaker could have no better cheat sheet than one that reads “how would Kurosawa do it?”
– Ben Stark
The life and career of Orson Welles are the stuff Hollywood is made of. Setting aside his career in radio, which alone would put him among the most interesting figures of the 20th Century, Welles will forever hold the distinction of making the most impressive debut of any filmmaker in history when at the age of 24 he made Citizen Kane, a movie that reinvented and challenged conventional filmmaking techniques, attacked one of the most powerful men in the world and over 70 years later is still widely regarded as the greatest motion picture ever made. But you don’t make many friends upsetting the status quo the way Welles did and sadly that revolutionary opening salvo would haunt Welles’ career for the remainder of his life, leaving him a highly respected figure among filmmakers but a reviled one among studio chiefs and power brokers. By the late ’40s, Welles abandoned Hollywood for Europe and while his work was far from regular, he did produce a number of phenomenal pictures in the years following World War II, including the politically-tinged mystery Mr. Arkadin and the brilliant crime noir Touch of Evil. Welles also stands as one of the few truly great actor-directors with his performances in Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil perhaps equalling his work behind the camera and his spectacular turn as Harry Lime in The Third Man holding up today as one of the greatest supporting performances in film history. Some see the Orson Welles story as a tale of unfulfilled potential. I see it as a story of an artist so revolutionary and so fearless that in one single work he did more to change cinema than perhaps any other single filmmaker.
– Matt Scalici
I can’t write as much as I probably should be able to about John Ford, but what films of his I’ve seen have left some indelible images, and he’s unquestionably responsible for some of the most iconic scenes and shots in film history — and has reshaped the world’s collective imagery and iconography of the American West. In a long filmography that includes such classics as Stagecoach, The Grapes of Wrath, My Darling Clementine, The Searchers and How The West Was Won, Ford made America look like it has never looked before or since, depicting the sweeping vistas of the West breathtakingly, often with his favorite star, John Wayne, in front of the camera. Not content with building Wayne as a star, he then promptly deconstructed him with The Searchers — Wayne’s best performance — and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend,” says a character in the latter film, and it seems an apt summary for the legend-building films of John Ford.
– Corey Craft