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Themed Feature - 14 March 2017

Directing? I can do that too!

Actors, writers and fashion designers take a seat in the director’s chair

Fashion designers have a knack for creating beauty, but are they good filmmakers as well? Tom Ford, known for perfume, sunglasses and his success with Gucci, is living proof that the leap from fashion to film can work. In 2009, the Texan presented his first directorial work, A Single Man. It’s a drama set in 1962 about a gay professor (Colin Firth) in L.A. As you would expect, Ford’s costumes and sets are impeccable. But few imagined such a sensitive screenplay about love and loss. Ford had been working on the film for years, funded with seven million dollars out of his own pocket. Its success spurred the 55-year-old on, and last year he released his second film Nocturnal Animals: A rich and insomniac art dealer starts to read the disturbing novel of her ex-husband and loses herself in the story. The psychological thriller is a visual delight, too. A cinematic hall of mirrors about revenge, love and the fine line between art and life.

It’s more common for actors to turn director, and Denzel Washington’s new family drama Fences has wowed critics and audiences alike. As well as taking a seat behind the camera, Washington plays Troy Maxson, a garbage collector in Pittsburgh. The year is 1957: Despite his talent for baseball, Troy has not been allowed to pursue a sporting career because of the color of his skin. The film is based on August Wilson‘s play from 1983. Washington performed the role more than a hundred times on Broadway. A poignant film about identity and racism – with Oscarwinning Viola Davis as Troy’s wife Rose. Ten years ago, The Great Debaters gave us an impression of Washington’s directorial prowess. Set in Texas in the 1930s, poet Melvin Tolson coaches his Afro–American students for a debating contest against a white college. Based on a true story and with a wonderful cast, this is a drama about discrimination and the value of education.

Then there’s author-turned director Kenneth Lonergan, who caused stirs with his screenplays for Analyze This and Gangs of New York. The celebrated 54-year-old Bronx native is back after a quiet spell with his emotional and sometimes upsetting directorial work Manchester by the Sea. His screenplay and lead actor Casey Affleck were both honored with an Oscar. Rarely do you see so many aspects of life dealt with in one film: how to cope with guilt and grief; forgiveness; what it means to be a parent. This is a film that depicts its characters as human beings and takes them seriously.

Finally, let’s give it up for Warren Beatty, the former ladies’ man and Hollywood star. He’s just written, directed, produced and acted in his latest film, Rules Don’t Apply, a dramedy about eccentric Hollywood producer Howard Hughes. And Beatty has just turned 80. Happy Birthday!

WATCH
A Single Man
Nocturnal Animals
Fences
The Great Debaters
Manchester by the Sea
Rules Don’t Apply