What makes someone a visionary? I mean, there are lot of words we use in veneration of excellence – great, masterpiece, legend – but when do we raise the bar and call someone a visionary? Perhaps when you do something more than just attain greatness; when you do something revolutionary, something changes the course of history for the better. That sense of futuristic intuition, imagination and foresight – that’s what makes someone a visionary. And this is our attempt at honoring the visionaries of cinema; paying our tributes to the auteurs, who with their sheer determination, changed the course of cinema and inspired a generation.
Making a list like this was not an easy task. But, even then a lot of your favorite filmmakers might have been left out. While we apologize for that, do realize that this is not a list of the Greatest Directors, so some of the truly great auteurs like Federico Fellini or Martin Scorsese or Michael Haneke could not make their way into this list. Like all lists, this is not perfect; but what we hope to do is initiate a dialogue which can contribute to the larger discourse on cinema. So, without further ado, let us begin. Here is the list of best cinema auteurs of all time.
12. Wong Kar-Wai
The first time I ever heard of Wong Kar-Wai was when I saw his heart-wrenching masterpiece ‘In the Mood for Love’. One of the most beautiful movies ever made, it put Kar Wai on the cinematic map, bringing him universal acclaim. But once you watch his early films, from his visceral crime saga ‘As Years Go By’ to the breath taking romantic drama ‘Happy Together’, you’ll realize that despite being largely invisible in Western cinematic discourse, Wong Kar Wai is one of the greatest auteurs alive. Kar- Wai’s movies have a poetic quality to them, both on a visual and an emotional level, that tugs at you, refusing to let go. Few have managed to portray the pain and suffering of love, loneliness and isolation with the seductive brilliance of Kar Wai. Firmly rooted in the socio-political structure Hong Kong, Kar Wai gives us a glimpse of life outside the limelight, while managing to infuse verve and excitement into the perennially ordinary.
Someone who hates working under a bound script, there is sense of languid continuity in his works; it is as if we are only being shown a peek into the life of his characters; and we are left wondering about their future. Probably the most underrated auteur in this list, Kar-Wai redefined the language of cinema as we know it; innovating with each passing work; and along the way showing the world what true art is – boundless, illimitable and truly free.
11. Terrence Malick
Transcendental…. Ethereal…. Celestial…. There aren’t enough words in the English vocabulary that can accurately illustrate the work of the magician that is Terrence Malick. A reclusive genius, Malick’s cinematic philosophy broke countless conventional barriers of film-making, while managing to create an emotional connect unlike the works of any contemporary filmmaker. His movies successfully manage to break the barrier that exists between a movie and its audience, connecting directly with your consciousness. Instead of playing around with conventional niceties like plot and character arc, Malick transcends these cinematic props to create something more pure and authentic.
It is impossible to talk about the vision of Terrence Malick without talking about his magnum opus, ‘The Tree of Life’, an experimental philosophical-drama about a middle-aged man reminiscing his childhood with his parents and brothers in 1950s Texas. Without any conventional plot and narrative structure, ‘The Tree of Life’ encompasses the fragmented memories of a middle-aged man about his childhood with his authoritative father and his ethereal mother. A cinematic tour-de-force, ‘The Tree of Life’ is one of the few movies you will ever see that could change your life. No filmmaker since the great Andrei Tarkovsky has woven visual imagery and cinematic poetry quite like Terrence Malick; much like how Tarkovsky changed the landscape of cinema with his ‘Mirror’ and ‘Stalker’ in the 70s, Malick is re-imagining the way modern cinema is being perceived and understood, and we sure are thankful to be living in these times.