Top 3 Indie Directors Gone to Hollywood!
You know the feeling: a great new band comes out, you saw them in that tiny club above a launderette in Hoxton and you were the only one there. You chatted to the lead singer and it turned out you both prefer Morrissey as a solo artist, and you went home gleeful and content in the knowledge that even though the charts are flooded with shite, you have a limited edition, hand made, home recorded EP you can listen to and feel cool about.
Then, a week later, they’ve teamed up with N-Dubz and are Number 1.
You’re crushed. You burn the CD. You cancel the appointment to have their deepest lyric tattooed on your chest. You try to remember the good old days of last week, but can’t hear properly as your ears, nose, eyes and mouth are all full of tears. Well, the same thing happens in the film biz, and although when an indie director gets picked up for bigger projects there’s a part of us thinking “I’m glad they’re getting the credit they deserve”, there’s another part of us pretty sure their best work is behind them. Let’s take a look at a few examples to see whether that always is the case.
Freshman Flicks: Following, Memento
For all the problems in his directorial debut, Following, it is still a very interesting, low budget film that deals with a lot of the same issues of his later, higher profile work. Also, the title character is the first incarnation of Dominic Cobb, the same name given to Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Inception.
However, Following was nothing compared to 2000’s Memento. With Guy Pearce in the lead role, Nolan took a quite interesting story of a man with amnesia trying to recover his memory and track down his wife’s killer, and used some truly unique editing and structural techniques to craft one of the most memorable films of recent times. Nolan played with the audience’s emotions like a master conductor working an orchestra, building to a wonderful twist that nobody saw coming
Graduate Fare: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Inception, The Prestige
Though his next film, Insomnia, was a nearly-but-not-quite affair, partly due to the fact that neither he nor his brother were involved in the script, the Batman trilogy that followed really brought Nolan to the masses. And rightfully so, as Batman Begins and The Dark Knight pretty much re-invented the superhero genre. These movies weren’t campy action films, they were intelligent, brilliantly structured thrillers, in the truest sense of the word, brilliantly written, brilliantly acted and pioneering the use of the Imax camera.
However, in the middle of this trilogy we did have The Prestige, where the twist was (SPOILER!) that Hugh Jackman could replicate himself. Give me fucking strength. Also, though Inception was certainly ambitious, it certainly doesn’t rank with his best work. A film in the middle of a financial crisis about one businessman trying to screw over another businessman? C’mon now.
David O. Russell
Freshman Flicks: Spanking The Monkey, Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees
David O. Russell’s debut feature, Spanking The Monkey, is one of the most uncomfortable films you’re ever likely to watch, juxtaposing the themes of adolescent sexual awakening and an incestuous relationship between a mother and her son. Brilliantly realised, the film bakes in oppressive sunlight and is thoroughly compelling watch. Despite his infamous arguments with George Clooney and Lily Tomlin respectively, Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees were also excellent films. The former was a subtle, subversive take on the war film, while the latter was an hilarious, mind-bending, noir-ish detective story featuring a brilliant ensemble cast that included Jude Law, Mark Wahlberg, Naomi Watts and Jason Schwartzman.
Graduate Fare: The Fighter, The Fighter 2 (rumoured)
An underdog story about a boxer who just wants one last shot at the title, based on true events, with a touch of drug abuse thrown in for good measure? Well, it’s hardly incest or existential detectives. In fact, compared to the challenging stories Russell had previously undertaken, The Fighter sounds like a TV Movie of the Week. And as good as it was, well, it’s hardly Raging Bull is it?
There was a rumour floating around that Russell’s next project was to be a film version of the video game Uncharted (When has a game to movie crossover EVER WORKED?!), however that seems to now be dead in the water. A sequel to The Fighter has been mooted by Wahlberg, and given the bumper pay packet Russell is likely to get, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to hear more news about this.
Freshman Flicks: Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Before Sunset
Linklater’s Slacker is a meditative, documentary style musing on what it means to be a twenty-something in the early 1990s. It follows a group of disparate characters around Austin as they just exist, without really doing anything other than shoot the shit all day. Dazed and Confused has that similar kind of character at its core, the kind of people Linklater grew up with around Austin, and is a classic 90s indie flick.
The commonality in Linklater’s films is a real focus on naturalistic dialogue and a documentary aesthetic, brilliantly exemplified by Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, two beautifully romantic and vividly shot films about two lovers who spend one night together, then meet by chance nine years later when the sequel begins.
Graduate Fare: School of Rock, Me and Orson Welles, Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly
Now, Linklater is one director who seems to jump ship between indie flicks and higher profile features without really sacrificing too much in the way of story or originality. As a guitarist and lover of music, I will put my hand on my heart and say that if you don’t cry at the end of School Of Rock when all the kids start rocking out on stage, you have no soul. Ok, so Me and Orson Welles didn’t make us completely forget that Zac Efron was in High School Musical, but it’s still an interesting story and features a great performance from Christian McKay as Orson Welles.
Linklater has also continually impressed us with his use of Rotoscope in both Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, and possibly in the rumoured remake of The Incredible Mr. Limpet. Rather than it being a gimmicky effect, he integrates it into the narrative of his films seamlessly, creating a stunning visual display (and making Keanu Reeves seem like not such a shit actor).
Also still in the works is Boyhood, Linklater’s spectacularly ambitious project that he has been filming for nearly ten years, and won’t finish until 2015. The film stars Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as a divorced couple trying to raise their young son, following the family from the 6th to the 12th grade, when the son goes off to college. Linklater has filmed a segment every year, again blurring the lines between documentary and fiction, in an attempt to create what promises to be a wonderfully unique piece of cinema. Ah Richard, you give us hope.