Contemporary cinema is the home of many styles and approaches toward reality and cinema. Many filmmakers take an extremely critical approach toward cinema and society, while others focus on a simple portrait of humanity and communication.
In the contemporary scene, there are filmmakers whose careers have just started and who probably are going to deliver many more great films; there are other whose careers are almost at their culmination, some of them have made many films and other are great just for four or five. Without any intention but to make a list of 10 extremely interesting directors still working, here is a list of them trying to keep variety in the careers and styles of them.
10. Roy Andersson
With only five feature films in his career, the Swedish director started his career in 1970 with an “A Swedish Love Story,” released Giliap five years later, then took 25-year hiatus, during which he dedicated himself to publicity works and short films.
It was in 2000 when he released the first film of a thematic trilogy that displayed him as one of the most interesting directors in in the international scene, “Songs from the Second Floor.” It took him 14 years to conclude this trilogy: he released “You, the Living” in 2007 and “A Pigeon sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence” in 2014.
This trilogy, often known as the Existentialist Trilogy, displays one of the most unique styles in film history, a style that constantly breaks with classic narrative conventions and reflects the struggles of modern life. The existentialist trilogy lacks a lead character or plot; instead displays several episodes in the life of characters who often find themselves in absurd and surreal circumstances.
Apart from the narrative, the visual style of Anderson is also subversive; he does not fragment the scenes into several shots and binds them by montage, and instead presents them as long mostly fixed shots where their depth of field allows us to see the depths of the absurd and surreal world of Andersson.
9. Lucrecia Martel
Argentine filmmaker Lucrecia Martel is another filmmaker whose works consist of very few films, and yet these few films have a powerful and unique style. Martel has made just four films since the release of her first film in 2001, “La Cienega.” She made “La Niña Santa” in 2004 and “La mujer sin cabeza” in 2008, after which she took a long pause of nine years before releasing “Zama” in 2017. All of these four films have drawn attention to Martel and have confirmed her as one of the most interesting and innovative filmmakers working today.
Martel is one of the working filmmakers who has one of the most critical viewpoints towards cinema. She is continuously criticizing the fact that film form has been made by a very narrow social class who decides what and how to see it, a problem to which Martel attributes the lack of diversity in language and story of current cinema. Coherently with this, the films of Martel display very particular problems with a unique style.
Disregarding the convention of traditional narrative form, Martel creates choral portraits of families as a way of displaying the pathologies and behaviors of contemporary society. There are no clear lead characters in most of her films, but there are binding elements such as a common place.
8. Wes Anderson
The commercially successful Wes Anderson is one of the working directors today who has developed one of the most personal and recognizable film styles. His acclaimed style could already be seen in his first film “Bottle Rocket,” released in 1996, which goes beyond the visual traits of color and plasticity, which everyone knows and loves. Anderson also has a way of his own to develop his characters; he often puts them in an alienated position toward the rest of the world, always with communication problems, and that is why the interactions in his films always feels so uncomfortable.
Yet, beyond the uncomfortable elements of the interactions, there is often a certain charm in them, and it is one of the keys that makes his films so powerful: the characters are all flawed and vulnerable. Through this, he has created many of the most compelling interactions in contemporary cinema; take, for example, one of the last scenes in “Fantastic Mr. Fox” where the main character meets with a wild wolf with whom he communicates transcending language through a gesture.
7. Yorgos Lanthimos
Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos is another filmmaker who has focused on displaying the most dark and disturbing aspects of the human condition. He had a formal education in film at the Hellenic Cinema and Television School Stavrakos in Athens.
Until 2001 when his first film was released, and for which he shared directing credits with Lakis Lazopoulos, he had several scenic and audiovisual experiences in theater spectacles and short films. He released “Kinetta” in 2005 before making the films for which he would gain international recognition and his disturbing style would be finally displayed at its highest: “Dogtooth.”
He won the Prix Un Certain Regard in the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated in for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. In “Dogtooth,” the traits of his personal cinema that we would see with his following films could already be seen. The fixation on family relationships and violence was presented without any filters and in powerful dramatic construction.
His fifth film, “The Lobster,” was also a commercial success and was in competition for the Palme d’Or in 2015, and won the Jury Prize. Lanthimos released another film in 2017, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” which received several awards in several film festivals and drew attention again to the uncompromised style of Lanthimos.
6. Pedro Costa
This Portuguese filmmaker is probably the current working filmmaker who most strongly challenges the conventions what is cinema and how is it done. Costa is known for developing films in what is known as “docu-fiction”: this means that he takes real characters that play themselves and shoots on location to create fictional stories.
Apart from this, Costa crafts his film without any regard for commercial standards, thus there are no great illumination schemes or perfectly designed sound; it is almost always just Costa and his digital camera, with which he captures his very particular characters.
Costa has released barely 11 films since his debut in 1984. He has a very clear point of view toward cinema, which is uncompromised with traditional schemes and conventions. He also has developed a subversive narrative technique that involves repetition rather than progression.
In his films we see his characters constantly going to the same places and having the same conversation. He is portraying the most vulnerable people of society, and thus this is his way of conveying the desolation in which they live, through narrative subversion.