CINEMATIC ONE MAN BANDS

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On January 17th Satori Screen will be presenting a rare cinema screening of Shinya Tsukamoto’s 1998 thriller BULLET BALLET. One of the things Tsukamoto is known for is his complete control of many of the aspects of his films, far beyond that of many directors. Here then is a by no means exhaustive and definitely not meaningfully ordered look at some of the filmmakers who were not satisfied with just one or two credits on a film.

SHINYA TSUKAMOTO –Tsukamoto first received international attention for his 1989 film Tetsuo The Iron Man and has shown no sign of giving up much control of his films in the 25 years since.

In August 2013 Satori Screen did a live score event for this film of which you can see some footage here:

On Tetsuo The Iron Man he is credited for writing, directing, acting, producing, cinematography, editing and art direction. Interestingly, these are exactly the same credits he receives on his most recent film; 2011’s Kotoko. Clearly, Tsukamoto has found a system of film-making that works for him and is sticking to it. It  also seems to work for audiences around the world as he is one of the few modern Japanese filmmakers whose work is released in the west.

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What to see: All of his films are worth viewing but this writer has a particular fondness for the first two Tetsuo films (available on a remastered UK Blu-Ray set from Third Window Films), his extremely dark and disturbing drama Vital, and Bullet Ballet which screens January 17th at QUAD in Derby.

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CHARLIE CHAPLIN  –  The owner of cinema’s most famous moustache was seemingly a man who liked to have his fingers in as many of the film production pies as he could. Chaplin started out as a child performer on stage and entered the cinema as an actor in late 1913. By May 1914 he had directed his first short and soon was one of the world’s most famous men. By the time of his first feature in 1921, The Kid, Chaplin was credited for acting, direction, writing, producing and also did the film’s editing without crediting himself.  This almost total control was clearly enabled by his position of worldwide stardom and continued throughout his career. When his silent films were re-released in the sound era Chaplin even went as far as to write music scores for them himself.

What to see:  From Chaplin’s silent era you cannot go wrong with The Gold Rush and from his sound period this writer has always had a fondness for The Great Dictator.

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ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY – The writer and director behind some of the most enduring counter-cultural films of the 1970s broke through into the public consciousness in 1971 with El Topo on which he received credits as actor, director, writer, music, production design and costume design. As El Topo was an extremely low budget production the temptation is to assume that he did things like the design and music work as he could not afford to pay someone else to do so. Yet when El Topo proved a huge hit at midnight screenings in the US, Jodorowsky received a large budget for his follow up film The Holy Mountain and again is credited in all these positions. Jodorowsky’s films show  an incredibly unusual and singular visual style and this must be in no small part due to his unwillingness to allow others much in the way of input.

What To See: El Topo and The Holy Mountain are both must sees. Of Jodorowsky’s later works it is Santa Sangre that is the easiest to see and is generally agreed to be the best. The now 84 year old Jodorowsky recently completed his first film in 20 years, The Dance Of Reality and is at work on a sequel to El Topo.

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ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ –  Rodriguez emerged in the early 1990s with his extremely low-budget action film El Mariachi on which he receives credits for writing, directing, producing, cinematography, editing, sound, special effects, camera operator, stills photographer and music editor! Unlike Jodorowsky and El Topo it is clear that Rodriguez took on all of these roles through a lack of resources as he admitted as much in the book he wrote about it, Rebel Without A Crew. In the book, he describes the many bizarre lengths he went to in order to get the film finished, including taking part in medical experiments in order to raise finances. Rodriguez now makes relatively highly budgeted Hollywood fare such as the Spy Kids and Machete films. On these he still receives credits for editing and cinematography in addition to writing, directing and producing, suggesting it was roles such as special effects, sound and music editing he took on through necessity.

What To See:  1995’s From Dusk Til Dawn remains a high watermark of major studio backed B-Movie mayhem.

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JACKIE CHAN – Chan has arguably been Asia’s biggest star for over twenty five years now and has used this position to ensure a huge amount of control over the films he directs and appears in. Chan first became famous in the late 70s with Drunken Master and Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow and quickly moved to begin directing, starting with a shared directing credit on The Fearless Hyenas before going solo with The Young Master. On The Young master he also was credited for writing, acting, stunts, stunt co-ordination and action direction. Since then Chan has slowly been adding more and more strings to his bow to the point that in 2011 he was awarded the Guinness World Record for  “Most Credits In One Movie” for the movie Chinese Zodiac. On this film Chan receives a total of fifteen credits including ones for props and catering co-ordinator!

What To See: Chan has continued to appear in many films by other directors throughout his career but of the films in which he directed himself Drunken Master 1 and 2 and Police Story feature some of the most spectacular stunts ever put on film.

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TYLER PERRY:  Since 2005 Perry has made a series of broad comedies starring his character Madea, an older lady played by Perry himself in drag. He receives acting, writing, directing and producing credits on all of the films and the occasional extra credit too. For example, On Madea Goes To Jail (2009) he is credited for writing, directing, acting, producing, music and set design. I confess I have never seen any of these films and with the exception of his cameo in JJ Abrams’ first Star Trek movie I have not seen any of his other work either. From what I have read and the few small clips I have seen that is not about to change.

What To See: You tell me!

Is there anyone I have forgotten? Put me straight in the comments!

Peter Munford

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