Saturday, 12 January 2013

The year of 2012

When I began thinking back on 2012 it felt like all films I saw were disappointing, and that a number of very highly regarded films failed on several levels. But this is not exactly true, there were a few films that really won me over, but on the whole 2012 feels lacklustre. But maybe that is because I have seen an unusually small amount of new films, only little over 50, and among those I have not yet seen are some that have made quite an impact on others, such as Lincoln, Holy Motors and The Master. It is a pity that I have not seen some of the most debates films of the year, such as Django Unchained or Zero Dark Thirty, but I will come back to them in later posts if I feel the need.

The perhaps most praised film of last year was Amour, by Michael Haneke. I did not particularly care for it, because it felt so controlled and pre-planned. As I sat there and watched it I soon started to say to myself "The water will be turn off ... now.", "She will turn her head ... now.", "He will slap her ... now." The ending itself I predicted after about two seconds into the film, and it happened exactly as I had anticipated. Exactly. Such films give me the pains. The film is about death and dying but that is no excuse for it being completely devoid of life and spontaneity. I am not saying the film is without strengths, Emmanuelle Riva's performance was very good, fearless and moving, and the occasional scene was fine, at least as long as nobody spoke, but as a whole it did not work for me at all.

But let's be positive now. One of the highlights of last year was the trailer for Rust and Bone. The film could not possibly live up to that mesmerising experience, and it did not, but it was good enough. Not as good as Jacques Audiard's earlier films, but good enough. He has a wonderful way of capturing moments, of filling his films with spontaneous impressions and visions (he is in many ways the opposite of Haneke), and Rust and Bone was no exception. The story that is told is one of misery and pain, but the film itself balances this with the thrill of the sun reflected on a glass, or a coin being flipped in slow motion, or water drops cascading on their own. And I wonder if there was any scene of 2012 as moving as the one where Stéphanie walks up to the glass wall of the pool and summons an orca, which then appears as out of nowhere. They play together, each on her side of the glass, and then the orca swims away again.

Towards the end Rust and Bone lost its momentum, and I was never keen on the part of the story that concerned the boy, so it did not end up on my top nine list. But these nine did, in alphabetical order:

In Another Country (Hong Sang-soo)
Isabelle Huppert as a French woman somewhat lost in Korea. It is funny, enchanting and somewhat annoying.

Like Somebody in Love (Abbas Kiarostami)
People in cars, but this time in Japan, not Iran or Italy. It has the peculiar Kiarostami glow, and is emotionally very intense.

Nameless Gangster (Yoon Jong-bin)
A history lesson about Korea's recent past, as well as a hard-hitting gangster film, which is also unusually humane.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
A remarkable achievement, extraordinary powerful. It is beautifully shot, and filled with poetry and pathos.

Prometheus (Ridley Scott)
Like with Rust and Bone, the first trailer was better than the actual film. But the film was still magnificent, and it looked about as good as any film by Scott (the cinematography was by Dariusz Wolski). There have been many complaints about the film's "plot holes" but I disagreed with must of these (often petty and silly) complaints. A few characters were very redundant, but otherwise I had no problems with the film.

Skyfall (Sam Mendes)
That a film by Sam Mendes would make it to a list of the year's best was most surprising. But Skyfall is thrilling and moving, with some fantastic set-pieces. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is dazzling and Daniel Craig and Judi Dench is one of the best couple in modern cinema.

The Oranges (Julian Farino)
I laughed from beginning to end, and that is very rare. The actors were perfect in their roles and it had a satisfying ending. A treat.

We Bought a Zoo (Cameron Crowe)
Like many of Cameron Crowe's films it was something of a mess, too long and unfocused. But like many of Cameron Crowe's films it was so sweet, good-natured and kind that I could not but love it.

But the best film of 2012 for me was Moonrise Kingdom. Even a hardcore Wes Anderson fan such as myself was pleasantly surprised by how he managed to outdo himself. This is probably my favourite of his, and I feel almost every day that I should re-watched it yet again.

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