In light of his passing, we look at the eclectic work of the man who loved camp, callousness, and everything in between.
A swath of renowned filmmakers began their careers either away from the director’s chair or away from the silver screen. Joel Schumacher did both. The ‘70s saw him direct two TV movies and write or co-write three theatrical features. But only getting started with collaborations with the likes of Sidney Lumet (The Wiz) and Michael Schultz (Car Wash), it was barely a decade into his career that he dug out his cubby in niche, mainstream, and between, amplifying and focusing on queer and POC voices from the get-go. Neither were common, and it made him dive into his projects with even more abandon.
He put queer dramas in the multiplexes during the ‘80s with St. Elmo’s Fire and The Lost Boys. He looked at a lack of privilege only to look at privilege gone amok years later with Falling Down, a provocative picture for its time that’s held on to its sting in one way or another. But he didn’t just draw on the likes of Bogdanovich, Lumet, and Scorsese. He was unapologetic in dipping into camp with Batman Forever, and he was just as happy to amp it up with Batman and Robin—no matter the response.
But Schumacher’s filmography remains even more of a mosaic. He came of age in the New Hollywood renaissance; his directed features spanned 1974 to 2011. With his last feature, Trespass, achieving digital distribution and his later work on House of Cards, he also remains one of the few filmmakers whose work covered so many corners of development and exhibition.
What makes a Joel Schumacher film can be opaque at points. Frankly, such a description can border on nebulous. But with decades of work under his belt, he remains a tall, hectic capsule of artistic integrity for worse and for better.