Saturday, December 28, 2013

Film #161: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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Lynn and Buddy, my parents, somehow always knew I was going to be a movie nut. That’s the only explanation I have for them taking me to see so many kid-unfriendly movies at the drive-ins back in the '70s (that and the fact they probably couldn’t afford a babysitter, with their civil servant jobs). But they never tried to shield me from very much (though, with sex scenes, they always told me to cover my eyes with the warning term "X-Rated!"). Given that I wasn’t left in tears or bedeviled by nightmares from the movies I saw with them, I guess they sensed everything was copacetic--certainly, child-rearing wasn’t as fraught with as many rules then as it is now.

I was surely in their company when they first saw Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly upon its US release in the winter of 1968 (this 1966 film was finally released stateside in the last days of 1967). At this time, I was only a year old, so I have no recollections, obviously. What I do know is that it was one of my father’s favorite movies, and even my mom--a lifelong Hopalong Cassidy fan--dug it, too. So we went back to see it, over and over, whenever it popped up on drive-in screens as either a main or second feature (and it was definitely a ubiquitous title at Atlanta drive-ins up until the early 80s). Clearly, my parents cherished this movie, and wanted to catch it whenever they could, and on the big screen, where it still works its most forceful magic.

Though it’s not the first movie I can remember seeing (that placement belongs to a very different western, George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid), Leone’s film is the first picture I can remember being totally enraptured by from beginning to end. It hit me first when I was six years old, in 1972. I can remember my parents and I seeing it together at the Northeast Expressway Drive-In Theater. In my mind's eye, I can now catch the orange-and-pink-tinted sunset as we waited for the sky to get dark enough for the movie to begin. I can remember my dad carrying me up on his shoulders to the concession stand, and I can recall the songs (Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” and The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin”) that rung out through the hundreds of drive-in pole speakers as we took that short jaunt together.


And, most of all, I can recall feeling completely captivated by the film from its very first frames, when Iginio Lardani’s absolutely enrapturing credits sequence popped up on screen, with Ennio Morricone’s score screaming out into the atmosphere via that sea of speakers. When I see that credits sequence today, I still get an overwhelmingly cozy feeling in my gut. With its cartoonish animation, its oddly-paced editing, with those photos from the film drenched in bold monochromes and overlaid with strangely visceral transitions crafted by sand, smoke, blood, and even frantic paint brushes--just by visuals alone, Lardani’s sequence seems to be crowing from the mountaintops that this is REALLY gonna be something us folks are about to watch! Couple that with the most inspired musical theme ever produced for a film (as a whole, it's the best film soundtrack of all time, in its immense sadness and confidence), with its growling guitar work, blistering trumpets, epically yalping chorales and, of course, that positively insane aeee-aiee-aiiiii yell. (Who're the singers who did THAT? They certainly made their mark on film and music history!) I...well, I...with all this, I can easily understand why any six-year-old in the '70s--especially one such as myself--would immediately be smitten with the film.

Another thing working in its favor, on this front, is that its plot is incredibly straightforward: it’s a search for a stash of gold, plain and simple. And the title itself is also kid-ready: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. What kid--even a sheltered one--couldn't understand this? The film is even polite enough to let us know who’s who (given that the moral boundaries here are extra-fuzzy), with the introductions of its main characters, each in memorable freeze-frames as exclamations to equally unforgettable sequences, and each emblazoned with those magnificent red cursive letters. Leone’s movie clearly made its mark on me, because I’ve been a lover of both freeze-frames and on-screen graphics ever since.

See, to me, this movie is not great because of its screenplay, which is nevertheless ingeniously constructed and packed with entertaining dialogue; still, it’s not a film with an extreme number of historical profundities, like Leone’s Once Upon a Time in The West, Eastwood’s Unforgiven, Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, or Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch. And, yeah, it’s a movie with three terrific performances at its behest; it’s easy to be carried away by the participation of a heroic, humorous but also alluringly distant Clint Eastwood as Blondie (or The Man with No Name, if you prefer), a terrifying Lee Van Cleef as Angel Eyes (my mom, somehow, had a big crush on the high-cheekboned, blue-eyed Van Cleef), and especially Eli Wallach as the hilariously desperate and grungy Tuco. However, in the end, the star of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is, front and center, Sergio Leone himself. I don’t find myself agreeing with Quentin Tarantino often about movie history, but I will take into deep account his conviction that Leone’s direction here is the best of all time. I could name a few other directors/titles to throw into the race, but, yeah, this would certainly be amongst ‘em.

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From the first shot--which begins as a place-setting long view of the Spanish desert (though set in America, this film is resolutely European) and, with an actor’s simple slide into frame and an expert focus puller‘s abilities, then mutates into a startling close-up of a taciturn shootist out for Tuco’s head--Leone’s direction announces itself as completely unique. His A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More were also well-mounted, but here we're in another realm entirely. It feels as if Leone gave his very all to this movie, and yet he still had so much more genius left in him (even with only three movies yet to be credited to him before his death in 1989). But, with The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, he just seems to be having so much fun with the moviemaking process. This sense of joy is completely why we’re left buzzing after watching The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. It’s as if, sometime in 1965 or so, Leone had taken to utmost heart Orson Welles’ assessment of movies as being the greatest train set a boy could have to play with, and then set out to construct the steeliest train set of all time.

You can chalk the casting of those three lead actors (each radically unusual choices for that time), and the rest of the cast, as integral parts to this magnificent plaything. Certainly Leone and producer Antonio Grimaldi knew they had valuable collaborators in composer Morricone, cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli, production and costume designer Carlo Simi, and editors Eugenio Alabiso and Nino Baragli (most of whom with which they'd worked before). Knowing that these artisans were on board, this must have made Leone feel fabulously free to request anything at all from them, with the knowledge his vision would be surely achieved with their work.

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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is utterly overwhelming in its visual detail. The gaudy silver rings on Tuco’s fingers, Blondie's thin brown cigars (which Eastwood despised the taste of), the run-down wooden look of almost every town and wagon and person we see, the use of space and camera angles to inform us exactly where everyone is and what they are doing, the destruction of the war, the sweatiness and dustiness of it all. It’s the trippiest of all westerns. Watching it feels not like we’re being tricked into the seeing the past, but as if we’re actually seeing it, in an artful way we could never hope to imagine. There’s something about that mixture of the European makers, and the American story, that’s just mindblowing. Watching it, you feel like the world has somehow shrunk. It’s America, yes, and right in the thick of the Civil War. But yet we're somewhere else, in some kind of netherworld. It’s that kind of a feeling we can’t put our finger on. It’s the feeling of the TRUE Spaghetti Western (a term that popped up only after this movie arrived, and a term that would change the perception of westerns worldwide forever).

And, by the way, try as they may, none of those other hundreds of Spaghetti Westerns could match this one (though they all provided a new, and perhaps disrespectfully arch, way for viewers to enjoy the genre without having to indulge in the anti-Indian racism that ruined it for many, including Tarantino, who actively despises John Ford, I think, for this reason). When you watch the film, Leone’s masterful angles and cutting floor you, again and again. You get complicated pans and tilts, brilliantly wide long-shots, long tracking shots, inserts intercut with crowd scenes, deep peers into actors eyes (which often fill the screen), clever obfuscations of essential action, haunting silences, blasting noises, and resplendent, repeated reintroductions to Morricone’s superlative score. You just never know what to expect with this movie. It’s a gold mine.

One of the reasons this movie works so well is because it’s not just about good versus evil, like many previous westerns were; there’s that third element there, the one that’s not interested in a moral code, but only in survival. That’s Tuco, and it’s his often jovial, smarmy, revolting presence that elevates the story. It complicates it, and blurs the simpler lines between Blondie and Angel Eyes. At first, we see TUCO as the Bad, and not as the Ugly. But we learn more about him as we go along, and eventually, as we grow to like him, to see him as someone denigrated by the lowliness of poverty, we truly see him as the unfortunate in this story. Of course, one could say the same about Blondie and Angel Eyes, who are also out for survival cash. Maybe that’s the key message of Leone’s film: that we’re all in the same boat, trying to find a way to live, and sometimes we have to rely on one another, regardless of our competing morals, in order to make it all happen. Or maybe this is simply a movie about wise one-upsmanship. Now that I truly consider it, I think the latter is more the case. At any rate, it’s a deceptively complicated movie, and one that rewards repeated viewings (it’s definitely a film that has been viewed many times, by a great many people). Moreover, and most importantly, I would say that it’s also a western that is all things to western lovers: a treasure hunt, a man hunt, a massive battle, a road movie, a showdown, a romp, and an opera.

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Moments in the film’s first act that I love: Tuco complaining that he needs water after Blondie first captures him, and then spitting in his face, with Blondie then backhanding him with a terrifically loud whallop (I adore the sound work in the movie; it‘s so over-the-top, it‘s just intoxicating, and the dubbing, while noticeable, is still expertly done; it must be the one dubbed movie that every American viewer can forgive); the hats flying off onlookers as Blondie blasts the chapeaus off their heads; the broken “half-soldier” that provides some of the film’s sparing exposition (including the first mention of “Bill Carson“); Tuco dutifully, and with much expertise, testing out pistols at an ostensibly closed shop, and then stuffing the “closed” sign into the elderly clerk’s mouth--with the clerk’s hysterically tired response (the whole of this beat-laden comedic scene somehow feels like a nod to Jerry Lewis); Leone’s superb matching of Tuco’s gun, aimed at Blondie, against the cannon fire that frees them both; Tuco’s search for Blondie, based on the cigars Blondie leaves behind (Morricone’s score radiantly rings out in this sequence); Blondie, near death, finding out where the gold is hidden, and then Tuco’s hilariously rapid turn-around into becoming his best friend, right before the film’s only fade-to-black.

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Leone’s second act begins with Tuco, now in Confederate clothing, speeding up to a monastery, with Blondie as the nearly dried-out corpse holding the key to the plot's mystery. Here, in this section, we’re introduced to much sentiment. We see the toll this Civil War has taken on those that participated in it. Morricone’s music now turns wonderfully mournful, and we really get the sense that Tuco and Blondie are now close to becoming friends (though you’re never really sure with Tuco). Man, how sublime is Eli Wallach in this movie? He’s so funny and tough and weirdly sweet in it. I still think that his participation here alone landed him a rare Honorary Oscar in 2010; with his stubby looks, Wallach had largely been a supporting actor throughout his career, but I truly believe his performance as Tuco ensured him this honor. Similarly, I believe that Morricone’s music here was chief in the minds of those who voted him the Honorary Oscar in 2009, though he had garnered nominations for Days of Heaven, The Mission, The Untouchables, Malena, and Bugsy (amongst literally hundreds of other better scores, though none better than this one or his work on Leone's more ambitious Once Upon a Time in the West).

good 9I love that Leone and his fellow screenwriters Agenore Incrocci and Furio Scarpelli (more popularly known as Age and Scarpelli), Luciano Vincenzoni and blacklisted American actor Mickey Knox chose to highlight Tuco’s backstory with the appearance of his brother, Pablo (Luigi Pistilli), a monk at the monastery. This draws us, and Blondie, closer to Tuco, even after we see Tuco slapping his own face in mock sorrow, and peeking through his fingers for affirmation, after beholding Blondie’s desert-scarred, bed-ridden visage (which HE caused). Tuco's exchange with his brother Pablo, soon after this scene, tells us much:

Tuco: What about our parents?
Pablo: Only now do you think of them, after nine years.
Tuco: Nine years? (he smiles big) Mmmm…so it’s nine years? (he shrugs) Nine years!
Pablo: Our mother has been dead a long time now. Our father died only a few days ago. That’s why I was away. He asked for you to be there. But there was only me. (Tuco is clearly devastated by this) And you? Outside of evil, what else have you managed to do? It seems to me you once had a wife someplace.
Tuco: (turning, now snarling) Not one, lots of em. One here, one there, wherever I found ‘em. Go on, preach me a sermon, Pablo.
Pablo: What good would that be? Just keep on the way you’re going. Go away. And the lord have mercy on your soul. (Pablo turns away)
Tuco: Sure, I’ll go, I’ll go--while I’m waiting for the lord to remember me. (stopping Pablo) I, Tuco Ramirez, brother of Brother Ramirez, will tell you something. You think you’re better than I am? Where we came from, if one did not want to die of poverty, one became a priest or a bandit. You chose your way, I chose mine. Mine was harder. You talk about mother and father. You remember when you left to become a priest, I stayed behind? I must have been 10, 12, I don’t remember which, but I stayed. I tried but it was no good. Now I’m gonna tell you something, You became a priest because you were too much of a coward to do what I do. (Pablo slaps Tuco, and then Tuco knocks Pablo down with a more powerful slap, and then we see that Blondie is witnessing this exchange. Tuco helps his brother up, and then turns to leave).
Pablo: Tuco? (but Tuco doesn’t even turn around to look at him). Please forgive me, brother…

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Soon after, Tuco joins Blondie on the stagecoach, and they both ride away from the monastery. Here, we get another key exchange:

Tuco: Nice guy, my brother. I didn’t tell you my brother was in charge here? Everything! Like the pope, almost. He’s in charge in Rome. Yeah, yeah, my brother say to me, “Stay, brother, don’t go home. We never see each other. Here, there’s plenty to eat and drink. Bring your friend, too.” (he pats Blondie on the chest) Whenever we see each other, he never let’s me go. It’s always the same story. (Tuco laughs, and Blondie listens) My brother, he’s crazy about me. (long pause) That so, even a tramp like me, no matter what happens, I know there’s a brother somewhere who’ll never refuse me a bowl of soup.
Blondie (smiling): Sure. After a meal, there’s nothing like a good cigar. (Blondie picks the cigar out of his mouth and hands it to Tuco, who receives it, and then takes a deep, restorative breath).

Here, after one of the screenplay's nifitest tricks (with the Union soldiers patting off their greying dirt), we get deep into the Civil War, with Blondie and Tuco captured by Union soldiers and thrust into the battle against the Confederates. This is the section of the movie I like best. It's kind of a side-story (though Angel Eyes is there in the mix, and thus the film's narrative is driven further). But I adore the action of it all, and the fact that it gives both Blondie and Tuco an opportunity to do what's right and just, as a team. I also like that Angel Eyes, as a Union sergeant now, is one who leans towards torturing his army's prisoners, against his hobbled commanding officer's recommendation, thus underlining Angel Eyes' bad moniker. The scene with Angel Eyes and Tuco sharing a slurping meal together demonstrates they are intimates in their worldview, but it also shows that Angel Eyes is ready to use Tuco to get the booty that he truly wants (to the point of almost having Tuco's eyes gouged out). During this torture session, the defeated Confederate soldiers are commanded to sing their wistful song with "more feeling," while Angel Eyes and his henchman try to beat the truth out of Tuco (even though it's Blondie, only, who has the name of the grave at which the gold is buried at). Angel Eyes later calls Blondie in to his quarters, but surprisingly hands him his freedom. Noting Tuco's blood on the dusty floor, Blondie asks: "You're not gonna give me the same treatment?" Angel Eyes, creepily knowing his enemy, smirks and asks "Would you talk?"

After Tuco and Blondie are separated by Angel Eyes (with Tuco winning freedom from the henchman, and with Blondie joining forces with Angel Eyes), then we view the destruction that the war has caused. This section of this Italian/Spanish movie has more insight into the American Civil War than any other movie had up to this time (it would arguably remain so until the mid-90s, when Ronald Maxwell's Gettysburg, Ken Burns' The Civil War and Edward Zwick's Glory finally broke America's reluctance to look closely, through cinema, at this damaging conflict). This leads to that massive scene, more western- than war-flavored, in which that dude in Leone's first great image shows up again to menace Tuco, who's busy taking a bubble bath. Bullets ring out, and Tuco lets loose with the wisest words imparted in any action film, ever: "When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk."

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The second act also sets Tuco and Blondie up against Angel Eyes (this is a movie with direction so assured, it blinds you against the holes in its screenplay and the unlikely chanciness of its characters' re-encounters).  It leads into western cinema's most mammoth shootouts, set against a battle-torn town (complete with falling cannonballs) and a two-to-five match-up. This is the kind of stuff we watch westerns for. It's ridiculous fun, peering at the always-smiling Eastwood and the shifty, grimy Wallach finally working together, especially supported by Morricone's percussive score and Delli Tolli's sumptuous scope photography. And then it has that wonderfully funny final missive, from Angel Eyes: "See you soon, idiots," and with Blondie handing the note to Tuco and remarking, acerbically, "It's for you."

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And then we get to my very favorite sequence in the movie: the bridge, with the Union Captain (Aldo Giuffre) in command, drunk and ready to be done with the fight.

Union Captain (guzzling a bottle of wine): The Rebs have decided that damn bridge is the key to this whole area. Stupid, useless bridge! Flyspeck on Headquarters' maps. Headquarters has declared we must take that ridiculous flyspeck. Even if all of us are killed. Otherwise the key'll get rusty and just be a spot on the wall. And that's not all: both sides want the bridge intact. Intact is how the south wants it, and we want it intact, too. We'll all turn to dust, but one thing's for sure: the bridge will stand unbroken. Is it bad, to speak the way I do to volunteers? I've done a lot worse. I've blown it up in here...BOOM (points to his head). I've destroyed it all. It's a court-martial offense, to imagine, to dream of blowing it up. A serious crime. Even to think of destroying that bridge, it's just (he burps)...
Why not really blow it up, Captain?
Tuco: Yeah, Captain, it's nothing. Let's scare the hell out of them!
Union Captain (laughing): I've been dreaming about it. (he stops them, in confidence) I've even worked out a plan. I sure have.  If there was a truce, I could save many thousands of men. But what I lack is the guts. (and an explosion rocks them).

Tuco and Blondie's rigging of the bridge is a superb scene. It's engrossing and humongous (and, with thousands of extras, easily sports the film's widest vistas). It is, in short, Leone's perfectly calibrated highpoint. Just when they thought they were free from the war, it impinges on Tuco and Blondie once again, and they are caught up with those same troops they once left behind. This is the path these unlikely friends need to take to the other side, where the cemetery is, and where the gold is buried. One senses that Blondie wants to do it to save the men and please the Captain. Tuco only wants to do it for the gold, but he's willing to go along if it get him what he wants. While rigging the bridge, Tuco tries to suck what he information he can out of Blondie. But Blondie is not ready to give up anything. This back-and-forth dialogue is funny and insightful, and it provides a definite justification for the film's finale. But not before we witness, in one of cinema's greatest montages, a mad volley of cannon fire, with Tuco's ass high in the air, and Blondie's hat pointed downwards, and with the Union Captain grinning, as he dies listening to the bridge's destruction. Still, though, the finale is not so joyous: the scene is filled with dead bodies on both sides. War, really, has no happy endings for anyone.

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All of this leads up to the glorious finale, in that odd circular cemetery, where the good, the bad and the ugly share a showdown like none other in cinema history. Time is broken down here into micro-milliseconds, space into half-inches, with bodies backing away from each other, hands drifting slowly towards waiting pistols, eyes shifting back and forth in extreme close-up, and the victor waiting to abscond with the loot. And with one character finally, unforgettably, left lying, screeching out a filthy insult that morphs into Ennio Morricone's aeee-aiee-aiiiii, Leone decamps with Morricone's stunning, aggressive vocals and that meaty guitar. Here, the film withdraws, leaving us incredulous at what we've just seen. Like The Man With No Name, Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad and The Ugly remains strong in our minds, complete with a sure sense that there could never, ever be anything else like it presented ever again. For me, and for many others, it's the greatest western of all time. Even a six-year-old could see as such.

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NOTE: This article originally appeared as the #5 entry in Wonders in the Dark's 60-part retrospective on the greatest westerns of all time.  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Film #160: The Wild Bunch

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For years, I had not seen Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch in full. I had caught bits of it on TV, or maybe at the drive-in, where my mom and dad had carried me along to check it out. I’m sure my dad liked it--most dads adore The Wild Bunch--but my mom, who'd had quite enough of seeing dead bodies returning from Vietnam on TV, felt sickened by violence in movies at the time (both Bonnie and Clyde, with its bullet-riddled climax, and M.A.S.H., with its comedic treatment of medical gore, had similarly made her ill; since, of course, she's been inured to on-screen messiness). For my own part, I found the movie dull, even as a pretty with-it kid; somehow, Peckinpah had not gotten his hooks in me (I now see that The Wild Bunch is a movie that works least best on the young, and also I always knew that, on TV, it was being shown pan-and-scan, and that's just a outright no-no with what any movie geek can see is a beautifully widescreen presentation).

It wasn’t until its 1995 restoration and re-release, when I was approaching my 30s, that I finally did my duty and caught The Wild Bunch on the big screen at a four-wall theater, as it was meant to be seen. Afterwards, I could’ve kicked myself twice, three times even for not previously grasping what a powerhouse masterpiece it was, for Peckinpah’s film finally bowled me over as it did almost everyone who saw it in the late 60s/early 70s (it's certainly a movie that should be seen at least once at a theater; if you haven't experienced it as such, you're partially abandoning its strength). From its very first scene--that staccato credits sequence portraying the titular bunch trotting past a group of joyful kids cackling as thousands of fire ants overtake two deadly but hapless scorpions (a mirror of the film's famous conclusion)--The Wild Bunch aims to encapsulate the brutality of criminally-minded men and, simultaneously, their deeply-held longing to regain some modicum of innocence, honor and compassion. In its dichotomies, Peckinpah's picture is like no other. It set a template for a few decades worth of film output behind it.

In it, William Holden (who, while struggling to vanquish an alcohol-induced career slump, thankfully won the lead over a then-too-vibrant Lee Marvin) plays the aged, tired Pike Bishop, a former Army man now commanding a group of droopy ne'er-do-wells through a rather inert series of bank and train hold-ups. Alongside him: the unfailingly loyal Dutch Engstrom (Ernest Borgnine, in a sweet mid-career boost); the filthy Brothers Gorch, Lyle (Warren Oates) and Tector (Ben Johnson, in perhaps the first of his major roles after John Ford's Wagon Master); Angel, the handsome Mexican bandit (Jaime Sanchez, notably the most youthful and idealistic of them all); and character actor Edmond O’Brien as Freddie Sykes, the grizzled, tobacco-dribbling horseman (giving Sierra Madre's Walter Huston a run for his money as the definitive unkempt mountain man). Most of the rest of the bunch--including Bo Hopkins as the too-briefly-seen Crazy Lee ("Well, how'd you like to kiss my sister's black cat's ass?")--are dispatched in the film’s first big showpiece: the robbing of the bank in that sleepy Texas town too busy railing against the evils of drink to notice they’re all about to get blown to bits (gotta love a movie where the first actor you see with a speaking line is the inimitable Dub Taylor).

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It’s the bunch that starts the gunfire, but it’s Deke Thornton’s gang of money-hungry buzzards that escalates it, looking to get every penny they can, even if it means shooting total innocents and then robbing their pockets, or the shoes off their feet. Thornton is played with a gorgeous world-weary sadness by Robert Ryan; it’s clear that his character is not enjoying this assignment. Even though he and Pike ended their relationship on bad terms (in an essential flashback edited back into the movie only in its re-release), he still sees more honor in his nasty work with Pike than he does with the liquored-up trash he’s riding with now (L.Q. Jones and Strother Martin are extremely memorable here as the scummiest of Thornton's crew, complete with gentle homosexual undertones and loud bickering over the corpses they, together, pick clean). But soulless railroad man Harrigan (a mustache-twirling Albert Dekker, as maybe the most horrible person in the movie) slams the hammer down on Thornton, and sets him on his journey: “30 days to get Pike or 30 days back to Yuma. You’re my Judas goat.”

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The opening scene has long been called a ballet of blood and for justified reasons. Louis Lombardo’s superb editing here ratchets up the tension, with the sound of rapid heartbeats as background, until the sequence literally explodes--if any movie "explodes," this one does--in a cataclysm of shotgun lead, trampled townspeople, bloodied henchmen, falling bodies, crumbling storefronts, rearing horses, crushed dreams, and frightened children (there are almost endless shots of babies and kids all throughout the film, as a callback to the return-to- and destruction-of-innocence theme; women, however, do not fare nearly as well here). There is just simply nothing in cinema history like this sequence, and any filmmaker who tiptoes even slightly near it is immediately accused of ripping off Peckinpah’s mastery (only Walter Hill has gotten away with aping the Peckinpah style in his wonderful The Long Riders, a movie that should be part of this WONDERS IN THE DARK retrospective and which respectfully sidled up next to The Wild Bunch but, because of its 1980 release, didn't get much resultant controversy).

This stultifying sequence is no less than the introduction of a more modern depiction of violence in movies: a violence correctly fraught with horrible consequences. It’s this chief aspect of this film that shook cinema in 1969; even after Bonnie and Clyde, absolutely no one was ready for such an onslaught (though I don't really wanna give the impression that the depiction of violence is ALL this film's about). But Peckinpah was tired of the bang-bang-you’re-dead cleanliness of westerns and, seeing that the genre was near the end of its run, he clearly needed to put the final exclamation point on his view that bloodletting had to be seen in all its scuzzy goriness in order to be understood and, finally, perhaps vanquished (only problem is, on-screen violence continued to get more graphic afterwards; surely the cynical Peckinpah could've seen THAT coming, and we have to wonder if he blamed himself, in his final years, for heightening movie cruelty; that said, if Peckinpah didn't do it, then someone else surely would have).

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After discovering the robbery's bounty is not all they thought it would be, in a scene that underlines both the fissures in the bunch’s alliance and the good humor that cements their bond, it’s up to Pike to find them something honorable--and profitable--to chase (he admits to Dutch that he‘d like to "make one good score and back off"). Taking refuge in Mexico, it’s the big-eyed Angel who leads them to this mission, after suggesting they take a siesta in his idyllic home village (photographed in haunting smoky blues and greens by Lucien Ballard, who does the best work of his long career all throughout the film). In the village, the bunch reconnect with joy, dancing with senoritas while drunk with happiness and passion (one of the village elders responds to their abandon when he says, in one of the film‘s key observations: "We all dream of being a child again, even the worst of us. Perhaps the worst most of all.")

wild 18In the film’s most moving scene, this bunch--this wild bunch--are given an inspiring send-off by the Mexican villagers, who soulfully incant the mournful “La Golondrina” as tribute to their heroes' new mission: to find the General Mapache (in a superbly greasy performance by Mexican film director Emilio Fernandez), who recently raided the village, killed their leaders, and stolen their women, including Angel’s paramour. I adore this scene of ardor and heroics; it really makes me weep every time I watch it. It’s the final, gigantic tribute to a group of men who’ve probably done nothing worth paying even slight tribute to in their whole lives. It’s their awakening, and it’s the memory they each take to their graves (that’s why the scene is called back in the film’s final frames). Absolutely no one--not even the most hardened psychopaths--could walk the tributary gauntlet they walk, tipping their hats in respect to the noble poor and accepting generous flowers from the ladies, without being completely transformed by the experience.

The detailed screenplay, by Peckinpah, Roy Sickner and Walon Green, is unusual in numerous ways, one of which is its second-act shift from western genre territory into almost war (or crime) movie-land, with Mapache (under the thumb of a couple of Nazi-precursor German consultants) conducting his federales against the revolutionaries, and the bunch--all US Army veterans--once again abandoning their morals and agreeing to heist a trainload of American guns for the General's nefarious use. Pike’s men are to split a cache of gold coins as payment, but Angel--bitter over the subjugation of his village and the theft of his woman (whom he’d rather see dead than with Mapache)--asks for a crate of guns and ammo instead of gold, so that his village can fight against the general. Angel's compatriots see this as a risky though honorable trade-off, and so they comply. This leads us to the brilliantly tense train heist scene--a centerpiece of the film which Peckinpah slyly directs with almost no dialogue or music cues. Only the rhythmic sounds of the train appear on the soundtrack, heightening the strain of this enormously entertaining sequence which culminates in one of the hugest stunts ever seen in cinema: the determined destruction of the dynamited bridge, with Deke Thornton’s men on it (the resultant blast is so massive--by Peckinpah's design--that its shockwave visibly stuns Holden on-screen).

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It's nuts, the innumerable moments I love in The Wild Bunch--moments those rabid fans of this cultiest of cult movie will be very familiar with: William Holden’s insanely suitable first major line (“If they move, kill ‘em," which not only became the title of David Weddle’s authoritative biography of the self-destructive Peckinpah, but also signifies the second upon which Peckinpah’s freeze-framed director’s credit appears, as the capper to that energetic credits sequence, and perhaps the autograph on a career devoted to a strange breed of sadly heartless humanity; it also might be the one single line of dialogue that defines the western genre as a whole); the way the temperance league members can’t--or maybe won’t--quite follow Dub Taylor’s pledge of alcohol abstinence; Pike and Dutch’s compact and repeated comedy routine (Pike: “Get up, ya lazy bastard”); Lyle Gorch being schooled in what the term “in tandem” means; Pike's regretful realization that Crazy Lee is actually Freddie Sykes’ now-dead grandson; Dutch scorching his fingers on and then spitting out Freddie’s awful coffee; Pike falling off his horse, to the bunch's amusement, and then agonizingly getting back up on the saddle again, to their respect; Lyle, at the Mapache headquarters, complaining about being set off at a side table from the decision makers, and then disdainfully leering at the sodden general (“Well, look at him--ain’t he the one?”); Angel's final exchange with the woman who betrayed him, all in unsubtitled Spanish, and all before he assassinates her, with an unforgettable, very-close zoom-in on her rapaciously laughing face, and then followed by a dismissive response from the general, who sees her very funeral as merely an irritant; Lyle and Tector cavorting in both wine and water with two portly Mexican women; the unfailingly ridiculous Mapache riddling the town with bullets while firing a bulky machine gun; the wacky scene with the gang sharing a single celebratory bottle of hooch; a toothy Alfonso Arau (another notable Mexican film director) as one of Mapache’s deputies, sent to negotiate with the bunch, pleading mightily with Pike to “Please…cut the fuse.”  Like any devoted cultist, I eagerly wait for all these scenes whenever I watch the movie.

And maybe my--and everybody's--single favorite exchange in the film: where Pike finally glances around the Mexican brothel where he's had his last woman (in a life probably filled with only whores), where he's feeling bad for the good-hearted, romantic man they left behind, feeling sorry for the damnable bastard he's become and, with Ballard’s luminous lighting catching JUST the correct angle on Holden's stunning blue eyes, then saying to the rest of his fellow bastards simply “Let’s go.” And Lyle’s also brilliantly terse answer: “Why not?” No more words are needed (Borgnine's Dutch stands outside of the brothel, just waiting for the right answer).  Thanks to Peckinpah's writing and direction, both Holden and Oates would never match their career-defining moments here (though Oates had quite a colorful filmography ahead of him).

Thus begins their final march--a march towards immortality, a victory march, a death march and a march for freedom.  These iconic actors--this iconic moment--this stroll--a moment improvised on location, sculpted in time--towards a final showdown with Mapache's bacchanal at Agua Verde, and set to Jerry Fielding’s terrific brass-and-percussion-driven score--well...there's just nothing like it  And after an unbelievable, unbelievable denouement--this incredibly grisly climax, deeply emotional and desperate, with its quicksilver editing, loud and copious gunfire, exquisite choreography, hundreds of bodies (mostly dead or dying), fleet moves and slow-motion movements, and then ending with Dutch's final heartbreaking reach out to Pike--after this, nothing...nothing... in movies would ever be the same (and yet nothing in movies would really ever match it). The Wild Bunch, surprisingly humanistic and supremely lovely and stunning in its understanding of depravity and its limitations, is not simply the westerns to end all westerns; it's one of the ultimate examples of pure cinema. That's how landmark great it has always been, and how mesmerizing it still is.

Pike Bishop: We're not gonna get rid of anybody! We're gonna stick together, just like it used to be! When you side with a man, you stay with him! And if you can't do that, you're like some animal. You're finished! We're finished! All of us!

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NOTE: This post originally appeared as the #7 entry in Wonders in the Dark's countdown of the 60 greatest westerns.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

THE GREAT DIRECTORS (Collect all 200 in the first series)

I've always been fond of trading cards, though I no longer collect them. But if I were to design a card series, this would be it. The great film directors are a fascinating bunch because, by and large, unless they regularly appear before cameras, even the most devoted fans have only a vague idea what they look like. Here's my attempt to remedy that. Amongst the many movie and still cameras, film strips, pointing fingers, beards, foppish heads of hair (or bald domes), spectacles, eyepatches, sunglasses, smoking devices, dark backgrounds, scarves, big hats and stylish suits, you'll find one thing in common: that film directing ups one's cool factor to impossible degrees. Seriously, these are some of the most mackin'  people ever to walk the planet. I stuck with ONLY black-and-white images and tried to include a wide variety of shots (and a big thanks to all the talented photographers involved here). My favorite images are often the slickest or craziest of the bunch: Mel Brooks (hilarious, of course), Kathryn Bigelow (action shot!), Dziga Vertov, Melvin Van Peebles, Ken Russell (insanely perusing film clips), Mario Bava (mugging with a frown), Bob Fosse, Quentin Tarantino, Charles and Ray Eames (on a motorcycle), John Cassavetes, David Lynch (with a chicken), Roger Corman (with a machine gun), Auguste and Louis Lumiere, Roman Polanski (staring out an apartment window), Busby Berkeley (surrounded by his creations), Jean Cocteau, Ousmene Sembene (impossibly cool), Preston Sturges, Sergei Eisenstein (a complete madman for movies), Sidney Lumet (on an NYC subway), Jacques Tati (in full Hulot mode) and the dandy Wes Anderson. By the way, the photos and names are not placed in any order. I leave it up to film fans to recognize why I included each director, and to speculate on the six films each that placed each here.

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas, film fans. 

Here's the key for all included directors, in alphabetical order (I also just added key films for each director, limiting myself to only six films per name, with only one exception):  

Robert Aldrich (Kiss Me Deadly, The Dirty Dozen, Attack, The Flight of the Phoenix, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, The Longest Yard)
Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Manhattan, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Broadway Danny Rose, Hannah and Her Sisters, Love and Death)
Pedro Almodovar (All About My Mother, Talk to Her, Matador, Volver, High Heels, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!)
Robert Altman (Nashville, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, 3 Women, MASH, Gosford Park, The Long Goodbye)
Lindsay Anderson (if..., O Lucky Man!, Brittania Hospital, This Sporting Life, The Whales of August)
Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood, Punch Drunk Love, The Master, Magnolia)
Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Bottle Rocket, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou)
Kenneth Anger (Scorpio Rising, Lucifer Rising, Invocation of My Demon Brother, Hollywood Babylon)
Michelangelo Antonioni (Blow Up, Red Desert, The Passenger, L'Eclisse, La Notte, L'Avventura)
Dario Argento (Deep Red, Suspiria, Tenebre, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Four Flies on Grey Velvet)
Darren Aronofsky (The Fountain, Pi, Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan, The Wrestler)
Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude, Being There, Bound for Glory, Shampoo, The Last Detail, The Landlord)
Tex Avery (A Wild Hare, I Love to Singa, Red Hot Riding Hood, The Cat That Hated People, Screwball Squirrel, King-Sized Canary)
Carroll Ballard (The Black Stallion, Fly Away Home, Never Cry Wolf, Duma)
Saul Bass (see this)
Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, Greenberg, The Squid and the Whale, Kicking and Screaming)
Mario Bava (Black Sunday, Black Sabbath, Rabid Dogs, Danger: Diabolik, Lisa and the Devil)
Warren Beatty (Reds, Bulworth, Dick Tracy, Heaven Can Wait)
Ingmar Bergman (Fanny and Alexander, The Seventh Seal, Through a Glass Darkly, The Virgin Spring, Persona, Winter Light)
Busby Berkeley (Gold Diggers of 1935, Stage Struck, Babes in Arms, Stage Struck, Strike Up The Band, They Made Me a Criminal)
Bernardo Bertolucci (The Comformist, The Spider's Strategem, 1900, The Last Emperor, Last Tango in Paris, The Dreamers)
Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, Near Dark, Point Break, The Loveless)
Budd Boetticher (Ride Lonesome, Buchannan Rides Alone, The Tall T, Seven Men From Now, The Bullfighter and The Lady, Decision at Sundown)
Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, Targets, Paper Moon, What's Up Doc?, They All Laughed, Saint Jack)
Sergei Bondarchuk (War and Peace (68))
John Boorman (Deliverance, Excalibur, Point Blank, Hope and Glory, Hell in the Pacific, The Emerald Forest)
Stan Brakhage (Mothlight, Dog Star Man, The Act of Seeing With One's Own Eyes, Garden of Earthly Delights, Black Ice, The Wold Shadow)
Robert Bresson (A Man Escaped, Au Hazard Balthazar, Pickpocket, Diary of a Country Priest, Mouchette, Lancelot of the Lake)
Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, The Producers, The Twelve Chairs, Silent Movie, High Anxiety)
Charles Burnette (Killer of Sheep, To Sleep With Anger, The Glass Shield)
Luis Bunuel (Un Chien Andelou, L'Age D'or, Los Olvidados, The Exterminating Angel, Belle De Jour, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie)
James Cameron (The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Titanic, Avatar)
Jane Campion (The Piano, Bright Star, Sweetie, An Angel at My Table, Top of the Lake)
Frank Capra (It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Lost Horizon, Arsenic and Old Lace, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Meet John Doe)
John Carpenter (Halloween, They Live, The Thing, Dark Star, Escape From New York, Starman)
John Cassavetes (A Woman Under the Influence, Husbands, Opening Night, Shadows, Faces, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie)
Claude Chabrol (La Ceremonie, This Man Must Die, Le Boucher, The Story of Women, The Flower of Evil, A Girl Cut in Two)
Charles Chaplin (City Lights, Modern Times, The Gold Rush, The Kid, Monsuier Verdoux, The Great Dictator)
Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Three Monkeys, Distant, Climates)
Jean Cocteau (Beauty and the Beast, Orpheus, Testament of Orpheus, The Blood of a Poet)
Joel and Ethan Coen (Barton Fink, Fargo, No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski, Miller's Crossing, Blood Simple)
Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation, The Rain People, Tucker: The Man and His Dream)
Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinnete, The Bling Ring)
Roger Corman (The Masque of the Red Death, Little Shop of Horrors, Pit and the Pendulum, The Wild Angels, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, The Trip)
Constantine Costa-Gavras (Z, Missing, State of Siege, Le Capital, The Confession)
David Cronenberg (Dead Ringers, The Fly, eXistenZ, Spider, Videodrome, The Dead Zone)
Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity, Children of Men, Y Tu Mama Tambien, A Little Princess)
Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Mildred Pierce, Angels with Dirty Faces, The Sea Hawk, Yankee Doodle Dandy)
George Cukor (A Star is Born (54), Dinner at Eight, The Philadelphia Story, Adam's Rib, Sylvia Scarlett, My Fair Lady)
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (L'enfant, The Son, The Kid with a Bike, Rosetta, La Promesse)
Jules Dassin (Rififi, Night and the City, Brute Force, Never on Sunday, Circle of Two)
Terrence Davies (The House of Mirth, The Long Day Closes, Distant Voices Still Lives, Of Time and the City, The Deep Blue Sea)
Jonathan Demme (Stop Making Sense, The Silence of the Lambs, Handle with Care (aka Citizen's Band), Something Wild, Caged Heat, Melvin and Howard)
Claire Denis (Beau Travail, White Material, 35 Shots of Rum, Trouble Every Day)
Brian De Palma (Blow Out, Carrie, Sisters, Dressed to Kill, Scarface, Femme Fatale)
Walt Disney (Steamboat Willie, The Barnyard Concert, The Skeleton Dance, The Ugly Duckling, Who Killed Cock Robin, Fantasia)
Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain, Charade, Funny Face, On The Town, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Bedazzled)
Carl Theodor Dreyer (The Passion of Joan D'Arc, Ordet, Day of Wrath, Vampyr, Gertrud)
Charles and Ray Eames (Powers of Ten, Tops, Kites, Think)
Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven, The Outlaw Josey Wales, High Plains Drifter, Bronco Billy, White Hunter Black Heart, The Bridges of Madison County)
Sergei Eisenstein (Alexander Nevsky, Battleship Potemkin, Ivan the Terrible Part One: Ivan Grozny, Ivan the Terrible Part Two: The Boyars' Plot, Que Viva Mexico (32), October: Ten Days That Shook The World)
Federico Fellini (8 1/2, Nights of Caberia, La Strada, I Vitelloni, Amarcord, Fellini Satyricon)
David Fincher (The Social Network, Seven, Zodiac, Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
John Ford (Stagecoach, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Searchers, They Were Expendable, My Darling Clementine, The Grapes of Wrath)
Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Hair, The Fireman's Ball, Ragtime, Amadeus, Loves of a Blonde)
Bill Forsyth (Local Hero, Gregory's Girl, That Sinking Feeling, Housekeeping, Comfort and Joy, Being Human)
Bob Fosse (All That Jazz, Cabaret, Star 80, Lenny, Sweet Charity)
John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May, Seconds, The Train, Birdman of Alcatraz, Ronin)
William Friedkin (The Exorcist, Sorcerer, The French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A., Killer Joe, Crusing)
Samuel Fuller (Shock Corridor, The Naked Kiss, Pickup on South Street, Fixed Bayonetes!, The Steel Helmet, The Big Red One)
Abel Gance (Napoleon (27))
Terry Gilliam (Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Time Bandits)
Jean-Luc Godard (Breathless, Masculin Feminin, Weekend, Pierrot Le Fou, Contempt, Band of Outsiders)
D.W. Griffith (Intolerance, The Birth of a Nation, Broken Blossoms, Orphans of the Storm)
Michael Haneke (Funny Games, The White Ribbon, Cache, Amour, The Piano Teacher, The Seventh Continent)
Ray Harryhausen (special effects sequences in: Jason and the Argonauts, The Valley of Gwangi, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, Clash of the Titans, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms)
Henry Hathaway (Kiss of Death, True Grit, Fourteen Hours, The Desert Fox, Niagra, China Girl)
Howard Hawks (Rio Bravo, Bringing Up Baby, Red River, His Girl Friday, The Big Sleep, To Have and To Have Not)
Werner Herzog (Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Grizzly Man, Every Man For Himself and God Against All (aka The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser), Fitzcarraldo, My Best Fiend, Encounters at the End of the World)
George Roy Hill (A Little Romance, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, The World of Henry Orient, Slaughterhouse-Five, Slap Shot)
Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho, Vertigo, Rear Window, Shadow of a Doubt, The 39 Steps, The Birds)
John and Faith Hubley (Moonbird, The Doonesbury Special, The Hole, Cockadoody, Of Stars and Men)
John Huston (The Treasure of Sierra Madre, The Dead, The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen, Beat The Devil, Fat City, Prizzi's Honor)
James Ivory (The Remains of the Day, Howards End, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, A Room with a View, Maurice, Shakespeare Wallah)
Peter Jackson (Heavenly Creature, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Meet The Feebles, Forgotten Silver)
Jim Jarmusch (Stranger Than Paradise, Mystery Train, Dead Man, Down by Law, Permanent Vacation)
Chuck Jones (What's Opera Doc?, Duck Amuck, Duck Dodgers in 24 1/2th Century, Hair-Raising Hare, Long Haired Hare, The Dot and the Line, The Dover Boys at Pimento University, Feed The Kitty, One Froggy Evening, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Rabbit Seasoning, From A to Z-Z-Z)
Spike Jonez (Being John Malkovich, Where The Wild Things Are, Adaptation, Sabotage)
Wong Kar-Wei (Chungking Express, In The Mood For Love, 2046, Days of Being Wild, Happy Together, Fallen Angels)
Elia Kazan (A Streetcar Named Desire, On The Waterfront, East of Eden, A Face in the Crowd, Splendor in the Grass, Panic in the Streets)
Buster Keaton (The General, Steamboat Bill Jr., The Navigator, Our Hospitality, Seven Chances, The Cameraman)
Gene Kelly (Singin' in the Rain, On The Town, It's Always Fair Weather)
Abbas Kierostami (A Taste of Cherry, Through The Olive Trees, Certified Copy, Life and Nothing More, The Wind Will Carry Us, Close-Up)
Krzysztof Kieslowski (Three Colors: Blue, Three Colors: Red, The Double Life of Veronique, Dekalogue, Blind Chance, Camera Buff)
Takeshi Kitano (Sonatine, Fireworks, Kikojiro, Boiling Point, Violent Cop)
Barbara Kopple (Harlan County USA, American Dream, Wild Man Blues, Shut Up and Sing)
Hirokazu Kore-eda (Nobody Knows, Still Walking, After Life, I Wish, Like Father Like Son)

Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey, Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Barry Lyndon, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining)
Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samarai, Ikiru, Rashomon, Ran, Yojimbo, High and Low)
Fritz Lang (Metropolis, M, Fury, Man Hunt, Hangmen Also Die, The Big Heat)

John Lasseter (Toy Story, Toy Story 2, A Bug's Life, Tin Toy, Luxo Jr.)

David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, Great Expectations, Brief Encounter, Ryan's Daughter, Doctor Zhivago, A Passage to India)
Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Storm, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Eat Drink Man Woman, Sense and Sensibility, Life of Pi)

Spike Lee (Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X, 25th Hour, Inside Man, She's Gotta Have It, Jungle Fever)
Mike Leigh (Life is Sweet, Topsy Turvy, Abigail's Party, Another Year, Secrets and Lies, All or Nothing)

Sergio Leone (The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, Once Upon a Time in America, Duck You Sucker)

Richard Lester (A Hard Day's Night, Petulia, The Knack and How to Get It, The Bed Sitting Room, Help!, Superman II)

Jerry Lewis (The Nutty Professor, The Bellboy, The Family Jewels, The Ladies Man, The Errand Boy, Hardly Working)

Joseph H. Lewis (Gun Crazy, The Big Combo, Terror in a Texas Town)

Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Bernie, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Waking Life, Slacker, Before Midnight)

Ernst Lubischt
George Lucas
Sidney Lumet
Auguste and Louis Lumiere
David Lynch
Terrence Malick
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Anthony Mann
Michael Mann
Elaine May
Albert and David Maysles
Paul Mazursky
Leo McCarey
Ross McElwee
George Meiles
Russ Meyer
Vincente Minnelli
Kenji Mizoguchi
Robert Mulligan
F.W. Murnau
Mike Nichols
Lawrence Olivier
Max Ophuls
Yasujiro Ozu
Alan J. Pakula
Gordon Parks
Alexander Payne
Sam Peckinpah
Arthur Penn
D.A. Pennebaker
Roman Polanski
William S. Porter
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger
Otto Preminger
Bob Rafelson
Lynne Ramsay
Nicholas Ray
Satyajit Ray
Robert Redford
Carol Reed
Kelly Reichardt
Jean Renoir
Leni Riefenstahl
Jacques Rivette
Nicolas Roeg
Eric Rohmer
George A. Romero
Roberto Rossellini
Ken Russell
John Sayles
John Schlesinger
Ousmene Sembene
Martin Scorsese
Douglas Sirk
Steven Soderburgh
Steven Spielberg
Aleksandr Sokurov
George Stevens
Oliver Stone
Preston Sturges
Quentin Tarantino
Andrei Tarkovsky
Jacques Tati
Bertrand Tavernier
Francois Truffaut
Andrezj Vajda
Melvin Van Peebles
Gus Van Sant
Agnes Varda
Dziga Vertov
King Vidor
Erich Von Stroheim
Lars Von Trier
Raoul Walsh
Andy Warhol
John Waters
Peter Watkins
Apaitchapong Weerasethakul
Peter Weir
Orson Welles
William Wellman
Lina Wertmuller
James Whale
Billy Wilder
Robert Wise
Frederick Wiseman
John Woo
Edward D. Wood, Jr.
William Wyler
Zhang Yimou

NOTE: The second and final series is in the works, so any names left off will surely be coming up in the next salvo.