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.
5. Robert Bresson
Bresson’s directorial career began with the now-elusive Les affaires publiques, a cute, Rene Clair-esque comedy short, after which nearly a decade passed until he made his first feature. While it’s good that we’re not counting short films, Les affaires wouldn’t do much to tarnish Bresson’s perfect record. Without it, however, it’s easier to regard his body of work as a single, cohesive group of films, his singular style coming into full fruition by the third film, and slowly emptying out by the arrival of the final one, thirty-two years later.
Introduce yourself to Bresson: Pickpocket or Les dames du Bois de Boulogne
Master Class: Diary of a Country Priest, Au hasard Balthazar, Mouchette, A Man Escaped, Une femme douce, Lancelot du lac, L’argent, The Trial of Joan of Arc
Deep Cuts: Les anges du peche, Four Nights of a Dreamer