Five Modern Masters of 35mm Filmmaking
In the Modern World...
There are only a few true masters of 35mm film still working in Hollywood. With most movie directors choosing to shoot digitally due to both costs and scheduling concerns, the original lifeblood of the pictures known as film is becoming more and more scarce. Nearly every movie theater in America now uses digital projectors to screen movies and digital cameras are getting closer to replicating the image quality of film. Much to the dismay of many film purists, the 2010s is beginning to look like the decade in which we will see the phasing out of 35mm film entirely.
In this new digital world there are a handful of directors who choose to stick with the dying medium that Thomas Edison and the Lumière Brothers gave birth to in the 1890's. These somewhat stubborn artists refuse to shoot digitally and even consider early retirement if the industry keeps rapidly turning digital. For many, these are the last few titans of a fading art form that used to dominate the entertainment industry. A few names come to mind when thinking about film and the modern age.
Paul Thomas Anderson
Anderson is one the truest examples of a film purist who has stayed true to himself while exploring a vast range of subject matter and film styles without comprising his vision. Getting his start in the 1990s at a relatively young age when compared to other directors, Anderson made his mark with early masterpieces such as Boogie Nights (1997) which was a riveting tale surrounding the Golden Age of the porn industry and Magnolia (1999) which displayed a highly innovative approach of interweaving the stories of seemingly unrelated characters and events with compelling results.
Anderson ascended to film royalty with the release of his most celebrated film There Will Be Blood in 2007. With it's stunning cinematography, odd yet fitting score, subtle story beats and an impeccable Oscar® winning performance by Daniel Day-Lewis the film has been considered by many to be one the best movies of the 2000s decade. Anderson followed this with his most recent feature The Master (2012) which contained the awe inspiring performances and brilliant camera work we've come to expect from Anderson along with a cryptic story about the power of charismatic individuals, alienation, and post-World War II uncertainty.
Fans can expect a new P.T. Anderson film, Inherent Vice, which is slated to be released in 2014.
Joel and Ethan Coen
The Coen brothers are known as one the most formidable directing teams the industry has ever seen. Their debut dates back to 1984 with the release of Blood Simple, a small yet deeply disturbing Neo-noir crime film which goes from subtle mysterious levels to high levels of suspense near that of a horror film. Since that epic start, the Coens have continued to entice us with great features including the enduring Raising Arizona (1987), the psychological Barton Fink (1991), the masterful Fargo (1996) and the iconic, cult-like film The Big Lebowski (1998).
In the last 10 years the Coen Brothers have showed no sign of slowing down and in 2007 they released their modern masterpiece No Country for Old Men. This Best Picture Oscar® winning film details a cat and mouse game that ensues between a random hunter and a sociopathic killer over a briefcase full of money. The film uses the barren West Texas landscape to display the role that chance plays in deciding the fate of us all.
Since winning the Oscar® for Best Director for No Country... the Coen's continue to amaze us with comedy (Burn After Reading), odd dramas (A Serious Man), and perfect examples of how to remake a classic (True Grit). Their most recent work Inside Llewyn Davis has astounded critics and is currently a favorite for the 2014 award season.
Love him or hate him, Tarantino is one of few popular directors who refuses to go digital and stays true to 35mm film. He exploded onto the scene with his first feature Reservoir Dogs (1992) which was a blood-filled, gritty tale of a jewelry heist gone horribly wrong. But it was his second film Pulp Fiction (1994) that made him a legend among legends. With it's nonlinear storyline and explicit violence the film gave birth to a new era of realistic yet somewhat exaggerated action-based crime films that would dominate the 1990s and 2000s decade.
Since releasing Pulp, Tarantino has established his highly stylistic nature with his Kill Bill films and his more recent films which rework history. His 2009 film Inglorious Bastards tells a historically inaccurate yet well paced and action packed tale of deception during World War II while his most recent work Django Unchained (2012) shows a slave getting his revenge in Pre-Civil War Southeast America.
Tarantino has made his distaste for digital filmmaking no secret. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter Tarantino claimed that the current wave of digitally shot features is a form of "Public Television" and if it continues he may not be making movies much longer.
Nolan is a rare example of a director who sticks to shooting on film while dealing with massive blockbusters and content some would argue would be better suited for digital cinematography. Despite this, Nolan prefers the look of film having shot his first feature Following (1998) on stark, black and white 16mm film. His second film Memento (2000) is a brilliant example of Nolan's attention to detail, fascination with mystery and the subconscious and his unconventional approach to storytelling.
Nolan would make his biggest impact with his direction of his Dark Knight trilogy which re-envisioned Batman in ways only few could imagine. His dark, gritty take on the torn superhero gave new light to the comic book film genre and established Nolan as one of the boldest visionaries of 21st Century filmmaking.
His next project, the ambitious Interstellar, is slated for a 2014 release and many believe it will be a revolutionary take on the Sci Fi genre.
Many film purests will look at this last inclusion and think "Isn't Scorsese done with shooting film?" This is true, Scorsese's last two films Hugo (2011) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) were both shot digitally. However, his inclusion on this list is due to the fact that he is possibly the greatest living film director among us (next to Woody Allen) who is still working.
He is known for creating some of the greatest movies of the last 50 years with works such as the striking Mean Streets (1973), the haunting Taxi Driver (1976), the jaw dropping boxing epic Raging Bull (1980), and the iconic mafia story Goodfellas (1990). All of these films among many others established Scorsese as the greatest director of the late 20th Century.
In the 2000s he continued giving us hard hitting masterful stories on film such as Gangs of New York (2002) and The Avaitor (2004) which used some interesting techniques to mimic the look of some of the earliest color films. His 2006 film The Departed re-established him as the master of crime films while winning him his first and so far only Oscar® for Best Director. He is also a strong advocate for preserving motion pictures from the Silent Age despite having "lost the fight" against digital filmmaking.