– by David Morgan-Brown
Last week saw the passing of three directors whose work has dramatically affected film history as a whole. On 1st July, British filmmaker Robin Hardy passed away at the age of 86. He had a varied career having directed only a handful of films, wrote a few novels, but mostly worked in the businesses of advertising and historical theme parks. What made him so revered in the film world is that he directed one of the great British horror films ever, The Wicker Man (pictured right), which was released in 1973 with the expectations of being a B-movie, not a landmark film for British cinema. It’s curious that Hardy never quite capitalised on the film’s success and acclaim, though his terrifying directorial flair never rematerialised in any of his other few films.
Then the following day, the infamous Michael Cimino passed away at the age of 77. Like Hardy, Cimino also had a lacking career, proving himself to begin with early on with his second feature film The Deer Hunter (pictured left), which earned him acclaim and awards, only to undo it all with his bloated follow-up Heaven’s Gate, that ended up going several times over budget and bankrupted United Artists when it made barely any money back at the box office. Cimino never fully recovered from his bomb, managing to make a few passable films across the ‘80s and ‘90s. The Deer Hunter is still regarded as one of the best American war movies ever made, and even Heaven’s Gate, which was so savaged upon release, has since been given a critical reappraisal, with some folks calling the director’s cut a much worthier experience – perhaps if it had been released that way in the first place, Cimino’s career may’ve been different.
Then there was Abbas Kiarostami (pictured right), succumbing to cancer at the age of 76 on 4th July, whose output had been more consistently beneficial for the world of film. He has been on the arthouse map since his curious documentary/mockumentary/semi-fictional film Closeup in 1990, about a man who tried to impersonate fellow Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf. Kiarostami won the prestigious Palme d’Or in 1997 for A Tate of Cherry, a wordy and poetically languid film about a man who tries to find a fellow human being to bury his body after he has committed suicide – grim stuff, but essential viewing for anyone interested in the very best in inspiring and thought-provoking drama. He followed it up with the less serious The Wind Will Carry Us (1999), the shot-on-video experiment Ten (2002), and a number of short films from his country and a couple of feature films from outside his country, making just about all his feature films a critical success and worthwhile viewing if you’re interested in this kind of cinema.