Just three features into her career, Andrea Arnold has established herself as the kind of filmmaker I’ll invest in (with faith if not finance) on pretty much any project she chooses to pursue. “Red Road” and “Fish Tank” were both richly sensual portrayals of modern working-class Britain that defied the Ken Loach-patented model of British social realism; both deservedly earned her Jury Prize wins at Cannes. (Both, moreover, built on the already lofty expectations set by her 2003 short “Wasp,” another work of spiky grace amid the tower blocks. It won her an Oscar, in case you’ve forgotten.)
Then came the leap: 2011’s daringly stripped adaptation of “Wuthering Heights,” a costume drama at once vividly in period and aggressively contemporary. It split critical opinion more than her previous features, but proved emphatically that Andrea Arnold is incapable of making drab heritage cinema.
What next? In my interview with Arnold last year, she guardedly told me she was working on an original screenplay and had no intention of doing any further adaptations. Since then, details of the project have clarified a bit: her first film to be set in the US, “Mag Crew” will focus on teenage magazine sales crews, and is being developed with Focus Features and Film4. Shooting is set to begin next year.
If you’re curious, we’ll probably hear more about it at the New York Film Festival, for which Arnold has just been appointed the inaugural Filmmaker-in-Residence. In the words of the festival, this initiative is designed to “further the goals of filmmakers at an earlier stage in the creative process.” The aim is for the filmmaker to develop a new project via the festival’s range of master classes, mentorships and film programs — a nice idea, and one you’d usually expect to be designed only for less established filmmakers.
Arnold, incidentally, is becoming quite the film festival regular even between films: she served on the Competition jury at Cannes last year, and did the same at the Venice fest just passed. Yes, she had a hand in those surprising Venice awards; she’s also the one who pushed for last year’s unpopular Cannes Best Director win for Carlos Reygadas’ controversial “Post Tenebras Lux.” Put Arnold on a jury and exciting things happen, it seems. Put her behind a camera — same thing.