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DIY Film Fest: Great directors who were One and Done

by Tim Cogshell | Off-Ramp®

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Marlon Brando on the set of "One Eyed Jacks."

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC's FilmWeek and Alt Film Guide, and who blogs at CinemaInMind, has another film festival you can put on yourself, in the comfort of your own home.

Lots of filmmakers direct only one movie.  Far fewer of them direct a movie that’s in any way notable. And, by notable we mean good, if not very good or better, iconic.

1.  Marlon Brando / "One-Eyed Jacks" (1961)

Actors make up most, but not all of this DIY One and Done Film Festival, and first on our list is Marlon Brando, who directed just one movie and was done with the director's chair. "One-Eyed Jacks" (1961) is more or less a spaghetti western with no Italians.  Brando and Karl Malden play bank robbers. Dad Longworth (Malden) leaves Rio (Brando) to rot in prison for 11 years. Bad blood builds.

Stanley Kubrick was set to direct but he and Brando had issues so Brando took over. Yeah, Marlon Brando fired Stanley Kubrick. Crazy.

A number of sources report that Brando was an indecisive and demanding director. His first cut was five hours long. Paramount cut it in half and it did good business, with better than decent reviews. Brando didn't like it, but Martin Scorsese often calls "One-Eyed Jacks" one of his favorite westerns, and James Caan, who would go on to work with Brando in "The Godfather," is a particularly big fan.

2. James Caan / "Hide in Plain Sight" (1980)

The second film in our One and Done DIY Film Festival - James Caan’s one and only directorial effort - "Hide in Plain Sight" (1980). Loosely based on a true story, the movie is about a blue collar Caan, who is kept from his children when his ex-wife’s mob-connected new husband is taken into federal protection.

"Hide in Plain Sight" has the tone and timber of a Martin Ritt film -  it’s "Hud" meets "Norma Rae." One person standing up against an unjust system. Critics were mixed: praising the performances but generally suggesting that Caan’s direction was slavish to the true story. But I like it.

3. Dustin Hoffman / "Quartet" (2012)

Most people think Dustin Hoffman directed the 1978 drama "Straight Time," in which he stars. True, he began the film as director, but  soon handed the directing duties over to veteran filmmaker Ulu Grosbard.  Hoffman would wait 34 years before giving it another go. His one and only directorial effort is the 2012 film "Quartet," starring Maggie Smith and Billy Connolly among others.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSEnh8Hi62E

And it is notably lovely in just about every way.

4.  Theodore Witcher / "Love Jones" (1997)

Last in our DIY one and done film festival: Theodore Witcher.  I know, you’ve never heard of him. But he did write and direct one iconic film that’s 20 years old this year. "Love Jones" stars Larenz Tate and Nia Long.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNMoQ_Cqt4E

The film is about a poet name Darius, played by Tate, and a talented young photographer called Nina, played by Nia Long. Mostly the film is this couple and their friends. They talk about is love and sex and friendship and if all can ever be had together. They do while being black, which was still a big deal in 1997.  

I have no idea why a guy who wrote and directed a film as notable as "Love Jones" didn’t take or get another shot at the director’s chair.  A buddy was in a Denny’s spot Teddy Witcher directed some years ago. Who knows, maybe there was just more money in commercials.

But if "Love Jones" is the only movie I ever get from One and Done director  Theodore Witcher, it will definitely do.

 

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