Lars Von Trier – I am just glad that this man is alive and still making films. His 2011 “Melancholia” is a breathtaking visual masterpiece bar none. Trier’s own manic-depressive genius is perfectly manifested in the moody, surreal, cinematography of his nihilistic film. Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life” is a similar exercise in stunning visuals but is more life-affirming than the apocalyptic Melancholia. Curiously enough though, I prefer the latter.
Asghar Farhadi‘s “A Separation” is the only 2011 Iranian film that I have watched all year. Having not yet seen Abbas Kiarostami’s “Certified Copy” or Jafar Panahi‘s “This is not a film” I cannot truly pick a favorite 2011 film from this part of the world. But Farhadi’s film is an understated masterpiece that deals with issues of cultural and religious dichotomies is modern day Iran. It’s this year’s reigning champion in films about the morally ambiguous.
Lynee Ramsay‘s “We Need to Talk About Kevin” is a film that belongs to my favorite genre. The psychological thriller. The horror of a seeing the burgeoning of a moral apostate, a chilling psychopath, evokes a limbic response that is indicative of the darkest recesses of the human mind. It’s a creepy film. And I was sufficiently creeped out. Sean Durkin’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene” deals with the ugly cousin that is “mind-control and cult-psychosis”. Coercive persuasion in its most subliminal and insidious form is a malaise of modern media and the film explores its more exaggerated aspects in the classic cult mise en scene. The degeneration of the individual in favor of collective propaganda has many horrific historic precedents and the subject matter of the film deals with this part intriguing, part eerie aspect of mass hypnosis. Like I said, creepy stuff.
Michelangelo Frammartino “Le Quattro Volte” is a strange film. It is strange in the sense that it rendered me emotionally catatonic throughout the span of the movie. There wasn’t a palpable crescendo that was building towards a denouement. There wasn’t a real beginning. There wasn’t a resolution even. There was however a 20 min scene that involved a baby goat. It will forever remain in my memory as the most affecting piece of film-making I have ever had the pleasure of viewing.
Andrew Haigh’s “Weekend” is my favorite film of the year. This film about two gay lovers has to be the most romantic film made after the Before Sunrise/Before Sunset films. It is my hope that Weekend is the LGBT harbinger for the type of exalted verses and vivid flourishes that heterosexual love has inspired in the hearts of many a poet and an artist across the centuries. Whether your views on this matter are rooted in sexual and gender-identity politics or is more simplistically emotional, this film is mandatory viewing.
Chang Dong Lee‘s “Oasis” (2002) affected me so deeply then, that i threw up from all the emotion. I am not even indulging in a hyperbolic excess of expression here. I was quite literally that moved. His latest film “Poetry” was, comparatively speaking, like a soothing salve. It’s languorous and affectionate treatment of that peculiar innocence that’s distinctive of old age, makes it a hyper-realist masterpiece that is in the same league as Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Still Walking” or even classic Ozu.
The Dardenne Brothers’ “The Kid with a Bike” embodied the usual muted aesthetics that is the signature style of their film-making. Their vehement eschewal of music has been the one constant in their filmography. Until this film that is. Their style musically has been the antithesis of that of a director like Atom Egoyan who uses music in almost over-saturated fashion to amplify his scenes. Nevertheless “The Kid with a Bike” was a small unassuming little gem from the brothers and one that reminded that it had been far too long since I had the seen their last film.