The passion of a cinephile (he once threatened to kick Brett Ratner’s ass if the Rat went ahead with his remake of Killing of a Chinese Bookie) combined with drive of the Hollywood climber. PTA is making films his way, within the system, that are indebted to Altman and Kubrick, Cassavetes and Scorsese. Anderson’s films are about fathers, sons and families and the fabric of American masculinity as a powerfully constructed facade. He works in tracking shots and steadycam, a probing camera that is not afraid of distance or classicism. He’s my standard for what the American cinema was and still could be again.
2. Fatih Akin
The Turkish-German Akin’s kinetic cinema is about grappling with the otherness of immigrants in modern Europe. He makes road films, musical films, films that hurtle at you at 100 miles per hour.
3. Jia Zhang Ke
The brightest light of the Chinese Sixth generation, Jia’s films address the place of China in the modern connected world. His films deal with performance, rituals of daily life in a hermetic society in the manner of Godard and Cassavetes.
4. Spike Jonze
A visual stylist and a playful provocateur, Jonze has now graduated from his early collaborations with Charlie Kaufman to the ‘god I hope it’s as good as the trailer’ Where the Wild Things Are. He’s only made three films and has yet to define personal themes apart from Kaufman’s obsessions, but his work explores humanity placed in relief by larger than life circumstances.
This placement is admittedly based off the one film I have seen, but what a film. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days won a much deserved Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2007. Using long takes and intricate compositions, Mungiu’s summons up a magnificent Dardennes Brothers inspired realism. Now I just need to track down his first feature and see the omnibus film he produced that just played Cannes.
A post-script: it saddens me that I didn’t find a place for any female directors on this list, mostly do to unfamiliarity with the bodies of work of some really talented women. I want to at least mention Kelly Reichardt, Lynne Shelton, Sofia Coppola, and Samira Makhmalbaf as being amazing filmmakers that I need to see more films by.