One of the founding members of the Directors’ Guild of Great Britain, Alan Parker has earned respect in the film industry for having a craftsman’s approach that puts the standalone quality of his work over the inclusion of directorial traits or trademarks. Not without a sense of humour or touch of irony though (as the inclusion of a VHS copy of Angel Heart and Birdy poster in the background of an early scene in his music biopic The Commitments demonstrates) nor afraid to speak his mind, he has lamented the level of control handed to acting stars in the creative process and has not made a feature film since The Life of David Gale in 2003.
He is possibly one of the most dependable film-makers to never gain proper public recognition, and these five films speak volumes for his talent.
Plot summaries from IMDb. Reviews by Jordan
5. Evita (1996)
The hit musical based on the life of Evita Duarte, a B-picture Argentinian actress who eventually became the wife of Argentinian president Juan Perón, and the most beloved and hated woman in Argentina.
Evita isn’t the best musical around, nor does it represent the best work from Tim Rice or Alan Parker. It’s long, has lulls and features too few stand-out musical numbers. Never though, can you doubt it’s ambition.
Madonna acts her heart out, her efforts contagious and character at once despicable and inspiring, and Antonio Banderas is the ideal storyteller, stealing his scenes with bravado and energy. This film was made with passion and intent, and remains highly curious viewing perhaps in part because of it’s unmissable flaws.
4. Midnight Express (1978)
The true story of Billy Hayes, an American college student who is caught smuggling drugs out of Turkey and thrown into prison.
Harrowing, relentless and all-too realistic, Midnight Express would make the world take notice of Parker after the cult musical Bugsy Malone, and certainly do its part to deter potential drug smugglers. With a screenplay by Oliver Stone, with whom Parker had an openly negative experience, this stands as the director’s most renowned and recognizable work.
3. Angel Heart (1987)
Harry Angel is a private investigator. He is hired by a man who calls himself Louis Cyphre to track down a singer called Johnny Favorite. But the investigation takes an unexpected and somber turn.
Led by an understated performance from a disheveled Mickey Rourke, and supported by an ominous, unsettling Robert De Niro, Angel Heart is a thriller that’s equal parts mysterious and terrifying and is guaranteed to induce nightmares. Gritty, grimy, filled with shadows and painfully bleak; it’s also a throwback to the early American noirs and boasts the substance to support the outward appearance.
2. The Commitments (1991)
The travails of Jimmy Rabbitte to form the “World’s Hardest Working Band,” The Commitments, and bring soul music to the people of Dublin, Ireland.
The Commitments is one of the best films you may only ever watch once. Funny, authentic and effortlessly charming, it sweeps you up with it’s tale of enthusiastic young band manager Jimmy Rabbitte and his attempts to bring soul to the working class of Dublin, before closing in really the only way possible.
Try your hardest not to smile as The Commitments send the crowds into a frenzy – I know I couldn’t help myself.
1. Mississippi Burning (1988)
Two FBI agents with wildly different styles arrive in Mississippi to investigate the disappearance of some civil rights activists.
Winner of Best Cinematography at the 1989 Academy Awards and nominated for Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress and Director, Mississippi Burning crafts tension masterfully and paints a frighteningly accurate picture of a dark side of America in 1964. Gene Hackman, Frances McDormand and Willem Dafoe provide powerful performances, and Brad Dourif is his usual enigmatic self in a film that should be shown in every high-school nationwide.
Just missed the cut:
Bugsy Malone, Fame, Pink Floyd The Wall, Birdy, Angela’s Ashes, The Life of David Gale