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It is impossible to think of any important director whose later work is his or her best. Why is this true of film-makers, but not of other artists?

By Mark Cousins   May 2001

In the couple of months around publication of this article, the following film events will have taken place. Francis Coppola’s presentation at Cannes of a longer version of Apocalypse Now. The paperback publication of Michael Powell’s autobiography. The re-release of Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. A South Bank Show profile of Ken Russell.

A common note sounds through all these retrospective celebrations which is rather embarrassing for cinema. Paul Schrader got it right a few years ago. “Looking back at my movies is a lose-lose situation,” he said. “If they seem bad, you think ‘my God, I had no talent’;…

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