Dolan. Wunderkind, genius, prodigy—you name it. Dolan’s 2009 debut I Killed My Mother is a startlingly strong debut for a director of any age—but at age 20—it is almost unthinkable. He’s prolific as well and has backed the debut up with another four arhiveable films (including Mommy- his greatest work to date) by the age of 25. This is unprecedented in cinema history as far as I know. He directs (and directs his heart out), writes and acts. It has been a quieter stretch since Mommy in 2014. The Life & Death of John F. Donovan (2018) is a
Sorrentino. Italian auteur Paolo Sorrentino makes beautiful, opulent tales of morality, power, greed and corruption. 2008’s Il Divo isn’t Sorrentino’s debut, but it made him a recognized name on the international festival circuit. His films have stunning photography, symmetry in the frame, and often start with such cinematic oomph and abandon. His strengths for the purposes of this list is he’s essentially made the same film three times (his trilogy of Italian-language films with Toni Servillo- Il Divo, The Great Beauty, and Loro)—they’re high quality and there’s a consistency in his voice of course (more so than fellow talented
Hogg. London born Joanna Hogg’s debut film was at the age of 47 in 2007. Hogg made four films total (as of 2020) and all four landing in the archives including one top 100 of its respective decade film (Archipelago) and another that is very very close (The Souvenir). Hogg has an absolutely unique discernable style. Hogg is a realist—but unlike most realists her work is about artist’s struggle and relationships between family/friends/lovers in the upper and upper-middle class. I get into it more below but she, like Hou Hsiao-hsien, is an Ozu acolyte in terms of camera movement,
Ben and Josh Safdie. At the time of writing have not had a chance to catch their debut- 2009’s Daddy Longlegs or second effort Heaven Knows What in 2014 but with Good Time (2017) and Uncut Gems (2019) The Safdie brothers have arrived. They certainly have a trademark style: feverishly paced tales of self-destructive characters set in a gritty New York City. They frequently use the handheld cinéma vérité style to keep up with that pace, use neon lighting (the dedication to color is especially potent in Good Time). Best film: Good Time It is an excellent film, but
Roy Hill. George Roy Hill was at the helm for both Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid and The Sting- brilliant films (especially Butch Cassidy) starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. They were box office smashes and very collaborative works (I don’t think anyone is confusing George Roy Hill with a top 100 auteur). The case against him here is that he’s usually at least the 3rd or 4th person you’d mention when talking about the artistic triumph his best film (that would probably be some combination of Newman, Redford, Conrad Hall the DP and William Goldman the screenwriter).
Verhoeven. What a wild ride Paul Verhoeven’s career has been. He’s been called a sleaze and a provocateur – but there’s an undeniable consistency in the work regardless of budget, genre, decade or, even—the quality of (which is admittedly a little all over the place). Unfortunately, I haven’t yet been able to catch the seven films he made in the Netherlands prior to coming to Hollywood to make Robocop in 1987. From 1987-2000 Verhoeven made big blockbusters— right there with Robert Zemeckis, James Cameron and Tim Burton. Verhoeven’s trademark tongue-in-cheek patented style did not always mesh. But the body
Jenkins. It was Barry Jenkins’ second film, 2016’s Moonlight that signaled the arrival of a tremendous new talent in the world of cinema. 2018’s If Beale Street Could Talk confirmed that talent (and Jenkins’ visual and storytelling style). The close-up shot has been a tool for auteurs since before Griffith – but few possess the gift for the shot and dedication to it that Jenkins’ does. Jenkins clearly cares for the details in the frame and mood as much as story—closer to Wong Kar-wai than just about any other director. It was Barry Jenkins’ second film, 2016’s Moonlight
Chan-wook Park. An important member of the South Korean New Wave of auteurs along with Bong Joon-ho and Chang-dong Lee. Chan-wook Park probably is not on the list without Oldboy- certainly a strength—but he even his weaker efforts bear the stamp of his ultraviolence, grotesque, and narrative twists. Painterly mise-en-scenes always have meant more to him than narrative cohesion or momentum. I’ve only seen each of his works once- so there is plenty of study to be done here. Best film: Oldboy. I think there’s a fair amount of cinephiles out there that think it may be The Handmaiden.
Villeneuve. A whopping six archiveable films in the 2010’s—remarkable. Villeneuve is poised to vault up this list in future years—especially if he can put together a 2020’s decade that resembles his 2010’s decade in the slightest. He’s a perfectionist who is also prolific. I can’t wait to see what a few years of preparation produces in Dune. Most other directors that are both this brilliant and prolific work in a smaller milieu. For example, Baumbach had 6 archiveable films in the 2010’s and Soderbergh 7 (and a retirement- haha). Villeneuve makes films on a big scale—his 2015-2017 back to
Pollack. Not a style-plus director but the filmography is just too good to ignore at this point on the list. He is one of the few directors remaining with two films that land in the top 100 of their respective decade. And it’s more than just the films at the top- Absence of Malice is a very fine film and I have it as his sixth best- so there is strong depth here, too. Pollack started as an actor. Of course, he continued to act and is in (and is good in) films like Woody’s Husbands and Wives, Kubrick’s
Bong Joon Ho. Bong Joon Ho is a master of genre blending who has now made an impressive six archiveable films since his debut in 2000. They are often entertaining treatises on the class divide-- social statements with laughs one minute, a serious message the next, followed up by sometimes abrupt, shocking violence. As good as Parasite is, it is the accumulative both of work now that is his strength-- I have mentioned several times how Parasite actually improves Snowpiercer. a shot that belongs on a wall in a museum here from Memories of a Murder- Bong is
Nemes. Nemes debuted with Son of Saul in 2015 winning a few awards at Cannes, the Oscar and Bafta for best foreign language film. He’s two for two in his young career following up Son of Saul with Sunset in 2018—it got none of the buzz of the debut-- but is an equally impressive work of art. Nemes has a set style, uncompromising and singular. Nemes is certainly one of the most important auteurs to debut in the 2010’s (or 21st century for that matter). from Son of Saul- Nemes has a set style, uncompromising and singular. Nemes