In the decades since auteur theory graced textbooks and became basically a religion for modern cinemaniacs, young directors have been under enormous pressure to burst onto the scene, already armed with an individual voice to further prove the philosophical theory of directorial influence. What occurs more often than not is either subtle crumbs of an eventuating (and delicious) personality, or a cookie-cutting imitation of preconceived ideas (which are naturally tasteless).
Take Akira Kurosawa (𝘙𝘢𝘯, 𝘐𝘬𝘪𝘳𝘶) for example, who over 19 years didn’t receive any international acclaim until 𝘙𝘢𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘮𝘰𝘯 (𝟷𝟿𝟼𝟶). He was 40 years old. Or perhaps Jason Friedeberg (𝘔𝘦𝘦𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘴, 𝘋𝘪𝘴𝘢𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘔𝘰𝘷𝘪𝘦), who will never reach any acclaim, ever. Nope. Never. Uh-uh. Please stop.
Although, the conventional ideas of working toward your potential, or working toward realisation, are completely debunked by those who seem to be naturally built for the gig. The director’s seat is shaped rather particularly, sculpted by a culture of power (or money) and envisioned by fundamental experience (or money). Yet contrary to the facts of life, some tourists may sit in the carefully moulded chair and find that it fits. Thor lifts his star-weighted hammer. Arthur pulls the sword from the stone. They would tell you it’s actually quite manageable. But then we’d all be doing it.
These directors seem to fit this destiny-style description, either because their debut film felt that of a seasoned veterans tenth picture, or because of their substantial effect on cinematic culture from the get-go.
Jordan Peele embodies the latter with his debut feature 𝘎𝘦𝘵 𝘖𝘶𝘵 (𝟸𝟶𝟷𝟽) which takes 5th position. A genuine horror film which comments on the prevalence of racism in the 21st century disguised as zoo-like fascination and endearment; forced cooperation and coexistence for ulterior, elitist motives. Whilst the film has its flaws, Peele’s portrayal of modernised prejudice is impeccably well acted, scored, shot, and designed, whilst undeniably nightmarish. A ripper debut.
Taking 4th is the enigmatic 𝘌𝘳𝘢𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘥 (𝟷𝟿𝟽𝟽) by David Lynch. A testament to detail, the film incorporates score, sound, prod. design, and lighting to create an ambience wholly inimitable. 𝘌𝘳𝘢𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘥 is Lynch’s most ambitious and undefinable, and the films structure just barely follows the minimum narrative format of continuity of agents; connected events. Whilst Lynch is the patriarch of mainstream surrealism, no film of his or his influences will ever look, sound, or feel close to his debut.
Coming round the bend at 3rd is Sidney Lumet’s argumentative classic 𝟷𝟸 𝘈𝘯𝘨𝘳𝘺 𝘔𝘦𝘯 (𝟷𝟿𝟻𝟽), a 96-minute debate which shows consensus as both dangerous and vital to a society. Lumet’s debut not only rocked the socio-political culture of its time by emphasizing the need for harmonious pluralism, but continues to spark debate of the flaws of unanimity, and the misinterpretations of emotion as fact. An agent-based masterpiece, 𝟷𝟸 𝘈𝘯𝘨𝘳𝘺 𝘔𝘦𝘯 will forever be a charmingly optimistic take on democracy.
The runner up at 2nd is Truffaut’s semi-autobiographical entry, 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝟺𝟶𝟶 𝘉𝘭𝘰𝘸𝘴 (𝟷𝟿𝟻𝟿). There’s not much more that needs to be said about this film that hasn’t already been heavily analysed, 𝟺𝟶𝟶 𝘉𝘭𝘰𝘸𝘴 is subversive, harrowing, and questionable of the conventional. When the film was released and showed a man is outnumbered 4 to 1 in a prison cell by women and children, society was suddenly a paradox and new territories of film were being explored. Iconic.
Top spot? What else but Kaufman’s philosophical world-building tale 𝘚𝘺𝘯𝘦𝘤𝘥𝘰𝘤𝘩𝘦, 𝘕𝘦𝘸 𝘠𝘰𝘳𝘬 (𝟸𝟶𝟶𝟾). Although I completely hate Will, his amateurism and stupid neck beard, the one thing we do agree on is a mutual love for Kaufman’s quirky cynicism. 𝘚𝘺𝘯𝘦𝘤𝘥𝘰𝘤𝘩𝘦 isn’t just a feat for a debutant but for any filmmaker regardless of experience. Philosophical theory comprehended through film is next to impossible without seeming pretentious. The irony of solipsism as a societal catastrophe is an unmatchable story to not just think, but to write, produce and direct? Yowza. Give this man a statue.
All in all, these directors make me feel terrible about how little I have achieved. My first film? A 10-minute long short about rebellious teenagers, with 4 minutes of dialogue and 6 minutes of unlicensed music. Maybe I wasn’t made for the chair, but I’m glad I can witness the works of people who are.
1. 𝘚𝘺𝘯𝘦𝘤𝘥𝘰𝘤𝘩𝘦, 𝘕𝘦𝘸 𝘠𝘰𝘳𝘬 (𝟸𝟶𝟶𝟾)
Dir. Charlie Kaufman
2. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝟺𝟶𝟶 𝘉𝘭𝘰𝘸𝘴 (𝟷𝟿𝟻𝟿)
Dir. François Truffaut
3. 𝟷𝟸 𝘈𝘯𝘨𝘳𝘺 𝘔𝘦𝘯 (𝟷𝟿𝟻𝟽)
Dir. Sidney Lumet
4. 𝘌𝘳𝘢𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘥 (𝟷𝟿𝟽𝟽)
Dir. David Lynch
5. 𝘎𝘦𝘵 𝘖𝘶𝘵 (𝟸𝟶𝟷𝟽)
Dir. Jordan Peele