Friday, 28 January 2011

My 10 Favourite Films for 2010

That time of the year again, so here is my list of my 10 favourite films for 2010. I cannot say that these are the best films of the year, not even to my own standards, as there were many which, for whatever reason, I neglected to see. Many good films were also left behind in the long list. These films were released in the UK during last year, regardless of the date of production.

The Secret in their Eyes (El Secreto de sus Ojos)
Argentina, Oscar 2010 for Best Film in a Foreign Language
I was just taken aback by this film, a thoughtful reflection on how times past interplay with our present lives. It is a extremely intelligent and marvellously crafted film under the masterful hand of veteran director Juan José Campanella (who also co-wrote the tight knit script with Eduardo Sacheri, the author of the novel – La Pregunta de sus Ojos) and the skilful cinematography of Félix Monti. Soledad Villamil and Ricardo Darín were exceptional as the main characters.

Treeless Mountain
Dir. So Yong Kim South Korea 2009 89 mins
Starring Hee Yeon Kim & Song Hee Kim
Treeless Mountain is one of those films that will stay with me forever, a children world view which is enchanting and tough. If anything, this film is almost Zen in its cinematic minimalism, simplicity, in its ability to convey the gradual transformation of the "I want" girls to "I have" girls (the older one offers to buy her grandma new shoes from their piggy bank, in spite that they needed winter shoes themselves).

Winter’s Bone
Director: Debra Granik
Based on the novel Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Kevin Brezhanan, Dale Dickey
ENGLISH / USA/ 2010 / 35MM / COLOR / 1.85 / DOLBY DIG / 100 min
One of those rare American indies that manages to be both a cinematic essay in social realism and cinematic poetry, a journey not only through the backlands of Missouri, but also through the human soul. A film that is both particular to a place and a time, and universal. This is American cinema at its best. Jennifer Lawrence is exceptional as the girl. I was also relieved to see an American independent movie that is not a bad Woody Allen clone or about boring and shallow New York socialites.

I Am Love
Writer-Director: Luca Guadagnino
Producer-Star: Tilda Swinton
Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Diane Fleri, Edoardo Gabbriellini, Flavio Parenti, Marisa Berenson, Pippo Delbono, Tilda Swinton
Italy 2009 120 mins Cert 15
Nearly two hours of pure cinematic bliss, a film that manages to be both visually voluptuous in a manner that only the Italians can do, and measured in its intelligence, a real treat to the senses and to the mind, shot with masterly camera work and with a magnificent musical score by John Adams. I came out of my viewing session with an intense desire for good food (Iam afradi that you will have to see this film to fully understand this last sentence). The portrayal of each of the characters is powerful. Watching Tilda Swinton act is a stunning experience of artistry that only a handful of actors can achieve in its range, depth and breadth.

Father of My Children
Although it is not autobiographical, it is loosely based on the experience of its director, Mia Hansen-Løve. A compassionate look at the humanity of the cinema world, as the failure of a production company leads to the suicide of its founder and owner, leaving his wife and two young girls to cope with the aftermath. Beautifully shot and acted, a relaxed but controlled script. I just loved it. Chiara Casselli, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Alice de Lencquesaing and Alice Gautier (the girls) were just a real pleasure to watch.

Another Year
The magic of Leigh’s films resides in the humanity of its details, in his compassionate yet ruthless eye, in his ability to relate with us, his audience.
Magnificently filmed by Dick Pope, with a very controlled and close camera and lighting, without any of the fancy hand held movements so many recent British movies have indulged in, the attention is always centred on the actors and the story. A lesson in film making.
This is supreme story telling, absolutely brilliant in its forensic precision!

Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant Port of Call: New Orleans
A film maker who does not only know how to tell a story, but also who knows how to tell that story beautifully. From the first scene of Port of Call: New Orleans I knew I was viewing something special: a cinematic jewel. Probably, the only remake which was worth doing.

Director/writer: Marco Bellocchio
Cast: Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Filippo Timi, Fausto Russo Alesi, Michela Cescon, Pier Giorgio Bellocchio.
The secret story of Benito Mussolini’s unacknowledged and forgotten son, it actually explores the egomania of the dictator as he rises to supreme power from rather low beginnings. The boy and his mother were sacrifices offered to the altar of power. Supreme acting and film making.

Still Walking
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda Japan 2008
114 mins Cert U
Cast: Hiroshi Abe, Yui Natsukawa, You
Still Walking should have had a notice at the end along these lines:
“No feelings were hurt during the making of this film”.
Feelings, more precisely, family feelings and family ties are indeed the subject of Still Walking.
The cinematography is impeccable, its tempo and rhythm reinforcing the nuances of the story telling. Still Walking is indeed a valuable contribution to that tradition in Japanese cinema of closely observed family and human relationships, beautifully shot and acted.

In Our Name
In Our Name, directed and written by Brian Welsh and produced by Michelle Eastwood, is a brilliant film which deals with the unintended consequences of politicians’ decision to wage war on Iraq. It is a clinical yet warm analysis of the breakdown of cultural and ethnic relations in what once were close knit communities as a result of those decisions, resulting on any brake applied either on racism or religious fundamentalism being taken off, with the expected consequences (MI5 warned about them before the outbreak of the war).

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