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What Ever Happened To These 5 Foreign-Language Filmmakers?

by The Playlist Staff
June 18, 2012 2:54 PM
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5 Absent Foreign Filmmakers

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.    

Lucretia Martel
Lucretia Martel
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.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Kiyoshi Kurosawa
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.

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  • elizabeth | June 19, 2012 2:50 PMReply

    Picking up on the Indiewire article discussing lack of female filmmakers at Cannes this year(and every year) and the general lack of female directors anywhere....this list should have been exclusively women.....comprised of some of the women from anywhere in the world who at some point made an interesting film (despite the odds) but were unable to make a follow-up....nevermind in 4 or 5 years but.....ever. I know it's a reality, but it's a tough one to take lying down. and yeah...I'm a woman (producer).

  • Christopher Bell | June 19, 2012 3:02 PM

    That's a good idea for a different list, but no need to discredit this one.

  • Huffy | June 19, 2012 2:45 PMReply

    I still think that Pulse is the ballsiest, most ambitious horror film since The Shining. Eerie as hell too.

  • Nic | June 19, 2012 9:25 AMReply

    Benicio Del Toro and Mathieu Amlric are in "Jimmy Picard", the next Desplechins'movie.

  • d | June 19, 2012 9:35 AM it says above. On page 2.

  • Jimbo | June 19, 2012 3:04 AMReply

    And what about Gilles Mimouni, who made such a magnificent and assured debut film with 'L'Appartement' fifteen years ago and hasn't be heard of since?

  • Juan | June 18, 2012 8:57 PMReply

    Lucrecia Martel is not a good filmmaker

  • Christopher Bell | June 19, 2012 12:55 AM

    All good (not familiar with Pintille -- but will check out) but different kind of piece. The ones mentioned here made serious waves somewhat recently, and in that sense, you'd expect them to hit back with something else much more quickly.

    I think maybe that piece would be good to question why nobody cares about these filmmakers anymore -- especially Jansco and Erice, with "Spirit of the Beehive" and "The Red And The White"/"Elektra" being so astonishing and respected. They all have movies in the 00s -- some even as recent as 2011 -- but does anyone really know about them? Not just us as an audience, but no festival play either?

  • ralch | June 19, 2012 12:33 AM

    No - she is a great filmmaker.

    Whatever happened to Victor Erice, Lucian Pintilie and Hugo Santiago. Pity no one follows up on Miklos Jancso. He's over 90 and still working.

  • Edward Davis | June 18, 2012 11:33 PM

    Double wrong (ouch, seriously).

  • d | June 18, 2012 9:55 PM


  • MAL | June 18, 2012 3:48 PMReply

    I have seen almost all of Kurosawa's films. My favourites are Pulse and Cure but I have been challenged but never disappointed by his work. TIFF (where Cure was my first Kurosawa experience) has been a huge supporter of his films as well, bringing each of his newest films to Toronto when they are available. And about 10 years ago, TIFF had a director's spotlight on him, showcasing many of his films to that date. I certainly look forward to whatever he does next.

  • MS.HU | June 18, 2012 3:28 PMReply

    Denys Arcand's next film is entitled Deux Nuits/Two Nights. More about here, in French:

  • Arch | June 18, 2012 3:12 PMReply

    Kudos for pointing out Kiyoshi Kurosawa ... really really amazing director! I'll just add that horror fans may want to check his 2001 TV movie Korei/Seance (or maybe his 1989 release Sweet Home, a bit different from later work but a fun flick!), drama fans (?) may want to check Jellyfish.

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