Thursday 24 February 2011

Part 2: Directors' Art Outside of Film

A few weeks ago I wondered why so few Directors had tried or were trying their hand at other artistic disciplines.

Following the comments for my post it was clear that I had thoroughly underestimated how common this exploration of other arts was (if not how well publicised it is).

Therefore I decided to add those examples to the ones I wrote about originally to create a gallery of images, videos and quotes relating to those creations.

David Lynch 

Aside from his work in advertising (a cigarette advert that runs backwards, spots for Playstation etc.), and his involvement in writing music for his films (Polish Poem from Inland Empire, co-written with Chrysta Bell) David Lynch is a sculptor and a painter:

His rejected contribution to the 2000 New York Cow Parade:

Eat My Fear

Exhibiting in the window of Galeries Lafayette in Paris:

 Viewed from another angle the eerie, curtained display space seems transported from one of his films:

Finally a painting entitled The Face :

Danny Boyle 

The Director of Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours has recently returned to the theatre as director of Frankenstein in London. This is a trailer released for the production. 

It received its premiere at the Olivier Theatre this week. It was awarded a five star review by The Times who call it "a hell of a production" and "rather wonderful". The Telegraph gives a "viscerally exciting and visually stunning" production four stars, saying Boyle pulls off the "impossible task" of making the "old story seem fresh".

Boyle is Artistic Director for the London Olympics Opening Ceremony, a role so brilliantly filled by Zhang Yimou for Beijing three years ago.

Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray designed posters and created fonts, wrote short stories for children and, from Teen Kanya onwards, music for his films (links to compositions most welcome). He was also a film critic. Here is his book Our Films, Their Films at Google Books. 

One of his fonts:

A poster for Charulata :

Jerzy Skolimowski

The Polish actor, writer and Director is also a painter. 

The Judgement (Top) 

Albert Lamorisse

Best known for the shorts films The Red Balloon and The White Mane, Albert Lamorisse created the world-renowned board game Risk : La Conquete Du Monde. It was first sold in 1957, conquering the world soon after.

Albert Lamorisse (top) and Risk

Wim Wenders

In both fiction and documentary film-making Wim Wenders has built a great reputation. Beyond the screen he is an avid photographer, capturing the world in a different frame:

Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick was fascinated with still photography, a passion whose indulgence pre-dated his work in film (though not documentary film-making).

In 1946 he became an apprentice at Look magazine, eventually being taken on full-time (click for enlarged image):

Top: Lovers; Middle:
a photo taken as a 16-year old 
on his way home from school following 
the death of Franklin D Roosevelt; Bottom: Self-Portrait

Kubrick was also enthused by Jazz music, though his efforts to turn professional came to a dead end.

Woody Allen  

Woody Allen has been a more successful Jazz musician. He is (supposedly) an accomplished clarinetist who plays as part of his New Orleans Jazz Band. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, of which he was a member, provided music for his 1973 film Sleeper.

Alejandro Jodorowsky

Aside from writing, directing and starring in his films, Alejandro Jodorowsky wrote music for them. Listen to the first four tracks of El Topo here.

He was a playwright and theatre director, producing over one hundred plays. He also wrote comic books such as The Incal, a science fiction series illustrated by revered artists such as Moebius (Jean Giraud):

In the 1960s he wrote and drew a series entitled Fabulas Panicas for a Mexican newspaper. A Chilean, he has spent a lot of his life in Mexico, where most of his theatrical productions were staged.

Fabulas Panicas

Vincent Gallo

Director/Actor Vincent Gallo has other strings to his bow (I leave it to others to determine whether they are out of tune) : a singer/songwriter and a painter/photographer. Below is his Stranger # 20:

Agnes Varda

Agnes Varda, as well as being an influential film-maker, is a photographer:

She wrote the song "Chanson Lola" for the 1961 Jacques Demy film Lola. The next year they were married. She has created art installations. In the Summer she is to be found teaching in Saas-Fee in Switzerland as a Professor of Film and Documentaries at The European Graduate School.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Fassbinder wrote his first play, Water Drops on Burning Rocks, when he was nineteen years old. It was never produced (Fassbinder never wanted it produced as its 'scandalous' tale was autobiographical and intimately personal) in his lifetime. Thirty-Six years after it was written and eighteen years after his death it was turned into a film by Francois Ozon:

 From Francois Ozon's 2000 film 
Water Drops on Burning Rocks

In total he wrote twenty-four plays and four radio plays.

Federico Fellini

Fellini was a cartoonist, an artist who sketched his ideas both for his films and for his own amusement. For three decades before his death he had literally drawn his dreams.

Hiroshi Teshigahara

Hiroshi Teshigahara made some fine films (Pitfall, Woman of the Dunes, Face of Another as well as the splendid 'documentary' Antoni Gaudi). His father, Sofu Teshigahara, was the founder of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana Flower Arranging.

This love for the organic and the meticulous is evident in Hiroshi's film, Rikyu, about a 16th Century master of the Japanese Tea Ceremony and also in his Bamboo art installations:

These works, along with designing and producing operas in Europe, filled up the last, film-less, decade of his life.

Andrei Tarkovsky

Russian Director Andrei Tarkovsky was given the opportunity to direct the Modest Mussorgsky Opera Boris Godunov in Covent Garden in 1983. One of the performances is available on DVD.

Werner Herzog

Some may call his fiction films and (ficitionalised) documentaries weird and wonderful, idiosyncratic and operatic. It is not too surprising then to find that he has directed opera. Here are two clips from his production in Baltimore of Louis Gentile's Tannhauser: one and two.

Sergei Parajanov 

As his film-making career progressed, Armenian Director Sergei Parajanov's films became a succession of tableaux vivants. He made many collages including:

The Virgin Collage, 1971-73

His collages were like sculptures. He would often use dolls that he made while imprisoned.


  1. This is absolutely and unequivocably an extraordinary post, perhaps your all-time masterpiece, even if my penchant for hyperbole is well-documented. There were a number of filmmakers who were previously critics and artists, and we certainly could add Jean Cocteau to this dazzling fraternity. But I can't say I have known much of this before this post, though a few are well-known. This revelation, particularly, floored me:

    "Best known for the shorts films The Red Balloon and The White Mane, Albert Lamorisse created the world-renowned board game Risk : La Conquete Du Monde. It was first sold in 1957, conquering the world soon after."

    Why did it floor me? Well, for one, I am a lifelong RISK devotee, having participated in tournaments with friends, and once spending an entire summer playing the game on a daily basis. I have a few close friends that have been hooked for decades. None other that Mr. Lamorisee, whose THE RED BALLOON is one of my favorite films of all-time, is the creator of the game!!!! That is utterly amazing and incredible!!! I would never have thought that in a million years!

    Anyway, I have known of Allen's love for music and jazz in particular, and of these side-hobbies of Fellini and Jodorowsky. I could go on and on if I had time this morning, but kudos to you for this fascinating post. The great ideas never seemed to end with you!

  2. Thanks a million Sam.

    As I said in my introduction the wealth of examples came from the comments of my original post. The idea is mine, the execution is theirs.

    I'll be adding a couple more - Sergei Parajanov's collages will go up soon.

    Thanks again.

  3. Being a game-design person myself and a big "Risk" fan, I've known the Lamourise thing for a while, and it's always fun to see somebody's reaction to it, Sam.

    On Fellini's cartooning-- he also wrote two graphic novels with the erotic comics-artist Milo Manara (on "Trip to Tullum" and "Il viaggio di G. Mastorna detto Fernet"), who also collaborated with Jodorowsky (on the "Borgia" series).

  4. Bob,

    I didn't come across that collaboration of Fellini's. By the sounds of it I'm not sure I'll be posting images of those graphic novels.

    "I've known the Lamourise thing for a while, and it's always fun to see somebody's reaction to it, Sam."

    Yes. I've never played it nor know how it's played.

  5. Correction: ignore "the idea is mine, the execution is theirs". It makes no sense. What I meant to say was I would never have been able to gather together so much myself.

  6. Splendid work Stephen, many revelations here.

    Well, Jodorowsky is more known due to his writing of books and being the creater of Psichomagic, a way of healing yourself through symbolic psychological acts.

  7. Thank you Jaime!

    I didn't know that about Jodorowsky. Yet more great nuggets. Thanks. I'm clearly only scratching the surface here. I didn't even know he was Chilean until I looked him up.