Erdinch gives us a top five list of magnificent films directed by actors, representing a portion of entertainers who understand great storytelling
Orson Welles – The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
Welles is probably the ultimate actor/director and The Magnificent Ambersons, his second feature behind the camera, is equally as good, if not better, than his dynamite debut Citizen Kane, which many still consider one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time. Adapted from a Pulitzer Prize wining novel, the film follows the trails and tribulations across three generations of a Mid-western aristocratic family during the automobile age. Much to Welles’ dismay, the film was notoriously butchered by studio RKO on release in 1941 with over an hour of footage cut from the final version. However what remains is a flawed, lost masterpiece, which is gorgeously lit, technically dazzling and richly detailed.
Charles Laughton – The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Beautiful and deeply unsettling like a fairy tale gone rotten, The Night of the Hunter was the first and only feature directed by the British character actor Charles Laughton. An incredibly tense and frightening chase thriller set in depression era America, the film, equal parts Southern Gothic horror and religious allegory, stars Robert Mitchum as murderous con artist preacher Harry Powell who marries a convicts’ widow in an attempt to snare the dead man’s fortune. The film is notable for the striking cinematography inspired by the chiaroscuro lighting, off-kilter camera angles and surrealism of German expressionist cinema, and Mitchum’s menacing performance as the charming but sinister Reverend Powell. The staggering influence of the film’s poetic visuals is far-reaching and can be seen in the films of David Lynch and Terrence Malick.
George Clooney- Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2003)
George Clooney has been hit and miss as a director but he made a terrific start with the Charlie Kaufman penned dark comedy drama Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. The perennially underrated Sam Rockwell gives a career best performance as game in the strange but true (?) biopic of game show host creator Chuck Barrie who claims to have moonlighted as a CIA hit man. The film moves from black comedy to drama with a sure hand, and Clooney’s work with indie auteurs Stephen Soderburgh and the Coen Brother’s seems to have been a direct influence on his directing style and it’s playful, offbeat tone, jumbled flashback chronology and oddball characters who flit in and out of the narrative. Clooney’s debut is a strong contender for the most underrated film of the noughties.
Ben Affleck – Gone Baby Gone (2007)
In the last few years, Ben Affleck has emerged out of the tabloid wilderness and proven to be a consummate and skilled genre filmmaker. The Town was a muscular crime thriller indebted to the films of Michael Mann and Argo was the populist Oscar winning true Hollywood caper. However, his best work is still Gone Baby Gone, a low-key police procedural/mystery about a pair of private detectives investigating the disappearance of a child. Adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane, the grit-pics of early Scorsese, Sidney Lumet and David Simon’s The Wire are also clear influences on the film’s authentic grasp of local anguage and the grimy depiction of the working class neighborhoods of Boston. The film’s ending stretches credibility with an implausible twist that seems at odds with the overall air of authenticity but the clammy atmosphere and impressive performances amount to an impressive first feature from Mr Affleck.
Paddy Considine– Tyrannosaur (2011)
Paddy Considine has always impressed as an actor from a career-making performance in Shane Meadow’s Dead Man’s Shoes to bit parts in Hollywood fare such as The Bourne Ultimatum but he emerged as a fully-fledged filmmaker with this uncompromising domestic drama about a troubled man (the great Peter Mullan) who strikes a relationship with a charity worker (Olivia Coleman) in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. This is probably the most difficult film to watch on the list, a powerful, bracing and bruising experience about violence, loneliness and tormented souls but which also has moments of fragile poetry and outstanding performances from the main leads. Tyrannosaur is a tough but rewarding watch and a film that marks out Considine as a major British directorial talent. Once seen, but not easily forgotten.