Standing unabashedly on the shoulders of giants, director Angela Ismailos pays homage to her favorite filmmakers in the documentary Great Directors. The worthy subjects? David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Stephen Frears, Bernardo Bertolucci, Todd Haynes (below, middle), Agnes Varda, John Sayles, Ken Loach, Liliana Cavani and Catherine Breillat.
Intercutting among these filmmakers in a fairly freely associative way, Ismailos (above right) explores each director’s artistic evolution, and, variously, the roles of politics, history, opportunity and peers on their work. The reflections are often revelatory, if in glancing fashion. Sayles discusses his writing-for-hire mindset and Haynes assays the “culturized, homogenized” version of screen gayness spawned by the ’90s New Queer cinema, while Linklater ruminates on the flipside benefits to the imagination that a (relative) lack of privilege breeds. While Ismailos lets a couple big opportunities for follow-up go unexplored (Lynch’s interesting assertion, in one of his few self-analytical moments, that Eraserhead is his “most spiritual work”), her film is still an inviting illumination on the struggles of being an artist, and attempting to achieve a singular vision in a creative medium that is also, and perhaps foremost, an industry. (Paladin, unrated, 86 minutes)