Saturday, January 16, 2010

Favorites of My Favorites #5 -- David Gordon Green

Within the history of cinema is a history of some extraordinary artistic collaborations.  Some of my favorite include Martin Scorsese/Robert De Niro (Director/Actor), David Lynch/Angelo Badalamenti (Director/Composer), and David Gordon Green/Tim Orr (Director/Cinematographer).

Usually, I try to keep away from discussing my contemporaries.  I'm afraid jealousy, the competitive spirit, or something else altogether might cloud my judgment.  David Gordon Green is actually a couple of years younger than me.  But he's long been one of the younger directors that inspires and pushes me to try harder.  He's a great case study, a guy that has made five features to date, starting with the $40,000 George Washington and most recently completing the Judd Apatow-produced Pineapple Express.  He's remained an artist while breaking into Hollywood and has then given back to some of his friends to help their careers, too (serving as a producer on both Shotgun Stories and Great World of Sound).

For me, as he moves forward, his career will tell me, as much as anything, if it's still possible for a young filmmaker to make personal films in Hollywood.

What do I love about David Gordon Green?  The images that he and Orr create are as earthy and lush as any team out there.  Strong arguments for keeping film around a little longer.  And the way they move the camera, steadily and fluidly, are nice alternatives to a medium that seems to be quickly moving towards more shaky, handheld aesthetics.  I also think that, along with David Lynch and Michael Mann, Green has the best ear for sound and music of any American filmmaker.

Some find Green's films slow and frustrating.  I simply think that they have great style and are as poetic as anything out there right now.

DAVID GORDON GREEN (in preferential order)
1.  All the Real Girls
2.  George Washington
3.  Pineapple Express
4.  Snow Angels
5.  Undertow
6.  Physical Pinball (short)
7.  Pleasant Grove (short)


  1. Green is definitely fantastic, and the way he blends different styles and genres in telling rather ordinary stories is very potent. Actually, though, my favorite of his films is Undertow, which is I realize a minority opinion, since that film seems to be overlooked and underrated by a lot of different people. I just love its approach to genre and myth, and the poetry of its images. Great stuff.

  2. Thanks, Ed! It's good to hear from some other fans of David Gordon Green. I tend to think of him as being a part of the next generation, after the class of Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, and Spike Jonze. I'm not sure who else is on Green's trajectory. But I find his path thus far infinitely interesting to follow, and extremely impressive.

  3. Good take on Green. I am curious what you think of Orr's work with other directors. Often it can be hard to distinguish whether one is particularly drawn to the director or the DP. I think certain directors lose quite a bit when they part ways with the DP (or editor or composer) they set out with. Just a theory and I can't cite any examples, but I wonder this about the Green/Orr combo.

  4. Anonymous:

    It's a great point. As much as I'm an "auteur theorist" (believe film is an artform, and the director is the primary artist), I also think that most directors are only as strong as their key collaborators. I think we've seen many examples of this. To name but a couple, Leos Carax's films without the DP Jean-Yves Escoffier and Michael Mann's work without the DP Dante Spinotti.

    Also, I think it's interesting to mention, call it early carer work or further proof of this, but Green's two short films without Orr definitely don't feel the same as the rest of his work.

    I believe that I've only seen one non-Gordon Green, Tim Orr film, and that's Raising Victor Vargas. And there's something there, I guess, that feels very David Gordon Green-like.

    I think Green is definitely responsible for the aural parts of his work, and I think he has a great feel for the interplay between sound and image. I just think his talents are enhanced, when paired with Tim Orr's terrific visual contributions.

  5. Green is amazing and I am sorry that I failed to include one of his films on my best of the decade list. I especially really admire the way he works with actors and he has an incredible knack for drawing such extraordinary work from them (Kate Beckinsale's work in SNOW ANGELS is particularly haunting.) In case you haven't seen it, here is the link to my visual tribute to ALL THE REAL GIRLS:

    Great tribute post Jeffrey....

  6. Thanks for the kind words, Jeremy. I really appreciate 'em.

    And great visual tribute! I didn't know you were a big fan of ALL THE REAL GIRLS, too? It's my favorite of his so far. I really have a great deal of admiration and respect for what he and his team have been able to accomplish.

    I couldn't agree with you more. He's a real talent with actors, something I failed to mention in my post above. And, at the moment, I would almost say that he's particularly strong with his female actors.