The Film Directors Who Made It Before 30
Director Mr Damien Chazelle and Mr Ryan Gosling on the set of La La Land, 2017. Photograph by Mr Dale Robinette
As Mr Damien Chazelle’s award-winning La La Land hits the big screen in the UK, we roundup some of the best young movie talent.
Whiplash, a lean, feverish diptych about a jazz drummer and his abusive teacher, came out three years ago when its writer-director Mr Damien Chazelle was, bafflingly, only 29. Mr Chazelle’s new film La La Land, a musical with Mr Ryan Gosling and Ms Emma Stone, is released in the UK this Friday and has just won a record seven Golden Globes: no difficult second album, it is even more assured and hypnotic than his first. As Forbes publish their annual 30 Under 30 and make the rest of us wonder what the hell we’ve been doing with our lives, here are five other writer-director prodigies in whose footsteps Mr Chazelle follows. Patterns that emerge in the debuts of young auteurs include anger, hyper-eloquence, brashness, underappreciated artists, imaginative casting and the deft use of music.
Mr Orson Welles
Mr Orson Welles on the set of Citizen Kane, 1940. Photograph by Alamy
Cinema’s pre-eminent wunderkind was a hurricane of erudition and bravado. In 1941, aged 26, Mr Orson Welles wrote, directed, produced and starred in Citizen Kane, a cinematographic Ulysses that has since topped Sight & Sound’s Greatest Films poll five decades in a row. A Shakespeare obsessive who addled Hamlet’s cerebral obstinacy with a Falstaffian mischief, Mr Welles terrified millions with his faux-real radio rendition of The War Of The Worlds, transposed classics to the screen (most impressively with Chimes At Midnight) and recalibrated the noir villain, from The Third Man to Touch Of Evil. An industry outsider to the end with various projects unfinished when he died in 1985 (including his interpretation of Don Quixote), the great Mr Orson Welles could have been ever greater.
Mr François Truffaut
Mr François Truffaut on set, 1960s. Photograph by Corbis via Getty Images
In 1959, at the age of 27, Mr François Truffaut directed The 400 Blows, a cri de coeur for misunderstood adolescence admired by Messrs Luis Buñuel, Jean Cocteau, and Akira Kurosawa, who called it “one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen”. A year later, he wrote the story that inspired Mr Jean-Luc Godard’s Nouvelle Vague urtext Breathless. A more accessible cinephile than Mr Godard (with whom he fell out), he matured into elegant tragicomedies like Jules Et Jim, an exquisite dissection of male friendship. An occasional actor, he played a version of himself in the delightful, Oscar-winning film-within-a-film satire Day For Night and a scientist in Mr Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. An early starter, Mr Truffaut died far too young at 52.
Mr Quentin Tarantino
Mr Quentin Tarantino on the set of Pulp Fiction, 1994. Photograph by Ms Linda R Chen/Miramax/REX Shutterstock
A virtuoso of image, language, music and cinematic cross-fertilisation, Mr Quentin Tarantino directed Reservoir Dogs at the age of 29 and revitalised independent film with violence, deadpan wit and anti-linear structure. He has casted superbly, especially 1970s idol Mr John Travolta in Pulp Fiction and the respected TV actor Mr Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds. For all the controversy and hallmarks, he’s deceptively versatile, as comfortable with the multi-perspective subtleties of Jackie Brown or The Hateful Eight’s Pinteresque claustrophobia as with politically charged gore.
Mr Paul Thomas Anderson
Messrs Daniel Day-Lewis Paul Thomas Anderson on the set of There Will Be Blood, 2007. Photograph by Capital Pictures
A contender for the greatest living American artist in any medium, PTA has built on Mr Stanley Kubrick’s meticulous grandeur and Mr Robert Altman’s sprawling allegorical otherness with peerless verve. At 27, he wrote and directed Boogie Nights, a fantasia of lust and innocence lost. At 29, he topped it with Magnolia, a surrealist ensemble parable seared with modern frustrations. Adored by directors and actors alike, he has coaxed career-best performances from Mr Tom Cruise, Mr Adam Sandler (in Punch-Drunk Love), Mr Daniel Day-Lewis (in the magisterial There Will Be Blood) and both Mr Joaquin Phoenix and Mr Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master, his mysterious masterpiece. Next, he reunites with Mr Day-Lewis for a film about 1950s style.
Mr Xavier Dolan
Ms Marion Cotillard, Mr Xavier Dolan and Ms Nathalie Baye on the set of It’s Only The End Of The World, 2016. Photograph courtesy of Curzon Artificial Eye
Six features under his belt at 27, the Québécois former child actor Mr Xavier Dolan has already won the Jury Prize and the Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival. The character he plays in his debut I Killed My Mother shares the ungrateful egoism of Whiplash’s drummer and seeded the Oedipal angst he’d refine in Mommy, his most complete film yet, a formally inventive melodrama in which two musical montages stand out: a cathartic dance in a kitchen to Ms Celine Dion’s “On Ne Change Pas” and an astonishingly potent life-in-a-daydream, when the film’s unusual narrow aspect ratio expands to fill the screen. No wonder Adele asked him to direct the music video for “Hello”, which became the fastest to reach a billion views on YouTube. The crème de la crème of Gallic cinema, including Mr Vincent Cassel and Ms Marion Cotillard, star in his most recent film “It’s Only The End Of The World”, released in the UK next month. Two of the protagonists from his earlier films are patronised as “spécial” (“a bit different”), but Mr Xavier Dolan himself really is something special.