By dint of catching four festivals this year, my cinema visits have topped 100 in 2010 – the first time I’ve managed such a total for many years. I’ve chosen ten of the best films I saw on the big screen, leaving out the three Hollywood films that got the most press (Shutter Island, Inception and The Social Network), not because they were poor but because they don’t really need any more coverage. All the films on my list were first released in the UK in 2010. Here they are, not necessarily in rank order (with links to original postings on this site):
1. Winter’s Bone, dir. Debra Granik (US 2010)
I think that this is the film which hit me hardest in terms of an emotional response.
2. Skeletons, dir. Nick Whitfield (UK 2010)
. . . and this is the film which struck me as the most original.
3. Still Walking, dir Kore-eda Hirokazu (Japan 2008)
4. Un prophète, dir Jacques Audiard (France 2009)
I’m not sure why I didn’t write about Un prophète when it came out – possibly because I used it in an event almost straightaway, meaning I watched it twice over a period of a few days. It was such an intense experience, I probably felt unable to write about it again. I must try to do so soon.
5. Vincere, dir Marco Bellocchio (Italy 2009)
I’ve enjoyed many films during festivals this year. Watching festival films is quite liberating as usually I know little about the films in advance and therefore respond to them very directly. I loved the high melodrama of Vincere and I was rather taken aback by many of the lukewarm reviews when the film was released. I’ve been impressed with several Italian films over the last few years.
6. Whip It, dir Drew Barrymore (US 2010)
My original review suggested that this was a little ‘baggy’ and overlong, but having watched it again a couple of times and shown it to a student group, I’ve decided that it all works. The fact that it has a relatively poor box office record says something about contemporary taste and perhaps ideologies. Perhaps in time it will find the audience it deserves.
7. The Ghost, dir Roman Polanski (France/Germany/UK 2010)
The brilliance of Polanski’s film seems to have been overshadowed by his re-arrest and subsequent release. No doubt this affected the film’s reception in North America. OK, it is perhaps an ‘old-fashioned’ film, but anyone who loves cinema must surely relish the sheer skill with which this is made? Kudos to Robert Harris for adapting his own novel and to Olivia Williams and Ewan McGregor for responding to Polanski’s direction.
8. I Am Love, dir Luca Guadagnino (Italy 2009)
This is the film that seemed to divide audiences the most – it even divided us and Keith didn’t like it. Whatever one thinks of it, it is certainly audacious in terms of visual style, a score using the music of John Adams and a strong performance by Tilda Swinton.
9. 24 City, dir Jia Zhangkhe (China/Japan/France 2008)
Jia Zhangkhe has now emerged as the major figure in Chinese independent cinema – and as a leading international auteur. I hope to be writing more about him in 2011.
10. The Time That Remains, dir Elia Suleiman (Palestine/France/Italy/Bel/UK 2009)
The recent history of Palestine is such that Sulieman’s surrealist approach seems like almost the only possible response. I enjoyed this film immensely at the same time as feeling so angry that the persecution of Palestinians under Israeli occupation is allowed to continue. This is probably the most important film of the year and the one that needs to be seen and discussed.
And here is an extra one. Chris Morris could be an irritating man, as some talented people unfortunately are (e.g. Stephen Fry), but he generally keeps a low profile and allows his work to speak for itself. Having shown Four Lions to three large student audiences and experienced some excellent discussions, it is most encouraging to think that wit and intelligence can thrive in British Cinema. Given the low budget, I suspect that this is the most profitable British film of the year – and it deserves much more acclaim than it has got so far. (The idiocy of awards means that it lost out at the British Independent Film Awards to The King’s Speech – even though that film is not released in the UK until 2011).
11. Four Lions, dir. Chris Morris (UK 2010)
I’m conscious that the list above does not include any films from Central/South America, South Asia or Africa. The African situation is very serious with very few films seen on UK screens, even in festivals. There have been excellent films from Argentina, Mexico and India, however, and several could have appeared in the list – please don’t read anything into their absence.