Who's the most versatile director? Check out today's Ask the Critic question and post your own

By Owen Gleiberman
August 23, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Jonathan Demme: Everett Collection

Who’s the most versatile director?

Is there a director who can make any type of film well? —Rachel

The happy generalist—the filmmaker who can do romance, comedy, action, and spectacle with equal aplomb—has more or less gone out of style. In the classic Hollywood era, the universally acknowledged master of all trades was Howard Hawks, who made the quintessential screwball comedy (Bringing Up Baby), the quintessential horse opera (Red River), the quintessential noir mystery (The Big Sleep), and the quintessential gangster movie (Scarface). How’s that for range? Ron Howard tries for it, but his inconsistency makes him more of a Renaissance dabbler. Perhaps no director in our era has come quite as close as Jonathan Demme, who went from homegrown humanism (Melvin and Howard) to the great screwball noir Something Wild, then the demonically brilliant psycho thriller The Silence of the Lambs. He should extend that range by signing on for a movie that we could all really use right about now—a glorious spinning top of a romantic comedy.

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