From an auteurist standpoint, the great directors have the power to transform bad, lackluster, or cliched material into great art. But even the mightiest directors have had a few duds. Robert Altman’s Quintet is ignored by almost everyone; stalwart Fordians do not look kindly upon Born Reckless; even the hardcore Hawksians consider Trent’s Last Case to be without merit. (There is also some disagreement regarding A Song is Born.) Hitchcock had Juno and the Paycock, and Michael Mann probably doesn’t like to think about The Keep.
It’s quite rare, then, that a filmmaker (or, occasionally, a filmmaking team) should pitch a no-hitter, from start to finish. Here’s a list of ten. For sanity’s sake we are grading on a slight curve: feature filmmakers only, their documentary work (if any) doesn’t count, nor do their shorts, TV episodes, and “etc” work.
6. Yasujiro Ozu
Ozu’s work as a director is considerably more varied than many might think, given the consistency of his style (tatami-mat camera positions, character frames that often resemble direct address to the audience, little to no camera movement, a stoically light atmosphere even when dealing with grave situations), which became pervasive especially in the later part of his career. Like Hawks, Ozu remade one of his best films not just once but twice – also like Hawks, the second remake proved to be his farewell appearance. While many of his most characteristic films have confirmed his place in the upper-most strata of great filmmakers, additional pleasures await the intrepid cine-pioneer who takes a chance on the Ozu whose movies precede or diverge from the course that many associate with the Floating Weeds director. Early work, silent and sound, passes through such strange territories as slapstick comedy and crime drama, while late films such as Tokyo Twilight show the artist working outside his comfort zone (or, more likely, it’s our comfort zone), with unexpected rewards.
Introduce yourself to Ozu: Tokyo Story
Master Class: Late Spring, An Autumn Afternoon, The Story of Floating Weeds, Floating Weeds, Early Spring, Early Summer, Good Morning, I Was Born, But…, Tokyo Chorus, There Was a Father, The Only Son
Deep Cuts: Tokyo Twilight, Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice, Record of a Tenement Gentleman, Passing Fancy, An Inn in Tokyo, A Hen in the Wind, The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family, The Munekata Sisters, Dragnet Girl, Walk Cheerfully, What Did the Lady Forget? …plus whatever else you can find