Who: Arguably Quebec's most successful director, Arcand broke out internationally with "The Decline of The American Empire" in 1986, and followed it up fairly swiftly with the controversial, but strong, "Jesus Of Montreal" (1989). He's had three of Canada's five best Foreign Language Oscar nominations, including winning for "The Barbarian Invasions," his best known film, in 2003, as well as picking up a nod for Best Original Screenplay that year too.
Years Away From The Game: It's been five years since "The Age Of Ignorance" (also known as "Days Of Darkness") closed Cannes in May 2007.
What Happened: Well, the reception for "The Age Of Ignorance," which completed the trilogy of 'American Empire' and "The Barbarian Invasions," was pretty cool at Cannes (as is so often the case for closing films), and even the Academy, who arguably love him more than the critics, snubbed him for the project. Arcand's 70 now, and the savaging may have lessened his desire to work somewhat, as there's barely been a whisper of another feature project since, as far as we can tell. That being said, there have been signs of life, including a cameo alongside fellow Canadian legend David Cronenberg in "Barney's Version" a few years back. And at the start of this year, to mark the 150th anniversary of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, a retrospective of his work was featured at Montreal's lone arthouse, Cinéma du Parc, and he produced some new work including a short film made in collaboration with artist Adad Hannah, entitled "Safari." It's... not in the top class of his work, perhaps, but it's at least a sign that more work might be on the way.
What To Watch: "The Barbarian Invasions" is probably the best intro to his work -- it's certainly his most accessible film. "Jesus Of Montreal" is probably a good call, though perhaps not around your religious auntie.
Otherwise, two of the more high-profile missing cases should be returning fairly soon: Juan Antonio Bayona, who made an excellent debut with Guillermo Del Toro-produced ghost story "The Orphanage," has been away for five years, but has a highly promising follow-up on the way with the English-language tsunami drama "The Impossible," with Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor. Meanwhile, after a pair of terrific films with "Time Out" and "Heading South," Laurent Cantet won the Palme D'Or at Cannes in 2008 for "Entre les murs," or "The Class," which also picked up a Foreign Language Oscar nod. He's been absent for a while, but his version of Joyce Carol Oates' "Foxfire" is due later in the year, and is almost a dead cert to play in Toronto.
As for those we haven't heard from in a while, it's four years since Gotz Spielmann's Oscar-nominated "Revanche" without more from the Austrian director, and four since Hou Hsiao-Hsien's "Flight of the Red Balloon" -- he's meant to be working on an eagerly-awaited martial arts project called "The Assassin," but the start date seems to be put back every time it gets close to being made, and there's no sign if it's actualy gone before cameras. Also M.I.A: Li Yang, who's had difficulties with the Chinese authorities, and hasn't made anything since 2007's "Blind Mountain" (a close to the trilogy started with "Blind Shaft," entitled "Blind River" was in the works, but hasn't materialized), while "Goodbye, Dragon Inn" director Tsai Ming-liang has been absent since 2009's French-language Cannes entry "Face."
- Christopher Bell, RP & Oliver Lyttelton