By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist January 7, 2013 at 12:00PM
Last week, we took a look at a cool hundred movies on the way over the next twelve months that we're looking forward to, and while some may disappoint, others will surprise and surpass expectations. One of the great pleasures of being a cinema fan is that of discovery; that unknown film that you take a chance on, that blows you away and becomes one of the talking points of the year. Invariably, these discoveries end up coming from the independent and foreign world, and prove to be among the best moments of the cinematic year.
It's of course, tricky to predict exactly what'll end up being the highlights of the festival circuit -- films like "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "The Artist" were barely on any radars until they screened for the first time. But we've delved into the darker recesses of the film calendar to pick out 30 titles that could end up being the best time you have in a movie theater in 2013. Take a look below, and let us know what you're most looking forward to in the comments section.
Synopsis: Four years after their crime spree was brought to an end by the authorities, a young couple, Bob and Ruth, are reunited when he escapes from prison.
What You Need To Know: Attracting talent like Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Ben Foster and Nate Parker for your first big feature suggests that you might potentially be a big deal, and all the promise that David Lowery has shown over the last few years looks to come to a head with "Ain't Them Bodies Saints." A familiar name on the indie circuit thanks to his debut feature "St. Nick," and his short "Pioneer" (which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2011), Lowery's all over Park City this year, as an editor on "Upstream Color," and the co-writer of NEXT entry "Pit Stop," but his 70s-set Texas crime tale is undoubtedly his magnum opus this year. There's obvious echoes of "Badlands" and "Bonnie & Clyde" here, but it sounds like Lowery has his own take at work here, and he couldn't ask for a more talented cast. "Pariah" and "Middle Of Nowhere" DoP Bradford Young is shooting the film too, so it should look glorious.
When? Starts screening January 20th at Sundance, and we imagine it's one of the hot-ticket pick ups at the festival, so a distributor should follow along shortly.
Synopsis: Two French-Canadian con-men team up for a get-rich-quick scheme to sell Christmas trees in New York.
What You Need To Know: It's now nearly eight year since the first, and last, feature from director Phil Morrison, a comedy and music video veteran whose 2005 film "Junebug" proved to be an acclaimed and terrific family drama, helping launch the career of Amy Adams in the process. All we've had to show from the filmmaker since is an episode of HBO's "Enlightened" in 2011, but last year he finally got rolling on his sophomore feature. Originally titled "Lucky Dog," the film stars Paul Rudd and Paul Giamatti in the lead roles, with the great Sally Hawkins ("Happy-Go-Lucky") also involved. The script comes from first-timer Melissa James Gibson, while Giamatti also produces, and while it sounds like it might lean more comedic than "Junebug" did, we're sure Morrison will bring some added depth to the table.
When? Not in the Sundance line-up, surprisingly, so we imagine it'll turn up at SXSW, or TIFF at the latest.
Synopsis: A young man, rendered mute by the death of his parents as a child, has grown up to become a musical prodigy, but a chance meeting with a herbologist helps him come to terms with his old memories.
What You Need To Know: The track record of animated filmmakers moving into live-action is a patchy one; on the plus side, you have Tim Burton and Brad Bird, on the minus, Andrew Stanton and the guy who made "Jonah Hex." But given that his live-action contribution to anthology picture "Paris Je T'Aime" was one of the highlights of the film, we're not so worried about the first non-animated feature from Sylvain Chomet, the director of the great "The Triplets Of Belleville" and "The Illusionist." Starring fast-rising French actor Guillaume Gouix alongside the more familiar Anne Le Ny ("The Intouchables") and Jean-Claude Dreyfus ("Delicatessen"), the set-up sounds right up Chomet's street, given his previous work, and we're excited to see how his distinctive style translates into live-action. He's not abandoning cartoons forever; he'll get underway on "Swing Poppa Swing," a prequel to 'Belleville,' later this year.
Release Date: "The Triplets Of Belleville" premiered at Cannes ten years ago, so with the film having wrapped in September, it might well be a good bet for inclusion there.
Synopsis: The captain of a container ship seeks revenge on the businessman who caused the suicide of his sister's husband, by getting closer to the man's mistress and her young son.
What You Need To Know: After a prolific burst of activity in the late 00s, with the excellent duo of "35 Shots Of Rum" and "White Material" following back-to-back in 2008 and 2009, things have been mostly quiet from the great African-born, French-based helmer Claire Denis, with only a short film, "To The Devil," coming in 2011. But the filmmaker got before cameras on her latest film, "Les salauds" (translated as "The Bastards") last August, wrapping up in October. Headlined by Vincent Lindon ("Vendredi Soir"), Chiara Mastrioanni ("A Christmas Tale") and Lola Creton ("Goodbye First Love," "Something In The Air"), it sounds like something of a change of pace for the director, with more of a thriller feel, without the post-colonial theme often present in her work. But that said, it's early days, and we're sure Denis' distinctive touch will be present nonetheless.
Release Date: Denis' a serious favorite at Venice, so that would be the obvious bet, but don't discount a return to Cannes for the first time since 2001's "Trouble Every Day."
Synopsis: After being threatened during confession, a good-nature priest must battle the dark forces closing in around him.
What You Need To Know: A couple of years back, John Michael McDonagh came out from behind the shadow of his Oscar-winning brother Martin ("In Bruges," "Seven Psychopaths") to make a hugely impressive debut feature himself, in the shape of "The Guard," an enjoyably transgressive, darkly funny comedy featuring a titanic performance from Brendan Gleeson. The writer-director and actor are reteaming again for this, which promises to be a change of pace to some degree; as McDonagh told Empire Magazine this month, "We're trying to go the opposite way. [Brendan]'s one of the few decent characters -- and everyone else is a prick." Sounding like a Gaelic take on Thomas Vinterberg's excellent "The Hunt," McDonagh's assembled a who's who of Irish talent, with Chris O'Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, Brendan's son Domhnall Gleeson and Dylan Moran all on board, with Jim Jarmusch favorite Isaach De Bankole and Marie-Josee Croze ("Tell No One," "The Diving Bell And The Butterfly") also involved.
Release Date: TIFF is probably the best bet, but if they hope to emulate the smash success of "The Guard" when it came out in Ireland in the summer of 2011, it may be unveiled earlier.
Synopsis: An aspiring singer-songwriter new to New York forms a bond with a record producer and his young daughter.
What You Need To Know: Marking the return of "Once" director John Carney (who actually has made two Irish movies in the seven years since, "Zonad" and "The Rafters," neither of which were seen by literally anybody), it doesn't see the Irish writer/director move too far from the music-infused love story of his breakthrough. But everything's on a bigger scale; instead of Dublin, it's Manhattan, instead of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, it's Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley. This may cause some to prickle against it, but if Carney can bring the same heartfelt quality, and true understanding of the genre, that we won't be complaining. Judd Apatow, in a rare excursion away from full-on comedy, produces, while the cast also includes Hailee Steinfeld (as Ruffalo's daughter), Catherine Keener, James Corden, and cameos from musical figures like Mos Def, CeeLo Green and Adam Levine.
Release Date: TIFF seems most likely, Tribeca (given the NYC setting) or SXSW (given the music leanings) could also make sense.
Synopsis: The sculptor Camille Claudel, confined to an asylum by her family, awaits a visit from her brother.
What You Need To Know: With a reputation as one of the most 'difficult' European auteurs out there, Bruno Dumont on the surface appears to have gone a little more mainstream for his latest film; working with a major star for the first time, in the shape of Juliette Binoche, and taking on that most formulaic of genres, the biopic -- in this case, Camille Claudel, a sculptor who was institutionalized with schizophrenia in her 40s, where she stayed for over thirty years, never to sculpt again. Of course, when you think about the subject matter -- and the particular approach that Dumont seems to be going for -- we're sure this'll be anything but a traditional biographical take. We're sure it won't be much fun to watch, but the combination of Binoche and the director is an enormously exciting one, particularly given the potency of the role.
Release Date: Cannes feels like a shoo-in.
Synopsis: To care for her disabled son, an aging actress agrees to sell her likeness to a movie studio, to be used by whoever they like.
What You Need To Know: Another long-running fixture of this list that will hopefully finally arrive in 2013, "The Congress" is the sophomore feature from Ari Folman, the Israeli helmer who broke out with 2008's acclaimed documentary/animation hybrid "Waltz With Bashir." Folman's sticking with a similar visual approach here for his fiction debut, an adaptation of a short story by Stainslaw Lem ("Solaris"), which mixes about 70 minutes of live action footage with 50 minutes of animation. He's attracted an impressive cast here, with Robin Wright in the lead role, and Kodi Smit-McPhee, Paul Giamatti, Danny Huston, Frances Fisher and Harvey Keitel among the others. Leaked footage suggests it's going to be something of a mindfuck, and we we'd want nothing less from it.
Release Date: "Waltz With Bashir" premiered at Cannes in 2008, so we could well see him back on the Croisette in 2013.
Synopsis: In a hotel in 1980, a group of computer programmers try to create the ultimate computer chess program.
What You Need To Know: Probably one of the most talented directors to be part of that dreadful m-word American film movement (m*mbl*c*re), Andrew Bujalski has been sorely missed since we last saw him in 2009 with the fantastic and criminally underseen "Beeswax." Thankfully his new film, a period piece if you will, not only succeeded in its crowd-sourcing endeavor but completed shooting late in 2011, and will premiere at Sundance in just over a week. While the "Funny Ha Ha" filmmaker has shied away from big names ("Dazed and Confused" actor Wiley Wiggins is the biggest name involved), this film will mark his move away from celluloid and flatbed editing -- instead, the PortaPak digital cameras of the era will be used. It sounds like an interesting prospect and quite a bizarre world, especially considering how far we've come technologically since then. Smartly, Bujalski has insisted that he will not include any wink-wink 1980s references, but his camera will be watching these characters like a hawk and there will be plenty of humor despite the lack of Suncoast Video references.
When? Premieres in Park City on January 21st, hopefully a distributor will follow along soon.
Synopsis: Two companion-piece films that examine the dissolution of a marriage after the wife decides to go back to college, shown from the perspective of both parties in the two distinct films.
What You Need To Know: Ambition in a first feature is almost always something to be lauded, and Ned Benson (who was behind short films "The Westerner" and "Yes") certainly has it in spades here. The logline might sound familiar -- "Blue Valentine" by way of "Gone Girl," but the execution is pretty unusual, in that Benson has made two separate films, showing the story from the perspective of both the husband (James McAvoy, who replaced Joel Edgerton in the role) and the wife (Jessica Chastain, who starred in Benson's "The Traveler"). You couldn't ask for a more talented duo than these two, and the supporting cast is pretty much outstanding too, with Ciaran Hinds, Bill Hader, Jess Weixler, Viola Davis, William Hurt, Nina Arianda and, in a rare English-language turn, Isabelle Huppert. It's possible that it's all some kind of a gimmick, and it'll be difficult to pull off in practice, but with this much talent involved, there's every chance that it could work.
When? Cannes is a possibility -- the conceit is bound to attract festival attention -- but TIFF may be a better bet.