Strange and Awkward Directors

Oliver Lunn

It’s pretty much impossible to read anything about Terrence Malick, the director of To the Wonder (out on DVD on 17th June), without coming across the words: “reclusive director”. Christ, even our own review includes them. With that in mind, we've been mulling over other strange and awkward directors whose reputations precede them wherever they go, and who, if we were given the chance, we’d love to have one big, slightly awkward party with. 

1. Terrence Malick (Directed: The Tree of Life, Badlands) 

Described as the Hollywood Bigfoot – because nobody, not even the paparazzi who snapped Kate Middleton, could hope to bag a photo of the famously private and RECLUSIVE director (strangely, TMZ didn’t even realise they snapped the director) – Malick is the quintessential enigmatic director. 

Why he’s weird: What’s not weird about turning down free parties, schmoozing at festivals, and, and… EVERYTHING ABOUT HIM. He also has a highly questionable obsession with leaves. Weird. Malick would much rather sit under a tree in the celestial morning light than do a photo-shoot with Natalie Portman. WEIRD. 

2. David Lynch (Directed: Blue Velvet, The Elephant Man)

Would Terrence Malick and David Lynch get on at our party of strange directors? Malick would probably ask him about that scene in Blue Velvet where he zoomed into the ants on the ear. "I zoom into things on the ground, too. Next time, why not add a tad more lens flare; always works for me." 

Why he’s weird: It’s impossible to talk to Lynch without him doing that strange, magical, twiddly hand thing (just watch the clip). It’s as if he’s forever sprinkling hundreds-and-thousands on an imaginary cake. Easy on the sugar there, Dave.

3. Ken Russell (Directed: The Devils, Women in Love) 

The director of the infamous The Devils and Tommy was known as the English Fellini (which means he was flamboyant and, shall we say, a tad OTT). No other directors, before or since, have been so unabashedly in-your-face.

Why he’s weird: Because he featured on TV’s Celebrity Big Brother, that's why.   

4. Russ Meyer (Directed: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Beyond the Valley of Dolls)

The director of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (the title alone should earn him a place on our list) was known for his cheap and trashy B-movies that featured a helluva lot of shoddy acting. And more notably, the following... 

Why he’s weird: There’s a subheading on his Wikipedia page that says it all: “Big breast fixation, or the Meyer physical archetype”. Yep, he liked 'em big alright. 

5. Gaspar Noé (Directed: Irreversible, Enter the Void)

To make a film like Irreversible you’d have to be a bit strange, right? I mean, you’re not exactly going to be a George Clooney type of guy, are you?

Why he’s weird: Described as an odious personality, a rebel and a homophobic, Noé loves to play up to all these things. Oh, and the arch provocateur says he wants to do a kids movie soon. COME AGAIN?!

6. Werner Herzog (Directed: Fitzcarraldo, Grizzly Man)

Once, when Herzog was asked a thought-provoking question, he responded: “This is not a question I can answer with my shoes on.” Is he sane? We’re not so sure.

Why he’s weird: Erm, he ate his own shoe. Erm, he literally dragged a steamboat over a mountain. Erm, he got shot and dismissed his bleeding wound as ‘insignificant’. ERM!

7. Lars von Trier (Directed: Antichrist, Breaking the Waves) 

Nobody will ever forget Von Trier’s ludicrous comments about Hitler at Cannes, 2011. Like Noé, Von Trier is a provocateur, a prankster, and he is proud of the fact.

Why he’s weird: Because he likes to torture his actors (think of Nicole Kidman in Dogville, Bjork in Dancer in the Dark, Charlotte Gainsbourg in Antichrist). That's weird. He also said, during an interview on Radio 4, that he'd like to spank the interviewer. That's weird too. He also has a fear of flying. WEIRD.

8. Alejandro Jodorowsky (Directed: The Holy Mountain, El Topo, Santa Sangre) 

“I think to be alive is weird. To have hands, to have fingers, is weird. Do you not think it’s weird to have fingers?” – THIS. 

Why he’s weird: There’s more: “I have no name; I am not a man; I am not a human being… I don’t know what I am, I am not that. It’s weird. It’s weird.” INDEED, Alejandro. Need we justify the cult director’s weirdness anymore?

9. Vincent Gallo (Directed: Buffalo '66, The Brown Bunny) 

The infamous polymath does it all: directs, produces, writes, acts; Christ, he even holds the boom on occasion. Is this weird? Sort of, but it’s not the end of it… 

Why he’s weird: Because, to make a statement in his film, he felt he had to get his thing out. Is it great art, or is it plain old porn? Either way, I’m sure we can all agree it’s a bit strange. 

10. John Waters (Directed: Pink Flamingos, Pecker, Hairspray)  

If John Waters is remembered for one thing (other than his extraordinary moustache) it will be filming Divine eating dog excrement, in Pink Flamingos (1972).

Why he’s weird: Real dog excrement, people!

Terrence Malick's 'To The Wonder' is out on DVD on 17 June in the UK, and 6 August in Canada. 

Follow Oliver on Twitter: @OliverLunn

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