8. Loveless – Andrey Zvyagintsev
Eastern European cinema is bleak, even bleaker in recent years, and the high priest of bleakness of Russian cinema is Andrey Zvyagintsev. Although, to be fair, his films do not revel in desperation but offer powerful, heartfelt political cinema in a landscape that seems infested by eternal pain and mysterious political monsters that are stifling the land.
This perspective culminated in the extraordinary “Leviathan”, and will continue, on a smaller political scale, with “Loveless”, which analyzes the breakdown of a relationship, hopefully coming back to the levels of eerie intimacy that made Zvyagintsev’s “The Return” an extraordinary piece. It is a cinema of slow solemnity.
9. Shinjuku Swan 2 – Sion Sono
Sion Sono has been endlessly compared to Takashi Miike, but he has a softer touch, one that’s more fable-like, with colorful aesthetics and affinity for melodrama. Thus, “Shinjuku Swan” was a nice balance between typical Yakuza cinema, and the cinema of Fukasaku, Miike, Kitano, and his typical manga rainbow sensibility.
Despite this, it wasn’t among his best films, so “Shinjuku Swan 2” has to improve on the premise and release the contained energy that the first installment decided to not unleash, because there is nothing better than Sion Sono at his most visceral and unruly.
10. How to Talk to Girls at Parties – John Cameron Mitchell
John Cameron Mitchell is known as a director of kinetic comedies. “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” is an adaptation of a short story by Neil Gaiman, in which a group of boys go through an unusual coming-of-age journey as they try to make a move on “foreign” girls who happen to be more foreign than expected.
The 80s just won’t die, at least that’s what it looks like; Elle Fanning and Alex Sharp are incredibly reminiscent of the characters of the films of John Hughes, at least in their looks, with a touch of post-punk aesthetics and maybe a bit of twee-pop. The hope is that this film is a lighthearted and comically sharp film that is a mixture between “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and the tradition of British pop, both in film and in music.
11. The Valley of the Gods – Lech Majewski
Every time a respected European filmmaker takes a chance and tries to make his first film in the English language, there is a slight sense of trepidation; however, optimism for this film is quite justified.
His previous films, despite their low budgets, have been visually pictorial and elaborate. His films, such as “The Mill and the Cross”, are inspired by Brueghel’s painting style, and by a certain surrealist and oneiric sensibility. “The Valley of the Gods” seems like a step forward in the elaboration of this style.
The film is based on the legend of Ullikummi, a legend of Hurrian mythology and a giant stone monster that is the son of two mountains; this part of the film should run parallel to another story about a biography written about the richest man alive.
Even more interestingly, Majewski has said that the film will be a challenge for digital technology, and is currently being shot in Poland with a discreet budget and with implementation of various technologies. Hopefully, it will be a solid marriage of digital and arthouse to create a nice hybrid that might unleash the artistic visual possibilities of digital in ways that have not been tried before.
12. The Square – Ruben Ostlund
Ruben Ostlund has a Bergman-esque attitude, even though he does not reach the stellar heights of Bergman; he also has a little bit of Roy Andersson in him, and has only recently gained notoriety for his film “Force Majeure”. His new film will feature Elisabeth Moss and Dominic West as the leads, and is will be another examination of the insecurities and the hypocrisies of the middle class.
With a style that is unmistakably Scandinavian in its detachment, it is also unmistakably European in its socially acute themes, in the best tradition of Luis Bunuel and Michael Haneke. Excoriating black comedy is what is needed in times of deep cultural crises, and Ostlund is the man to do it.
13. Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back – Tsui Hark
Interestingly enough, the mutual penetration of the Eastern film market and the Western film market has produced lopsided results, as Hollywood has become more and more popular, especially in China, while the big China and Hong Kong productions, along with Indian productions and others, have remained relatively unknown.
One of the unknown gems of recent years was the adaptation of “Journey to the West”, a classic of Chinese literature, directed by Stephen Chow and modified into a comedic martial arts pop film. The sequel has now been given to Tsui Hark, the Steven Spielberg of Asia (as he was once nicknamed) and one of the most superbly talented filmmakers in the world, especially in the technical department, who has directed films in almost every genre.
The film promises to be a colorful and technically accomplished piece of great entertainment, and it would be at least decent for Hark to get some acclaim in the latter stage of his illustrious career.
14. You Were Never Really Here – Lynne Ramsay
The last time we’ve mentioned Lynne Ramsay, she was involved in a lawsuit, as her involvement in larger productions failed, probably because of the director’s peculiar style and the restrictive measures of mainstream cinema. Ramsay disappeared for awhile, and so did her project of shooting “Moby Dick in space”, but now she’s back, accompanied by the sardonic smile of Joaquin Phoenix.
The film is about a war veteran who tries to save a woman from a sex trafficking ring with disastrous consequences, and it features Phoenix, possibly in physical and mental disarray, as he navigates through a slightly psychotic cinematic style. Hopefully she will not hold back, and hopefully she’ll give this film the same intensity that she delivered in her previous three films, as she is one of the driving forces of British cinema.
15. The Trap – Harmony Korine
Not much is known about Harmony Korine’s latest film, but it’s safe to say that there are many people who are not anticipating it as much as “Spring Breakers”. All of Korine’s films have proved divisive, but he has also gathered a group of incredibly fervent supporters and many admirers.
He’s since moved from the dirty digital look of his first films, to the hyper-pop video-clip sensibility of his last film. The gangster thread that was touched upon in “Spring Breakers” will be now a central element of “The Trap”. Korine has stated that the film will be a cross between “a Cheech and Chong film and that movie ‘Scarecrow’,” a road movie from 1973 with Gene Hackman and Al Pacino.
Author Bio: Gabriele is an Italian film student studying in Scotland. He is an experimental and arthouse cinema enthusiasta and a believer in the crucial importance of freedom of artistic expression.