This is, without a doubt, one of cinema’s most exquisite, profound and aching paeans to parenthood, marriage, ageing, demise and life itself. We are fortunate to have films like Tokyo Story, a work borne out of compassion and respect, that allows us to become better human beings – one of those rare celluloids that will make you weep buckets and then reach for the handset to call your parents and tell them you’re grateful for everything.
A beautifully restrained romantic fable that paints more emotional truths about relationships than your average romcom caper. Take This Waltz, for all its imperfections, lays bare a piercingly honest and unvarnished portrait of marital ennui and the cyclical nature of love and desire. Prepare to emerge out of this film moved and sobered up.
An uproariously chaotic and idiosyncratic slice-of-life portrait that works like ‘Meet The Parents’ for the more sophisticated audience. Delpy knows how to make a follow-up, and this is a comedy that doesn’t insult the sexiest organ we have – our brains.
Margaret, for all its mercurial flaws, is a gloriously artistic, mature, emotionally harrowing film about human guilt and modern-life disjointedness. Lonergan creates this empathic and profound cinematic experience, sprawling with authentic characters and anchored by Anna Paquin’s dynamo, powerhouse of a performance. One of the masterpieces of the past few years? Only time will tell.
Wes Anderson’s seventh feature is infused with almost featherweight childhood nostalgia, but don’t let that deceive you. Moonrise Kingdom is a heartfelt, albeit whimsical, paean to the caprices of first love, longing and youthful escapism told in meticulous cinematic detail and style unrivalled by any director of his league. It’s also wonderfully, coolly idiosyncratic.
Pretty but far from compelling, North Sea Texas breaks no new grounds in queer cinema. Instead, it’s an unassuming, quietly told tale of a windswept adolescent romance and the pangs of first love, with an intoxicating cinematography that’s worth enough the admission.
Take away Angelina Jolie’s marquee name and we have a harrowing, visceral and unsentimental look into the Bosnian War that could have been directed by an established European director. With a stature as hers, she could have made anything straight out of from Vanityville, but instead she opts for this gritty political war drama and Jolie deserves all the credit for it.
It’s bleak, languid and excruciatingly slow, but Once Upon a Time in Anatolia will reward those who are patient and tried to stay awake throughout the entire running-time of what seems to be cinema’s Longest Night of Crime Investigation. Ceylan transforms a mere police procedural film into an existential road movie that haunts, baffles and enlightens simultaneously.
Respectable piece of workmanship. But for a film boiling with a pot of ideas, psychoanalysis and simmering sexual tension, this is surprisingly repressed stuff. Cronenberg’s restraint is admirable, but A Dangerous Method seems to deserve a more audacious approach.
Shame may be the film to be reckoned with, come end-of-the-year’s best movie list. It is perhaps one of the most compelling, fluidly composed and emotionally draining films about a human affliction, with a taut yet perceptive direction by McQueen and mature, blisteringly heartbreaking performances by both Fassbender and Mulligan.
Hands down, the most rapturous moviegoing experience in 2011. For all its worth, The Artist is much better than the entire output of the Hollywood industry put together during the last calendar year. Sure, it’s simplistic, but so was Murnau’s Sunrise and a handful of Chaplin films. This is a glorious throwback to a bygone age when a wordless sequence made audiences laugh, cry and heart bouncing in pure joy.
Nobody makes films like Malick does. The Tree of Life is a profoundly beautiful ode to childhood, nature, life and the universal human experience. Yes, it’s bloody ambitious for your average celluloid, but watch closely, listen carefully and open your heart and soul, it will make you think about your existence.
A chilling take on a very unsettling tale of beleaguered motherhood and parental torment. Ramsay’s vision opts for a bold, raw aesthetic that brilliantly eschews common book-to-screen tropes. Plus Swinton is so fucking terrific. And you’ll never listen to Buddy Holly’s ‘Every Day’ the same way again.
Whilst derivative in surface, Drive emerges as an artfully crafted neo-noir that marries cinematic beauty with raw, gripping violence. What is more, it has the soundtrack of the year and boasts a layered, magnetic turn from Ryan Gosling, officially the coolest guy in cinema this year.
Like most of Lars von Trier’s films, this surreal sci-fi drama divides the house, drawing scathing critique and towering praise in equal measure. But there’s no denying its haunting, redemptive power. The true mark of a film’s greatness is when it burns in the mind long after you see it, and Melancholia does exactly just that. This is bold, aesthetically impressive filmmaking of the high order with an astonishingly nuanced central performance by Dunst.
The cinematic equivalent of a knife in your gut. The Idiots is altogether a complex, maddening, devastating, kaleidoscopic one-of-a-kind viewing experience. Compared to its more triumphant film-brother Festen, this is an underrated Dogme 95 work that lobs a searing, scathing critique to society, Hollywood and sanitised audience expectations.
This is one for the brains. Alfredson’s vision is an incredibly restrained, intelligently crafted period piece that puts the spy genre back into human realism, questioning values like friendship, loyalty and trust like pawns being moved around in a bigger chess game. And it has Oldman, whose central performance is one for the ages.
Like most challenging works of art, it divides people. But to claim Last Tango in Paris as a pile of puerile sexual nonsense is an act of antagonism against intellectualism. It is one of most emotionally and sexually frank films ever made, boldly confronting society’s preconceived notions about sex, relationships, conventions and censorship. Bertolucci orchestrates a sad, devastating masterpiece, drawing the last great performance from Brando, arguably the greatest film actor to grace the entire history of celluloid.
For the record, this is one of the greatest childhood films ever captured in celluloid. The film that launched the French New Wave, this one is timeless, truthful, seminal, passionate, heartbreaking and extraordinarily beautiful. That wonderful, aching feeling after watching this is cinema’s pure triumph.