Thursday, 4 March 2010
In Praise of Richard Donner
By Reece Crothers
Why Richard Donner?
Donner is a director, much like his contemporary, Walter Hill, whose work in genre storytelling has denied him the rank of master director among his peers, despite the fact that many of his works are benchmarks for their respective genres, none more so than the buddy cop prototype of "Lethal Weapon" (1987) and the modern comic book adaptation of "Superman" (1978), which is as much an art film as it is an action film. Listen to Donner discuss the circumstances around his Superman sequel being taken away and given to another director, and tell me this is not the wounded soul of an artist. In the support materials for the "Superman II" DVD, Donner can't even say the offending director's name out loud (for our purposes I can tell you it was that other Dick, Lester).
Time and reflection allows us to appreciate Donner's contributions to genre cinema and to see the uniqueness of his style. Compared to the geographically challenged, ADD-afflicted photography and editing of a post Bourne universe, Donner's films have striking formalism, a classic approach, a sort of John Ford model for the 80s, his warm photography is polished without looking slick or affected. Time has allowed us to see John Huston, Sam Fuller, Sam Peckinpah, and Clint Eastwood, among others, for more than just genre hacks. They have transcended their genre. Walter Hill is gaining status. Craving a classic, old school action picture I picked up Donner's original "Lethal Weapon" and decided I wanted to go through all of his pictures, separate the mistakes from the accomplishments and hold him up against his contemporaries to see if it isn't time for Donner's status to be reconsidered.
The first picture in the ongoing series In Praise of Richard Donner" is "Lethal Weapon 3" (1992), which, being born in 1979, was the first Weapon picture I was able to see theatrically. As a 13 year old boy with no prior exposure to the first two pictures this was one of my favourite movies that summer. This viewing of Donner's director's cut on DVD, 18 years later, immediately follows revisits of both Lethal Weapon 1, and 2, and nearly two decades of familiarity with the series.
As we go through highlights of Donner's extensive filmography I hope to bring more new cinephiles into this circle of appreciation. You might be surprised what you encounter along the way.
Click HERE for entry #1: LETHAL WEAPON 3