These are some of Cinema's sad departures of 2016 taken from my personal notes soon after the tragic events took place:
Four important film directors have sadly passed away this month. All had a firm interest in keenly probing their film characters' true nature and interactions with one another. Although each filmmaker made those perceptions in distinctively different ways, they will all be sorely missed.
Garry Marshall, one of the most versatile talents working in show business, has died at age 81. He was a hugely successful writer, director, producer and actor creating a host of wildly popular TV shows and films. His hit TV series (as executive producer) included The Odd Couple (1970 - 1975), Mork & Mindy (1978 - 1982), Laverne & Shirley (1976 - 1983), and Happy Days (1974 - 1984). Marshall often contributed as a writer on the aforementioned shows plus The Lucy Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show (both 1964 - 1966) amongst others. His film directorial credits include the superb coming of age movie The Flamingo Kid (which he also co-wrote), Beaches, Pretty Woman, Frankie and Johnny, Runaway Bride, The Princess Diaries, and (released this year) Mother's Day. As an actor, he made memorable appearances in Grand Theft Auto (as an Underworld Boss), Lost in America (pictured here in a wonderful cameo as a Casino Operator), Soapdish, A League of Their Own (directed by his sister Penny Marshall), Never Been Kissed, Orange County, and Race to Witch Mountain amongst others. Garry Marshall (November 13, 1934 - July 19, 2016) R.I.P.
Argentinian director Hector Babenco has died at age 70. He was known for his intense explorations of character typically under brutally severe environmental circumstances and influences. His first feature-length film credit was as co-director of the 1973 documentary O Fabuloso Fittipaldi concerning the world champion Grand Prix racing driver. Babenco wrote and directed the two fictional feature films that followed: O Rei da Noite (1975) and Lucio Flavio (1977); the first concerning the odd romantic exploits of a Sao Paulo bohemian, the latter about the brazen Brazilian bank-robber Lúcio Flávio, a politically daring film for the filmmaker because of the country’s military dictatorship and the real Flavio’s indictment of the notorious Brazilian Police death squads before being killed in prison. It was 1981’s Pixote that afforded Babenco the most international notoriety about the harsh criminal life of a boy in the streets of Sao Paulo. The critical success of that film allowed the aspiring filmmaker to make Kiss of the Spider Woman based on Manuel Puig’s novel which was adapted by the author into a play and first staged in 1985, the year the film was released. That film's awards and acclaim led Babenco to direct amongst others: Ironweed, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, Carandiru, and his last, 2015’s My Hindu Friend. Hector Babenco (February 7, 1946 - July 13, 2016) R.I.P.
The prestigious Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami has died at age 76. He began his filmmaking career at age 30 and became perhaps his country's most important director. In addition to feature-length films, he was recognised for his substantial contribution to the art of photography, short and documentary films, and poetry. His filmmaking style was unique and stylised, he rarely relied on a script, often mixing fantasy with reality to create a more poetic form and like the famous French filmmaker Robert Bresson whom he admired, often used non-actors to provide a more natural improvisational appearance. He was a Jury member at the Cannes Film Festival in 1993, and in 2005 was its president. Some of his lauded works as both writer and director include Close-Up (1990), Taste of Cherry (1997), The Wind Will Carry Us (1999) and Certified Copy (2010). Abbas Kiarostami (June 22, 1940 - July 4, 2016) R.I.P.
Academy Award-winning director Michael Cimino has passed away this month at age 77. Before making his directorial debut (getting his big break assignment from star Clint Eastwood) on the hit film Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Cimino co-wrote the scripts to the sci-fi cult favourite Silent Running and the first 'Dirty Harry' sequel Magnum Force. Then it was on to his biggest critical and commercial success, 1978's The Deer Hunter which won its bold visionary an Oscar for both directing and co-producing the Best Picture winner of 1979. In 1980 Cimino's professional reputation took a tremendous fall with the enormously budgeted, mammoth western epic Heaven's Gate. Its colossal commercial failure caused many of the artist's planned projects to be thwarted. He did write and direct Year of the Dragon (1985) containing his customary sudden realistic outbursts of violence, and direct with a typical stylised visual and fatalistic aesthetic The Sicilian, Desperate Hours, and The Sunchaser, his last feature-length work in 1996. After quitting directing, he published two highly successful novels while living in Paris, France. Michael Cimino (February 3, 1939 - July 2, 2016) R.I.P.