Hello, and Happy New Year, all you cheery blog-readers and cinema-freaks! It's been a while since my last missive, much longer than I wished for – I pop my head up late last year, meerkat-like, after gruelling time spent in the wilds of work, then immediately pop my head below the surface for another month. This time it was all down to spontaneous holidays during the Christmas break, then spontaneous house-moving in the new year. Pretty much no internet access for over three weeks. Almost enjoyed not being tied to the world wide interweb, but as soon as access came up at the new apartment a couple of days ago, here I am, back in the swim.
With all the holiday hubbub, my end of year overview of best films for 2010 is coming out a tad late. Just imagine, then, that we are back in the old world of snail mail, and this is an edition coming atcha via seafreight. Nice and sloooowww.
Here's my Top 10 for the year.
1. NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT (Patricio Guzman; France/ Germany/ Chile)
Mixing astronomy, archaeology, and the national history of Chile, this is a breath-taking and heart-breaking philosophical intertwining of universes and everyday lives, placing loss inside the heart of the cosmos. Utterly exquisite.
2. UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES (Apichatpong Weerasethakul; France/ Germany/ Spain/ Thailand)
To say this is Weerasethakul's most accessible work belies a film that quietly but heartily affirms that reality might in fact consist of many worlds that interweave and co-exist, and that forests may be the gateway where the living, the deceased, and the hairy spirits all meld together.
3. LOURDES (Jessica Hausner; France)
Using the pilgrimage to Lourdes as her framework, Hausner assesses faith and hope as an almost humdrum routine, where belief seems to be conditional rather than fervent. Sylvie Testud gives the quietest yet most engaging performance of the year, constantly watching and listening to the endless chatter of an ensemble of fellow miracle-seekers, nurses, and priests, all at odds with their desires and religious convictions.
4. VILLALOBOS (Romuald Karmakar; Germany)
A sublime and engaging minimalist portrait, not just of a DJ at work in the studio or club, but of a person utterly committed to exploring life through sound. Presented in a series of long-takes, the subject's long monologues are surprising in their depth, richness, and lucidity. This is not merely a documentary for techno-heads, but an articulate depiction of a person relating the passion for their vocation to the wider world.
5. ANIMAL KINGDOM (David Michôd; Australia)
An outstanding ensemble of performances, all presenting the snowballing vicious meltdown of a crime family with incredible aplomb. Ben Mendelsohn finally shucks off the shackles of years of comedy and light drama roles and presents a family firebrand not seen in Australian film since David Wenham's rage-filled turn in The Boys 12 years ago.
6. POETRY (Lee Changdong; South Korea)
Changdong's story of a grandmother dealing with encroaching memory loss and unravelling the truth behind her grandson's involvement in a girl's suicide is as delicately-woven and finely-spun as a silk garment. Although the main character struggles with poetry and writing a single poem, the film is replete with it's own exquisite, open-framed poetry.
7. CERTIFIED COPY (Abbas Kiarostami; France/ Italy)
Kiarostami returns to narrative-style film-making with boldness and poise. The couple's game (is the relationship between the man and the woman real or play-acted?) becomes the film's game becomes the audience's game. A beautiful convolution of psychological manoeuvring, revelling in the art of cinema, it reveals a buoyant new potential path of story-telling for Kiarostami.
8. ALAMAR (Pedro González-Rubio; Mexico)
The simplest of premises – a father and his son spend time in a fishing hut in his home village before the son goes with his mother to Italy – creates a film with the richest relationship and a stunning visual palette. Pristine blue sea and sky, with the constant gentle soundtrack of lapping water, frame the tenderest bond between a father and son I've possibly ever seen on screen.
9. OVER YOUR CITIES GRASS WILL GROW (Sophie Fiennes; France / UK/
A cinematic traipse through Anselm Kiefer's workshop/ gallery-space in Barjac, France, where the huge former factory and it's surrounding grounds have become one gigantic art-piece in it's own right. Fascinating not just for watching the artist Anselm Kiefer happily at work creating his monolithic art, but also for the regular, graceful meanders through Barjac, which looks like the ruins of an alternate world.
10. SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD (Edgar Wright; USA)
Yes, really. It beguiled me with it's unshakeable infectiousness, and somehow I appreciated the film's fearlessness in being ridiculous yet sweet. It brought back memories of teenage video-game addiction and imagining the wonderful 'what-ifs' of life as an arcade game.