Better late than never, here’s a look at some films in 2012 that I saw and enjoyed enough to put them on a list. There are two films from South Korea, one from Austria, one from Russia, one from Turkey, one from Iran, one from Japan, one from Hong Kong, and two from France, if that means anything or matters. My blurbs are not at all insightful.
This film from Austria is like heart transplantation. It’s an orthotopic procedure. It’s a horror film of prolonged looks and weighted silences. It’s gravitous. There are times when you can feel it pushing down on you as you watch it. Sorry but this seems the only way to talk about it – i.e., abstractly, indefinitely, without detail. The film isn’t effable. It’s a feeling; it’s something you go and sit down in a chair and undergo, like a suntan or an injection. The film requires a lot of work and patience. It’s not for everyone.
It’s hard to summarize a film or a person’s thoughts and emotions in response to one in a little web-friendly paragraph like this. Think of Hirokazu Koreeda’s latest as a warm sunlit morning from your childhood. It’s about two brothers trying to reunite their family. If you want something a little less compact and befogged, go here.
A Simple Life
Another sedate Asian film, this one from successful Hong Kong director Ann Hui. Andy Lau and Deannie Yip hold each other and wipe each other’s faces and slowly realize how much they care for each other. This one’s like coming back to a long-inhabited home after briefly moving away or going on the vacation from The Impossible.
This Is Not a Film
The title’s slightly misleading because this is definitely a film. It might’ve been more focused to call Jafar Panahi’s latest This is Not a Documentary but Nor is It Not Reality or something. Of course the title’s a joke because Panahi, the film’s director and subject, is under house arrest and prohibited from making films (this is actually reality: Panahi was banned from making films for 20 years and sentenced to six years of imprisonment by the Iranian government in 2010). It’s a film that defies comparison or metaphor (all of the films listed do, really). It’s a film about the creation of art.
In Another Country
A criminally misunderstood film about (if the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are anything to go by) about cross-cultural communication and relationships. That’s all.
The Day He Arrives
Asians seem to be the best at filming people doing almost nothing, like sitting at tables, walking through streets alone, standing around smoking and having seemingly trivial conversations. There’s a sense of truthfulness to their technique that’s attractive. Hong Sang-soo has been doing it for nearly two decades now.
I’m running out of shallow, easily digestible things to say about these films. This film from Russia’s first shot is of divergent tree branches through which one can see a house. Nothing else. It’s at first focused on the tree branches but slowly and almost imperceptibly racks focus to the house and the filtered burgeoning sunlight observable through its curtained windows. This shot lasts roughly an entire minute. The audience stares at a house and sunlight for an entire minute. That kind of lets you know what you’re in for. Kind of.
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
A very beautiful crime film from Turkey about a group of men, a dead body and Anatolia. A lot of shots of vehicles and people sitting in or standing around vehicles.
Goodbye First Love
Though realistic, the overemotionalism and self-involvedness of the young couple is kind of eye-rolling at times, but the film ends up being a lovely study of young love and relationships in general.
This enigmatic film from Leos Carax stays with you. You won’t be sure if you hated it or loved it but you’ll probably be thinking about it weeks after you’ve seen it, trying to understand whatever the hell it is this film’s got. Denis Lavant plays a man who plays a banker, a disappointed father, a grotesque homeless man who strolls around cemeteries eating commemorative flowers, a man married to a monkey, and several other characters, all in one day. The film ends with a garageful of articulate limousines. I don’t know. If nothing else, it’s a beautiful film to look at.