Best Director 1914
Even fifty years before the formalization of the “auteur theory,” directors were often given primacy of place in terms of the creation of film. Some might say that in these early days, before powerful studios had the ability to re-cut films or otherwise undermine directors, we can see auteurship in its purest form. On the other hand, one might argue that at this time, when no one was certain what the ultimate division of power might be, perhaps cinematographers or producers were more primary in the creation of a film.
There’s no denying, however, that the directors nominated for Century Awards this year were, one and all, dedicated artists with a vision for their movies as a whole, not mere employees turning out material on demand. D.W. Griffith may have been the very inventor of the idea of director-as-artiste, and “Judith of Bethulia” represented his success in an ongoing battle with Biograph Studios over the production of feature-length films. Like Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille was a born showman, who would promote himself as the premiere filmmaker of his day, and he got off to a strong start with his direction of “The Squaw Man.” Giovanni Pastrone was an innovator in Italian cinema, establishing that nation as a source of some of the most visually satisfying movies in all eras. Louis Feuillade was an amazingly prolific director from cinema’s first nation of France, whose movies range from light comedies to dark crime serials, and who wrote what may have been the first “manifesto” of the movies. Evgeni Bauer was an amazingly advanced filmmaker, who understood more about movement, sets, and lighting than many cinematographers of his day.
The nominees for best director of 1914 are:
- W. Griffith for Judith of Bethulia
- Cecil B. DeMille for The Squaw Man
- Giovanni Pastrone for Cabiria
- Louis Feuillade for Fantômas Contre Fantômas
- Evgeni Bauer for Silent Witnesses
And the winner is…Giovanni Pastrone for “Cabiria!”
This category is our most internationally representative, in terms of the nominees, and my choice reflects, to some degree, my admiration of Italian cinema, which I regard as the most consistently visually satisfying in the world. “Cabiria” demonstrated the director’s ability to not only tell a compelling story, but his commitment to producing it on a grand scale despite the challenges this would present for the actors. For 1914, he went above and beyond what anyone else attempted.