Saturday, August 20, 2011

Directors You Should Know # 4

Frank Capra

Considered by many the most "American" classic film director, Frank was of course an immigrant. And like any decent artist, Italian. (check out my last name again, pison)

I could go on about how being an immigrant is the classic modern American experience and how that gave him both the distance and passion an artist should bring to his subject. Which in Frank's case was American life itself. Or how his early experiences shaped his strong views on how art should be made. Or a dozen other things about his character and approach to the craft that fascinate me, but I don't need to. Frank said it all better himself. His autobiography Frank Capra: Name Above the Title is my all time favorite film biography and a gripping, funny, insightful, inspirational read. I strongly recommend it.

Check out any of his early films that still survive when you can, but a short list of his best films is:

The Bitter Tea of General Yen
It Happened One Night (first classic "screwball" comedy in my opinion)
Mr Deeds Goes To Town
Lost Horizon (one of my personal favorite films)
You Can't Take It With You
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
Meet John Doe
Arsenic and Old Lace
It's A Wonderful Life
State of the Union
Pocketful Of Miracles

Frank also did my favorite educational series of films. They affected me deeply as a child. I own them all now and watch them with my children over and over. They love them too. Wonderful, optimistic stuff about the only uniquely human creation other than Art; Science. That's right, everything else in your experience is also done by insects, primates, lizards, and bacteria. Only Art and Science mark us as unique creatures.

Our Mr. Sun
Hemo the Magnificent
The Strange Case of Cosmic Rays
The Unchained Goddess

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