2009 The Year In Movies: 2-Author, Author.

CHARLIE KAUFFMAN (Synecdoche, New York)

The Oscars are fairly accused of playing conservative. They don’t normally reward the adventurous and challenging, nor the works and directors who try and push the boundaries of the seventh art. That’s why many of the best films every year can be found outside the bandwidth of the Academy. With the independent sector shrinking, the hope for more rewarding filmmaking is in the hands of the so-called authors and their arthouse productions, and 2009 is full of well-established masters bringing their wit and wisdom to the big screen.

A painful example of Hollywood ignoring the truly original happened last year. Charlie Kauffman, one of the most imaginative and gifted screenplay writers, father of recent works by Spike Jonze and Michael Gondry, debuted as director with “Synecdoche, New York”. Its exuberance divided the critics, but everybody hailed the writer’s unique vision and its story about a theatre director who, in search for a masterpiece, builds a replica of the city of New York for his new play, while losing the plot between reality and fantasy. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton and many others were part of an excellent cast. The film will reach European cinemas later on the year.

Woody Allen is back to his native New York, after his European misadventures were saved by “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”. He’s teaming up with other comic master, Larry Cohen (Curb Your Enthusiasm), for another vision about Allen’s recurrent theme of men having relationships with much younger women in “Whatever Works”. Evan Rachel Wood is the tempting youngster.

As famous as Kauffman for his imagination, and after a period of creative hiatus, Terry Gilliam is rumoured to be back to top form with “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus”, dealing with another theatrical subject. This time an itinerant theatre company, making a pact with the devil to allow its audience to look into a magic mirror and take a trip through their imagination. It was also Heath Ledger’s last movie, the late actor died in the middle of its shooting, raising fears for the impossibility to complete it. The problem was sorted using three different stars to replace him as Ledger’s character travels through different dream worlds. Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law joined a cast headlined by Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits, among others.

QUENTIN TARANTINO-Inglorious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino is also back with his first exploration of the war genre, and if the trailer is anything to go by, it promises to be as irreverent, funny and explosive as the rest of his career. In fact, the director describes “Inglorious Basterds” as a spaghetti western with war iconography. Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and Daniel Brühl’s careers could experience a big push after it.

The other enfants terribles of the American independence, The Coen Brothers, will remain in the comedy field. “A Serius Man” has got a cast without big names; is set in 1967 and tells the story of the family tensions caused by a guy that refuses to move out of the place of his brother’s family.


In 2009 we’ll recover Kathryn Bigelow, whose career has been a bit under the radar for years, since the vampire flick “Near Dark” granted her cult status. “The Hurt Locker”, her controversial look at the life of elite soldiers in Iraq, was acclaimed at last year’s Venice Festival and will be properly release in a few months.

Another female director with declining career, Jane Campion; who reached the doors of the Oscars with “The Piano”, is tipped again for the coveted awards thanks to her new project “Bright Star”. The film in which the filmmaker from New Zealand recreates the romance between 19th century poet Keats and Fanny Brawne.

FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA talks about Tetro

Francis Ford Coppola claims he’s finishing his most personal film to date, in a self-penned screenplay where he’s added his own childhood memories to the fictional story of a creative Italo-Argentinean family in “Tetro”. The half Spanish cast will get Maribel Verdu and early Almodovar’s muse Carmen Maura together with Vincent Gallo.

Another directing legend, Werner Herzog, puts aside his successful string of documentaries for a remake of Abel Ferrara’s underground classic “Bad Lieutenant;” re-titled “Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans”, starring Nicholas Cage; Val Kilmer and Eva Mendes. Ferrara’s has already expressed his anger about this new version.

And as far as explosive casts go, nothing will compare the new movie by surreal, experimental maestro Alejandro Jodorowski. The author of such iconic works as “El Topo” and “Santa Sangre” has gathered together a trash-lovers dream team: Marilyn Manson in the role of a 300-year old pope; Nick Nolte, Rossy De Palma, Marilyn Manson, Udo Kier, Santiago Segura and Asia Argento in “King Shot”, a gangster film featuring David Lynch among its production credits.

RICHARD LINKLATER (Me & Orson Welles Shooting Images)

Richard Linklater’s eclectic career is experiencing another significant turn by giving Zac Effron his first serious opportunity in a drama about the theatrical intrigues of the play “Julius Cesar” as directed by a young Orson Welles. “Me and Orson Welles” will benefit from the extra publicity the “High School Musical” star will generate.

More independent spirits back into the spotlight, Jim Jarmusch is shooting in different Spanish locations “The Limits Of Control”. The story of a lonesome criminal on an Iberian mission counts with another star-studded, multicultural cast featuring Isaach De Bankole, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Gael Garcia Bernal, John Hurt, etc.

SHANE MEADOWS ( Teaser Short Film for “Le Donk”)

Our favourite British directors, young and veteran, will also be part of 2009’s cinematic harvest. Shane Meadows has re-taken one of his old projects, “Le Donk,” teaming up again with Paddy Considine for a low-budget film, shot in just five days, based on the single character that gives the film its name, an ex-builder and ex-drummer turned roadie. It’s likely to follow Meadow’s accomplished gallery of British real life vignettes.

The Brits’ veteran contingent will be led by Ken Loach, exploring the comic possibilities of the UK’s passion for football in “Looking For Eric”. In which, the legendary player Eric Cantona, acting as himself, will teach a postman in crisis some philosophy about football and life in general.


Another genre-versatile British author, Michael Wintterbottom, will finally get his latest project “Genova” to see the light of day, after being tepidly received in the festival circuit, despite earning the golden shell for best director at San Sebastian. “Genova” tells the story of a family moving to Italy for a vital re-ignition, after the death of the mother on a car crash.

Equally versatile, but with a penchant for life’s philosophical big questions, Michael Haneke will explore the implementation of Nazism in Germany through punishing rituals in children’s education. “The White Ribbon” looks set to shake the bad taste his US adaptation of “Funny Bones” left in our bones.


French Master Bertrand Tavernier returns to the States for a film noir about the link between the murder of a prostitute and the production team of a film being shot in New Orleans. “In the Electric Mist” has got Tommy Lee Jones in stellar role, but failed to impress at the Berlin film festival.

The father of the dogma movement has also got some new weapons ready. Lars von Trier is likely to beat new records of controversy while jumping into the horror genre with “Antichrist”. Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg star.


And last, but not least, Andrzej Wajda, the veteran Polish director, has got two movies awaiting European release. The first one, “Katyn”, revisits the historical slaughter of Polish people by the Soviets; and earned a nomination for Best Foreign Language movie at the Oscars in 2008. Wajda’s latest “Tatarak” was launched in Berlin to a rather cold reception.

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