The spring of 2008 is already looking like a hot arena for world cinema, particularly if you're following IFC Films' releases for the early part of the year. Here's a rundown of some notables for the coming year.
Of course, I'm most excited about Catherine Breillat's latest, The Last Mistress [Une vieille maîtresse], which went home empty-handed at Breillat's first Cannes this past May but has received positive feedback on the North American festival circuit (even from her detractors). Sample dialogue: Asia Argento (to another woman): "Ugh! I hate everything feminine... except young boys of course." Brilliant. With Argento, Roxane Mesquida, Fu'ad Ait Aattou, Anne Parrillaud, Sarah Pratt, Amira Casar, Claude Sarraute, Yolande Moreau, Lio, Caroline Ducey. France/Italy. 25 April. IFC.
Romanian cinema has never felt so exciting as it has in the past two years, with the astounding Death of Mr. Lăzărescu and the lauded (though yet unseen by me) 12:08 East of Bucharest. The crowning jewel of this new attention is the Palme d'Or winner of 07, Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, a minimalist abortion drama that's already scooping up a number of end-of-the-year critics prizes (it's main opposition in the non-English-speaking realm: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly). With Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu, Vlad Ivanov. Romania. 25 January. IFC.
Winner of a special prize at this year's Cannes, Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park is dazzling and frustrating, just like you like him. I can assure you it's a change in pace to his Death Trilogy, though still light-years away from, say, Finding Forrester. I just wish Gus would stop finding his "actors" on MySpace as the kids here are given much more to do than just walk dazed through hallways as they did in Elephant. With Gabe Nevins, Daniel Liu, Taylor Mornsen, Jake Miller. France/USA. 7 March. IFC.
Jacques Rivette's latest comes in the form of a period romance from a novel by Honoré de Balzac. Titled Ne touchez pas la hache (translated: Don't Touch the Axe), the film will be released under the more arthouse-approved title The Duchess of Langeais. With Jeanne Balibar, Guillaume Depardieu, Michel Piccoli, Bulle Ogier. France/Italy. 22 February. IFC.
I guess there were people that liked Gummo. And I guess there will be people who'll cream themselves over Harmony Korine's high-concept Mister Lonely. It got surprisingly positive responses at Cannes, but you know how the French can be. With Diego Luna (as Michael Jackson), Samantha Morton (as Marilyn Monroe), Denis Lavant (as Charlie Chaplin), Anita Pallenberg (as The Queen of England), Joseph Morgan (as James Dean), Richard Strange (as Abraham Lincoln), Werner Herzog, Leos Carax, James Fox, David Blaine. USA/UK/France/Ireland. 30 April. IFC.
Although they have yet to do anything with the director's last film Mary, IFC picked up Abel Ferrara's latest Go Go Tales, a "screwball comedy" at a go-go dancin' club. The reception has been tepid, at best, but I know there are people who will watch anything the Bad Lieutenant director touches (even if all of them happen to live in France). Added bonus: Asia Argento makes out with a pit bull. With Willem Dafoe, Bob Hoskins, Matthew Modine, Argento, Lou Doillon, Pras. Italy/USA. Date UNK. IFC.
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi has made her second feature as director/writer/actress in another tale about, well, herself. As much as I love the Franco-Italian actress (see Cote d'Azur or Time to Leave for reasons), her indulgence appears to be wearing thin on her admirers with Actresses [Actrices] (the film has gotten bad notices at nearly every festival it's played). Still, I'll see it. With Bruni Tedeschi, Noémie Lvosky, Louis Garrel, Mathieu Amalric, Valeria Golino. France. Date UNK. IFC.
I've gone on record stating that I kind of hate Christophe Honoré, the author-cum-filmmaker of the wretched Ma mère and the blah Dans Paris. But I've also gone on record stating my love for the musical, particularly France's interpretation of it (outside of Une Femme est une femme, damn you). Here's his take with Love Songs [Les Chansons d'amour]. With Louis Garrel, Ludivine Sagnier, Chiara Mastorianni. France. 19 March. Red Envelope Entertainment/IFC.
I do not count myself among the followers of Canada's Guy Maddin, a pretentious bore whose The Saddest Music in the World and collection of shorts have made him a favorite among the film student crowd. His latest, My Winnipeg, won the prize for Best Canadian feature at the Toronto International Film Festival... because, well, other than David Cronenberg and Sarah Polley, how many working Canadian directors can you name? With Darcy Fehr (as Guy Maddin). Canada. Date UNK. IFC.
Hou Hsiaco-hsien's greatest fans don't reside in his homeland of Taiwan, or even the continent of Asia. They reside in, surprise, France, so it was no surprise at all that he crafted his first French-language feature this year with The Flight of the Red Balloon [Le voyage du ballon rouge], a strange take on the classic Red Balloon, making its rerelease rounds in the US right now. With Juliette Binoche, Hippolyte Girardot. France. 2 April. IFC.
Oh, Claude Chabrol, how you cease to thrill me outside of your collaborations with Isabelle Huppert. Thankfully, he's enlisted the lovely Ludivine Sagnier for his latest dark comedy/thriller A Girl Cut in Two [La Fille coupée en deux]. Every time you think the seventy-seven year old director has made his last, he churns out another. With Sagnier, Benoît Magimel, François Berléand. France/Germany. Date UNK. IFC.
IFC Films' calendar for 2008 is exhausting already, and here's the last of the crop: Tom Kalin's Savage Grace with Julianne Moore returning to more Safe material than The Forgotten. It's a docudrama about an infamous murder case from the 70s. Kalin hasn't directed a film since the early 90s with Swoon, so I'm most excited to see his long overdue follow-up. With Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Stephen Dillane, Hugh Dancy, Belén Rueda, Unax Ugalde, Elena Anaya. USA/Spain. 28 May. IFC.
The Hungarian dark comedy Ex Drummer went through plenty of turmoil when Jan Bucquoy tried to adapt Herman Brusselmans' novel in the mid-90s. Only now was it completed, with Koen Mortier in director's seat. The film follows the manipulation of a man who joins a rock band of three "handicapped" dudes. Rumor has it Mortier really pulls out all the "shock" punches with this one. With Dries Van Hegen, Norman Baert, Gunter Lamoot, Sam Louwyck. Hungary. Date UNK. Tartan USA.
Tartan is pulling a double bill of Hungarian shock cinema with György Pálfi's follow-up to his wildly original Hukkle, entitled Taxidermia. The film follows three men, according to the IMDb, "an obese speed eater, an embalmer of giant cats, and a man who shoots fire out of his penis." Hot. Hungary. Date UNK. Tartan USA.
Olivier Assayas' English-language crime thriller Boarding Gate boasts the third mention in this post by Miss Asia Argento, all three of which premiered at this year's Cannes with varying results. My friend Pete hated it, but he's disliked most of what Assayas has done, so I'm not fully convinced. His new French-language film with Juliette Binoche will be out from Sony Pictures Classics sometime later next year. With Argento, Michael Madsen, Carl Ng, Kelly Lin, Alex Descas, Kim Gordon, Joana Preiss. France. 14 March. Magnet Releasing/Magnolia.
Michel Gondry's new film, Be Kind Rewind, sounds like just about the most fun you could have at the theatres come January. The film takes place in a video rental store during the VHS era where Jack Black aids Mos Def in making their own versions of such cinema classics as Ghostbusters. With Black, Mos Def, Mia Farrow, Danny Glover, Marcus Carl Franklin. USA. 25 January. New Line.
Unhappy with the lightness of the television series of the same name, the producers of City of God crafted their own sequel to the highly popular Brazilian film, called City of Men. With Douglas Silva, Darlan Cunha, Jonathan Haagensen, Rodrigo dos Santos. Brazil. 18 January. Miramax.
Europe seems to think Turkish-German director Fatih Akin is the bee's knees after Head On and In July, two films that did nothing for me. He won the Best Screenplay award at this year's Cannes for his latest The Edge of Heaven. Germany/Turkey. Date UNK. Strand Releasing.
See if you can join the small crowd of people that actually enjoyed Wong Kar-wai's English-language debut, My Blueberry Nights, a curious starring vehicle for singer Norah Jones. I'm sure, at least, that it will be pretty. With Jones, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman, David Strathairn. Hong Kong/France/China. 13 February. Weinstein Company.
US Studios are still scared of the NC-17 rating. Even in the horror genre. I suppose it's because most of the audience for horror films, particularly the Saw films, is under 17... but still. The Weinstein Company is having issues with their pending release of the Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury's gruesome French horror film Inside [À l'intérieur] due to its NC-17 rating. It's still suspected that they may do something with it around March, but it may shoot directly to an "unrated" DVD release instead. With Béatrice Dalle, Alysson Paradis. France. Date UNK. Weinstein Company.
There's a number of other films that I will touch upon later, but duty is calling and I must invest the rest of my time elsewhere! Until then...