It was September, 2000 – my first premeditated attempt at the Toronto International Film Festival. At this early date the internet was, at least to me, still a rumour, and with nary a blog nor Wikipedia to consult, the collection of films that filled my program book were unknown commodities waiting to be discovered. Left to my own devices, feeling my way through the sweet con of synopsis hell, I found myself drawn to one page in particular: poised in the still was a tattooed man with cryptic phrases across his chest and arms, of whose blurb promised stylish, suspenseful and even philosophical qualities. I bought my ticket for the film mere days before reading an unfavorable review in the local free press (NOW magazine, I think), and by the time I had entered the cramped basement theater of the now defunct Uptown Cinema, my expectations for the film were pretty low, I knew none of the talent, heard nothing positive about the film, and the very venue reeked of a sense of failure. By the time I had left, however, I was a devout believer in the greatness of the then little known director, Christopher Nolan, and his little known soon-to-be modern classic, Memento.
A big part of why I bother writing at all about film is because of such eureka encounters, going in blind and being caught in the maelstrom of new talent. It would happen again the first time I saw Paul Greengrass’ Bloody Sunday and Todd Field’s In the Bedroom (oddly enough in the same theater, and in the same far-too-close first row). The internet being what it is today, it becomes perhaps harder to get to this point of intimate contact with unfiltered greatness, but it is of course still possible. Cinema needs its heroes, these auteurs, whether or not such a thing can realistically be said to occur in the creation of a film, the mythic importance overrides reason, and this cult of celebrity, when oriented towards proven talent rather than passing fancy, is nearly as important as what happens inside the screen.
The passing of Stanley Kubrick has left a sizable hole in the mythic world of film auteurs; Spielberg, Coppola, Herzog, Scorsese, are not getting any younger, and with the departure of Antonioni, Kurosawa, Kieslowski, and Fellini, the hole is getting wider. The contenders for Kubrick’s mantle need to make themselves known, and where better to look then at the budding filmmakers who put their heart and soul into their first features, the eventful out of left field introductions to new ways of seeing which boldly diverge from the familiar talent-for-hire fare.
This collaborative post is an attempt to pinpoint the masters in the making of recent years, to find filmmakers who demonstrate unique visions that have yet to breakthrough into the Christopher Nolan stratosphere, but who clearly have the ability to get there. Such masters tend to be writer/directors able to fashion an auteur-like imprint on the films they contribute to. Our list is short and open-ended, so wherever obviously lacking please add your own considerations to the comment section.
See our picks under the seat Would you like to know more…?