We discovered earlier this week that David Lynch has been feeling a bit glum about the current state of the film industry. Inland Empire was his last major movie, now already seven years old, and Lynch isn’t sure when his next film will present itself. The surreal director has only ten feature films to his credit. It seems like an absurdly small number when considering the scope of Lynch’s influence. We talk more about his cinematic lull after the jump, along with other directors who fell out of love with film — or almost did.
He just directed a music video for Nine Inch Nails and will release his second studio album, The Big Dream, on July 15, but David Lynch doesn’t see himself making another movie in the near future. “It’s a very depressing picture. With alternative cinema — any sort of cinema that isn’t mainstream — you’re fresh out of luck in terms of getting theatre space and having people come to see it. Even if I had a big idea, the world is different now,” the filmmaker recently told The Independent . “Unfortunately, my ideas are not what you’d call commercial, and money really drives the boat these days. So I don’t know what my future is. I don’t have a clue what I’m going to be able to do in the world of cinema.” The filmmaker hasn’t ruled out television, however. “I like the idea of a continuing story,” he shared. “And television is way more interesting than cinema now. It seems like the art-house has gone to cable.”
Almost a decade passed between Bernardo Bertolucci’s erotic drama The Dreamers and the “lightweight, disappointing” Me and You released last year. The Italian filmmaker has set several of his movies in confined, intimate spaces, as in the case of Last Tango in Paris, but critics have argued that Bertolucci has also narrowed his vision. There have been ongoing rumors since The Dreamers that Bertolucci would never direct again, especially since an accident in Rome left him wheelchair-bound. “A few years ago, I couldn’t move any more. I couldn’t walk. That, maybe, was the moment when I thought I couldn’t do any more movies,” he told The Guardian earlier this year. “I thought, OK, it is finished. I’ll do something else … [but] everything changed the moment I accepted this situation.” Eventually he realized he “could be happy even here.” While the director made peace with his physical condition, his view of the American film industry could one day push him into retirement out of sheer disgust: “I think that I used to love Hollywood movies. I remember great phases and moments. But, unfortunately, now is not the moment.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger movie geek than Quentin Tarantino, but the director admitted he was ready to give it all up before he made another movie as terrible as Death Proof. No argument there. If any movie could make QT fall out of love with film, it would be that one. “Death Proof has got to be the worst movie I ever make,” he said last year. “And for a left-handed movie, that wasn’t so bad, all right? So if that’s the worst I ever get, I’m good. But I do think one of those out-of-touch, old, limp, flaccid-dick movies costs you three good movies as far as your rating is concerned.” Tarantino also vowed to quit film before he reached his senior years. “I don’t intend to be a director deep into my old age. To me, it’s all about my filmography, and I want to go out with a terrific filmography.”
Has Kevin Smith completely fallen out of love with film, or is he just a run-of-the-mill, depressed pothead? Cinema’s every guy has threatened to walk away from the movies for a long time. Smith recently promised that he’s really ready to call it quits for good this time, citing his desire to focus on his podcast. An interview with NPR last year revealed more of Smith’s bitterness surrounding the film industry. “You know, for me it was never about, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” he confessed. “And the podcasting — I swear to you — on its worst day, the podcasts are better than our best films. Because they’re more imaginative, and there’s no artifice, and it’s far more real.” Still, Smith says he’ll make one more movie — if Randal (Jeff Anderson) signs on for a third Clerks film.
Clint Eastwood directed his first film in 1971, Play Misty For Me. He also starred in the movie about a DJ stalked by an obsessed fan. It’s surprisingly stylish and gripping for what could have been a throwaway thriller. By that time, Eastwood had appeared on television and in films since 1955, and he was nearing the height of his fame. But before the actor would really make an impact as a director in the 1990s, he almost left Hollywood for good. “Do I plan to quit my job? In the ’70s I thought about it… But then my career took a different direction and everything turned out well,” he shared last year. Thankfully he stuck around or we probably wouldn’t have his empty chair speech to treasure forever.
Krzysztof Kieślowski’s stunning Three Colors trilogy is one of cinema’s greatest masterpieces. Audiences were sad to learn of the Polish director’s retirement in 1994. Roger Ebert described it as “the retirement of a magician, a Prospero.” Would Kieślowski have objected to such a label? In an interview with The Guardian, the filmmaker spoke candidly about his career:
“It’s enough. It’s with pleasure that I’m putting filmmaking aside. I never enjoyed making films. I didn’t like the whole film world, an invented, unreal world whose values are completely different to those I’m used to. Basic values. It’s not an honorable profession.”
Kieślowski eventually conceded to the possibility that he had yet to fully grasp an understanding of his own creative success:
“When you achieve something, you don’t actually realize you’ve achieved anything. It’s only afterwards when you’ve lost it that you realize you’ve lost it.”
Sadly, we never found out if Kieślowski arrived to that conclusion. The director died two years later.
George Lucas probably has enough money to buy and sell us all, but he’s not looking to make another Hollywood film with his bankroll. Instead, he wants to bum around his garage and build stuff. “I’m moving away from the company. I’m moving away from all businesses, I’m finishing all of my obligations and I’m going to retire to my garage with my saw and hammer and build hobby movies,” he recently revealed. Lucas has threatened to quit the business multiple times, but it wasn’t due to his desire to make experimental movies. Instead, he seemed to blame the fans and critics. “Why would I make any more [Star Wars films], when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?” he told the New York Times . The filmmaker just got married and sold Lucasfilm to Disney, making his escape to the garage closer to reality. Can he really stay away?
“I had no aspirations to be a film director ever again in my life. I made a promise to myself as a matter of fact that I’d never do it again and kept the promise 17 years,” Withnail and I writer and director Bruce Robinson admitted in 2011. That was before he got a phone call from Johnny Depp asking him to collaborate on an adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s novel The Rum Diary. The film received mixed reviews, but Robinson hasn’t retreated from the spotlight just yet. He recently completed a screenplay based on his semi-autobiographical novel, The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman .
“There’s an attitude now, in a lot of corners, that the director is a footage-gatherer, not a storyteller, and it extends to the lowest budget film,” Steven Soderbergh recently said after announcing his retirement from cinema. “There’s a sense of ownership that goes beyond any accepted notion of collaboration. It’s about rounding the edges, removing anything that’s ambiguous or polarizing. And I’m afraid I’m not sure the movie audience has a problem with that any more.” Economic factors have also put a damper on Soderbergh’s view of the industry. “I don’t see a way forward,” he expressed. The director’s recently released Liberace biopic, Behind the Candelabra, was the highest rated HBO movie since 2004. Cable television seems like an arena Soderbergh is open to exploring, but possibly not for film. Soderbergh is currently working on period medical drama series The Knick, starring Clive Owen, for Cinemax.