Great Directors (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

November 14, 2011 by  

For some cineaste, one can only dream of getting the opportunity to meet and talk with their favorite filmmaker.  For Angela Ismailos’s documentary “Great Directors”, she was able to meet and interview ten filmmakers that inspired her.  An entertaining, informative documentary plus a DVD release that includes special features that include the extra lengthy interviews with these filmmakers.  A wonderful, revealing documentary that is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2011 Anisma Films. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: Great Directors


DURATION: 87 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, 1:85:1, English, French and Italian with Subtitles

COMPANY: Lorber Films/Kino Lorber



Written and Directed by Angela Ismailos

Music by Joel Douek

Cinematography by John Pirozzi

Edited by Christina Burchard, Sabine Hoffman


Bernardo Bertolucci

Catherine Breillat

Liliana Cavani

Stephen Frears

Todd Hanes

Angela Ismailos

Richard Linklater

Ken Loach

David Lynch

John Sayles

Agnes Varda

Ten of the greatest filmmakers in the world passionately discuss their craft in Angela Ismailos’ hugely entertaining documentary GREAT DIRECTORS. Bernardo Bertolucci, David Lynch, Stephen Frears, Agnes Varda, Ken Loach, Liliana Cavani, Todd Haynes, Catherine Breillat, Richard Linklater and John Sayles open up about their extraordinary careers with unexpected candor and humor. Ismailos gets them to talk about their artistic evolution from their debut works to their recent triumphs, as well as the role that politics and history play in their films. David Lynch discusses how Mel Brooks netted him his job on THE ELEPHANT MAN as well as his travails with the studio on DUNE. And they all honor their influences, from Todd Haynes on Fassbinder and Breillat on Ingmar Bergman, to Lynch on Billy Wilder and Hitchcock. GREAT DIRECTORS is an illuminating and surprising crash course on the state of contemporary cinema, and an example for where it might be headed.

J’aime le Cinema.  I love cinema… and for some cineaste, some have thought, what if you have had the opportunity to sit and talk with the filmmakers that inspired you, that touched your soul.

This is what filmmaker Angela Ismailos had done with her 2009 documentary “Great Directors” which has been released by Lorber Films.

An intriguing documentary by Angela who was able to gain access to ten filmmakers that inspired her.

Featured are Bernardo Bertolucci (“Last Tango in Paris”, “The Last Emperor”, “Once Upon a Time in the West”), Catherine Breillat (“Fat Girl”, “36 fillette”, “A Real Young Girl”), Liliana Cavani (“The Night Porter”, “Ripley’s Game”, “Francesco”), Stephen Frears (“High Fidelity”, “The Queen” “Dangerous Liasons”),  Todd Haynes (“Velvet Goldmine”, “Safe”, “Far From Heaven”), Richard Linklater (“Dazed and Confused”, “Before Sunset”, “A Scanner Darkly”), Ken Loach (“Kes”, “Bread and Roses”, “Sweet Sixteen”), David Lynch (“Blue Velvet”, “Mulholland Dr.”, “Eraserhead”), John Sayles (“Piranha”, “Lone Star”, “Sunshine State”) and Agnes Varda (“Cleo from 5 to 7”, “Vagabond”, “The Beaches of Agnes”).

Some of these filmmakers rarely give interviews but with “Great Directors”, Angela Ismailos is able to get these filmmakers to open up about their film career and what inspired their creativity and work.

We learn from David Lynch of how he was able to get his foot into the industry front door thanks to Mel Brooks, we learn from Richard Linklater of what happens when you create a film that is hot and a film afterward that fails and unfortunately, leads to stagnation of getting any projects greenlighted.  We learn from Todd Haynes on how Rainer Werner Fassbinder influenced him, how Catherine Breillat was influenced by Ingmar Bergman and more.

“Great Directors” gives the viewer insight to the minds of these talented filmmakers!


“Great Directors” is presented in 1:85:1 and audio presented in English, French and Italian stereo with English subtitles.

Angela Ismailos and her cinematographer John Pirozzi were able to get access to these filmmakers and capture their settings, may it be inside their home or outdoors, the picture quality is good and featured are short clips from various films of these filmmakers.  So, you get a mix of documentary footage and movie clips, as well as still images.

For the most part, picture quality is good as one can expect on DVD.  Dialogue is clear and understandable and the subtitles are easy to read.


“Great Directors” comes with the following special features on two discs:

  • Bonus Interviews – For those who wish they heard more from the various filmmakers in terms of their interview, fortunately Angela Ismailos has included these extra interviews on the second bonus disc.   And these interviews are quite lengthy.


  • Agnes Varda (27:51)
  • Bernardo Bertolucci (47:30)
  • Catherine Breillat (15:33)
  • Great Directors Trailer – (2:37) The original theatrical trailer for “Great Directors”.


  1. David Lynch (29:46)
  2. John Sayles (41:17)
  3. Ken Loach (20:31)
  4. Liliana Cavani (5:37)
  5. Richard Linklater (28:57)
  6. Stephen Frears (4:18)
  7. Todd Haynes (50:53)

As a cinema fan, a reviewer and also an interviewer, there are many filmmakers including film critics from the past and the present that I often wish I had the opportunity to sit down and talk about their career and their films.

There are several books, including John Bogdanovich’s “Who the Devil Made It?” and “This is Orson Welles”, Francois Truffaut’s “Truffaut Hitchock”, “Kevin Brownlow’s “The Parade’s Gone By” and George Stevens, Jr.’s “The Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute” to name a few.

But a documentary of filmmakers from various genres and different countries, you don’t find to many of those documentaries around and for many older filmmakers, they are reclusive or no longer want to be interviewed.

So, I was quite amused, highly intrigued when I first heard of Angela Ismailos’ “Great Directors” and to finally watch it on DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

It’s important to note that for anyone who has not partaken in a cinema discussion with like-minded peers, the wording of “Great Directors” or “Great Films” is enough to raise the temperature of cineaste because many have their own subjective interpretation of who or what is great!

For Angela Ismailos, this documentary was personal because these are ten filmmakers that inspired her.  These same filmmakers may not inspire others, and may even cause some disdain towards other cinema fans.  So, it’s a very subjective topic that not everyone is going to love.

I’m not that type of fan.  I love learning about these filmmakers and why they do what they do, what inspires them, how they got their start in the industry, etc.

After watching this film, I was content with what Angela Ismailos was able to incorporate into her film albeit this documentary only being 87 minutes long.

For those familiar with the filmmakers and their films will find it to be quite entertaining, especially in the fact that these filmmakers are so different from each other. The films they have wrote or directed cover different genres and for me, I feel you need to have a little of everything.

“Great Directors” gives you a little of the French New Wave via Agnes Varda, UK filmmaking courtesy of Ken Loach and Stephen Frears, the American surrealist David Lynch, American screenwriter/director John Sayles, the rebellious French filmmaker Catherine Breillat, America’s Todd Haynes and Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci and Lilian Cavani and the different styles of communication and their feeling about their careers were intriguing and I had a lot of fun watching these filmmakers discuss their careers.

And I know, the biggest criticism the documentary for some film critics was “Why these filmmakers were chosen?” and for some, wishing there was more content.

Which brings us to the “Great Directors” DVD, that content that critics wanted is included on this DVD.  Most of the interviews on the special features DVD are lengthy and I’m glad that Kino Lorber allowed for a second DVD to fit all the extra content.  So, you get a half hour with David Lynch and Richard Linklater, even longer interviews with with John Sayles and Todd Haynes, I was pleased that these interviews were included with this film’s DVD release.

While Angela Ismailos doesn’t go into full detail of how these filmmakers touched her life or what films are her favorite, she brings personality to the documentary through her numerous appearances throughout the documentary.  A few film critics don’t like to see the interviewers or filmmakers featured in their own documentary, some don’t care but I noticed that was one of the criticisms made by few film critics.  Personally, I found Angela’s appearance to be quite amusing and once again, brought a bit more personality to her own documentary.

Overall, “Great Directors” was an entertaining documentary and it helps that I do enjoy the filmmakers presented on the DVD.  Because the title “Great Directors” is enough to make some cineaste raise an eyebrow, sure the topic of what constitutes “great” is quite subjective but the fact that not many people get access to these filmmakers, especially on camera, I’m quite amazed that Angela Ismailos was able to get these directors to appear in her documentary.  And because these are filmmakers that inspired her, one can only appreciate that she had the opportunity but is willing to share that experience with other cinema fans around the world.

And to have this DVD release feature the extended interviews and I’m not talking about short interviews with extra footage, these are longer interviews which give your further insight of the filmmakers not featured in the film.  Not only was I entertained by this entertaining and revealing documentary, the inclusion of these interviews was fantastic.  I absolute love this DVD release!

“Great Directors” by Angela Ismailos is highly recommended!


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