Sunday, 8 January 2012

The best of 2011

It is 2012, the holidays are over and Fredrik on Film is back. How have you been?

The first post of the year will of course be about 2011. I am afraid I saw a depressingly low number of new releases. That is partly because few films come to the corner of Scotland where I toil away, and if they do they are shown only for a very short time. Also, since I move back and forth between Scotland and Sweden I sometimes miss films because it is shown in Sweden when I am in Scotland and then in Scotland when I am in Sweden...

However, I have seen a number of the most talked-about films, such as Melancholia (Lars von Trier), The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick), Bridesmaids (Paul Feig), Le Havre (Aki Kaurismäki), The Ides of March (George Clooney), The Turin Horse (A torinói ló, Bela Tarr) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Tomas Alfredson) and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher). I have also seen less talked-about films such as Friends With Benefits (Will Gluck), Barney's Version (Richard J. Lewis) and The Adjustment Bureau (George Nolfi). But although they have all given my something, be it laughter, suspense, anger, great acting or great visuals, it is not among these that my favourites can be found. Of those just mentioned only The Turin Horse felt like it completely succeeded on its own terms. The rest all failed in some respects, be it due to inconsistencies or awkwardness, or by being too outdraw or just plain dull. But even though The Turin Horse was sustained, I did not warm to it all that much.

There are however nine films that I have no quarrels with, and consequently they are my favourites from 2011. In no particular order, they are:
Las acacias (Pablo Giorgelli)
Moneyball (Bennett Miller)
Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Guy Ritchie)
The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies)
The Off Hours (Megan Griffiths)
Blowfish (Hetun, Chi Y. Lee)
Tomboy (Celine Sciamma)

Le quattro volte (Michelangelo Frammartino)

It is a varied collection. Las acacias is from Argentina and tells (in images, hardly any words) the story of a lorry driver who gives a lift to a woman and a baby. They both have their issues but gradually they warm to each other. Moneyball looks and feels like a cross between Michael Ritchie and Michael Mann, which is about as high praise as I can give. Midnight in Paris is a wet dream for lovers of Paris and the art and artists of the 1920s so obviously I loved it. Sherlock Holmes is that rare thing, a really good film by Guy Ritchie. Besides looking amazing it could possible be the greatest love story of the year. The writing is also exceptionally witty. The Deep Blue Sea is such a exercise in repressed emotions it becomes a living proof that there is such a thing as "felt ideas". The Off Hours is just life, captured spontaneously. Warm, tender and melancholic. Blowfish, from Taiwan, is whimsical and sexual, and quietly amusing. Tomboy is, like The Off Hours, life captured, and acted so effortlessly it felt more real than any documentary. And then there is Le quattro volte, the most astonishing film of the year. It was narratively audacious, but more so it was so brilliantly shot, paced and framed it made my knees weak. The sequence when a dog makes a car crash into a fence surrounding some sheep, and their subsequent escape, is one of the best things I have ever seen.

There is just one more film to mention, This is Not a Film (In film nist, Jafar Panahi). It is Panahi's protest against the Iranian regime, against his house arrest and against the fact that he has been banned from making films. As a film is in not all that exciting, but as a statement it is, and it does eventually become fascinating as well as infuriating.

I must say 2011 was a very good year for movies, and I enjoyed myself immensely in the cinema. Let's see what 2012 will bring.

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