11. Zama – Dir. Lucretia Martel
Why This Makes Top 10: At number eleven we have Argentinean filmmaker Lucretia Martel’s latest film, her first since 2008’s The Headless Woman (a film that critics were slow to warm to, but ended up being on many a best end of year list in 2008/2009). Previous titles include her stunning debut, 2001’s La Cienega, along with 2004’s The Holy Girl. Her latest is a period piece based on the novel by Antonio de Benedetto and will be produced by Lita Stantic, El Deseo (the Almodovar Bros’ company), as well as a still to be named French producer. Martel is one of the most prolific names to come out the New Argentinean Wave and this looks to be a massively mounted period piece we’re eager to get a look at.
The Gist: Written in 1956, Zama is an existential novel about Don Diego de Zama, a 17th-century official for the Spanish crown based in Asuncion del Paraguay, who awaits his transfer to the city of Buenos Aires.
10. The Cut – Dir. Fatih Akin
Why This Makes the Top 10: Announced at Berlin 2012 when he revealed that Tahar Rahim had been cast as the lead, Fatih Akin completes his Love, Death, and the Devil trilogy with The Cut. Akin’s Corazon International, along with Pandora Films, will produce. His last film, Soul Kitchen, was a light departure for the multi-talented Akin. We’re looking forward to more of his visceral observations on humanity with what sounds like a doozy of a trilogy cap. Also, Tahar Rahim, since his breakout role in Jacques Audiard’s 2009 A Prophet, continues on a career path where the types of projects he chooses are helmed by some of the best cinematic auteurs working, including Lou Ye and Joachim Lafosse recently.
The Gist: Following Head-On (Berlinale Golden Bear Winner, 2004), and The Edge of Heaven, Best Screenplay Cannes 2007), this latest will deal with the devil, or the inherent evil of mankind.
9. Phoenix – Dir. Christian Petzold
Why This Makes the Top 10: Thanks to the great critical (and box office) success of his 2012 film, Barbara, German auteur Petzold continues his hot streak by announcing his plans for his next film, another period piece set in 1945. Petzold stated that he still needs to find funding, especially since this film will require a bigger budget. His regular muse Nina Hoss is on board, along with her Barbara co-star, Robert Zehrfeld, and Petzold’s regular DP, Hans Fromm. Hoss, who’s played WWII survivor before in Max Faberbock’s underappreciated 2008 film A Woman In Berlin, will no doubt be the lead, which excites us not only for her sterling turn in Barbara but other Petzold fare like Yella (2007) and Jerichow (2008). Mostly it’s great to see Petzold, after his contribution to the German film trilogy, Dreileben, and Barbara, become more of a hot commodity on the international film scene.
The Gist: In Berlin, 1945, in which a survivor of Auschwitz is returning to get her life back.
8. Maps to the Stars – Dir. David Cronenberg
Why This Makes the Top 10: While it may not have been to everyone’s taste, Cronenberg’s 2012 pairing with Robert Pattinson, Cosmopolis, was odd, and more often that not, interesting. But it’s their next collaboration that really has our dander up, Maps to the Stars, scripted by Bruce Wagner (husband of Rebecca de Mornay) and set to star Pattinson, Viggo Mortenson and Rachel Weisz. Described as an acerbic and complex satire of Hollywood, but not along the lines of Altman’s The Player, assures Cronenberg, we’re excited about the simplistically cryptic description of the script as “very extreme.” Set to be the Canadian native’s first film shot on US soil (with Said Ben Said producing), production is set to start in May, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to see the finished product.
The Gist: While the synopsis is being kept under wraps, Cronenberg comments, “Hollywood is a world that is seductive and repellent at the same time, and it is the combination of the two that makes it so potent. I won’t fall back on some clichés or simplistic sloganeering, because the culture and what it reveals about Western culture and the rest of the world is very complex.”
7. Noah – Dir. Darren Aronofsky
Why This Makes the Top 10: Will it already have been four years since Black Swan before we see another Aronofsky feature? It sure as hell will be. Bible story cum graphic novel cum evocative fantasy film seems to be the origination behind Aronofsky’s massive endeavor, which will feature his regular DP, Matthew Libatique, and a screenplay from Oscar nominated scribe, John Logan (who scripted Scorsese’s The Aviator and Hugo). Scoring Russell Crowe for the titular hero, along with Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins and younger stars Emma Watson and Logan Lerman, this is shaping up to be the type of high brow mainstream project we see little of in the multiplexes. A Mad Max, comic-book inspired spin on a Biblical fable? We’re in! Aronofosky produces, along with Scott Franklin, Ric Kidney, and Mary Parent.
The Gist: The film has been described as a “close” retelling of the original story, about a man that builds a big boat to harbor every worldly species in order to survive a global flood. Needless to say, this is bound to be more explicit than the watered down Sunday school version we are familiar with.
6. Untitled Lisandro Alonso Film – Dir. Lisandro Alonso
Why This Makes the Top 10: After a successful turn in Argentinean Ana Piterbarg’s debut, Everybody Has a Plan, it seems Viggo Mortensen is hungry for more, teaming with Argentinean auteur Lisandro Alonso. After three great features, including La Libertad, 2001, Los Muertos, 2004, and Liverpool, 2008, Alonso has gone mostly unheard of in the US, which will most certainly change after pairing with Mortenson. With a hot lead secured and a delicious sounding sci-fi plot, not to mention that Mortenson’s Perceval Films is also producing (along with Andy Kleinman’s Massive Inc., Alonso’s 4L and Jaime Romandia of Mantarraya and Ilse Hughan of Fortuna Films) and a script co-written by Alonso and Fabian Cassas, this is definitely a film to look forward to.
The Gist: The film will center on a Danish man (Mortensen) who journeys with his daughter to a desert that lies “in a realm beyond the confines of civilization.”
5. The Duke of Burgundy – Dir. Peter Strickland
Why This Makes the Top 10: Two new Peter Strickland projects have been reported recently, but it looks like this title will move into production before the larger scale The Beginning of Spring. Strickland, whose 2012 sophomore film was the excellent giallo homage, Berberian Sound Studio, has fast become one of the most impressive directors working today. Commenting that he wanted to focus on a production lighter in tone, (Spring), it’s worth noting that Burgundy sounds a bit more foreboding, and reunites him with Chiara D’Anna, a beautiful screamer from Sound Studio.
The Gist: Chiara D’Anna (Berberian Sound Studio) plays an amateur lepidopterist (study of moths and the three superfamilies of butterflies, skipper butterflies, and moth-butterflies) whose wayward desires test the limits of her lover’s tolerance.
4. Suspiria – Dir. David Gordon Green
Why This Makes the Top 10: While Green has been dabbling a little too long with throwaway mainstream projects the past several years, 2013 will see him return to some indie-ish roots with projects like Prince Avalanche and Joe. But oddly, it’s this remake of Dario Argento’s classic giallo flick that really got us excited, announcing earlier in 2012 that Isabelle Fuhrman will play the lead and (gasp!) Isabelle Huppert as the leader of the coven of witches, in a role originated by Joan Bennett. It seems that production has been delayed, with Huppert commenting recently that she’s unsure of the current status of the project. But we have our fingers crossed and hope this one goes into production sometime this year. It was last reported that Crime Scene’s Adam Ripp and Rob Paris are partnering with producers Francesco Melzi d’Eril from Memo Films and Luca Guadagnino from First Sun on the project.
The Gist: Suspiria centers around Suzie, an ambitious and bright American student who arrives abroad to study at a world-famous school. She begins to suspect that the academy may be a front for a more menacing organization when the once-quiet campus is rocked by a brutal murder and several other cruel and strange homicides.
3. Jane Got a Gun – Dir. Lynne Ramsay
Why This Makes the Top 10: Since nearly a decade passed between the making of this brilliant director’s second and third feature (Morvern Callar in 2002 and We Need to Talk About Kevin in 2011), we’re thrilled to see that 2014 will bring us Jane Got a Gun, a Western revenge drama starring Natalie Portman (who will also produce, along with Chris Cohen, Terry Dougas, and Scott Steindorff), Michael Fassbender, and Joel Edgerton. After the success of Kevin, it’s nice to see Ramsay have access to some of the most sought after cinematic talents, and we hope to hear more about that epic sci-fi, 2001 inspired project she has in mind as well.
The Gist: Centers on a woman whose outlaw husband returns home riddled with bullet wounds and barely alive. When her husband’s gang eventually tracks him down to finish the job, she is forced to reach out to an ex-lover and ask if he will help defend her farm.
2. Dark Matter – Dir. Andrzej Zulawski
Why This Makes the Top 10: 2012 saw, for the first time ever, retrospectives for Polish auteur Andrzej Zulawski, a genius filmmaker that stands as one of the most innovative directors to have ever made films. New York’s BAMcinématek (Brooklyn Academy of Music) and Los Angeles’ Cinefamily Silent Theater held nearly concurrent retrospectives, giving Zulawski aficionados the chance to see obscure titles like 1991’s The Blue Note and a 1989 Hungarian opera, Boris Godunov. In August of 2012, the marked resurgence of interest in Zulawski saw the 71 year old filmmaker announcing his plans for a his first project in 12 years, titled Dark Matter (his last film was La Fidelite in 2000, which starred his muse and ex-wife Sophie Marceau). While it seems Zulawski still requires financing, we’re definitely hoping this comes together for this unique and idiosyncratic filmmaker.
The Gist: A noir tinged plot featuring a metaphysical burglary centers around a son inheriting a company upon his father’s death, and the discovery of a mysterious notebook which seems to reveal strange circumstances from his father’s past. As with a most Zulawski films, we can expect a surreal and/or hellish world of emotional and hysterical intensity.
1. The Lobster – Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
Why This Makes the Top 10: Our most hotly anticipated title for 2014 has to be the English language debut from Yorgos Lanthimos, the director (and writer) of the brilliant films Dogtooth (2009) and ALPS (2011). Being produced by Element Pictures, Limp (a UK film production company founded by Lanthimos), and Scarlet Films, this is a love story set in a dystopia, and Lanthimos has described the film as an observation of “the ways and reasons certain people come together to form couples, while other’s don’t.” Needless to say, based on his past “observations” concerning human nature, words cannot describe our excitement for The Lobster.
The Gist: An unconventional love story set in a dystopian near future where single people, according to the rules of the Town, are arrested and transferred to the Hotel. There they are obliged to find a matching mate in 45 days. If they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choosing and released into the woods. A desperate Man escapes from the Hotel to the Woods where the Loners live and there he falls in love, although it’s against their rules.