Independents Day

Illustration by Christopher Sleboda

1. Indie directors are everywhere—even at the helm of big studio pictures. This summer, you’ll find smart indie directors squaring off with studio auteurs like Stephen Spielberg and Michael Bay: Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez both direct kids’ movies; Motorcycle Diaries’ Walter Salles switches gears for the horror flick Dark Water (July 8); and Christopher Nolan cubes the micro-budget of his Memento for the extravagant Batman Begins (June 15). And, yes, Terry Gilliam won’t win the box-office battle, but we’re still reserving bucket seats for his latest long-delayed production: The Brothers Grimm (July 29), a biopic about the fabled fable writers, starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger.

2. Summer is the new fall. This year, art-house counterprogramming has gotten out of control, in a very good way. Patrons will be bombarded by many of the world’s most interesting directors: Wong Kar Wai, Sally Potter, Arnaud Desplechin, Don Roos, Park Chanwook, and François Ozon, for starters. Gus Van Sant dramatizes a Cobain-ish rocker’s final hours in Last Days (July 22). Michael Winterbottom thumbs his nose at the MPAA with his rock-fueled sex romp 9 Songs (July 22). Werner Herzog premieres three new documentaries (Ja!). And Ingmar Bergman delivers Saraband (July 8), an update on his indelible 30-year-old classic Scenes From a Marriage. Plus, three rising stars of foreign cinema—Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul, China’s Jia Zhangke, and France’s Jacques Audiard—import their festival hits Tropical Malady (July 29), The World (July 1), and The Beat That My Heart Skipped (July 1), respectively. And downtown fixture Jim Jarmusch returns with Broken Flowers (August 5), a midlife romance starring Bill Murray as a womanizer who goes on a cross-country road trip to reconcile with every one of his many ex-girlfriends.

3. Two terrific NYC directors sneak onto the scene. Phil Morrison’s Junebug (August 5) is a subtle, artful film that introduces a southern guy (Alessandro Nivola) who moves to a city, then travels back home with his gallery-owner wife. His film quietly catches the strange dislocation city mice experience when they return home to the sticks—and those concerned with less high-minded matters can at least catch The O.C.’s Benjamin McKenzie, who finally wears a trucker hat without irony.

Saving Face (May 27), by lapsed computer whiz Alice Wu, is a hysterical miracle of genre science that recombines the DNA of romantic comedies, coming-out tales, and Asian-American mother-daughter dramas to produce a smart new hybrid. Tracking a mother, a daughter, and her daughter’s female lover from the Chinese-American community of Flushing to Manhattan, Wu flaunts smart comic timing and a touch for unpredictable dialogue.According to form, we May see both directors in multiplexes soon.

Independents Day