Weir. Peter Weir was certainly one of the greatest filmmakers in the world from 1975-2003 (with this best two films bookending that run). The Australian auteur made 10 archiveable films – an incredible feat and number for any director—especially outside of the studio era. He only made 14 fiction features so there weren’t a lot of misses there either. The strength of Weir’s case isn’t just about depth of the filmography (I mean Fearless is really an excellent film)—there’s a pretty clearly identifiable theme of an outsider in a stranger world running throughout his body of work and I’ll get to it more below in the overrated/underrated section- but don’t let the lone one film in the top 100 of their respective decade fool you- if I were to expand the decade list to top 150—I may have 5-7 films from Weir on there- many just missed. It’s tempting to look at his precision and lack of masterpieces and think of him only as a craftsman. Also, Weir’s lack of celebrity, renown, or eccentricity (he rather quietly worked with Hollywood’s biggest stars and was nominated for best director four times) may lead you to believe he’s not an artist- simply a director of great movies- and I don’t think that’s true. I think there’s real artistry here.
Best film: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. It’s very close with the haunting Picnic at Hanging Rock– the film that marked Weir’s arrival as an auteur. Both would be fine choices.
total archiveable films: 10
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 0
top 100 films of the decade: 1 (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World)
most overrated: Weir has just one film on the TSPDT consensus top 1000 and it’s Picnic at Hanging Rock at #587. However, He has a whopping seven films between 1001-2000. Wow! I didn’t realize that until just now and that makes sense with the lack of top 100 of their respective decade for me but the feeling that so many are so close. I don’t have any overrated films for Weir. Picnic is in a good spot on the TSPDT and the rest are fine or underrated—I’ll get to that below.
most underrated : My lone discrepancy with the TSPDT consensus is for Weir’s Master and Commander. It currently sits at #22 from just the year 2003 on the TSPDT 21st century list. That’s incorrect. How great are these JMW-Turner-like landscape images?
gem I want to spotlight : Gallipoli. You could go anywhere here – Witness is superb. Gallipoli may make a really good double-feature pairing with Sam Mendes 1917 from 2019. The freeze frame ending too is certainly one of the more noteworthy and praiseworthy use of freezes in cinema.
- almost always Weir’s lead is a fish out of water—in a dissimilar realm—often abrasive or harmful to Weir’s protagonist. Often freedom as a theme or free spirits held captive but rigid systems
- the use of the freeze frame in Gallipoli is noted above, more often there’s the use of the entire frame to paint or capture a landscape (and put that protagonist set in a strange world literally in a large canvas on the frame)
- nature and landscape photography- I think seven of the ten archiveable films are largely shot outdoors
- often period films, war
- Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
- Picnic at Hanging Rock
- The Year of Living Dangerously
- The Truman Show
- Dead Poets Society
- The Last Wave
- The Mosquito Coast
By year and grades
|1975- Picnic at Hanging rock|
|1977- The Last Wave||R|
|1982- The Year of Living Dangerously|
|1986- Mosquito Coast||R|
|1989- Dead Poets Society||R|
|1998- The Truman Show||HR|
|2003- Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World||MS|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives