When I heard about the planned remake of David Cronenberg’s Shivers, I described the original film on Twitter as “uniquely Cronenbergian”, which got me thinking about how certain directors have a style so individual that they warrant their own adjective.
It takes a certain type of filmmaker to be awarded this honour. They must be, at least in some form of the word, an auteur – with major control over their films. Their style must be completely unique to them and bonus points are awarded if others have tried to ape that style.
Here are the top five, complete with a few honourable mentions.
Arguably the most famous film director of the modern era, Steven Spielberg’s adjective isn’t always used positively. For every mention of “Spielbergian magic”, there’s another of “Spielbergian schmaltz” and some of his more noticeably awards-baiting releases often end up in the latter category.
This year’s Lincoln was a prime example of what happens when Spielbergian schmaltz really works.
But, since bursting onto the scene with Jaws and receiving seven directorial Oscar nominations, Spielberg has cemented himself as a formidable filmmaker capable of startling brilliance and certainly deserving of his adjective.
Pulp Fiction auteur Quentin Tarantino is the newest director to appear on this list. However, he more than justifies his presence and his adjective because of the indelible cultural impact of his films in such a short time. Many of his films can already be called classics and Django Unchained won him the Best Original Screenplay award at the 2013 Oscars.
Many directors have tried to produce Tarantinoesque films, with Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges a very Irish take on the idea. There’s still only one Tarantino though. How many other directors have completely reinvented history?
Thanks to Ashley Norris for this suggestion.
Ah, David Lynch. No filmmaker has the same handle on surrealism as the Mulholland Drive director, and few even come close. If you can imagine any other director making Eraserhead or Blue Velvet, then feel free to take his adjective away.
But those films are uniquely Lynchian, and no-one could produce them even close to as well as the man himself.
Even The Elephant Man, which is arguably his most mainstream film, has a strange whiff of bizarre, eerie strangeness about it that betrays its Lynchian origins. There’s only one person who could’ve made that film.
The inspiration for this article, David Cronenberg’s mastery of the macabre earned him his own adjective. His movies are the definition of the subgenre known as body horror, typified by grotesque masterpieces like The Fly and Videodrome in the 1980s.
Thus, any film that uses body horror as a major device is immediately compared to the great Cronenbergian classics.
His footprints as a pioneer of genre cinema are all over modern horror and his influence will be felt amongst gorehounds for a very long time.
There was never any question about who was going to get the number one spot on this list. The Hitchcockian thriller is a genre in itself, and mimicking arguably the greatest director of all-time is a starting point for many films.
This year’s twisty pharmaceutical thriller Side Effects was a great example of how this can work to a film’s advantage. Many reviews commented on the film’s Hitchcockian tendencies, with one writer calling the film “Soderbergh’s tribute to Hitchcock”.
He’s one of the most important figures in the history of cinema and so if anyone deserves their own adjective, it’s the Master of Suspense.
Kubrickian – Thanks to Ashley Norris for this suggestion. Stanley Kubrick is, without doubt, one of the greatest film directors ever to have lived. Responsible for classic such as 2001 and The Shining, he only misses out on this list because the use of his name as an adjective is not as widespread as the other entries.
Nolan-esque – Christopher Nolan is as unique and interesting a director as anyone else on this list, but the Inception man has a bit of a way to go yet before he can join the legendary ranks of this top five.
Have I missed any notable examples? Which other directors deserve to have their own adjectives, and what should they be?