Cinema is a collaborative medium, but a hell of a lot of great films have powerhouse personalities in charge. Here are just a few to catch in Sydney in the next few weeks.

Charlie Kaufman's Anomolisa

Charlie Kaufman might not be a household name, but in the early 2000s his scripts for Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind cemented him as a master of surreal, complex comic dramas. Then he went quiet for a bit, and returned with his directorial debut, the deeply weird and divisive Synecdoche, New York.

Many will be pleased that his new film, Anomolisa, is a return to the romantic honesty of his earlier work. It’s still bloody weird, though. A stop-motion animation using 3D-printed puppets, Anomolisa concerns Michael Stone (David Thewlis), a travelling inspirational speaker and one-man pity party suffering from the Fregoli delusion. To say anything more would spoil this singular piece of filmmaking, but suffice to say, it’s got Charlie Kaufman written all over it.
Screening now at Newtown Dendy.

Simon Stone's The Daughter

Perhaps dividing audiences is a hallmark of the great auteur. If so, Australian director Simon Stone got his credentials in early. As a theatre director, Stone is known for adaptations of Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck and Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, both of which set the action in modern Australia and drew critical awe, but also their share of ire.

The Daughter, his first feature film, returns to his adaptation of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck. It turns it into a family saga set in rural New South Wales. It’s raw, moving and extremely accomplished for a first-time filmmaker, and it’s given a boost by a cast featuring Geoffrey Rush, Miranda Otto and Sam Neill. It’s hard not to wonder if Stone will go on to have a similar impact in cinema as he has in theatre.
Previews are at Palace Norton Street and Palace Verona this weekend. The Daughter is on general release from March 17.

Philippe Garrel’s In the Shadow of Women

The title is surely ironic, because it’s the leading man, Stanislas Merhar as Pierre, who casts the longest shadow in this film. Pierre is a documentary filmmaker whose assistant and partner, Elisabeth (Lena Paugam), lives dotingly in his shadow. Pierre, for no reason other than boredom, instigates an affair with a film archivist, finding another adoring woman to envelop in his shadow of surly manliness.

In the Shadow of Women is, as you’d expect from veteran French New Wave director Philippe Garrel, extremely, extremely French. It’s shot gloriously on black and white celluloid and it’s filled to the brim with infidelity, suspicion and an air of cool detachment – but it never takes itself too seriously. It reminds the audience that this is an everyday story of people making poor decisions.
Screening as part of the Alliance Française French Film Festival, which runs until March 24.
www.affrenchfilmfestival.org

Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years

At the beginning of 45 Years, sweet, comfortable old couple Kate and Geoff (Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay) receive unexpected news regarding the distant past, which throws their whole relationship into uncertainty. The performances make the film. Courtenay’s Geoff is distant and understandably traumatised by past events, and Rampling carries the bulk of the dramatic weight with ineffable grace. And it’s such a relief to see a very different kind of couple-in-love on screen – there are no beautiful, head-over-heels young movie stars here. Like Haigh’s last feature film, 2011’s Weekend, 45 Years is restricted to a tight time frame.

While Weekend was about a couple meeting, falling in love and realising they only have days before they’ll be separated, 45 Years is about the weight of expectation on this couple’s impending anniversary party, but also the great unknown gulf of the couple’s 45-year relationship.
45 Years is on general release now. Broadsheet spoke to director Andrew Haigh about the film here.