In light of the opening of Isle of Dogs, which you just know is directed by Wes Anderson without even waiting for the credits or watching the trailer, we have compiled a list of remarkable directors (Wes Anderson included) who have made a name for themselves through their unique cinematic habits — modern auteurs who have created stunning pictures in very different ways.
Auteurs are filmmakers with personal influence and artistic control that are so great that they are regarded as the authors of their films, which are consistently unique and most of the time, critically acclaimed. Although this concept of Auteur-ship is widely debated as foolish for negating the significance of the rest of the film crew such as the cinematographer or the sound mixer, there are indeed some directors who amazingly manage to maintain a consistent style — from their trademark cinematography to character dialogue style — throughout their filmmaking journey.
1. Wes Anderson
He is best known for the use of symmetry in his films, which makes every frame a picture worthy of hanging on your bedroom wall. Every shot is guaranteed to be pleasing to the eye — he can even make a cluttered place look neat. His aesthetic vision is simply incomparable; repetitive in all of his films but never gets old. Although much of his criticism derives from the opinion that his films are sometimes too quirky and unrealistic (considering how every scene is pretty much an OCD patient’s heaven), Anderson’s films always tug at the heartstrings whether it’s about animated foxes, or scruffy dogs or children.
In Anderson films, children are treated as equals or even portrayed to be intellectually superior to adults which is an interesting twist that he has put in perhaps to show that age doesn’t define a person and that adults could actually stand to learn something from children when it comes to living life to the fullest.
2. Quentin Tarantino
The total opposite of Wes Anderson, Tarantino’s specialty is blood in every possible, messy motion — explosions, splatters and even geyser-like spurts. It is widely established that no other director emphasises violence more than Tarantino. Yet, he manages to mix in comedy to make the gore easier to swallow. From the accidental shooting of Marvin’s head in Pulp Fiction to the almost-comical abrupt battle between Black Mamba and Copperhead in Kill Bill Vol. 1, Tarantino has the unique ability to make his audience laugh at the most inappropriate moments.
Most of his films also contain the trunk shot (where the camera is placed in a vehicle’s boot), the quick zoom (sometimes breaking the fourth wall) and most oddly, the feet shot.
3. Michael Bay
If there’s anyone who could make flying debris and crunched metal look like birthday confetti, it’s Michael Bay. His films are the epitome of chaos, and chaos here does not mean the bloody mess that Tarantino loves so much; rather it’s the frantic movement of many things at once in a single frame. Bay has shown remarkable camera control that accentuates the mayhem of the scene, as some would like to call “Bayhem”.
Car chases and explosions, which are integral parts of the aforementioned films, become almost artistic in Bay’s films as he uses a combination of movement, composition and fast editing to create a sense of epic scale. He presents multiple layers of movement in one shot and takes it away straight after, making the scene just slow enough for the eye to catch but not for the brain to process which leaves the audience in awe of the spectacle of destruction.
4. Christopher Nolan
A fan of Film Noir and the genre’s chiaroscuro lighting (the use of high contrasts between dark and light), Christopher Nolan has directed films such as Inception and The Dark Knight.
Nolan typically uses non-linear storytelling in his films, causing the audience to only fully understand the whole story at the end of the film. The moment of enlightenment at the end is probably the strongest appeal to an audience who loves to be psychologically challenged while watching a film. Nolan films also often disorientate his audience with his use of twisting turning shots and plots that question the nature of reality and self-identity.
5. Steven Spielberg
Known to be a master of audience manipulation, Spielberg has released family favourites such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park and his most recent Ready Player One, which show that even at the ripe age of 71, he is certainly still young at heart.
He is most famous for “The Spielberg Face”. No, it’s not a film or some film student jargon. It refers to a facial expression — wide-eyed, mouth slightly agape, seemingly frozen in time— that appears in every single one of his films. Granted, it seems to be commonplace in many movies, but this is Spielberg’s signature stroke. It is his way of hitting pause and telling the audience, “this is what you should be feeling right now”, whenever a Spielberg face of wonder, fear, apprehension or devastation appears onscreen.
These are just five out of the many directors, both the old birds and those new to the scene, who could potentially be seen as auteurs. Who’s your favourite auteur?
By Rachel Lim