Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Cinema Of The World: Best Of 2012 Part I

Cinema Of The World: Best Of 2012 Part I

The verdict is unanimous. The year had a been a great one for world movies, almost all the major filmmakers of the world had something to offer this year, from Quentin Tarantino to Steven Spielberg to Wes Anderson to Jacques Audiard to Guy Maddin to Deepa Mehta to P T Anderson to Ang Lee; from ending of major franchises, Chris Nolan’s Batman in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and the money-spinning and understandably critically reviled, the Twilight Saga in ‘Breaking Dawn Part II’ to beginning of new one’s ‘The Avengers’, ‘The Hunger Games’ and perhaps, ‘Prometheus.’

And, while discussing World Cinema, we are not talking about Bollywood cinema, or Indian cinema that way; it’s an altogether different beast.

This year also saw the great Citizen Kane being dethroned from the number 1 slot in the ‘Sight & Sound’ polls by Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’, which, again, also saw two films on the great director himself, ‘Hitchcock’ on the making of ‘Psycho’ and ‘The Girl’ on the making of ‘The Birds’.

But, there’s no consensus on which are the best among the rest. While some gave an ambitious oddity like ‘Cloud Atlas’ four stars (Roger Ebert) others put it on the top of the year’s worse list (Time Magazine); while ‘The Master’ was on the top of several lists, elsewhere it failed to even garner a mention. While Ebert gave number of slot to Ben Affleck’s Hollywood blockbuster ‘Argo’, gave the same slot to little seen, politically radical re-imagination of Emily Bronte’s beloved novel ‘Wuthering Heights’ by British filmmaker Arnea Arnold.

Here is a long, but hardly comprehensive, list of the year’s best films:

Holy Motors
French maverick Leos Carax is back after years of hiatus, and with a film which is wondrous to behold even among the other wondrous offerings this year. To begins with the film is a fitting tribute to the director’s long-time collaborator Denis Levant, who is M. Oscar, who travels in a stretch limousine and play-acts roles after roles, from dawn to dusk, till the limousine goes to the garage and converse to its kind; may not be normatively coherent, but visually impeccable.

The Master
One of the most talked about film of the year before its magic fizzled out. An alleged portrait of Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard, which it is not, the film features Philip Seymore Hoffman as a charismatic cult leader who takes on a war vet, a drifter played devastatingly by Joaquin Phoenix, to unforeseen consequences. A master class in the craft of filmmaking by Paul Thomas Anderson after his great ‘There Will Be Blood’, and a rare film shot in traditional 70 mm.

Zero Dark Thirty
Kathryn Bigelow and her writer Mark Boal returns after the Oscar-winner ‘The Hurt Locker’ and this thriller on the hunt and eventual killing of Osama Bin Laden has been cited by critics far superior than the earlier film, featuring a powerhouse performance by Jessica Chastain. It’s real, methodical, very business-like and very ruthless in the execution of the reality, which has courted the controversy of condoning torture as a form of interrogation; the year’s film of the moment.

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke’s latest Cannes winner (his consecutive second after ‘The White Ribbon’) is also his most accessible, and less violent, and perhaps most optimistic. The title means business, the film is about love, between an elderly couple, and how their love is severely tested by old age, illness and impending death, featuring life-altering performances by two of French cinema’s veteran and respected actors, Jean-Louis Trintignant (‘The Conformist’) and Emmanuelle Rive (‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’).

This is Not a Film (In Film Nist)
The government had banned Persian filmmaker Jafar Panahi from making film for 21 years. So he did not make a film, but did something so audacious that it becomes a work of art in itself. Here, Panahi talks to one of his friends and discusses a screenplay he had written within the confines of his home as the other man records the conversation on his mobile phone; the ultimate victory of the modern media as a tool to create visual art.

Moonrise Kingdom
Like always, West Anderson (‘The Royal Tennenbaums,’ ‘Rushmore’) creates a world only he can create, this time in autumnal colours, green and yellow, and this time less cynical and more straight-forward, as he tells the love story of two kids who run way from home, disrupting the life of an island community. Charming is not the word!

Beasts of the Southern Wild
This first feature by the director featuring non-professional actors, including a 8-year-old precocious girl, which conquered first the Sundance then the Cannes and then the box office is indeed a unique beast while defies description. It’s a movie only movies can do: “In the future, scientists will find it all... there was a Hushpuppy who lived with her daddy in a place called Bathtub.” …A tribute to the indomitable human spirit.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
An art-house thriller by Turkish auteur Nuri Ceylan-Bilge, perhaps his most ‘happening film, after ‘Uzak’ and ‘Three Monkeys’; a shearing drama of moral inquiry, a police procedure film that continues to change and evolve as it progresses.

The Turin Horse
Bela Tarr’s self-proclaimed last film, a doomsday movie that Hollywood cannot even begin to imagine; a story of a father and daughter in a remote region where everything around them begins to wither and die. This may also remind you of Nietzsche and van Gogh.

Perhaps the best film by the celebrated director, Steven Spielberg, which is saying a lot. Not a conventional biopic about the icon President, but about the last month of Lincoln’s life as the Constitution was amended to abolish slavery in a political victory. Daniel Day Lewis brings to life the man whom everyone knows but very few could really visualize, from a script by Tony Kushner (‘Angels in America’) and tremendously supported by Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones.

Portuguese director Miguel Gomes’ second feature after ‘Our Beloved Month of August’, a truly magic realist cinema in the tradition of Marquez, where memory becomes a vessel for a series of regrets, in modern Portugal and colonial Africa, in black & white and a love story in the tradition of the silent film, the year’s most enchanting, if tough, movie-going experience.

A classic Hollywood blockbuster as they made them in the golden age, based on a true story, a daring attempt to rescue a few Americans from war-time Iran where the CIA goes to the ground disguised as a film crew shooting a Star Wars-like sci-fi film, which of course did not exist.


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