What is your opinion on contemporary American cinema? Do you find it as dull and derivative as I do (very much so)? And which living and working directors (American or not) do you find to be the most exciting and inventive right now?
I find contemporary American cinema to be fractured. Aimless. And yes, most certainly derivative. The lifeblood and originality of filmmaking has been sucked from American cinema, leaving it desiccated and caricaturistic of what cinema ‘ought’ to be. I suspect much of this has to do with the dominance of studios and marketing and other such forces which make me wretch at the thought. A handful of directors and actors/actresses are spread thinly across mediocre projects that continue to be financed regardless of quality. I confess, American cinema was never a favourite of mine to begin with; I always tended to find it overly self-aware and self-conscious (even Allen at his best was overly concerned with pageantry disguised as self-deprecation; Kubrick alone remains superior and immutable). American cinema needs a vigorous dose of new voices, it seems – the Scorseses and Allens and Spielbergs (and new ‘cinemaaaa’ darlings Andersons and Finchers and Tarantinos and Nolans) have been churning out the same derivative twaddle for far too long. It is critical to hear more voices from the margins, from people who are undaunted and unconventional . The vitality of everyday life is missing from modern American cinema, too wrapped up in mannering and posturing for awards season and pretense rather than illustrations of the human experience.
That being said, I do see some hope in one area of American film, and that is in the horror genre. (Independent) American horror has never been better than it is now, moving beyond the slasher absurdity of the 1970s and 80s, and being actually, well, interesting. Film like House of the Devil, It Follows, You’re Next, The Witch, Spring, and The Guest are subverting genres and expectations of classic horror cinema in a feverishly exciting way, recalling the nascent dread like much of the British rural horror catalogue from the 1960s and 70s.
As for current directors? I’ve appended but a fraction of an ever-expanding list (not even including those who are dead) to capture those filmmakers of whom I have seen every film and without hesitation will see the next one (no Americans, incidentally). The crispness and clarity of their work leave me invigorated and suffused in wonder at their understanding of psychocinema. I await with bated breath their next masterwork. I would entirely recommend each one’s entire filmography (but have suggested my personal favourites in parentheses; some are, distressingly, exhaustive).
- Abbas Kiarostami (Ta’m e guilass [Taste of Cherry]; Nema-ye Nazdik [Close-up]; Copie conforme [Certified Copy])
- Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank; Wuthering Heights; Red Road)
- Anton Corbijn (A Most Wanted Man; The American; Control)
- Aparna Sen (15 Park Avenue; Mr. and Mrs. Iyer; 36 Chowringee Lane)
- Béla Tarr (A torinói ló [The Turin Horse]; A londoni férfi [The Man from London]; Sátántangó [Satantango])
- Catherine Breillat (Une vieille maîtresse [The Last Mistress]; Anatomie de l'enfer [Anatomy of Hell]; À ma soeur! [Fat Girl])
- Christian Petzold (Jerichow; Barbara; Phoenix)
- Claire Denis (Trouble Everyday; White Material; L'intrus [The Intruder])
- Denys Arcand (Les invasions barbares [The Barbarian Invasions]; Love & Human Remains; Jésus de Montréal [Jesus of Montréal])
- Götz Spielmann (Revanche; Oktober November; Antares)
- Joachim Trier (Oslo, Aug 31; Reprise)
- Joanna Hogg (Archipelago; Unrelated; Exhibition)
- Michael Haneke (Caché; La pianiste [The Piano Teacher]; Das weiße Band [The White Ribbon])
- Nicolas Windig Refn (Valhalla Rising; Drive; Bronson)
- Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Uzak [Distant]; Kasaba [The Town]; Kis uykusu [Winter Sleep])
- Peter Greenaway (The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover; A Zed & Two Noughts; Prospero’s Books)
- Peter Strickland (Katalin Varga; Berberian Sound Studio; The Duke of Burgundy)
- Sally Potter (Orlando; The Tango Lesson; Yes)
- Susanne Bier (Elsker dig for evigt [Open Hearts]; Brødre [Brothers];
[After the Wedding])
- Steve McQueen (Hunger; Shame; 12 Years a Slave)
- Tom Tykwer (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer; Cloud Atlas; Drei )
- Tomas Alfredson (Fyra nyanser av brunt [Four Shades of Brown]; Låt den rätte komma in [Let the Right One In]; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
- Xavier Dolan (J'ai tué ma mère [I Killed My Mother]; Les amours imaginaires [Heartbeats]; Lawrence Anyways)