The hot MostlyFilm on 2014 action continues as Philip Concannon looks ahead to his most anticipated films of the year.
Every December, as people go through the rituals of compiling top 10 lists and make their awards predictions, the question of whether it has been a good year for cinema is always raised. Of course, it’s something of a redundant question, because the truth is that every year is a great year for cinema, depending on how curious and adventurous a viewer is willing to be. Having said that, 2013 certainly seemed like a particularly bountiful 12 month, with an eclectic range of films from across the globe stimulating plenty of discussion and polarising opinion throughout the year. We can only hope for such a rich crop in 2014, and I’ve highlighted a few films that I’m particularly looking forward to.
Two Days, One Night
Filmmakers don’t get much more reliable than Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Every three years they produce another film and every three years we marvel at emotional weight and incredible tension that their deceptively simple films generate. It has been fascinating to watch the brothers’ style slowly evolve across their recent features, as they have augmented their stripped-down realist approach with more narrative-based storytelling, the introduction of musical cues and appearances from more familiar faces, such as Cécile De France. Two Days, One Night will mark the first time that the brothers have worked with a star of Marion Cotillard’s status, but aside from her presence this sounds very much like a Dardennes film, with the banal-sounding premise (Cotillard must convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses or she’ll lose her job) surely disguising many surprises. Expect Two Days, One Night to be among the Palme d’Or frontrunners in May.
Although she is the youngest filmmaker on this list, Mia Hansen-Løve has already established herself as one of the most interesting and impressive directors working today, and with her latest film Eden it sounds like she is embarking on her most ambitious project to date. Eden is a film that follows a DJ through the dance music scene of the early 1990s up to the present day, and when I spoke to the director in 2012 she suggested that her film (then titled Lost in Music) would be an epic production released in two separate parts. I don’t know if that’s still the intention, but the delicate skill and perceptiveness of Hansen-Løve’s The Father of My Children and Goodbye First Love has ensured that I’ll be lining up to see Eden in whatever form it ultimately takes, and that was before she added the brilliant actresses Greta Gerwig and Golshifteh Farahani to the cast.
As well as starring in Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden, Brady Corbet will be making an appearance in her husband Olivier Assayas’ new film Sils Maria, which reunites him with his Summer Hours star Juliette Binoche. She plays an ageing actress who becomes obsessed with the young starlet (Chloë Grace Moretz) who has taken on a role that she once made famous. The cast was even more interesting at one point, but Daniel Brühl dropped out to film Rush and, disappointingly, Kristen Stewart replaced Mia Wasikowska. I’ve been impressed by Wasikowska in a number of films to date and I was very much looking forward to watching her acting alongside Binoche. Stewart has yet to catch my attention in any kind of comparable way, but perhaps Assayas – always brilliant with actors – can unlock something hitherto unseen within her.
The latest Mike Leigh joint sees the venerable British director making a rare foray into real-life events, and as someone who believes that his Gilbert & Sullivan biopic Topsy-Turvy is his masterpiece, that’s very good news indeed. A film about the life of JMW Turner has been a passion project of Leigh’s for years, and his enthusiasm for the subject is evident in the short film he produced for the Tate website last year, in which we get a glimpse of Mr Turner’s reproduction of the artist’s work. Leigh stalwart Timothy Spall has given some of his best (Secrets & Lies), funniest (Life Is Sweet) and worst (All or Nothing) performances under Leigh’s direction, but I have faith that he will deliver the goods as Mr Turner himself.
And now for something completely different. Yorgos Lanthimos followed up his astonishing 2009 breakthrough film Dogtooth with Alps, a film that managed to be even more mysterious, perplexing and unsettling than his surprise Oscar-nominee. Lanthimos’ The Lobster, his third collaboration with co-writer Efthymis Filippou and his first English-language film, is described by the director as “a story about love, without being a conventional love story,” which sounds like a major understatement. It takes place in a bizarre dystopian future in which singletons are forced to find a mate or face the punishment of being transformed into an animal and banished into the woods. Lanthimos has attracted a terrific group of actors with this fantastic premise, signing up Jason Clarke, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw and Olivia Colman as well as his Alps stars Ariane Labed and Aggeliki Papoulia.
Another Terrence Malick film! (maybe)
Yes, there’s a very good possibility that we will see at least one new film from Terrence Malick this year as he continues to make up for lost time. Malick has three films currently in the works, although nobody seems to know how far along the production process each one is. His documentary Voyage of Time – conceived as a companion piece to The Tree of Life – was set for a 2014 release at one point but has since become mired in legal wrangling. He also has a film about the Austin music scene called Knight of Cups and another, as yet untitled feature, both of which feature incredible ensembles, although how many of those actors will actually end up appearing on screen is anyone’s guess (Rachel Weisz, Jessica Chastain and Barry Pepper were among those cut from To the Wonder). Hopefully Malick and his army of editors will sort out all of their footage and come up with something by the end of the year, but don’t be surprised if we’re saying exactly the same thing in exactly 12 months’ time.
And if all of that doesn’t sound exciting enough, Ulrich Seidl has made a documentary about what Austrian people keep in their basements, which should be fun.