Top (L to R) Fritz Lang; Guru Dutt; Bottom (L to R) David Lean; Basil Dearden; Samuel Fuller
When I was in High School, the American independent film scene in the 90’s was in full swing. Writers and directors who were outside the Hollywood machine had fresh new voices and told compelling stories. This is when I fell in love with cinema and because of this new-found passion, I expanded my horizon by exploring arthouse and foreign films. Some of these films were a little over my head and some resonated with me. I never looked at movies the same way again. I wanted more complex stories and I wanted to see how different filmmakers from around the world explored our collective human experience.
To my surprise, on November 1, 2016, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and the Criterion Collection collaborated to present the streaming service FlimStruck, catered for people who enjoy arthouse, foreign and independent cinema. This service, is a treat for the self confessed cinephile who can enjoy obscure or so-called controversial films at their leisure.
As an avid film buff I was pleasantly surprised to find 5 directors (that I’d admired for some time) whose films were available on this service. These men were innovators of their craft and above all, excellent storytellers. For those who study film, these men are considered giants in this medium:
Sam Fuller (American) - Was a great storyteller, but what was important was that he casted minorities in leading roles in his films. In the 1950’s, minorities were not given the opportunity to show their full range of acting talents. Mr. Fuller was the one of the few filmmakers to value meritocracy above all. (recommended film: Park Row)
Basil Dearden (British) - Was one of the only filmmakers to show the underbelly of British society in the 1950’s & 60’s. The topics he tackled ranged from racism, sexual identity and so-called moral taboos. His films and the topics he covered seemed timely. (recommended film: Sapphire)
David Lean (British) - His early films, made in Britain, were exceptional. The use of camera angles and lighting gave his films a quality only few directors have the ability to pull off. Besides the visuals, Mr. Lean’s films are intriguing and engaging, capturing the viewer’s attention to discover what’s next. (recommended film: Madeleine)
Guru Dutt (Indian) - Was a giant in ‘Bollywood’ cinema. He changed Bollywood with the way he used the camera to capture close-up shots (using 75 to 100 mm lens). His directing style urged actors to be more expressive, and his scripts focused on the art of creating vs the politics of avarice. The dialogue in his films were imbued with poetry and idealism, which made them achingly beautiful. Sadly, his struggles with mental illness cut his career short but his unique filming style endured as other directors emulated him and coined his achievements as the ‘Guru Dutt Style’. (recommended film: Pyaasa)
Fritz Lang (Austrian/German) - In a word, Fritz Lang was a genius. If you want to see how films should be made, look no further than the great work he left us to enjoy. The stories he told explored the truly dark side of human behavior, transcending any preconceived notions of what society deemed suitable to show the viewing public at that time. Mr. Lang put a mirror to society and showed the multifaceted nature of who we truly are. He was a giant because he believed in the stories he presented and did not compromise on his vision. (recommended film: Fury)
If you are so inclined to discover FilmStruck for yourself, these directors and their films are a great place to start. By viewing these films, you will notice that directors and cinematographers have been mimicking their style for years and will continue to do so. However, at the heart of these directors and their films are the intriguing stories that are told and the mastery that they tell it with. They are true originals.