Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Victor Fleming Is My Stephen Daldry

I'm well aware that Victor Fleming had a rather prolific career as a silent filmmaker before his 1939 Double-KO with Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, but compared with the Cukor's and Wyler's of the time, he was far from frequent. Adapted from the Rudyard Kipling novel, he made Captains Courageous in 1937, before the Scarlett O'Hara's and Dorothy Gale's of this world came into being. It was nominated for four Academy Awards and won one, for Spencer Tracy's co-leading performance, which he shares with and is completely outshined by child actor Freddie Bartholomew. It's a wonderful film, easy to guage narrative-wise (as you'd expect of Kipling) but remarkably slow-burning considering, and unwilling to cut any corners. I highly recommend it.

This makes a set of three Fleming films that are all masterpieces in their own rite, which I suppose is not dissimilar to the level of praise
Stephen Daldry has received from the Academy for his only three feature-length films (Billy Elliot, The Hours, and The Reader), two of which were nominated for Best Picture and all of which managed to land him a Best Director spot. His only other film prior to that was a short, which managed a BAFTA nomination, and probably assured that he could try his hand at feature filmmaking in the first place.

The only other filmmakers that have come close to having a 100% 'A' record with me are Hitchcock (obviously he made too many films for that to happen), James Cameron, and Pedro Almodóvar, although Andrew Stanton, Joe Wright, and John Cameron Mitchell are close. If there are any films I need to see by any of the filmmakers mentioned then please let me know. I'm particularly curious about Fleming's
Test Pilot and Tortilla Flat -- Joan of Arc looks a bit too intense. If anyone has seen them, weigh in with opinions. I need your help! :-)

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