Tom Jolliffe looks at the forgotten gems that most great directors have…
If you think of many great directors you cast your mind to their career highlights. Those iconic films. Many of these directors become largely defined by one or two films in particular (sometimes more). Additionally occasionally you might also remember those films that become pop culturally iconic. Jurassic Park may not rank as one of Steven Spielberg’s best (albeit it’s great) but it’s one of his most iconic.
Time keeps the best, the worst and the most successful in mind, but what of those gems in the CV that often get forgotten or overlooked. If Tarantino reached iconic status in his first two films (Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction) and create memorable, iconic imagery in Kill Bill, then Inglorious Basterds, it becomes easy to foggily discount how good Jackie Brown was, particularly for its rather disciplined and refreshingly linear approach by Tarantino’s standards.
One of my favourite overlooked gems by one of cinemas great auteurs is the most unfortunately placed film in a CV chronology there has ever been. Think of Coppola’s first two Godfather films. Often sat high on any top 100 list (nay, often one or both, in a top 10). It’s sadly all too easy for folk to overlook one of the truly great paranoia thrillers in cinema history in The Conversation, which was almost a kind of summer off time filler that came out between the two gangster epics. There was nothing half-cooked about The Conversation though. An exceptional piece of cinema that rarely (sadly) seems to get the recognition of those gangster epics or Apocalypse Now. It’s not even as iconic as Coppola’s culty 80’s double whammy of Rumble Fish and The Outsiders.
As James Cameron, king of the world, plugs away promoting a new Terminator film he’s producing as well as working hard on his Avatar sequels, his CV is split between the iconic best work of his Terminator films and Aliens, with his box office dominating duo of Titanic and Avatar. The latter two, ironically two of his least interesting films (Avatar particularly so). One film that often gets overlooked, and granted, doesn’t quite nail its final act, is an excellent piece of work. The Abyss. A tense, taut, underwater thriller that has a theatrical version and a directors cut, but no clearly definitive version that quite knows exactly what it wants play out (particularly in crossing into Close Encounters territory). Still, between the great cast and great visuals, it’s a shame it gets kind of forgotten.
Talk lately of a potential revisit to the world of The Matrix brings back fond memories of the now 20 year old and iconic work. The Wachowski’s followed up with overblown, pretentious and preposterous sequels, and everything else since then has been a kind of glaring misstep, but one film in their CV has been clouded over by time. Upon its release it caused controversy due to the rather steamy Lesbian sex scenes but that furore was a disservice to what is a really stylish, sexy, engaging and beautifully weaved neo-noir femme fatale film. Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly absolutely sizzle on screen, with Joe Pantoliano is fine villainous fettle. It’s still one of the finest erotic thrillers of the last 25 years but it feels like people have forgotten about Bound.
Some directors have stayed so consistent for so long that it’s easy to build up an array of slightly forgotten classics. Spielberg has so much iconic work, from E.T, to Close Encounters, Indiana Jones, the aforementioned Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, and whilst even something like Hook wasn’t anything close to his strongest work, it still retains a great cult following. Minority Report, sort of lost in an era where Tom Cruise was beginning to overshadow his film roles with his private life is a fantastic film with some tech visions that have aged better than many other sci-fi films (if you think particularly about the swipe and touch screen aspects). Spielberg’s career launcher, Duel also remains a brilliantly pure and lithe thriller that is pure adrenaline. An experience over being a narrative. You can also overlook the likes of Empire of the Sun.
Martin Scorsese has one of those CV’s where almost an entire decade gets forgotten. Sandwiched between Raging Bull (1980) and Goodfellas (1990) are an array of interesting works, ranging from the criminally underrated (The King Of Comedy) to nice diversions of genre (After Hours).
Most directors would be proud to have any one of these gems in their CV, but it comes to something given the iconic nature of the greats, that some special films don’t spring easily to mind when considering their works. As Chris Nolan preps yet another epic blockbuster which will receive widespread acclaim undoubtedly, it is a film he made prior to Batman Begins launched him to the stratosphere, that I often find to be sorely overlooked. Insomnia, coming after his iconic breakout Memento, didn’t particularly have the ‘gimmick’ that Memento had, but what it did have was Al Pacino, Hilary Swank and the late great Robin Williams both in inspired form. A rare remake that bettered the source material.
What is your favourite overlooked gem? Let us know on Twitter @flickeringmyth and in the comments below.
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has three features due out on DVD/VOD in 2019 and a number of shorts hitting festivals. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see…https://www.instagram.com/jolliffeproductions/