But every language is foreign to someone, n’est pas? I’ve decided to compose my second watch list for this year from films that will need subtitles in UK and US cinemas. Few of the Most Anticipated… lists that have been dropping across the internet in the past month have focussed on upcoming releases from outside the US so I present this personal list to give my fellow cinephiles a rundown of the spectrum of exotic delights that ought to add some spice to the proceedings in 2015.
The Assassin – TBA, UK / TBA, USA Hopes are high for a 2015 release of the first foray into martial arts action by celebrated Taiwanese maestro Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Starring Taiwanese megastar and regular Hou muse Shu Qi, The Assassin takes place in the Tang Dynasty and tells the story of a female assassin whose loyalties come into question when she falls for one of her marks. Delayed by budgetary issues and a long-running production process, The Assassin enters at a time of increasing attention for the Taiwanese and Chinese film industries. Its potential as a crossover hit for the international market, particularly considering Hou’s highly regarded name in critical circles, stands the film in good stead for a great deal of attention at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it is expected to premier.
El Club – TBA, UK / TBA, USA The latest film from Chilean provocateur Pablo Larraín premieres in-competition at this month’s Berlinale and looks to be in good hands for international sales through Funny Balloons, who handled Larraín’s three previous films and Chile’s Gloria (2013), which had an international release in the same year that its lead actress Paulina Garcia took home the Best Actress award from the Berlinale. Shot in Cinemascope and starring Larraín regular Alfredo Castro, El Club tells the story of four priests, who are purging themselves of their sins in a secluded seaside town when their penance is disrupted by a fifth exile, who arrives with shame, disgrace and the shadows of the past dragging behind them. Larraín has gone from strength to strength with each film and scored a massive hit with No in 2012. Now that Hollywood is knocking at his door, his name and his brilliant work stand to gain even more recognition.
Embrace of the Serpent – TBA, UK / TBA, USA To describe the soul of the vast and profound landscape of the Colombian amazon is the task at hand for up-and-coming writer-director Ciro Guerra. His new film draws upon the travel journals of German ethnologist Theodor Koch-Grunberg, who documented his time amongst different indigenous communities to study their medicinal use of plants. Key to Guerra’s story is that this encounter between aliens be told from the perspective of those people native to the jungle. Jan Bijvoet, star of last year’s Dutch thriller Borgman, will appear opposite non-pro actors Nilbio Torres of the Cubeo Vaupés people and Antonio Bolivar of the Ocainas. I have been on tenterhooks, waiting for Guerra’s follow-up to his resplendent entry to 2010’s Qinzzaine The Wind Journeys, an immediate critical favourite. Guerra’s sense for landscapes and their relationship to the people traversing them is on par with any number of older master filmmakers and as the first film shot on Colombia’s Vaupés river in over thirty years Embrace of the Serpent promises to be a moving sight to behold.
The Insects – TBA, UK / TBA, USA At last (almost)! Czech surrealist animator Jan Švankmajer is currently shooting his next feature length live-action/stop-motion mash-up in Slovakia and it is thought that his producers are eyeing a 2015 release. Švankmajer is the most internationally renowned of the Czech surrealist filmmakers, best known for his Lewis Carroll adaptation Alice (1988) and the hilarious gastronomic nightmare Little Otik (2000). Loosely adapted from the play Pictures from the Insect’s Life by Karel and Joseph Čapek,The Insects takes place in a pub, where six actors meet to rehearse the play. As the rehearsal goes on, each actor experiences an overlap between their personal life and that of the character they must play. Cineuropa.org quotes Švankmajer as saying “From the Life of Insects is a misanthropic play. My screenplay only extends this misanthropy, as man is more like an insect and this civilisation is more like an anthill. One should also remember the message in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.” My fingers are tightly crossed for a 2015 release.
The Look of Silence – TBA, UK / TBA, USA Whilst researching the release dates for Joshua Oppenheimer’s companion piece to The Act of Killing (2012) I found myself on the verge of outrage! How is it that this film, which has played to rave reviews in festivals around the world and screened across Indonesia as part of International Human Rights Day not yet had a release date set for the UK and US? Fortunately, this announcement from Dogwoof Pictures promises a 2015 UK release. The Look of Silence and The Act of Killing represent an incredible, preposterous achievement; not only for the filmmakers involved, but also for the victims of Indonesia’s anti-Communist death squads and for cinema itself. Reversing focus to the victims of Indonesia’s mass killings in 1965 and 1966, Oppenheimer’s new film follows a series of interviews conducted by an optometrist, Adi, whose brother’s death was recounted in detail and through fits of giggling by his killers in The Act of Killing. So hurry up, Dogwoof! Doubtless, this will be another film for the history books. (Watch the trailer here).
Love – TBA, UK / TBA, USA Well … Gaspar Noé’s new film certainly has a poster. Noé is one of the few filmmakers still alive who can be considered to make truly notorious films. Since his debut Seul Contre Tous (1998) Noé has made it his business to test the limits of what filmgoers can endure with violent odysseys like Irréversible (2002) and Enter the Void (2009) and, with the help of his regular cinematographer Benoît Debie, has established himself as one of the most distinct visual stylists working today. Noé is touting this story of a youthful ménage à trois as a celebration of sex as something joyous, which will “give boys hard-ons and make girls cry”. If the sultry sliver of saliva and globulous seminal drops running off the typeface on the poster are anything to go by then Noé has lost none of his penchant for pushing people’s buttons. Love is expected to aim for a Cannes premier this summer.
Love in Kohn Kaen – TBA, UK / TBA, USA Thai dream weaver Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest enigma is described as the romantic tale of a lonely middle-aged housewife who is drawn into a realm of dreams and phantoms when she tends to a young soldier suffering from sleeping sickness. Weerasethakul has been a Cannes darling since his beguiling debut Blissfully Yours won the prize in Un Certain Regard in 2002. His reputation was cemented when his last film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives took the Palme D’Or in 2010, so expect to see his latest appearing on in the line-up for Cannes 2015.
Mountains May Depart – TBA, UK / TBA, USA Sixth Generation figurehead Jia Zhangke hit a resounding home run with A Touch of Sin, his visceral critique of Chinese capitalist society, which won the prize for Best Screenplay at Cannes 2013. An increasingly important name in Chinese cinema, Jia Zhangke’s next episodic social epic straddles three decades in the life of a couple from Shaanxi broken apart by the woman’s decision to marry a rich mine owner. Years later they cross paths again and further ahead, in the year 2025, the woman’s estranged son is consumed by existential ennui in Australia. Zhangke’s wife Zhao Tao, the deadly heroine of A Touch of Sin, will star in the writer-director’s first project shooting abroad, which has me wringing my hands in anticipation of a new release from a stellar filmmaker whose work I have just recently had the pleasure of discovering.
Phoenix – TBA, UK / TBA, USA Riding top-notch reviews out of Toronto, Christian Petzold’s fourth film with Nina Hoss as its star follows Nelly, a woman returning to the remains of Berlin after the Second World War. Presumed dead and looking like a different person after surgery to reconstruct her damaged face, Nelly’s husband mistakes her for a stranger bearing an odd resemblance to his wife and sets about teaching her how to impersonate herself for the purpose of claiming her substantial inheritance. Charged with atmosphere, Petzold’s films harness Hoss’ haunting on-screen to prod her across a tightrope suspended above the pits of human experience and trauma. Since it appeared at last year’s London Film Festival Phoenix has not yet had UK and US release dates set, though it is will soon roll out across most of Europe. (Watch the trailer here).
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence – 24th Apr. UK / TBA, USA Try saying that title with a mouth full of porridge! Swedish commercial director-turned-art-house heavyweight Roy Andersson follows up Songs from the Second Floor (2000) and You, the Living (2007) with the story of two salesmen, who travel through vignettes of the human condition in its mundane grandeur and extraordinary pettiness. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence took home the Golden Lion at last year’s Venice Film Festival and Andersson’s pedigree as an artistic visual storyteller makes this final entry in his Living Trilogy an art house event that is not to be missed.
Taxi – TBA, UK / TBA, USA In 2010 an Iranian court banned Jafar Panahi from making films for twenty years. Since then he has made and released two films and Taxi will be his third since the ban. Taxi comes charged with the power of a film in defiance of an artist’s oppression and its clandestine production methods will no doubt create another fascinating viewing experience as Panahi, no longer under house arrest, ventures out into the streets of Tehran in a yellow cab and enjoys candid conversations with his fares. Taxi is being distributed worldwide by Celluloid Dreams; expect dates to be set shortly after the out-of-competition premier at this month’s Berlinale. Quoted on The Guardian.com Panahi says of his compulsion to make movies that “Nothing can prevent me from making films since when being pushed to the ultimate corners I connect with my inner-self and, in such private spaces, despite all limitations, the necessity to create becomes even more of an urge.”
The Treasure – TBA, UK /TBA, USA Described simply as the misadventures of two men in their search for treasure, the fourth feature from Romania’s Corneliu Porumboiu stars Toma Cuzin alongside two non-pro actors. Porumboiu’s films are slow burn exercises that manage to be effortlessly riveting in spite of themselves. The writer-director scored tremendous good will with his first two features 12:08 East of Bucharest (2006) and Police, Adjective (2009), both of which hinged on the wicked deadpan humour of the script, excruciating moments of comic tension and actors that wouldn’t look out of place sat at the bar of the last pub at the end of the world. Word is that The Treasure is expected to bow at Cannes or Venice this year.
The Tribe – TBA, UK / TBA, US Depicting the violent, sexually explicit activities within a micro-society of deaf delinquent teenagers, communicating in un-subtitled sign language, The Tribe is the definition of a hard sell for most filmgoers. But its win of the Critics Week Grand Prix at Cannes last year suggests that Ukrainian director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s first feature is a cinematic dare that must be taken. The Tribe has already made the rounds at many international film festivals to great critical acclaim but release dates for the UK and US are still pending as it continues its limited release schedule in Europe this month.
Wild Tales – 27th Mar. UK / 20th Feb. USA Damián Szifrón’s vengeance-themed comedic anthology is being touted as a front-runner in the race for the Best Film in a Foreign Language Oscar and has received universal acclaim at every turn in its journey on the festival circuit. Wild Tales also made a splash at home by setting a record for the highest ever opening weekend of any Argentine film. Naturally its most prominent star is Ricardo Darín, one of the most entertaining screen personas working today and reason enough on his own to see any one of the mostly excellent films he has starred in since his breakout roles in Nueve Reinas (2000) and Ijo de la Novia (2001). (Watch the trailer here).
Yakuza Apocalypse: The Great War of the Underworld – TBA, UK / TBA, USA Another year, another four or five Takashi Miike movies arrive in Japan. My hopes are high that this year we’ll see a UK or US release for Yakuza Apocalypse, a blood-soaked action spectacular about the assassination of a vampire yakuza boss. Starring Hayato Ichihara and Indonesian pencak silat master Yayan Ruhian this threatens the return of the loony fantasy-action stylings that made Miike’s 13 Assassins so enjoyable in 2011. Having made his name as an actor and choreographer for The Raid (2011) and its sequel (2014) Yayan Ruhian is a great attraction in his own right. Anything can happen in a Miike joint and Ruhian is a masterful, acrobatic performer in sprawling action scenes. Also look out for his appearance with The Raid star Iko Uwais in Star Wars: Breakfast is on the Table!