The Greatest Director(s) of all Time

by Varda

A while ago I mentioned Empire Magazine's poll to find the greatest directors of all time, and that Peter Jackson had made it into the top 20. To put this into perspective, George Lucas did not make the top 20, coming in at only 31st, showing how much fans rated the Lord of The Rings trilogy as better than the new Star Wars trilogy. Remember people are fickle, and Star Wars is out right now and LOTR is gone two years, but Jackson still beat Lucas by more than ten places.

Other great directors who did not make it to the last group were Francois Truffaut, Fritz Lang and Ingmar Bergman although Sir David Lean still makes it to the top ten, as does John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock.

Who was number one? Steven Spielberg. I thought a director who could make ET and also Schindlers List deserved it, but the entire poll was greeted by howls of derision by the press. To which we can only quote Cecil B De Mille;
'the people are always right....'

Well, that is it, isn't it? film is the ultimate popular art. We can talk about film critics, but it is the audience who make a director. Spielberg cut his teeth (literally) with Jaws, and we all went to see it and lapped it up.

That the audience voted Peter Jackson into this select group on the strength of his cinematic version of Tolkien's classic shows that he has brought The Lord of The Rings not only to more people, but to different people; people who may read but might not read first.

In other words, Jackson has brought Tolkien to a new era, making legends of Frodo, Legolas and Gimli among people who might never have read the book, and might never still.

Here is what Empire says of Jackson in its description of the director;

''before making the biggest trilogy of all time (hello, George Lucas?) there was little awareness that this rotund Kiwi possessed the ability to adapt these supposedly unfilmable books in a way that would be so resoundingly lauded, both by critics and fans.. '

Empire pays dues to Jackson's work in pioneering special effects, but says;
'..none of Jackson's films are remembered for effects, because effects are not the focus. More than any filmmaker he has managed to use CGI to tell stories...always keeping character front and centre. In The Lord of The Rings the battles rage round a nucleus of finely-tuned characters. (Jackson writes as vividly as he shoots...)

Where George Lucas whose lead Jackson seems to be following in terms of independence from Hollywood, used his digital mastery to create photo-realistic worlds without believable human inhabitants, Jackson breeds characters first and then erects a magisterial setting. An intelligent treatment of material, coupled with the ability to play to the crowd has won him universal respect. How many other directors could announce that they are making King Kiong and be greeted with cheers rather than howls of derision?...He's fearless and the good news is he is barely started....'

I liked this article, because this is assessment of Jackson not as an interpreter, but primarily as a director. For like it or not, the films will stand on their own from now on as well as standing as adaptations of a book, much as we love the book.

And the eerie thing is, placed among so many great directors, you begin to see cinematic truths about Tolkien's work; the statement that the relationship between mentor and pupil is central to films of Tarantino reminds us that it is for Jackson too, as Gandalf guides, loses and finds again his charge Frodo.

Stanley Kubrick said; 'if it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed..' which reminds us how really stupid and arrogant it was to say LOTR was 'unfilmable'

When the films were over, how we felt loss! Well, Sam Peckinpah thought so too; he said;
'the end of a film is an end of a life'

And Akira Kurosawa;
'With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece...'

And what better script than one based on Tolkien's writings?

Thanks, all, and thanks, Peter Jackson and Empire.

Response from dphantomrose:

The truth of the matter is that in this work you can appreciate not only Tolkien's work but PJ's passion towards it. As he said in his speech of acceptance at the Oscars, in these films on can see deep beyond the wizards, hobbits, elves and magic rings and can fall in love not only with the characters but also with the substance in the themes that are embedded in these great books and carried over in to the movies.