21st century cinema

Posted by in Foreign film, Sidedoor

A few years ago I was pretty ill. Bedridden and couch-ridden for the best part of two months, I began to look for something new to read in between those horrible episodes of sickness. I came across a lead article in a particular issue of Sight and Sound magazine called ’21st Century Cinema’. It was essentially a survey of the key trends and movements in the preceding cinematic decade, finishing with their top 10 films.

Off the bat, I didn’t necessarily agree with their list and in actual fact this was the least interesting section of the piece. It was surprising to read about so many filmmakers I had somehow managed to avoid or remain ignorant of. As a film-lover, it is puzzling how this came to be. It became obvious reading the article that cinematically speaking, I was a learner driver. And a cocky one at that. And so, given the longevity of my incapacitation etc, I started buying films. Many films. Films by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Alexander Sokurov. Michael Haneke. Shane Meadows. Jacques Audiard. Kar Wai Wong. Peter Strickland. There were many others. Some worked for me and some didn’t. (This synaptic malfunction led to a significant reduction in my finances and I haven’t quite recovered since.)

This slight detour into unchartered territory did alter my tastes somewhat. A number of filmmakers I discovered during this time helped change the way I see film and their work now firmly stands among my favourites. From the austere intelligence of Haneke to the poetic social-realism of the Dardennes. From the exuberant yet unflinchingly honest Shane Meadows to the intimate domestic rhythms of Hirokazu Koreeda.

How you feel about these directors will depend on your own preferences. For some people, film is about escapism. For others it is about thrills. For others still, it represents their hopes and gives a vision for how life could or should be. For me, above everything else, films are about storytelling and personally speaking, these artists are the consummate storytellers. Without peer. They have created pieces of art and entertainment through the undervalued yet noble endeavour of storytelling, producing work that has the power to move, disturb, enlighten, engage and inspire us.

It became obvious in reading the Sight and Sound article that there was a whole world of brilliant cinema that had been just beyond my gaze. Over the coming months we will profile some directors and their key films, hopefully opening up these hugely talented people to a wider audience.