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Kino / 87 Minutes / 2011 / Unrated / Street Date: November 8, 2011
We hear very early in Great Directors that writer/director Angela Ismailos admires the figures she focuses on in the film, and over the course of her short feature documentary, she attempts to communicate to us exactly why this is. It's an oblique take as an ode to inspiration, and as a result, her film is a nobly investigate hit-and-miss package.
Hearing how filmmakers like Bernardo Bertolucci, Catherine Breillat, and David Lynch what their adolescence careened them toward lives filled with art and cinema is where Great Directors hits its high notes: Whether or not you as a viewer have an affinity or not with the helmers being interviewed, these tales of how 'normal' lives pivoted into 'artistic' ones are involving and informative.
But when Great Directors turns toward these moviemakers' perspective on film and their own philosophies in and around the medium, things take on a talking-head monotony. As a fan, I could listen to Todd Haynes or David Lynch or even Agnes Varda go on for hours and hours, but Ismailos loses the reins on her subjects as Great Directors enters its last half-hour - its intents are laudable, but the movie itself turns nebulous and repetetive.
Though movies like Great Directors are irrefutable dangling carrots for serious cinephiles. Simply hearing of Bertolucci's early apprenticeship with Pier Paolo Pasolini or how John Sayles is able to juggle his own idiosyncratic cinematic worldview while screenwriting for big-budget Hollywood claptrap on the side give Great Directors a fascinating sheen, a draw that cannot be denied. Who knows what could have been accomplished if Angela Ismailos would have taken on a sterner directorial authorship of her own....?