The year in cinema is just about over, and it may have ended with the industry ceding control of Hollywood to a group of North Korean hackers. It's a bad blow to the creative integrity of mainstream movies—one that serves to underscore just how valuable indie filmmaking will continue to be in the future. With that in mind, it's somewhat fortuitous that trailers for two of the most exciting art-house features of 2015 debuted online during the height of the madness sparked by The Interview, each of them making a good case against our initial instinct to hole up in a bunker with a bunch of old Blu-rays and let the medium run its course.
The first is Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, which premiered at Sundance in January and more than held its own against the likes of Boyhood and The Babadook. Conceived by brothers David and Nathan Zellner, and loosely based on a true-ish story, the mordantly funny dark comedy follows the intercontinental journey of a young woman (Pacific Rim star Rinko Kikuchi) who finds an old VHS copy of Fargo buried in a cave along the coast of Japan. Believing the Coen brothers' film to be a documentary—and the money that Steve Buscemi buries in the tundras of the American midwest to be real—Kumiko abandons her pet rabbit Bunzo and heads for the United States. It's clear that the film's pathologically determined heroine is a bit deranged, but she's just so damn endearing that you can't help but hope she finds a pot of gold at the end of her twisted rainbow. Destined to be one of the best films of 2015, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter opens on March 13, 2015.
Similarly dark, albeit it in an unexpectedly (and unforgettably) romantic way, The Duke of Burgundy is the most nuanced and compassionate movie ever made about die-hard S&M fetishists, and never once does it compromise the integrity of its characters to achieve that humane touch. The rare fiction film not to feature a single man on screen, Peter Strickland's follow-up to 2012's Berberian Sound Studio marries his fascination with Italian giallo movies to a story about two very kinky women (Chiara D'Anna and Sidse Babbett Knudsen) who submit to the endlessly knotted power dynamics that inform their lives together. Perhaps best described by a YouTube commenter as "50 Shades of Holy Fucking Shit", the film invokes all sorts of salaciousness ("human toilets" is a meme in the making) without ever betraying the ravishing classicalism of its aesthetic, The Duke of Burgundy is a beautiful movie about some surprisingly universal pitfalls. The Duke of Burgundy hits theaters on January 23, 2015.