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.
8. Andrei Tarkovsky
The giant of latter-day Soviet cinema was taken from us too soon – his directing career spanned about twenty-five years, but in that time, he was responsible for some of the most enthralling, and divisive, great movies that anyone has ever seen. His work is known for its patient style (which, in turn, requires patience of the viewer), its fugue-state atmosphere, its lapses into meditative silence, and, above all, a seemingly ceaseless river of indelible imagery – haunting, dreamlike, yet always tactile, earthy, and seeming to exert its own gravitational pull.
Introduce yourself to Tarkovsky with: Ivan’s Childhood
Master Class: The Sacrifice, Nostalghia, Andrei Roublev, Solaris, Stalker, The Mirror
Deep Cuts: The Steamroller and the Violin