Generally you can find plenty of information about your favorite stateside filmmaker, and depending on who they are (see: David Gordon Green), you can find a long list of potential upcoming projects to investigate. But being head-over-heels for a foreign director is a different story -- without the Hollywood system or independent film cliques to generate word of mouth or gossip, you can spend years without hearing a peep from even the biggest festival sweethearts, and only last week were were discussing around the Playlist water cooler where some of our favorite international filmmakers had gone in the last few years.
As we were pondering the status of these auteurs, good news hit the trades: Arnaud Desplechin's adaptation of Georges Devereux's "Psychotherapy Of A Plains Indian" found a star in Benicio Del Toro and would be shooting June 18th in Michigan. Titled "Jimmy Picard," Del Toro would play the Plains Indian character who suffers from inexplicable medical problems after World War II and begins sessions with author/ethno-psychiatrist Devereux (Mathieu Amalric). With Desplechin in mind, we took a look at four other directors who struck a chord yet promptly disappeared from the spotlight. Have any favorites we missed? Sound off in the comments section.
Who: Argentina's premiere filmmaker often regarded as the Argentinian David Lynch for some inexplicable reason. Yes, her films are odd, but more psychologically disorienting then as outwardly weird as Lynch can be.
Years Away From The Game: Four. Her last film was the critically acclaimed "The Headless Woman" which screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 and made our year end list that year.
What Happened: Even before Martel's 'Headless Woman' premiered Stateside, she was already talking about her next would-be project, an ambitious sci-fi film about an alien invasion based off an popular Argentine comic book called "El Eternauta." It all seemed to be moving ahead nicely (she was said to be writing after Cannes 2008) but as it turns out, she had conceptual differences with the producers and then left the project. So then three years later there's been nary a peep from the filmmaker other than having recently directed a spooky short film called "Muta" for fashion brand Miu Miu's "The Women's Tales" series (watch it below). Whether the director is writing a new script or weighing offers remains unclear at the moment.
What To Watch: Everything she's ever made. Martel only has three films to her name, so catch up shouldn't be difficult. Marked by their use of sound, an unnerving approach to film grammar that tends to put the viewer on subtle unease (she doesn't use establishing shots for one), a social and class perspective, plus a disquieting psychological anxiety throughout, all of Martel's films are fascinating, utterly engrossing, and burrow deep into your head like a psychosis while you're watching them. "The Holy Girl" (exec produced by Pedro Almodóvar) is a very disquieting coming of age/sexuality tale imbued with religious fervor and "La Cienaga" ("The Swamp") deals with the disturbing issues between a self-medicated bourgeois family, their daughters and unappreciated servants. Not only a deeply unique and idiosyncratic voice in international cinema (which made her one to instantly watch years ago), Martel creates rich stories for female characters so we'd imagine adventurous actresses like Tilda Swinton or Nicole Kidman should give her a ring and ask the filmmaker to conceive a story for them; a move that would surely benefit them all. Or better yet, she'll meet Rooney Mara, an actress who was seemingly born to star in her films.
Who: One of the preeminent filmmakers in the Japanese J-horror scene from the late 90s and aughts, watching the maverick Kurosawa genre-bend and blend, from thrillers to creepy intelligent horror, to oblique and wonderfully strange psychological horror, to drama and back again has been as exciting as witnessing any incandescent newcomer in cinema land on the scene. Widely regarded as one of the most talented filmmakers of New Japanese Cinema, he unfortunately doesn’t get the same amount of interest that someone like Takashi Miike does (and no, there’s no relation to Akira Kurosawa).
Years Away From The Game: Four. Kurosawa also premiered his last film, "Tokyo Sonata" at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 to much acclaim where it won the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section), but the picture mostly fell on deaf ears upon its limited stateside release the following year outside of a few appreciative arthouses (again, it made our best of 2009 list).
What Happened: While "Tokyo Sonata" was arguably a horror of sorts -- imagine watching your beloved family tear apart in what felt like an excruciating slow-motion -- Kurosawa was clearly testing the limits of genre as the film, for all real intents and purposes, was a masterfully crafted psychological drama (or trauma). And it makes us wonder if Kurosawa split his audience in doing so and or perhaps puzzled financial backers in Japan, but the picture is his best work and shows a filmmaker constantly willing to experiment, progress and grow. Then again, genre fluidity and blending has always been a cornerstone of Kurosawa’s work so perhaps he’s just waiting for inspiration and or a production check to clear. As of right now it remains uncertain what Kurosawa's next feature-length effort will be and when it will arrive, but perhaps we'll eventually see the television mini-series he directed "Redemption" (aka "Shokuzai") that debuted in early 2012 in Japan.
What To Watch: Although horror fans will likely stick with "Pulse" and "The Loft" as their fave Kurosawa picks, it's really his post-traditional J-horror work that is his most remarkable. “Charisma,” essentially about a toxic tree in what is potentially a haunted forest, which one could reductively call an ecological horror, is an unforgettable and haunting picture. The enigmatic 1997 serial killer film "Cure" is a genuinely frightening exploration of post-modern identity. And the surreal dystopian love story "Barren Illusion" and the black comedy cum psychological thriller "Doppelganger" are also good places to start.