December 28, 2015

Cinema 2015: Top 10 Discoveries

One of the pleasures of watching movies from all over the world, from all the past decades, is to get introduced to film-makers you had never known or whose work you had never seen. Following is the list of top ten such discoveries for me, film-makers or film-phenomenons that existed long before I discovered them in 2015. I'm glad to observe that they all come from different countries. The most exciting bit for each of these entries is the "what next" section, something that can only add to your ever-increasing love for the movies. So here are the top ten, in alphabetic order:

  1. Jacques Becker (France, 1906-1960): The thirteenth and the last feature film directed by this French film-maker, 'Le trou' (1960) is considered to be one of the finest prison-break movies. And it was this film that introduced me to his cinema. His other fine works are again crime-dramas and I have a feeling he must be in super form as a storyteller in those. What next: 'Casque d'Or' (1952) and 'Touchez pas au grisbi' (1954) are his next two most acclaimed films. I should start with those.
  2. Marco Bellocchio (Italy, 1939-): Awarded life-time achievement award at Kerala Film Festival in 2014, Bellocchio is one of the most senior film-makers in this list who is still active. He is a regular at the best festivals around the world and I got exposed to his work through his latest surreal drama-comedy 'Blood of My Blood'. What next: His 1965 film 'Fists in the Pocket' is perhaps his most acclaimed work. So perhaps I'll watch that soon. But then he has also made several well-received films in this century, including 'My Mother's Smile' (2002) and 'Vincere' (2009).
  3. Hou Hsiao-Hsien (Taiwan, 1947-): Has directed 19 films so far in 35 years and it was his latest, 'The Assassin', that introduced me to his filmography. In a 1998 worldwide critics' poll, Hou was named "one of the three directors most crucial to the future of cinema." What next: I need to start with his most acclaimed films - 'A Time to Live and a Time to Die' (1985), 'A City of Sadness' (1989), and 'The Puppetmaster' (1993).
  4. Hirokazu Koreeda (Japan, 1962-): After winning the Best Director prize at Venice in 1995, Koreeda is now regarded as one of the finest contemporary Japanese film-makers. I discovered him through his beautiful human story 'Like Father, Like Son' (2013). What next: I should watch 'Maborosi' (1995), 'After Life' (1998), 'Nobody Knows' (2004) and 'Still Walking' (2008).
  5. Guy Maddin (Canada, 1956-): A prolific maker of short- and experimental-films, Maddin has made 11 features as well. The unforgettable 'The Forbidden Room' (2015) introduced him to me and I'm so, so excited to watch more of his works. What next: His most acclaimed feature-length works seem to be 'My Winnipeg' (2007), 'The Saddest Music in the World' (2003) and 'Archangel' (1990). So I'll start with these.
  6. Mad Max (Australia, 1979-): The only name in the list that is not a film-director but a film-franchise. I'm surprised to realise that I had no idea about the original Mad Max films until I saw the trailer of the latest and that is when I decided to watch the first three before the release of 'Fury Road'. I'm so glad I did that. I completely loved the new movie that is being named by many as the best English-language movie of the year. What next: More Mad Max movies are in pipeline but there is no confirmation about their production yet. So guess, I'll have to wait.
  7. Michael Powell (UK, 1905-1990) and Emeric Pressburger (Hungary-UK, 1902-1988): This filmmaker-duo is perhaps the biggest name on this list and it is strange that it took me so many years to finally start with their filmography. I started with one of their most acclaimed films, 'The Red Shoes' (1948) that had everything in it to be called great cinema. 2016 should be the year when I explore more of their works. What next: 'Peeping Tom' (1960) is a thriller-horror film and it may be interesting to see how these film-makers approach a genre so different from their other big features like 'The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp' (1943), 'A Matter of Life and Death' (1946) and 'Black Narcissus' (1947). I have seen none of these.
  8. Hong Sang-Soo (South Korea, 1961-): I was completely amazed by his latest 'Right Now, Wrong Then' (2015) as were the hundreds watching it at the Mumbai Film Festival this year. With 17 features in less than 20 years, he seems to be a very prolific film-maker. And he is known to make films on human relationships. I'll be delighted to explore more of his filmography. What next: His first film 'The Day a Pig Fell into the Well' (1996) also seems to be his most celebrated work. I must watch it soon.
  9. Franklin J. Schaffner (USA, 1920-1989): Directed 14 films and several TV shows in his career, winning four Primetime Emmy Awards and one Oscar for 'Patton' (1970). This film introduced him to me, and it was followed by 'Papillon' (1973), and his masterly command over big-scale productions completely impacted me. What next: The 1968 film, 'Planet of the Apes' seems to now be the only must-watch in his filmography, but I would love to explore more.
  10. Jaco Van Dormael (Belgium, 1957-): This film-maker, for me, is the biggest discovery of the year and his latest 'The Brand New Testament' my favourite film of 2015. He has directed only four feature films in 35 years of his career and I have now watched all four of them. He is one director I will keep revisiting and I know his cinema will have a huge influence on me. It has already begun. What next: Whatever he makes next will be among my most-eagerly awaited films. Hope he does it soon.

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