Don’t believe us? Look at the movie’s trailer, in which Herzog appears for only a few seconds but manages to put the fear of the Almighty deep into the soul merely by tilting his head a few degrees.

Okay, so we are exaggerating. But Herzog is as riveting a presence in front of the camera as he is behind it. The brilliant and tireless filmmaker has made the time over the years to occasionally act in movies, among them Harmony Korine’s beguiling Mister Lonely. Korine, one of America’s genuine mavericks, is friends with other like-minded

(Cronenberg’s alleged talent scout has nefarious designs on Nicole Kidman’s ambitious anchor woman).

However, it’s not always true that if directors can direct actors, they can also

Anurag Kashyap, on the other hand, is, confidence itself in Onir’s I Am, in which he plays a man who sexually abuses his step-son. Kashyap, who has previously acted in plays, also appears in Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Shagird in 2011. Kashyap returned the favour by casting Dhulia as Ramadhir Singh, the scheming politician and arch-enemy of the Khan brood in Gangs of Wasseypur. The two-part movie would had one more filmmaker in its list of credits if Anurag Basu had agreed to play the part of the gun supplier who betrays Shahid Khan and gets his comeuppance from Shahid’s grandson Faizal. (The role eventually went to Harish Khanna.)

Nothing is what it seems in Roman Polanski’s twisted noir, least of all Huston’s property developer whose interests in the case being pursued by Jack Nicholson’s clueless detective are both financial and personal.

American independent director John Cassavetes acted in films and television serials to fund his movies. He wasn’t just going through the motions, though, as is evident from another Polanski shocker, Rosemary’s Baby. Is Cassavetes’s caring husband a member of a Satanic cult or is Mia Farrow having the worst

Further proof that men who spend their lives ordering others around make convincing antagonists can be found in Mani Ratnam’s under-rated Aaytha Ezhuthu. The 2004 movie, which was made as Yuva in Hindi with a different cast and setting, asks whether young people should wade into the muck of electoral politics. The contest is between Tamil director P Bharathiraja’s provincial, wheeling-dealing Selvanayagam and Suriya’s bright, Left-leaning professor Michael. Bharathiraja’s realistic rural melodramas took several generations of Tamil film watchers back to the folk idioms of the state. In Aaytha Ezhuthu, Bharathiraja is superb as a political veteran who

(This weekly series, which appears on Fridays, looks at how the cinema of the past helps us make sense of the present.)

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