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The Men Who Shaped World Cinema

 

Director’s Cut
SAIBAL CHATTERJEE | New Delhi, December 13, 2013 11:18
Tags : Director’s Cut |Taiwan’s Tsai Ming-liang | China’s Jia Zhangke |Alexander Sokurov | Russian Ark |Modern Era |M.K. Raghavendra |
 
If you admire Alexander Sokurov the most among contemporary Russian filmmakers, you’d find a hole in this book. The maker of films like Russian Ark, Alexandra and Faust isn’t among the 50 leading post-1960 international directors who have defined the contours of modern cinema. Aleksei Balabanov gets in ahead of Sokurov.
 
“The Russian filmmaker,” the author writes, “to be regarded most highly in the past decade may be Alexander Sokurov because his films appear to possess the gravity of Tarkovsky’s work. But a more interesting film-maker is Aleksei Balabanov, whose films are also vastly engaging.” The element of surprise inherent in that choice adds value to
Director’s Cut: 50 Major Film-Makers of the Modern Era, written by film critic and scholar M.K. Raghavendra. 
 
Such ‘shocks’ are, however, rare in this book. A large majority of those that have made it to this personal canon are directors who would walk into any list of this kind. Be that as it may, Director’s Cut is likely to trigger debate as much over the included names as over those excluded. 
 
The author’s avowed aim is “to take into consideration the newer voices in international cinema, for the place of the masters of the earlier epoch is already secure”, but the youngest director to figure here is Korea’s 44-year-old Bong Joon-Ho, who might not necessarily be everybody’s favourite filmmaker from that country.
 
But this is exactly what makes the selection particularly interesting and definitely worth a read – it drives cineastes towards the exercise of comparing one director with another and feeling enthused to draw their individual conclusions. Indeed, film lovers who are clued into the different streams of world cinema would be able to come up with their own separate lists of, if not 50, at least 25 deserving directors who are not in this book. 
 
When you realise that this selection does not include a single woman director, you wonder why an Agnes Varda (who began her career before the French New Wave but continues to work to this day) or a Margarethe von Trotta (once a major force of New German Cinema and still active) did not make the cut.
 
Or when you figure out that Director’s Cut excludes acclaimed English filmmakers like Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, you do feel that besides the author’s personal predilections, the limitations imposed by the number cap has had a serious bearing on the final shape and composition of the book. In fact, the solitary English director featured in the book is, inevitably, the venerable David Lean. 
 
But thee quibbles apart, there can be no denying that Raghavendra covers an impressively wide diversity of modern cinema. The book has enough meat to whet a cinephile’s appetite.
Any selection of this nature is bound to be reflective of personal biases and a certain degree of arbitrariness, but the short introductory capsules that Raghavendra writes on the key works of the directors are lucid, insightful and thought-provoking. 
 
Admittedly, most of the directors featured here are creators of films that aren’t all that easy to penetrate and some are acquired tastes, but the lay moviegoer who manages to last the course will come out both enriched and enlightened. The author uses his knowledge and understanding of cinema to good effect. 
 
It is the express purpose of this book to bring the most important cinema the world has produced since 1960 within the comprehension of the uninitiated. But for many of those that have clear likes and dislikes, the list might appear incomplete. But, given that Raghavendra chooses only 50 films and writes 1500 to 2000 words on each, there is only so much that he can cover.
 
His choices range from Bergman, Bresson and Bunuel to Spielberg, Scorsese and Kubrick, and, in the Introduction, his explains the logic unambiguously. The five Indian filmmakers featured are similarly varied – Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Govindan Aravindan and Raj Kapoor.
 
There are several Asian names as well, but the selection does not quite establish the marked shift of balance towards Asia that has occurred in the past decade and a bit. The book ignores the likes of South Korea’s Kim Ki-duk, Taiwan’s Tsai Ming-liang, China’s Jia Zhangke and the Taiwanese veteran Hou Hsiao-hsien, directors who have been consistently celebrated around the world in recent years.
 
The selection is slightly conservative and errs on the side of caution. It leaves out Tim Burton, the Coens, the Dardennes and Michael Haneke, and these are some of the ‘genuinely new’ voices of international cinema. While one can go on and on about what is missing in Director’s Cut – that would be the easiest thing to do – it is best to savour what is in it. There is plenty.
 
Author:  M.K. Raghavendra 
Edition: Paperback
ISBN: 978-93-5029-545-8
Pages: 316
Price: Rs 399
Edition: M.K. Raghavendra

ISBN: 978-93-5029-545-8

Pages: 316

Price: Rs. 399

Publisher: Collins


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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017