Friday 12 December 2014
Top 20 Of 2014: 15 to 11
15) Les Salauds
Yes I had to use its French title to avoid any issues with Blogger! Claire Denis has been a consistently brilliant director, with I Can't Sleep, Beau Travail, Trouble Every Day and White Material among my favourite films of hers. And she does not disappoint with the bleak neo-noir Les Salauds. While its script is rather oblique, it is never frustrating and allows her to tell her story with a more impressionist brush, in a way that is completely in tune with the nightmarish vibe of the film. Add the haunting soundtrack from usual musical collaborators The Tindersticks, and you have one of the most haunting and singular films of the year.
14) Goltzius And The Pelican Company
While Peter Greenaway was my favourite British director in the 80's and 90's (a time where British cinema still had the guts to be formally inventive, how I miss those days...), he truly lost his way with the execrable 8 1/2 Women, followed by a decade of films that were barely seen. But Goltzius And The Pelican Company marks a true return to form, this tale of a 16th century publisher facing censorship as baroque and idiosyncratic as anything he has done. The script, perhaps a little more straight forward than usual, also sets itself to explore and mirror the advent of new technologies throughout the centuries and their influences and consequences in societies struggling to grapple with them. Theatrical and stylised to the extreme, this is Greenaway at the top of his game, and I cannot wait for the next chapter in his Dutch masters triloygy: Hiernonymus Bosch. Just imagine!
13) The Grandmaster
The Grandmaster is just everything I would have expected in a period drama from Wong Kar Wai: a free flowing and loose plot, an exquisite art direction, and some of the most sublime images I've seen on film. So yes, it is flawed as a result, with some calling it style over substance. They might not be wrong (although I suspect with a deeper knowledge of Ip Man's life we might get more out of the story), but what an abundance of style! From the rain soaked fight of the opening scene, to the already legendary "train" scene, with Ziyi Zhang (who's never been more moving) fighting in her gorgeous fur, not to mention the pervading melancholy of a love that was never allowed to blossom, like a Remains Of The Day with fist, I'll take this uneven but gorgeous film over any average Oscar friendly period dramas churned out around that time of the year.
12) The Grand Budapest Hotel
What makes Wes Anderson's latest film so successful over his previous films was perfectly summarised in an analysis over his unlikely commercial success: for once, Wes Anderson shifted his focus away from contemporary self-centered and neurotic New York types, and it makes all the difference. Taking place in an fictional Central European country, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a deeply melancholic tale of a bygone era with echoes of Tintin and old Europe grandeur, brimming with visual invention (that ski chase being one of the year's highlight!) and unexpectedly moving, thanks to the delicate and musing performance from Ralph Fiennes.
11) Winter Sleep
I was rather anxious going into the screening of the 3h15 long Winter Sleep in Cannes, having been up at the crack of dawn and watched two films already. I needn't have worried, and the Nuri Bilge Ceylan palme d'or winner turned out quite differently to what I had imagined: lingering shots in a snowy landscape and minimal dialogue. In actual fact, this is a very wordy and intimate film, the engrossing and masterful exploration of a man's midlife crisis, who shows all that he believed in crumbling, his lack of achievement despite his perceived intellectual superiority, his alienation from his wife and family, and for all of his liberal principles, the terrible shadow of class wars looming.