It has long been argued that, since the collapse of the Classical Hollywood Studio System, the director is the single most important creative force behind a film. Everything you see on the screen is precisely what they let you see. Thus we open the even bigger can of worms that is the ‘auteur theory’: that truly great directors control every aspect of the film to project their true ‘vision’.
However, for some ‘auteurs’, total control just isn’t enough. They are inclined to leave their stamp on a film in as many ways as possible, and so the director’s trademark becomes a regular feature of filmmaking. It is some recurring theme, character, visual style or car (stay tuned), that appears across they’re filmography as though it were their signature.
Some of these trademarks are common knowledge these days, like Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Blonde in Trouble’. Some though, can go rather unnoticed by the audience. Below is a carefully compiled list of some trademarks you may have missed:
DISCLAIMER: please focus on the careful wording of ‘trademarks you MIGHT have missed’. There’s every chance you’ll have noticed all of the below. In which case congratulations are in order; nothing gets past you does it?
1. Stanley Kubrick – The Stare.
It’s no secret that some characters in Stanley Kubrick films are a little, shall we say, troubled. Who knows what drew the great director to these disturbed characters, but one thing is for certain, they sure do have a frosty stare…
2. Steven Spielberg – Bad Parenting
Considering how long Spielberg has been around, churning out film after film, he really does imprint many trademarks on his work. His films are always different in terms of story, setting and characters. One theme that does get passed from film to film is that of neglectful or perhaps reluctant parents.
3. Wes Anderson – Uniform
Anderson’s films are always stunning in terms of aesthetics, with most of his shots looking as though hours of framing were needed. As well as this, he often likes his characters to don a uniform, whether that means they wear the same as each other, or just wear the same outfits and colours throughout the film.
4. John Woo – Mexican Stand-off
John Woo has made a name for himself by making films that packed to the brim with bullets. So, it can’t really be a massive surprise that, in films where everyone has a gun, they eventually end up in a stand-off.
5. Quentin Tarantino – The Trunk Shot
Ok, firstly I just want to say I only called it the trunk shot as that is what QT himself calls it, and for the benefit of our transatlantic friends. Really, I want to call this the Boot shot, but never mind. The shot is achieved by placing the camera in the back of a car, and represents the point of view of the poor character that is stuffed there.
6. Sam Raimi – The Car
A lot of directors, like Hitchcock and Scorsese, are so proud of their work that they put themselves in it, as a brief cameo. Sam Raimi is obviously proud of his first car, a 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88, and so it’s the automobile that makes the cameo instead.
7. Joss Whedon – Feet
Throughout history, much has been said by critics and experts about the connection between cinema and things like voyeurism and fetishism. Never are those points so blatantly displayed than in the work of Joss Whedon, who clearly has a thing for feet. (This one also goes for Tarantino too)
8. Christopher Nolan – Women dying
Clearly, Nolan’s films all having completely different topics: A man with short-term memory loss hell-bent on revenge, 19th century magicians, heists taking place within dreams, billionaire playboy turns superhero to fight evil. Despite this, every single Nolan film (excluding his debut feature Following) has a female character dying as a major plot point.
9. Sam Mendes + Water = Death
Sam Mendes has always stated that one of his favourite films is the original Jaws, and it has clearly affected him. The presence of water in one of his films is almost always a precursor for impending death.
10. John Landis – ‘See You Next Wednesday’
Bizarre one this, as it appears that in many of Landis’ films he sneaks in the phrase ‘See You Next Wednesday’ in the background. The original phrase was coined in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Frank Poole’s father during the videocall.
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