Are there filmmakers, scattered around the world, who nevertheless seem to share certain close affinities? One example might be the trio of Jim Jarmusch, Aki Kaurismäki, and Wim Wenders.
Fundamentally, all three have cinephile sensibilities. Jarmusch and Wenders both lived in Paris for a spell and haunted the Cinematheque there. The three also share broad areas of common taste in filmmakers.
Samuel Fuller appeared in films by Wenders (The State of Things, The American Friend) and Aki Kaurismäki (La Vie de Boheme). In the early '90s, Jarmusch and Fuller made a trip to the Amazon, returning to locations Fuller had scouted for his 1955 film Tigrero, which was to star John Wayne and Ava Gardner. The insurance company refused coverage for the stars if the film was made on location in South America, and the film was abandoned. Aki Kaurismäki's brother Mika accompanied Jarmusch and Fuller on the trip and made a documentary about it.
Nicholas Ray constitutes another common bond. A poster of The Savage Innocents appears in Jarmusch's student film, Permanent Vacation. The film was made with raw stock given to Jarmusch by Wenders and Straub/Huillet. Jarmusch was Nick Ray's assistant when Ray was a visiting faculty member at NYU. Wenders famously chronicled Ray's dying days in the documentary Lightning Over Water. Like Fuller, Ray appears in The American Friend.
Ozu is also a key influence. We can see this especially in Kaurismäki's films, which often feature fastidiously designed domestic interiors carefully composed and captured by a stationary camera. Wenders traveled to Japan to revisit the settings of Ozu films; the result was his documentary, Tokyo-Ga. In Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise, Eddie (Richard Edson) reads off names of horses from a newspaper--Late Spring, Passing Fancy, etc.
Certain European modernist filmmakers are also particularly important: Bresson for Kaurismäki; and Antonioni for Wenders and Jarmusch. The trio also shares a globalist sensibility: they have all made films in--and are marked by the influence of--countries and cultures other than their own.
An important thread that runs through their films is a deep love and keen understanding of popular musical forms. There are countless examples to choose from: the rockabilly and Finnish tango bands that are filmed with great musical fidelity by Kaurismäki (watch for the punctiliously correct fingerings during the frequent live musical performances); Jarmusch's casting of musicians in his films (John Lurie, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, etc); and the great variety of musical acts that Wenders has documented or employed (Nick Cave, Buena Vista Social Club, U2, etc). And jukeboxes make an appearance in The Man Without A Past, The Match Factory Girl, and Alice in the Cities. (Although I can't seem to recall a Jarmusch film with a jukebox in it.)
I'm wondering: Any other ideas or examples of filmmakers who share affinities despite being separated by national borders?
An interesting excerpt from an interview Jarmusch did with Jonathan Rosenbaum in 1994. Jarmusch is responding to a question about why he likes Ozu:
I have kind of contradictory tastes. I like things that are very pure. Ozu's films or the films of Carl Dreyer or things by Joseph Cornell or Cy Twombly or music by Anton Webern. Or the Ramones, for that matter. Things that are very pure appeal to me strongly. I also like very messy things, though. Like Blue Cheer or paintings by Jackson Pollock or de Kooning. I like King of New York, Detour, films like that. Things that are messy appeal to me as well, but my own aesthetics tends to go toward a more kind of pure form of things.
-- David Bordwell on Hollywood market segmentation and Baby Box Office.
-- New blog discovery, thanks to Matthew Flanagan: Spectacular Attractions, run by Dan North, who teaches cinema at the University of Exeter in the UK.
-- Two new posts at Dan Sallitt's place: a letter to a fellow filmmaker about her new film; and on Hong Sang-soo's Night and Day.
-- How useful: Catherine Grant posts a list of links to film studies books that are available for free on the web. Also, she points us to two posts by Henry Jenkins, "Why Universities Shouldn't Create "Something like YouTube"": parts One and Two.
-- Kevin Lee posts video of Kent Jones' Q & A with Arnaud Desplechin at the New York Film Festival.
-- The second issue of the journal Experimental Conversations is up. It's devoted to Spanish avant-garde cinema.
-- A half-dozen essays by Richard T. Jameson are now available online at Parallax View.
-- For those within easy striking distance: James Benning's great RR is playing at George Eastman House in Rochester on November 19.
-- Michael Sicinski's page for October includes reviews of Steve McQueen's Hunger, Johnnie To's Sparrow, Joe Swanberg & Greta Gerwig's Nights and Weekends, and Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure.
Here's an excerpt from the Morris review: "While watching SOP, I had a bit of a mini-revelation about Mr. Morris, and why he so often irks me. From his extended interview-cum-handjob with Robert McNamara, to his series of unaired Kerry ads featuring Bush voters who switched allegiance, even way back to his time as a student at Berkeley, where, he's always quick to point out, he studied analytic philosophy of mind, and dedicated himself to the pursuit of Objective Truth, abjuring all that Nietzsche / Heidegger / Derrida / Foucault nonsense that was swirling around at the time, the guy fits a particular profile that I've never really liked. He's the "reasonable" lefty, wherein reason is equated with a propensity to identify not only with the other guy's point of view, but with the other guy's characterization of your point of view as loony, irrational, and out of touch. Morris has to be the liberal Democrat who can show that he's just making good plain old Common Sense, and does so by bending over backwards to let right wingers have their say. The object of the game, of course, is to display civility and humanism, to allow for the fact that even those with whom we disagree are almost always behaving out of pure motives, and to simply impugn those motives tout court is to allow oneself to be blinkered by ideology. But there is something to be said for Robert Frost's old joke about liberals being too broad-minded to take their own side in an argument. Too much recent Morris exhibits this tendency to a crippling fault, and SOP is no exception."
pic: courtesy The Wind In The Trees.