Posted by: Ian Briggs on 23rd December 2012 at 10:36 am
In what is likely to be my last post of 2012, and seeing as I have no plans to get to the cinema before the year is out, I thought I would do the same thing as last year and write a blog about some of my favourite films of the year. In alphabetical order:
The latest film from one of my favourite directors, Michael Haneke, was unsurprisingly brilliant. An emotional tour-de-force that extracted every ounce of skill from the two lead actors (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emanuelle Riva), this was one of the films I was most looking forward to this year; it did not disappoint!
Usually, seeing Ben Affleck's name on the poster would discourage me from seeing the film. However, based on a glowing recommendation, we braved it and Argo turned out to be one of the best of the year. Tense, gripping and beautifully shot, this was a brilliant thriller that avoided most of the stereotypes associated with 'good-versus-bad' films and simply told a good story.
Although technically released in 2011, I didn't get to see this in the QFT in Belfast until January 2012. What can I say except that it was stunning?! I loved the concept and it would be the only film I saw twice this year. On the second viewing, my enthusiasm remained high!
Local films have tended to be hit or miss over the last few years. Good Vibrations, however, was an absolute winner. Shown at The Belfast Film Festival in May, this was funny, politically charged and featured an excellent punk soundtrack. It gave a fresh perspective on The Troubles and avoided the usual clichés.
This film by Aki Kaurismäki was a real delight. Bleak, cold and poverty-stricken, the story provided the only warmth of the film. Darkly funny in parts, it was a nice visual continuation of Carné's stunning Le Quai des Brumes (in which Jean Gabin was wonderful), also set in Le Havre, which was shown at the BFI earlier this year.
The first Dardenne film I have seen, and it was a rather nice story of a boy who lost his father (and his bike) and ended up being cared for by a kind stranger. Some good moments throughout, which made up for the slightly soppy ending.
I didn't know what to expect going into this film, apart from something loosely based on L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Joaquin Phoenix delivered a devastating performance but for me it was Philip Seymour Hoffman who stole the show. His character was perfectly played and his emotional, rage-filled outbursts were perfectly-placed punctuation marks for the pent-up aggression displayed throughout the film.
I think I would describe this film as a 'sleeper'. Not many people saw it, but it was a film that was full of charm and told an interesting, well-crafted story. Told in two halves, it showed off some beautiful cinematography and the opening scene with the camera spinning round the main character was beautiful. The quasi-silent, historical second half was a nice counterpoint to the modern first half the film.
The interminable passing of time…and that was just watching the film! Slow, methodical and two-and-a-half hours long, but never a wasted scene. Supposedly Tarr's final film, it was full of his trademark long takes and featured even less dialogue than usual, underlined with a simple repetitive score. It felt like he was describing the end of time, and the end of his film-making with one profound full-stop.
I saw this when it was re-released at the BFI in London, and it was a real gem (Jean Gabin again). One of the most incredible films I saw this year, it was beautifully composed, funny, and way ahead of it's time for a film made in 1937. A true classic!
This film did not get great reviews: many complaints about the “contrived and even bizarre final revelation…” (Peter Bradshaw, Guardian) but to be honest, I still enjoyed the film. Yes the ending was too strange to be true, but this is cinema…it's not real!
With a story written by Aaron Sorkin, I was expecting this to be good. And thankfully, it was. A good, fun story, with 1000 words per minute, and decent performances from Brad Pitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
This film by James Marsh was premiered at the Belfast Film Festival. I didn't like it as much as others did, and the reviews I've seen since are positively glowing. That said, it was still a decent attempt in the 'Norn-Irish-film-about-The-Troubles' genre, though I felt it painted a slightly rosy picture of the situation, apart from it's mock-shock ending.
Bond is back! Was exactly what I expected, which is to say: mindless fun. Bond meets Bourne with some action-packed entertainment and the return of the DB5.
I'm a Family Guy fan, so this film was always going to make me laugh. I liked Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis, and Seth Macfarlane was free to do all the stuff that was too rude for Family Guy! Easy watching, switch-off-your-brain fun.
I finally got round to seeing this and it went straight on to my non-existent list of favourite films! Welles was magnificent as Harry Lime and the photography was amazing: full of Dutch angles and a gleaming black and white print.
Paddy Considine's brutal film was another cracker, and Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman starred. Eddie Marsan as the sadistic husband was also impressively horrible.
Amongst all these 'favourite' films, why not a section for some of the most dreadful tripe I saw this year? Here are a few of the notable 'worst' films I saw this year…
“The players”, to give it it's English title featured Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin. I can say little more than it was lousy…except to say, ridiculous. In many ways. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it…
Billed as “Bold, and Blisteringly Funny” on the poster, the trailer for this was indeed quite funny. Unfortunately, the funny bits in the trailer were the only funny bits in the film. The rest was silly, contrived or just plain dull.
Such a shame that the usually-impressive Juliette Binoche was stifled by a rubbish story. Though she did her best to drag a good performance out of it, the film was genuinely awful and described by Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian as “massively preposterous and supercilious” as well as “toe-curlingly predictable”. That just about sums it up.
Posted by: Ian Briggs on 21st May 2012 at 3:40 pm
A film I saw recently at the BFI Southbank was Michel Carné’s 1938 film Le Quai des Brumes (Port of Shadows).
Having seen a couple of French films from this period recently, I was expecting something enjoyable but fairly light and straightforward. Instead, the film was startlingly bleak, outright dark in places and understandably controversial given the time in which it was made (it was actually banned for some time in France).
More comprehensive reviews of the storyline are available here and here, but in short, a solider who has apparently deserted from the army appears en route to Le Havre, when he is spotted on the road by a passing driver. Once in Le Havre, he tries to flee the country on a boat bound for Venezuela, but he meets, and falls in love with a young girl, Nelly, whose torturous relationship with her guardian provides the main thrust of the film.
I was particularly impressed with Jean Gabin’s performance as the eponymous lead character. He was excellent in Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion, also recently shown at the BFI, but in Le Quai des Brumes, he leads the film almost by himself with a much more powerful role. Some of his scenes in the local shack/bar (called Panama) are brilliantly played and full of emotion but also perfectly natural. As part of a second plot-line in the film, there is also the slightly laughable appearance of the most unthreatening mobster in any film, in a story which proves central to the overall plot.
Interestingly, this review also draws parallels between Le Quai des Brumes and later Holywood films such as The Big Sleep and Casablanca, though this film is probably a bit more pessimistic throughout. It is also interesting to compare the similarities between the life in the town in this film and in Aki Kaurismaki’s recent film Le Havre.
Le Quai des Brumes was a thoroughly enjoyable film that was determined, dark and steered nicely away from the dreaded happy ending. I have also included links to some other reviews of the film below: