Unlike in the past few years, particularly this past one, the line up for this year’s Cannes film festival isn’t heavily populated by the international titans of cinema, but a handful of directors on a smaller scale, likely not as recognizable by name. Certainly, there’s some bigwigs in the competition this year (Clint Eastwood, Steven Soderbergh, the Dardenne brothers, Wim Wenders and Atom Egoyan), but here’s a roadmap to get you better acquainted with some of the directors you may not have heard of in preparation for the 14th of May. I've chosen not to do a rundown for Eastwood, Soderbergh or Charlie Kaufman... because, well, you should already be familiar with them.
Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Three Monkeys)
Hailing from Turkey, Nuri Bilge Ceylan isn’t a stranger to the festival. He went home with the Grand Prix in 2002 for Distant (Uzak), his third feature after the lesser-known Clouds of May (Mayis sikintisi) (1999) and Kasaba (1998). Ceylan returned to the festival in 2006 with Climates (Iklimler) which he also wrote and starred in. You’ll find many comparisons to the great Antonioni in Ceylan’s work, which is often characterized as slow and quiet cinema.
Availability: Distant is available on DVD through New Yorker in the US, Climates from Zeitgeist and Clouds of May and Kasaba can both be found R2 from Artificial Eye as a double-feature. Included on both the US and UK versions of Distant is Ceylan’s first short, Koza (1995).
Arnaud Desplechin (Un conte de Noël)
Un conte de Noël will mark the French director’s fourth film to play in competition at Cannes. La sentinelle, about a man’s obsession with a severed human head, was his first in 1992, followed by My Sex Life… Or How I Got into an Argument (Comment je me suis dispute… ma vie sexuelle), with Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Devos, Jeanne Balibar and Chiara Mastroianni, in 1996 and his English-language Esther Kahn, with Summer Phoenix and Ian Holm, in 2000. Since then he has directed Léo, en jouant ‘Dans la compagnie des hommes’ (Playing ‘In the Company of Men’) (2003) and Rois & reine (Kings and Queen) (2004), with Amalric and Devos, which premiered at that year’s Venice Film Festival.
Availability: La sentinelle and My Sex Life are both available from Fox Lorber (though both appear to be out-of-print); Esther Kahn and Kings & Queen are both available from Wellspring, and both Léo and his first film, La vie des morts (1991), are only available in France from Gaumont and Cahiers du Cinéma, respectively.
Ari Folman (Waltz with Bashir)
Waltz with Bashir will mark Israeli writer/director Ari Folman’s third feature film, following Saint Clara (Clara Hakedosha) (1996), which he co-directed with Ori Sivan, and Made in Israel (2001). In additiont o his film work, Folman has written for several Israeli television programs, as well as an episode for HBO’s In Treatment.
Availability: Saint Clara is available on DVD from Kino, and I couldn’t find a DVD release for Made in Israel.
Philippe Garrel (La frontière de l’aube)
Phillippe Garrel has been making films for over thirty years, but only with the emergence of his son Louis’ acting career and their film together, Regular Lovers (Les amants réguliers) (2005), has the international community started paying attention. In the late 60s and early 70s, Garrel worked with his then-partner Nico with several projects.
Availability: Regular Lovers is the only of his works to be available on DVD in the US, from Zeitgeist. J’entends plus la guitare (1991), Les baisers de secours (Emergency Kisses) (1989), La naissance de l’amour (The Birth of Love) (1993) Sauvage innocence (Wild Innocence) (2000), Le vent de la nuit (The Winds of the Night) (1993) and Elle a passé tant d’heures sous les sunlights… (1985) are available in France through Cahiers du Cinéma, as well as Le révélateur (1968) and Le lit de la verge (1969) through re:voir.
Matteo Garrone (Gomorra)
Gomorra will be Italian director Matteo Garrone’s first In Competition premiere at this year’s Cannes. Previously he directed two haunting features, The Embalmer (L’imbalsamatore) (2002), a strangely homoerotic tale of a taxidermist’s new assistant, and Primo amore (First Love) (2004), about an obsessive relationship where a man forces his new girlfriend into starvation. Gomorra is his sixth feature film.
Availability: The Embalmer is available in the US through First Run Features and Primo amore from Strand Releasing.
Jia Zhangke (24 City)
The Chinese director has gained quite a following in the film theorist circles, though not much success outside of that world. He gained popularity in the States with Platform (2000), Unknown Pleasures (2002), The World (2004) and Still Life (2006), again allowing for critics to make comparisons to Antonioni and even Godard in his stark depiction of rambling youth.
Availability: Platform and Unknown Pleasures are available in the US from New Yorker, The World from Zeitgeist. In the UK, the Artificial Eye Unknown Pleasures disc includes his film Xiao Wu (Pickpocket) (1997), and in France, the Still Life disc from mk2 features his documentary Dong (2006). Still Life has yet to receive a DVD release in the US from New Yorker, but is available in both France and China, from Warner, currently.
Eric Khoo (My Magic)
Singapore-based director Khoo achieved modest international success with his feature Be with Me from 2005. Previously, he elevated Singapore’s cinema to more widespread attraction with the films Mee Pok Man (1995) and 12 Storeys (1997). He has also directed a number of shorts since 1990. My Magic will be his fourth feature.
Availability: Be with Me is available in the US through Film Movement, Mee Pok Man through Kimstim. 12 Storeys is unavailable in the US but has been released in Singapore through Alliance.
Lucrecia Martel (La mujer sin cabeza)
Argentine director Lucrecia Martel has been selected as one of the filmmakers to keep an eye out for in this year’s festival. Granted, if you had seen her previous films, La niña santa (The Holy Girl) (2004) or La ciénaga (2001), you would have known what an amazing filmmaker Martel is beforehand. La mujer sin cabeza is her third feature, though she’s directed several shorts both live-action and animated.
Availability: The Holy Girl is available in the US through HBO, and La ciénaga from Home Vision, which also includes her short Rey muerto (1995).
Brillante Mendoza (Serbis)
Philippine director Brillant Mendoza will be showing his latest film In Competition for the first time this year. Prior to this, many of his films have made the international film circuit, becoming one of the most prominent voices in both contemporary queer and Philippine cinema.
Availability: Only two of his seven features, all made within three years, are available in the United States: The Masseur (2005) from Picture This! and Pantasya (2007) from Water Bearer Films.
Kornél Mundruczó (Delta)
As an actor, director, writer and production designer, Hungarian Kornél Mundruczó is a busy young man. Previously, his Johanna (2005), an avant-garde opera, was a controversial out-of-competition entry at Cannes. He’s also directed a number of shorts and features before Delta, many of the recent ones with actress Orsolya Tóth.
Availability: None of Mundruczó’s films have been made available in the US, although Tartan released Johanna in the UK.
Paolo Sorrentino (Il divo)
Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, along with Matteo Garrone, is a fine representation of the state of Italian cinema, a nation who has never been able to rival their extreme popularity from the 60s and early 70s. Sorrentino’s films haven’t made it to the US, but have been rather successful in the UK and other parts of Western Europe.
Availability: The Consequences of Love (Le conseguenze dell’amore) (2004) and The Family Friend (L’amico di famiglia) (2006) are both available in the UK from Artificial Eye.
Pablo Trapero (Leonera)
Pablo Trapero will be the second Argentine director to show at this year’s competition, along with Lucrecia Martel. Leonera will be his first film to play in competition as well.
Availability: Rolling Family (Familia rodante) (2004) and Crane World (Mundo grúa) (1999) are both available in the US from Palm Pictures and Facets, respectively. El bonaerense (2002) and Born and Bred (Nacido y criado) (2006) are only available in the UK from Optimum Releasing and Axiom Films respectively.
Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne (Le silence de Lorna)
Availability: Palme d'Or winner L'enfant (2005) is available from Sony, La promesse (1996) and The Son (Le fils) (2002) through New Yorker. Their other Palme d'Or winner Rosetta (1999) is not available in the US, but can be found in the UK and France from Artificial Eye and TF1 Vidéo respectively.
Atom Egoyan (Adoration)
Availability: Where the Truth Lies (2005) is available in its uncut version from Sony. The Adjuster (1991) was once available from MGM but is now out-of-print; it still appears to be in print in Canada from Alliance. Exotica (1994) from Miramax is also out-of-print but still readily available at video stores and used; Miramax also released a 2-disc set of Ararat (2002), which is still in print. The Sweet Hereafter (1997) can be found from New Line, and Felicia's Journey (1999) from Artisan. Zeitgeist has also released the rest of his pre-Exotica films, which includes Speaking Parts (1989), Next of Kin (1984) and Family Viewing (1987), and Calendar (1993).
Walter Salles, Daniela Thomas (Linha de Passe)
Availability: The directors have worked together on three films: Paris je t'aime (2006) from First Look, Midnight (1998) and Foreign Land (Terra Estrangeira) (1996), both from Fox Lorber. Separately, Salles directed Behind the Sun (Abril Despedaçado) (2001) from Miramax, Central Station (Central do Brasil) (1998) from Columbia Tri-Star, the American remake of Dark Water (2005) from Touchstone and The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) from Focus Features.
Wim Wenders (The Palermo Shooting)
Availability: Palme d'Or winner Paris, Texas (1984) is available from 20th Century Fox, and Best Director winner Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin) (1987) from MGM and its Grand Prix-winning sequel Faraway, So Close (In weiter Ferne, so nah!) (1993). He co-directed Beyond the Clouds (Al di là delle nuvole) with Michelangelo Antonioni, but the Image disc is out-of-print in the States. It is available, however, in France. Other available titles include Buena Vista Social Club (1999) from Artisan, Don't Come Knocking (2005) from Sony, The End of Violence (1997) from MGM, Hammett (1982) from Paramount, Land of Plenty (2004) from IFC Films, Lisbon Story (1994) from Lionsgate, and The Million Dollar Hotel (2000) from Studio. Anchor Bay has released two box-sets which include Lightning Over Water (1980), Notebook on Cities and Clothes (Aufzeichnungen zu Kleidern und Städten) (1989), The American Friend (Der Amerikanische Freund) (1977); and a larger one which also includes Room 666 (Chambre 666) (1982), Tokyo-Ga (1985), Wrong Move (Falsche Bewegung) (1975), The Scarlet Letter (Der Scharlachrote Buchstabe) (1973) and Trick of Light (Die Gebrüder Skladanowsky) (1995) in addition to the three titles above. Some of the discs are available separately. Until the End of the World (Bis ans Ende der Welt) (1991) is not available in the US, but is in various formats around the world including the 279-minute version in Germany from Kinowelt and the 158-minute theatrical version in the UK from Metrodome. Alice in den Städten (1974), Der Stand der Dinge (The State of Things) (1982) and Im Lauf der Zeit (Kings of the Road) (1976) are available in Germany from Kinowelt.