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Country: United States
Directors: Robert Altman, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorcese, Robert Benton, Tim Burton, James Cameron, Chris Columbus, Wes Craven, Cameron Crowe, Frank Darabont, Jonathan Demme, Nora Ephron, Richard Donner, William Friedkin, Ron Howard, Terry Gilliam, Lawrence Kasdan, Spike Lee, Barry Levinson, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, David Lynch, Adrian Lyne, Garry Marshall, Penny Marshall, Sydney Pollack, Rob Reiner, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Brian Singer, Oliver Stone, Robert Zemeckis, David Zucker
Actors and Jerry Bruckheimer: Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Beals, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jerry Bruckheimer, Tom Cruise, Ossie Davis, Robert Englund, Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Scott Glenn, Jeff Goldblum, Elliott Gould, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Hopper, Michael Keaton, Leslie Nielsen, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, Roy Scheider, Wil Wheaton
Run time: 4 hours
DVD distributor: First Run Features
On the second disc of Directors: Life Behind The Camera, Kevin Bacon is interviewed. That means that THIS, more than A Few Good Men, more than Mystic River is THE movie to use to play “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”. I’m not going to list all the participants here. I have already done so above. But just look at that list! Is there an actor or director or wardrobe adviser in the entire world who hasn’t worked with one of those people? I think the game now ought to be “two degrees of Kevin Bacon”, thanks entirely to this documentary. That is, unless you play the game without including documentaries. Or voices in animated movies. Or some other crappy, obscure rule to make the game harder but less fun. In which case, you are a party pooper.
OK, on to the film itself, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon aside. If you’ve ever thought about making a film, if you’ve ever thought about acting or holding a camera or even knowing a little more about the movies you watch, this documentary is invaluable. It’s a bit of an effort – there are many menus. In each one you have the option of playing “all directors” or one at a time. I recommend “all directors” – even the ones I don’t much care for (Tony Scott, Adrian Lyne) have something really interesting to say. They talk about their starts in the business, the actors and how they get a certain performance out of a certain person, their favourite movies and the relationship between a director and a script. And they all have a totally different take.
The actors are interesting also – they appear on the second disc, talking about the styles of the various directors. DiCaprio talks about James Cameron and Titanic, for example. And they all have interesting anecdotes. I won’t divulge them all here, because I think you should watch this. But Jennifer Beals tells a funny story about a young boy who was a body double for her in Flashdance, and had to shave his legs for the part, much to his embarassment. Kevin Spacey sheds some light on the scene in The Usual Suspects where everyone cracks up during the police lineup. Dustin Hoffman explains some of the inspiration for the lines in Rain Man. Brad Pitt talks Thelma & Louise, the list goes on and on.
And what an incredible list it is. There are other movies, documentaries, where directors talk about their craft. Recently I reviewed a terrific documentary about documentary film makers called Capturing Reality. A couple of the participants in that movie could have been great in this one as well, particularly Werner Herzog, who has done some terrific feature films as well as documentaries. But I wouldn’t dream of bemoaning the fact that he is missing, or that the notoriously reclusive Terrence Malick is missing – they’ve got just about everyone else!
Another great film about film is called A Personal Journey With Martin Scorcese Through American Movies. This is one of the DVDs that made me absolutely excited about movies, that made me go out and buy some of the great American classics like High Sierra and The Bridges At Toko-Ri. That might be the most interesting and watchable of all documentaries about directors and film. And Scorcese (along with the hilarious Garry Marshall and the reticent Clint Eastwood) is one of the most entertaining and fascinating directors interviewed in Directors: Life Behind The Camera.
At the other end of the scale is a movie I once picked up called Directed By John Ford, where we get to see the iconic Western director at his crusty, close-mouthed best. “Why were so many of your movies shot in Monument Valley?” “What a stupid question. Shmalawsssns.” There’s not much of interest in that one – unless you want to watch Ford be cranky. Which I kind of do. And there ARE interviews with John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart, which are FAR more informative than those with Ford himself, most of which consist of only seven or eight words.
Directors: Life Behind The Camera is somewhere in the middle. It’s very good, and incredibly full of information. But it isn’t the kind of DVD I can’t stop watching, like the Scorcese one. In fact, it often encouraged me to stop watching, because another menu would pop up and I would have to navigate around again. Then again, it gets the best information and the best stories out of the very best the movie industry has to offer. And that in itself makes Directors a DVD that is totally worthwhile. There’s four hours of stuff here – think of it as a project in loving movies, one that you can absorb over the course of a few weeks, or a lifetime.