Not a bad way to make a name for yourself…
With some of the very best directors strutting their stuff at Cannes Film Festival, there are awards to be won and reputations to be gained. You could start the festival as a nobody and end it with a glittering path to stardom ahead of you. So, in keeping with the career-making festival, let’s take a look at the best arrivals onto the film scene:
Orson Welles – Citizen Kane (1941)
Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane completely changed the course of the traditional Hollywood movie forever. Though controversial at the time due to its veiled portrayal of a real life media mogul, it has since been continuously heralded as the best film of all time. I would argue otherwise and instead say that like A Trip to the Moon or Battleship Potemkin, it’s a fantastic film which inspired other movies to surpass it through its innovations. There are, undoubtedly, better films than Citizen Kane, but changing the face of how a narrative can function isn’t exactly a bad way to make your name heard.
Terrence Malick – Badlands (1973)
Terrence Malick is a great of modern cinema, and it wouldn’t have taken a genius to see his ability and vision from the get go. Badlands is a haunting tale about a murderous man, played by the wonderful Martin Sheen, and set up us perfectly for the type of subversive cinema Malick would become known for. Although a filmmaker who often splits people, Badlands’ status as a classic can’t be contested. Although I prefer his Palme d’Or winning The Tree of Life, this auteur has always had a voice worth hearing and has always been a contemplative director not content with sticking to the status-quo.
Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones – Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
The best comedy of all time? I couldn’t contest that claim. Everything about The Holy Grail is hilarious, with every minute offering us a new gag. If you judged Monty Python’s later effort, The Life of Brian, from a purely critical standpoint then it is a better film in almost every way, with a superior narrative, production and characters, but it lacks the irreverence of The Holy Grail. You know a comedy is going to be good when even the credits are funnier than your average modern comedy. Whether it be the cow thrown over the wall, the man repeatedly running at the same distance or the killer rabbits, this film is full of unforgettable gags and showed us that humour stems from the unpredictable.
Bruce Robinson – Withnail and I (1987)
Bruce Robison’s cult classic Withnail and I, though not a film with a gargantuan reputation amongst the general public, is still one of the best movies ever made. It’s a heartfelt, humorous goodbye to a bygone era, and has some of the best characters in cinema history. Our two perpetually posh and drunk protagonists and uncle Monty are unforgettable for anyone who has seen this film. Also, Danny served as the inspiration for Peep Show’s Super Hans, one of the best British TV characters. The inexhaustible list of hilarious moments and the legendary lines (‘we’ve gone on holiday by mistake’) make this a film forever immortalised amongst film lovers. This melancholy piece of madness is one you have to see.
Frank Darabont – The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Although responsible for a few more decent efforts, it’s fair to say that this is the magnum opus of Frank Darabont’s career. And, whilst peaking so early might be a disappointment, it’d be near impossible to scale the same heights as The Shawshank Redemption. The reputation of this film, like a fine wine, has only gotten better with time and is now for some the best movie ever made. It’s the type of film which defines careers. This prison drama has immortalised itself in film history, and with its marvellous acting, writing, directing and gripping, dark, human and cathartic narrative, it’s easy to see why it’s such a beloved classic.
John Lasseter – Toy Story (1995)
Completely changing the face of animation and setting a new trajectory for family films? Not a bad way to kickstart your directorial career. John Lasseter has had an illustrious career, working on a wide range of Pixar films, and his talent was always evident. Pixar has set the benchmark for animated films since its arrival on the scene, with the beautifully animated Toy Story making Pixar a household name. Though the name John Lasseter is far less famous than the films he’s worked on, he won’t have any trouble stamping his name into the cinematic history books.
Richard Kelly – Donnie Darko (2001)
Although Richard Kelly hasn’t exactly set the world alight since, his debut, Donnie Darko, is now an established cult classic and also served as a vehicle for the career of now Hollywood star Jake Gyllenhaal. This surreal and disturbing time-travel movie continues to both captivate and confuse audiences. It’s visions of death, and the iconic Frank has imprinted their way into pop culture, and the awesome soundtrack is also one of the best I’ve heard. Although the name ‘Richard Kelly’ has seemingly been forgotten, this film will live on.
Edgar Wright – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Shaun of the Dead is easily one of the best comedies of the 21st century. It cleverly relocated the previously dramatic zombie genre into the world of a group of down to Earth, lazy Brits. This is a film most people have seen a million times by now, but the fact that it still manages to evoke laughter from even the most familiar audience members is a sign of its brilliance. Edgar Wright continues to take the directorial helm, but, no matter where his career goes from here, he will always be one of the greatest comedic directors for his debut effort alone.
Anton Corbijn – Control (2007)
Anton Corbijn’s Control is exquisite. The former Joy Division photographer made a beautiful film from an aesthetic standpoint, with his monochrome visuals conveying the depressive and melancholic state of mind of Ian Curtis. He also, through his personal exploits with the band, was able to accurately display the dynamic of the band and the internal reflections of Curtis, whose talent was so tragically thrown away. This bleak portrait of a disturbed youth is destined to be a classic and was a mature and sophisticated way for Corbijn to begin his directorial ventures.
Ana Lily Amirpour – A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is an intelligent reimagining and subversion of established Western and Iranian film conventions. This film is a battle against the oppressive Iranian theocracy, which suppresses the ambitions of women. The use of monochrome visuals, like Control, function symbolically, showing the need for young women to express their identities in a bleak society which serves to stifle their voices and individuality. This empowering film has made Amirpour a huge star, and I hope to see more courageous filmmaking from this inspiring director. Young girls need a voice to show them their true worth in this patriarchal word, and hopefully, Amirpour can provide this.