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D.A Pennebaker, set the standard for performance documentaries (Monterey Pop). Even his mistakes have added to the vocabulary of cool concert shots (i.e., the obliterating backlighting of Otis Redding in M.P.).
Bert Stern, one hit wonder with Jazz On A Summer’s Day, but brought his skill and taste as a still photographer to this project and created incomparable images and montages, esp on nighttime performances.
Louis Malle, large body of work, both in US and France. The maestro of of a lot of genres, and he captured the subleties of human drama better than just about anyone. Look for his “Elevator to the Gallows, ” a film noir classic made in the ’50s and about to be re-released. Very cool Miles Davis sountrack, a favorite of non-jazz fans.
Robert Rodriguez, masters new technology and uses it cheaply in service to entertaining story lines. Major inspiration for independent filmmakers.
Clint Eastwood. He is a serious craftsman who keeps getting better and better. Who would have guessed that a one-note actor would become such an accomplished director. Too bad he can’t give us something light.
John Woo was the best and brightest in Hong Kong as he was perfecting his ballet of the bullets style of filmmaking. The HK film industry is floundering right now. He ought to follow Tsui Hark’s example and go back to HK where he can make films his way once again.
Fernando Mierelles showed a unique, action bursting, but character driven story telling style in City of God (Not about religion, friends), which was nominated for a Best Editing Oscar for ’04. (BTW, the documentary on the war in the barrios in Rio, which is an extra on the DVD, is worth the price of the DVD.) Now he comes along with The Constant Gardner, which shows third world scenes that are simply great cinematography (National Geographics and Discovery Channel take note.).
Also, Bunuel, Polanski, Antonioni (but nothing after ’80), Bertolucci (he makes great films, however he seems to be on vacation every other film), Francis Coppola, Frankenheimer, Tarantino, Zhang (Flying Daggers), Jang Sun-woo (Korean; Resurrection of the Little Match Girl), Les Blank (his ’78 Always For Pleasure doc on New Orleans will make you cry; also, famous for Burdon of Dreams, doc on making of a Werner Herzog film), ETC ETC ETC