Most Famous Works: The Lion King (1997 musical), Frida (2002), Across the Universe (2007)
When I started this blog, I knew that it was sadly going to have a large gender bias. Besides actresses, women in the entertainment industry are difficult to find and coming across a female auteur is even a more difficult challenge. But I knew that when I was finally going to profile a woman, I would have to find one working on the same caliber as the likes of Malick or Lynch. Of the female directors in the industry, I feel none of them are more unique and talented than Julie Taymor.
Taymor’s career skyrocketed when she took on the role of directing The Lion King musical for Broadway. The musical could have easily been a carbon copy of the hit 1994 film – a person of less talent and creativity likely would’ve created a musical looking more like a Disney-on-ice show than legitimate theater. However, Taymor’s incredible unique visual style translated so perfectly to the stage that she changed the way the world looked at Lion King. Rather than having actors dress up in full body animal suits, she allowed parts of the performers heads and bodies to be exposed, blending in with the intricate African tribe-based costume design. Taymor’s musical was hailed by the theater world and went on to win 6 Tony Awards, including Best Director for Taymor – making her the first woman in history to win the award.
After her visual knockout of a musical in the theater world, it was a no-brainer that Taymor transitioned to film. Her first film Titus, an adaptation of a Shakespearean tragedy, received positive critical acclaim, but it was her tour-de-force sophomore film Frida, based of the life of Frida Khalo, that cemented her place as a new voice in the film industry. Like her work on The Lion King, Taymor used a non-traditional approach to telling the story – frequently abandoning the natural settings of Mexico and America to create a digital backdrop entirely of Kahlo’s surrealist artwork. The visual techniques worked to great effect, creating the world of Frida Kahlo around the life of Frida Kahlo.
Taymor’s trademark visual style continues to appear in her work to this day, whether she uses it to great results recreating the psychedelic lifestyle of a Beatles era 1960’s in the film musical Across the Universe, or to lesser effect with last year’s Shakespeare adaptation The Tempest. Either way, Taymor’s work continues to dazzle audiences and critics alike as she hones her unique style to make art out of cinema. And they say women can’t direct.
Most Aesthetically Pleasing Scene:
You only need to see “Circle of Life”, the opening number of The Lion King once and you will never forget it. The vocals are incredible, but nothing compares to the jaw dropping costume design: performers using stilts to create the appearance of giraffes walking across the stage. A man acting as the hind legs of a cheetah while controlling the front paws with poles. Two performers dressed as an elephant that looks like it was made from grey construction paper in an elementary school art class. These are only some of the images featured in Taymor’s unforgettable production.
By: Eric Weintraub