Across the grand divide of legit and film, Broadway’s best salute the moviemakers who inspired them in 2007.
Michael Mayer on Julian Schnabel
“Julian Schnabel’s visual vocabulary is astonishing in ‘Basquiat,’ ‘Before Night Falls’ and now ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.’ He started as a painter and came to film later in his career, which I find inspiring. With ‘Diving Bell,’ he does what so few artists dare: He goes completely inside the head of the protagonist (played by Mathieu Amalric) to achieve this amazing p.o.v. Schnabel just rides this bronco of a concept. Then the film shifts and we meet this man earlier in his life, before the stroke that paralyzes him, and yet we completely recognize him as this individual we’ve grown to know from the inside. I’ve never experienced that before in film.”
Michael Mayer won a Tony for helming “Spring Awakening,” which takes to the road this year.
Jack O’Brien on Sidney Lumet
“Wait a minute! Is Sidney Lumet 33? Or 41? Or still in his 20s? Maybe the thing I love the most about ‘Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead’ is that a man in his eighth or ninth decade can whip his story, his camera, his crew, his actors around with the alacrity of a daredevil, flip the story back and forth in time and never lose a beat. But beyond that: A director who understands actors, how they work, how they think, what they can do when the right buttons get pushed is something so rare in the world these days with this army of techno-brilliants attacking us in every possible cineplex. Lumet should be bottled and parsed out to all possible film schools like a Chateau Lafite Rothschild ’68. This is breathtaking work from a man who has earned his stripes, knows his locales and, when given half a chance, can still tell a hell of a story.”
Jack O’Brien, artistic director emeritus of San Diego’s Old Globe Theater, won Tonys for directing “The Coast of Utopia,” “Henry IV” and “Hairspray.” He is currently working on the musical version of “Catch Me if You Can.”
Jerry Mitchell on Ridley Scott
“I felt like I was watching an epic. Ridley Scott raised the story of ‘American Gangster’ to almost mythical proportions. When Denzel Washington’s character is released from prison, it is breathtaking without a word being spoken. You get the feeling of this man coming out of prison after all this time and how the world and his life have changed. Scott’s attention to detail is also spectacular. Musicals in the theater are a much broader medium than film, but even the successful musicals are the ones which pay attention to the smallest details. Everything in ‘American Gangster’ is period specific, from the costumes to the music to the performances to the way it looks.”
A Tony winner for choreographing the 2004 “La Cage aux Folles” revival, Jerry Mitchell made his Broadway directorial debut with the current production of “Legally Blonde.”
Doug Hughes on Tony Gilroy
“‘Michael Clayton,’ the story of the soul-weary fixer/bagman for an elite corporate law firm, is one of the finest feature debuts ever, an achievement that ranks with the best work of Sydney Pollack, Alan J. Pakula and Sidney Lumet. Every image supports Tony Gilroy’s winter’s tale of a man who reaches the excruciating limit of his ability to make peace with an utterly fallen world: a madly blinking phone console in an evidently empty office, the flop-sweat stains on the silk blouse of a killer corporate counsel, the dozen loaves of fresh Italian bread in the arms of Tom Wilkinson as the inspired defector from the deadly status quo of Kenner, Bach and Leeden, LLP; the shot of George Clooney as Clayton, mute with grief and awe before the gorgeous sight of three horses on a hill.
“Golden light seems to be making a valiant effort against almost overwhelming darkness in nearly every frame of Gilroy’s movie. And within this lustrous and haunted world, he displays phenomenal confidence about what to show us up close, what to show us from afar and what to withhold from us until it will land with maximum impact. Finally, when great actors like Clooney, Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton do things that you’ve never seen them do, you know that someone trusted and inspired was in charge. When is this guy’s next movie coming out?”
Doug Hughes, who won the Tony for “Doubt,” helmed the Broadway production of “Mauritius” this fall. He is currently working on the legit musical version of “Ever After.”
Jason Moore on Olivier Dahan
“Olivier Dahan captures the excitement of watching a live vocal performance, in ‘La Vie en rose.’ You get the idea of what it’s like to be in a room with this performer, Edith Piaf. The use of music throughout is beautiful. There’s one long musical introduction in which Marion Cotillard takes a breath. She starts to sing at the microphone, but you don’t hear her sing. Instead, the director uses the music to score a long montage; when it finishes you get the sense that she has become famous. Throughout the movie, Dahan uses Piaf’s music for scoring and as ‘live’ performance. The integration of the two is amazing.
“I especially appreciate this kind of nonlinear storytelling. It’s a theatrical approach: In one Steadicam shot, Piaf realizes her lover is dead; she goes from room to room and is having her breakdown, and then steps out onto a stage. It captures what people bring from offstage to their stage life. It is a filmic approach that requires a lot of technique. But you also know that the acting you’re watching is happening. It has a live element to it. It is not assembled through editing.”
A Tony winner for “Avenue Q,” Jason Moore directed the current Off Broadway hit “Speech & Debate” and will also stage the concert version of “Jerry Springer” at Carnegie Hall this month.
Des McAnuff on Anton Corbijn
“Photographer Anton Corbijn makes a brilliant directorial debut with ‘Control,’ his film about the short life of Ian Curtis of the Mancunian rock band Joy Division. Shot in color, printed in black-and-white, “Control” eerily re-creates Joy Division’s rare musicvideos to the last detail while plunging head first into Curtis’ tortured personal life. Luxuriously paced against the bleak landscape of Macclesfield, England, the film follows Curtis tragically fulfilling his own prophetic lyrics for ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart.’ Corbijn skillfully traces Curtis’ two starkly contrasting lives — one as a compassionate employment officer, the other as a post-punk pioneer. As the gulf between these lives widens, Curtis finds himself wracked by guilt over abandoning his young family, decimated by epilepsy, and finally lost, free-falling into depression.
“A mature Anton Corbijn makes the same kind of electric first impression as a filmmaker that Ian Curtis made as a young artist. He inspires unforgettable performances by Sam Riley and Samantha Morton, and his firm handle on Curtis’ spiraling descent never loses its grip. In the end, there is a simple oppressive shot of a baby pram in the street in front of a banal set of row houses that leaves a devastating emptiness. The last five minutes of ‘Control’ will tear you apart.”
Two-time Tony winner Des McAnuff helmed the current Broadway productions of “The Farnsworth Invention” and “Jersey Boys.”
Bartlett Sher on Julie Taymor
“My 88-year-old mother-in-law told me we had to see one movie: ‘Across the Universe.’ I don’t go to the movies because, if I am not seeing plays or musicals, I am home with a 7-year-old. But my wife and I were lucky enough to take in Julie Taymor’s film, and it was like stumbling on an old friend, with news stories to tell about the time between when we hadn’t seen her. It was fresh, nonlinear, visually rewarding in a way that connected meaning and led to new ideas, and all along it was freeing. It’s so hard when you are in this business doing the work to let go, and it was a relief. Taymor is just a true artist who explored a time like the 1960s and tried to get to its spirit, its substructure. I won’t say it’s a perfect film, but she is the only one out there brave enough to throw the cards up in the air and try something completely new, crack the old forms and let us loose into new territory. My only real complaint was that it was too short.”
Bartlett Sher, the artistic director of Seattle’s Intiman Theater, will helm his third Lincoln Center Theater production this spring: the first-ever Broadway revival of “South Pacific.”
Daniel Sullivan on Wes Anderson
“I respond to what he does in ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ and what he has been doing all along. It doesn’t change much aesthetically. Wes Anderson sees the world in a very unique way. He loves the flat affect of the actor. You have to study closely to see the emotion bubbling underneath the surface. He keeps a tight lid on the actor. I like the pressure it builds in the movie. And I love what seems to be a genuine naivete. There’s a kinship there with Truffaut and some of Truffaut’s early films. It is not so much storytelling as it is incident piled on incident. There’s pressure on the characters that creates a story. You’re waiting for them to react, as you did in Truffaut’s early films.
“The frame is always interesting to study in a Wes Anderson movie. He keeps a lot of air around it, especially in ‘Darjeeling.’ There wasn’t in any way an attempt to make it pretty, and yet it was beautiful. He wasn’t pushing the color; it is just discovered there. It didn’t feel false. I’ve never been to India. I certainly felt I was there.”
Daniel Sullivan, the acting artistic director of the Manhattan Theater Club, helmed the current Broadway revival of “The Homecoming” and won the Tony for directing “Proof.”