University of Illinois Press

Contemporary Film Directors

Published by: University of Illinois Press

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Contemporary Film Directors

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Emir Kusturica

Giorgio Bertellini

Emir Kusturica is one of Eastern Europe's most celebrated and influential filmmakers. Over the course of a thirty-year career, Kusturica has navigated a series of geopolitical fault lines to produce subversive, playful, often satiric works. On the way he won acclaim and widespread popularity while showing a genius for adjusting his poetic pitch--shifting from romantic realist to controversial satirist to sentimental jester. Leading scholar-critic Giorgio Bertellini divides Kusturica's career into three stages--dissention, disconnection, and dissonance--to reflect both the historic and cultural changes going on around him and the changes his cinema has undergone. He uses Kusturica's Palme d'Or winning Underground (1995)--the famously inflammatory take on Yugoslav history after World War II--as the pivot between the tone of romantic, yet pungent critique of the director's early works and later journeys into Balkanist farce marked by slapstick and a self-conscious primitivism. Eschewing the one-sided polemics Kusturica's work often provokes, Bertellini employs balanced discussion and critical analysis to offer a fascinating and up-to-date consideration of a major figure in world cinema.

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Francis Ford Coppola

Jeff Menne

Acclaimed as one of the most influential and innovative American directors, Francis Ford Coppola is also lionized as a maverick auteur at war with Hollywood's power structure and an ardent critic of the postindustrial corporate America it reflects. However, Jeff Menne argues that Coppola exemplifies the new breed of creative corporate person and sees the director's oeuvre as vital for reimagining the corporation in the transformation of Hollywood. Reading auteur theory as the new American business theory, Menne reveals how Coppola's vision of a new kind of company has transformed the worker into a liberated and well-utilized artist, but has also commodified individual creativity at a level unprecedented in corporate history. Coppola negotiated the contradictory roles of shrewd businessman and creative artist by recognizing the two roles are fused in a postindustrial economy. Analyzing films like The Godfather (1970) and the overlooked Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988) through Coppola's use of opera, Menne illustrates how Coppola developed a defining musical aesthetic while making films that reflected the idea of a corporation as family--and how his studio American Zoetrope came to represent a new brand of auteurism and the model for post-Fordist Hollywood.

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Francois Ozon

Thibaut Schilt

In just over a decade, Francois Ozon has earned an international reputation as a successful and provocative filmmaker. A student of Eric Rohmer and Jean Douchet at the prestigious Femis, Ozon has made a number of critically acclaimed shorts and eleven feature films, including international successes 8 femmes and Swimming Pool and more recent releases such as Angel, Ricky, and Le refuge. Despite tremendous diversity in cinematic choices, Ozon's oeuvre is surprisingly consistent in its desire to blur the traditional frontiers between the masculine and the feminine, gay and straight, reality and fantasy, auteur and commercial cinema. _x000B__x000B_Thibaut Schilt provides an overview of Francois Ozon's career to date, contextualizing Ozon's filmmaking within the larger fields of French filmmaking and international queer cinema. Schilt discusses several major themes running through Ozon's work, including obsessions with inadequate fathers, various types of mourning, and a recurring taste for "the foreign." The volume also includes an insightful interview with the director.

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Hal Hartley

Mark L. Berrettini

Since the late 1980s, Hal Hartley has challenged standards of realist narrative cinema with daring narrative constructions, character development, and the creation of an unconventional visual world. In this pioneering critical overview of his work and its cultural-historical context, Mark L. Berrettini discusses seven of Hartley's feature films, including The Unbelievable Truth, Trust, Simple Men, Amateur, Henry Fool, Fay Grim, and The Book of Life._x000B__x000B_Drawing on journalism, theories of representation, narrative and genre, and cinema history, Berrettini discusses the absurdist-comedic representation of serious themes in Hartley's films: impossible love, coincidence and human relations, extreme isolation, and the restrictions posed by gender norms. He looks at the films' consistently absurd tone and notes how these themes reappear within framing narratives that shift from the seemingly mundane in Hartley's earliest works to the vibrantly creative and fantastic in his later films. The volume concludes with a pair of in-depth interviews with the director from two distinct points in his career. _x000B_

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Jacques Rivette

As a pioneer of the French New Wave, Jacques Rivette was one of a group of directors who permanently altered the world's perception of cinema by taking the camera out of the studios and into the streets. His films, including Paris nous appartient, Out 1: Noli me tangere, Celine et Julie vont en bateau--Phantom Ladies Over Paris, La belle noiseuse, Secret defense, and Va savoir are extraordinary combinations of intellectual depth, playfulness, and sensuous beauty._x000B__x000B_In this study of Rivette, Mary M. Wiles provides a thorough account of the director's career from the burgeoning French New Wave to the present day, focusing on the theatricality of Rivette's films and his explorations of the relationship between cinema and fine arts such as painting, literature, music, and dance. Wiles also explores the intellectual interests that shaped Rivette's approach to film, including Sartre's existentialism, Barthes's structuralism, and the radical theater of the 1960s. The volume concludes with Wiles's insightful interview with Rivette._x000B_

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Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

Joseph Mai

For well over a decade, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have produced highly original and ethically charged films that immerse their audience in an intense, embodied viewing experience. Their work has consistently won international recognition, including the rare feat of two Palmes d'or at Cannes._x000B__x000B_In this first book-length study, Joseph Mai examines the career of the influential Belgian brothers, providing sophisticated close analyses of their directorial style and exploring the many philosophical issues dealt with in their films (especially the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas). In films such as La promesse, Rosetta, The Son, and The Child, the brothers have recast their filmmaking through what Mai calls a "sensuous realism?--realism capable of touching their viewers with the social problems and moral dilemmas of contemporary society. This volume also features an interview in which the Dardennes discuss their approach to film production and directing._x000B_

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Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Elizabeth Ezra

This is the first book on Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the popular and critically acclaimed director of films such as Amelie, Delicatessen, A Very Long Engagement, Alien Resurrection, and City of Lost Children. Having garnered both commercial success and critical esteem in genres such as science fiction, fantasy, romantic comedy, and the war epic, Jeunet's work nevertheless engages with key aspects of French history and contemporary French culture. This study analyzes the director's major films, including those he made with Marc Caro, and his early short works. Elizabeth Ezra brings a new perspective to the study of Jeunet's work, uncovering instances of repressed historical trauma involving France's role in Algeria and the Second World War. The book includes a commentary by Jeunet himself on his career and corpus of films.

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Jerry Lewis

Chris Fujiwara

Well known for his slapstick comedic style, Jerry Lewis has also delighted worldwide movie audiences with a directing career spanning five decades. One of American cinema's great innovators, Lewis made unmistakably personal films that often focused on an ideal masculine image and an anarchic, manic acting out of the inability to assume this image. Films such as The Bellboy, The Errand Boy, Three on a Couch, and The Big Mouth present a series of thematic variations on this tension, in which such questions as how to be a man, how to be popular, and how to maintain relationships are posed within frameworks that set up a liberating and exhilarating confusion of roles and norms. With sharp, concise observations, Chris Fujiwara examines this visionary director of self-referential comedic masterpieces. The book also includes an enlightening interview with Lewis that offers unique commentary on the creation and study of comedy.

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Jim Jarmusch

Juan A. Suarez

At a time when gimmicky, action-driven blockbusters ruled Hollywood, Jim Jarmusch spearheaded a boom in independent cinema by making low-budget films focused on intimacy, character, and new takes on classical narratives. His minimal form, peculiar pacing, wry humor, and blank affect have since been adopted by directors including Sophia Coppola, Hal Harley, Richard Linklater, and Wong Kar-Wai. Juan A. Suarez's Jim Jarmusch analyzes the director's work from three mutually implicated perspectives: in relation to independent filmmaking from the 1980s to the present; as a form of cultural production that appropriates existing icons, genres, and motifs; and as an instance of postmodern politics.

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John Lasseter

Richard Neupert

Celebrated as Pixar's "Chief Creative Officer," John Lasseter is a revolutionary figure in animation history and one of today's most important filmmakers. Lasseter films from Luxo Jr. to Toy Story and Cars 2 highlighted his gift for creating emotionally engaging characters. At the same time, they helped launch computer animation as a viable commercial medium and serve as blueprints for the genre's still-expanding commercial and artistic development. Richard Neupert explores Lasseter's signature aesthetic and storytelling strategies and details how he became the architect of Pixar's studio style. Neupert contends that Lasseter's accomplishments emerged from a unique blend of technical skill and artistic vision, as well as a passion for working with collaborators. In addition, Neupert traces the director's career arc from the time Lasseter joined Pixar in 1984. As Neupert shows, Lasseter's ability to keep a foot in both animation and CGI allowed him to thrive in an unconventional corporate culture that valued creative interaction between colleagues. The ideas that emerged built an animation studio that updated and refined classical Hollywood storytelling practices--and changed commercial animation forever.

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