Best cannes directors of the 21st century indiewire electricity voltage in china

The uncompromising Romanian auteur won the Cannes Palme d’Or in 2007 for his relentless abortion drama “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days,” using his customary long unedited sequences shot with natural light. And then, infamously, Romania’s Oscar submission was not nominated for the Oscar that year, which pushed the Academy to change the way it handles the foreign language voting–adding a committee to make sure such oversights do not occur again. Based on a true story told to the filmmaker, “4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days” is set in 1987, a bleak period before the end of the Ceaucescu regime, when abortions were banned, and follows Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) as her roommate Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) tries to obtain an illegal abortion. Mungiu tried to always show the inner state of mind of the character, tuning into her anxiety and fear. Mungiu’s rigorous aesthetic –followed in subsequent Cannes entries “Beyond the Hills” (which shared a Best Actress prize fin 2012 for two non-pros Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur, as well as a screenplay prize for Mungiu) and director-prize-winner “The Graduation” (2016) requires that he not cut within a scene. He can trim the front or the back, but not the middle. The camera doesn’t move unless something triggers it. This forces Mungiu to be clever about choreographing 10-minute pieces of action, adding off-screen information, and relying heavily on the use of sound. And his actors are given space to develop emotions without cutting, sometimes via as many as 30 takes. The end result is packed with fierce energy and intense emotion. — Anne Thompson

The innovative Mexican auteur is unafraid to push the emotional and thematic envelope, putting the often ordinary people in his films through extraordinary tests of character. Cannes helped to break out Iñárritu with his debut triptych “Amores Perros” (2000), slotting its three interlocking Mexico City narratives in Critics Week 2000, where the violent movie starring Gael Garcia Bernal as a dogfighter in love with his brother’s wife won the Grand Prize and was nominated for the foreign-language Oscar. With Competition film “Babel” (2006), Iñárritu again resisted ingratiating himself to audiences– his oeuvre has been described as misery porn –as he achieves a level of on-screen intensity rare in current cinema. Exerting imperious control over minute details, the filmmaker puts his sprawling casts through the wringer, drawing out dramatic feats. Sprawling multi-cultural drama “Babel” stars Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal and Oscar-nominated actresses Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi in four narratives that culminate with a stunning shot of Kikuchi’s naked deaf teenager cradled her father’s arms on a balcony overlooking Tokyo. The filmmaker returned to Cannes Competition in 2010 with dark Spanish melodrama “Biutiful,” which garnered an Oscar nomination for Javier Bardem, but made a small splash in global arthouses. After that, Iñárritu did not look back as he embraced his own version of mainstream commerciality with Oscar winners “Birdman” and “The Revenant.” — AT

One of China’s leading filmmakers, Jia has been grappling with censorship for years even as he has emerged as the country’s foremost chronicler of changing times. Jia’s generation-defining “Unknown Pleasures” marked his Cannes debut in 2002, and each time he has returned with another trenchant look at the interplay of Chinese personal and national identity through complex ensemble-driven narratives. A great Jia film draws you into one intimate drama of a character working against difficult odds only to change up the perspective in surprising ways that deepen the movie’s themes. His masterful 2013 “A Touch of Sin” (a Cannes screenplay winner) is a staggering, complex undertaking that cycles through several mini-stories of struggling Chinese working class characters whose frustrations with the system lead to violence. The jarring ambition of 2015’s “Mountains May Depart” starts in the country’s past and ends in its future, exploring both family ties and the isolating effect of modern technology with a genre-defying approach (and the best use of a Pet Shop Boys song in a movie, ever). He’s back at the festival with “Ash is the Purest White,” another violent and romantic story about a couple rekindling their bond after one of them does jail time. While many Chinese directors avoid some of the touchier issues facing the country, Jia confronts them head-on, and his movies are bracing statements on a superpower from the inside out. —Eric Kohn 19. Park Chan-wook

Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook may not fit the description of your average Cannes — his moral operas are a little pulpier than the average Competition fare, not to mention a lot more fun — but his path to international acclaim has taken him straight through the French Riviera. In fact, it was at the 2004 festival that the world got its first real taste of Park’s singular virtuosity, as Quentin Tarantino’s jury awarded “Oldboy” the Grand Prix. The rest was history, as that undeniable revenge thriller became a fanboy favorite, sparking an interest in Park’s previous work (“Joint Security Area” rules!) and a feverish anticipation for whatever he made next. “Lady Vengeance” never played at the fest (which is dumb, because that movie RULES), but Park returned with his bitingly perverse vampire romance “Thirst,” and made an even bigger splash in 2016 with his sapphic period masterpiece, “The Handmaiden.” Should Park return to the big screen after his upcoming dalliance on the small one, there’s no doubt that Cannes will have a spot in the Competition with his name on it. — David Ehrlich