Great Directors -- Film Review

Benjamin Walker
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13:  Actor Benjamin Walker attends the "Bloody Bloody Jackson" opening night after party at Brasserie 8 1/2 on October 13, 2010 in New York City.

Venice Film Festival, Out of Competition

VENICE -- First-timer Angela Ismailos traveled the world to interview her favorite filmmakers in the documentary "Great Directors." These independent spirits -- Bernardo Bertolucci, Catherine Breillat, David Lynch, Ken Loach, Stephen Frears, Todd Haynes, John Sayles, Liliana Cavani, Agnes Varda and Richard Linklater -- speak eloquently and thoughtfully on their work, politics, inspirations and artistic suffering.

The film includes clips from their work and the editing smoothly ties the various stories together. At times, however, Ismailos' appearance in some of the scenes is awkward and forced. The documentary's surest audience is film lovers, though theatrical play may not be extensive for such a niche film. But it should touch all those interested in the creative process.

Some anecdotes are illuminating. Others are more personal, such as the blows from critics that Breillat has sustained over the years, which she says both overwhelmed her at times and made her stronger.

Bertolucci admits his filmmaking changed when, as a young leftist, he realized that pleasure wasn't such a bourgeois concept after all, but a gift directors should pass on to audiences. Loach, still a staunch combatant for working-class rights, makes sure to point out that the opulent gardens he and Ismailos are strolling through are not his backyard.

Lynch chain-smokes and warns against the dangers of not having final cut (in "Dune"), how failure is liberating because there's nowhere to go but up, and how the birth of his daughter changed his work for the better. Sayles maintains that all films are political, perhaps most when they choose to ignore the ugly side of characters and stories.

Varda perhaps best sums up the mystery of being an artist, despite a solitary life of pain and doubt: "You don't fail with a film, you fail with the audience. But like an apple tree is supposed to supposed to make apples, an artist is supposed to make art. You don't know how you continue to create, but you do."

In fact, what is most interesting is hearing the directors speak of their work in general, rather than any film in particular. As Lynch puts it, "People want you to talk about a film as soon as you make it. But the film is the thing. It's the whole thing. It's there."

Production company: Anisma Films
Director/producer: Angela Ismailos
Director of photography: John Pirozzi
Editors: Christina Burchard, Sabine Hoffman
Sales Agent: Cinetec International
No rating, 85 minutes