In describing today's best directors, three terms are generally used (and overused): Maverick, Genius and Auteur. A "maverick" is now used to describe virtually anyone who makes a movie without using Hollywood money. An "auteur" is used to describe anyone who writes as well as directs. And "genius" is used to describe anyone who makes a halfway decent film. I'm taking these words back. In reality, a "maverick" should be a button-pusher. It's a filmmaker who is so radical and daring that even high-minded, forward-thinking critics sneer at their work, people like Vincent Gallo or Catherine Breillat. These people are so dangerous that they have trouble making and distributing films. Harmony Korine, director of Mister Lonely (5 screens) is very much a maverick. Korine has pushed many buttons and many envelopes over the years and though I love his work, he's someone I wouldn't want to invite to my house. (He scares me.)
Werner Herzog, director of Encounters at the End of the World (1 screen), is also a maverick (and, incidentally, a buddy of Korine's). His physically dangerous films have probably had insurance companies slamming the door in his face, and his co-workers have included people who might not be fit for polite society. (At the very least, most of them would turn heads.) Some of his actors have reportedly threatened to kill him. It cracks me up that, because Herzog's documentary Grizzly Man was such a hit, Herzog was allowed to make his new film for the Discovery Channel. I'd really love to have been in on that board meeting. Did they really know who they were dealing with? At the same time, Herzog is also an auteur: all of his films have the same roaming curiosity, fearlessly exploring man's tenuous connection to nature, from Aguirre navigating the Amazon looking for El Dorado, to Timothy Treadwell seeking to befriend the bears.