Sunday, May 22, 2005

Making A List, Checking It Twice

Santa Claus visits me each year, not at Christmas-time, but in early September at the Toronto International Film Festival.

I get a sneak peek into his gift-bag in early May when I discover what's showing at Cannes. Most everything that plays there appears in Toronto in the fall. Here are the people whose movies I'm most looking forward to this year:

  • Hou Hsiao-Hsien from Taiwan, my favorite filmmaker on the planet. If there was any justice in the world, he'd be famous--the way that Bergman, Fellini and Godard were famous film/cultural heroes in the heyday of the sixties.

  • The Dardenne brothers from Belgium, who have been piling up one masterpiece upon another for a decade now. La Promesse, Rosetta and The Son (all available on DVD or video) restore your faith in the spiritual power of movies.

  • For my money, the greatest English-language filmmaker working today, David Cronenberg. How sad that he has been simplistically typecast in most people's minds as a "horror" director. In reality, over the last twenty-five years, he has made a string of rich, brilliant movies that look better and better with the passage of time: Videodrome, Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch, Crash, eXistenZ and Spider.

  • Michael Haneke from Austria, probably the fiercest social critic in contemporary movies.

  • Gus Van Sant, who has left Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester far behind, and is now one of the leading U.S. art-filmmakers [ten years ago, who'da thunk it?].

  • Seijun Suzuki, the Japanese New Wave veteran, about whose new Cannes-screened film Manohla Dargis rhapsodized in the New York Times: "Suzuki's Princess Raccoon is mad, nuts, lysergic, wonderful, kitsch, genius, smutty, sexy, funny, funny, funny, Zhang Ziyi, Joe Odagiri, Kabuki, Snow White, The Wizard of Oz, Romeo and Juliet, Noh, hip-hop, rock, Broadway, Disney, fuzzy-wuzzys, yakuza, swordsman, by the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea, the cherry blossoms are in bloom again."

Those, and three hundred other movies, should be on the sleigh to Toronto in September.