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The Versatile Filmmaker

Creativity shouldn’t have boundaries or rules, and the truly creative are capable of expression in many different ways.  That’s not to say creativity down a single path isn’t impressive, but the mind of a person who can inspire and master multiple art forms or variations of a single medium is beguiling to me.  It’s like a two-sport athlete.  How Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders were capable of playing both football and baseball at the highest level is a mystery, and I have to chalk it up to God-given athletic talent the likes of which is rarely seen. Similarly, I admire: painters who are talented at both abstract and impressionistic styles, portraits and landscapes; musicians who master multiple instruments; John Lennon and Paul McCartney possessing the talent to write the lyrics AND compose the music to the most influential music of the last century, novelists and writers who are capable of visually expressing their thoughts through painting or other visual mediums.

This brings me to the medium I love the most: film.  Filmmaker’s are constantly associated with a particular genre or style, even if it’s a liberal labeling that suggests the faint presence of a pattern in their artistry.  The one’s who stay thematically constant over a period of time are known as “auteurs”.  They hammer home personal beliefs through the stories they present.  Luis Bunuel used surrealism and satire to offer his protests of religion, society, and love, thus presenting himself as a certain kind of auteur through his constant display of disdain for certain elements of society.  That’s not to say he’s any less genius than someone who used multiple genres to express themselves.  On the contrary, I’d rank Bunuel amongst my top-5 favorite directors ever, because what he displayed was sheer brilliance and total mastery of a particular style that has yet to be surpassed.

With all that aside, I’d like to talk about Fritz Lang, a man I find more and more respect for with each film I watch.  In the past two weeks I’ve watched two of his films, 1921’s Destiny and 1944’s The Woman in the Window, both of which were landmark films of their particular genre.  The former is a silent, gothic tale of the power of love in the face of death and the lengths one will go to in order to sustain that love.  The latter is an American film noir about a chance meeting between an aging professor and a beautiful model and the circumstances that arise due to their meeting.  The fact that Fritz Lang was capable of switching from silent films to talkies and still maintain his ability to create a film at a level 99% of directors will never reach is the stuff of legend.  He’s a born filmmaker, a man who understood the medium so well he could adapt to any style and tell a story in any language, or without any spoken language at all.  I’m not talking about a director who can make a comedy one year and a drama the next, I’m talking about a person who can reach the peak of silent cinema with undisputed classics like Metropolis,  then roll into sound pictures and create masterpieces like M. Imagine that:  silent films told stories through suggestive visuals and the physicality of the actors on-screen, while talkies have to encapsulate visual ingenuity, physical acting, as well as spoken dialogue, all the while keeping an understanding of the importance of subtext and imagery. 

Destiny is considered one of the finest films of all time, as well as The Woman in the Window.  When will we see that again?  I don’t think there’s a monumental shift in filmmaking technique and ingenuity to rival the switch from silent to sound as they experienced back in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  I can only hope something does come along, if for no other reason than I want to see if there’s another Fritz Lang in the crowd who isn’t afraid to make the leap.  So, Mr. Lang, I salute your total mastery of my favorite art form, you are the ultimate filmmaker.

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