Those adults among us with siblings will remember the days when you lived with them under one roof. Whatever shenanigans, quarrels or fond memories we underwent in those bygone times, few of us ever did anything as productive as write a screenplay or shoot a movie with our sister or brother.
And yet, some siblings did just this, because sometimes talent strikes twice in one family and the genetic osmosis is so complementary, that they end up sharing their professional and artistic careers side by side. So, in honour of this week’s release of the Dardenne brothers’ latest, Two Days, One Night, we’re counting down the finest sibling tandems to have joined forces as directing teams.
Sadly this means no room here for all those brothers and sisters who ventured into filmmaking solo! That still leaves plenty of pairs to pick from and the following honourable mentions just missed the cut: the Brothers Quay, the Farrelly brothers, the Boulting twins, and the Lumière brothers, inventors of the cinematograph 120 years ago, without whom all these other siblings would have very different day jobs. Let the countdown begin…
5. The Maysles Brothers
As directors, documentarians, and cameramen, Albert and David Maysles recorded many epoch-defining moments, including the US Democratic Party election which led JFK to become president and the murder of Hunter Meredith at a 1969 Rolling Stones concert which symbolically signalled the end of the ‘hippie’ movement.
Their influence has gone far beyond documenting cultural landmarks of the ‘60s though, since, as highly-gifted cameramen and sound engineers, the Maysles introduced a less staged, more improvised feel to documentary-making which has been imitated countless times in all attempts at fly-on-the-wall documentaries since.
David passed away in 1987, but Albert has continued to work on various projects.
4. The Wachowskis
Since their 1996 directing debut, Bound, the Wachowskis, Lana and Andy, have consistently made blockbusters which prove big budget can also mean big ambition: check out the mind-bending themes of virtual reality in The Matrix Trilogy; the subversive anarchy of V for Vendetta; the flashbacks within flashforwards in Speed Racer; a dizzyingly innovative twist on parallel-editing in Cloud Atlas to tell six stories simultaneously.
All these examples and more show the Wachowskis to be two of the most original filmmakers within mainstream Hollywood, and some of the very few capable of blending pure spectacle with thought-provoking ideas.
Next movie: Set for release in 2015, Jupiter Ascending, starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum, will see the Wachowskis return to an original self-penned sci-fi screenplay for the first time since Matrix.
3. The Taviani Brothers
Now in their eighties but still going strong, Italian brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have been making films together for 60 years. Their on-set procedure is simple: each brother directs one scene without interference from the other, and then they alternate. Hard to tell who did what in the final result, such is the consistent playfulness and wisdom which shines through in their films.
Often magic-realist and always imaginative, the fable-like stories the Tavianis tell vary wildly from heartbroken WW2 widows to Sicilian werewolves, or, like in their 2012 documentary Caesar Must Die, prisoners forming a theatre troupe.
Next movie: The Tavianis thankfully show no sign of slowing down. Wondrous Boccaccio, loosely based on the Decameron, the literary classic of Medieval Italy, is currently in post-production.
2. The Dardenne Brothers
At number 2, it’s the brothers who were the inspiration for this list.
Growing up in a grey industrial town in Belgium, Jean-Pierre and Luc quickly took to using a camera to tell the stories of the people around them. In 1996, they broke through with La Promesse and went on a purple patch of four masterpieces in a row (Rosetta, Le fils, L’enfant are the three others) which also saw them pick up two Palme d’Or awards at Cannes.
Their films are unsentimental yet deeply empathetic, gritty yet illuminated by hope and beauty. They have nothing left to prove in terms of their cinematic mastery – Le fils, for example, generates suspense that even Hitchcock would be proud of.
Next movie: No need to wait long for a fresh dose of Dardennes, their new film Two Days, One Night, starring Marion Cotillard as a desperate mother with just one weekend to save her job, is out this week nationwide.
1. The Coen Brothers
An uncontroversial choice for number 1 perhaps, but hard to argue with: Ethan and Joel Coen may have just the one Cannes Palme d’Or to share between themselves to the Dardennes’ two, but their overall greater productivity and versatility, having reinvented just about every genre in the book over the past 30 years, is what clinches it for them.
The Coens write, produce, edit and direct their films together, and across their dazzling body of work have developed unmistakeable hallmarks: quotable dialogue, an irresistible brand of dark humour, convoluted but rewarding plots, eccentric scene-stealing characters, dynamic camera movement… the list could go on.
Simply put, the Coen brothers reign supreme in the pantheon of sibling director duos.
Next movie: The Coens are currently working in pre-production on their 1950s-Hollywood-set comedy, Hail, Caesar!, with an enticing all-star cast with George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, and Tilda Swinton all on-board.
But what do you think? Never heard of the Dardennes? Think the Farrellys deserved a spot? Let us know in the comments.