Gaining a press pass for the London Film Festival this year, has almost certainly not made the task of writing an annual top ten film list any easier. After drawing up an initial list, which consisted of at least double the amount of films I needed, I’ve now completed the cull and whittled it down to a slimline 10. Honourable mentions to films just outside this illustrious 10, have to go to:
Coraline – Henry Selick – For making 3D look more than just a fad.
Wendy and Lucy – Kelly Reichardt – A film about so little, that says so much.
Beautiful Losers – Aaron Rose – A well constructed, passionate Doc about the New York 90s Art Scene.
We Live in Public – Ondi Timoner – The almost unbelievable tale of Internet pioneer Josh Harris.
The Road – John Hillcoat – Excellent adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic tale.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans – Werner Herzog – Herzog’s surreal ‘remake’ of Abel Ferrara’s cult film is an absolute joy to watch and finally we get to see Nicholas Cage back on top of his game.
Wimping out a little bit, I couldn’t actually decide which films I liked best (they were really all that good), so here’s my top ten in alphabetic order:
Antichrist – Lars Von Trier
Many viewers of Antichrist have solely focused on the scenes of human mutilation and graphic sex within the film, however Von Trier’s film is much more than this. Its sumptuous cinematography combined with a haunting and challenging plot meant I couldn’t get the controversial director’s latest creation out of my head months after watching it.
The Double Hour – Giuseppe Capotondi
When is a genre film not a genre film? When it teasingly skips through genres leaving you gripped with anticipation. The Double Hour does just that, playfully changing from Thriller, to Horror to European Romance movie in the flip of a hat. Capotondi’s debut feature left me giddy with excitement and completely cinematically satisfied.
The Exploding Girl – Bradley Rust Gray
Gray’s understated, subtle story of student Zoe’s low-key lifestyle, was definitely my surprise hit of 2009. I knew nothing about the film before the screening and although no girls actually exploded, this touching tale of love felt so real and so honest, I couldn’t help but be utterly charmed by it.
Let the Right One In – Tomas Alfredson
It’s not often a good Vampire film comes along, however, this year we were lucky enough to be blessed with two fantastic tales of bloodsuckers, as well as a fantastic TV series. Let the Right One In is an atmospheric, moody piece of filmmaking that manages to combine the aesthetics of Swedish Arthouse cinema with a refreshingly original take on the Vampire story. This may well be the greatest Vampire film ever made.
The Limits of Control – Jim Jarmusch
No-one does indie-film-cool like Jim Jarmusch and with The Limits of Control he has easily created the smoothest movie of the year. Fronted by the steely-faced Isaach de Bankolé, Jarmusch’s film swaggers confidently throughout its near 2 hour duration, overflowing with a visual panache that could only have been provided by the masterful hand of Christopher Doyle.
The Limits of Control also has my vote for Soundtrack of the Year, with Boris, Sunn O))) and Jarmusch’s own band Bad Rabbit providing a sprawling mix of atmospheric noise and whaling tunes. Think Neil Young’s Dead Man soundtrack on Acid.
Moon – Duncan Jones
In a year when we’ve been swamped with big-budget science fiction dross, like Terminator Salvation and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, it’s a testament to low budget film-making that the standout Sci-Fi film of 2009 was made for only $5million. Moon is an almost faultless example of a genre movie playing to its strengths and instead of focusing on space fights and battling robots, Jones explores the themes of isolation and identity to create an unforgettable vision of the future.
Mother – Bong Joon-Ho
From the creator of one of my favourite films in 2006 – The Host, comes Mother, a film about unfaltering maternal love, as an overbearing mother tries to clear the name of her mentally challenged son, after he is accused of murder. It’s a film filled with drama, tension and even comedy, with the odd splash of weirdness thrown in for good measure.
Samson & Delilah – Warwick Thornton
Another film I stumbled upon by chance at this years London Film Festival, Samson and Delilah’s absorbing story of young love, petrol sniffing and the aboriginal community is an eye-catching debut feature, which deserves the illustrious praise that has been heaped on it by critics worldwide. Written, Directed, Photographed and Composed by young filmmaker Warwick Thornton, this almost dialogue-free movie is not only a showcase of its creator’s talents, but also the acting ability of its young, unknown cast.
Thirst – Park Chan-Wook
Not content with being the second Vampire film in my 2009 top ten, Chan-Wook’s Thirst is also the second South Korean film to grace this highly competitive annual list. Chan-Wook’s eighth full length feature as director once again proves that he is fast becoming one of the most influential and applauded directors in the world. Thirst is an assured, inventive Vampire film that carries on the über-stylized, eye-catching visuals of Sympathy for Lady Vengeance and I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK.
The White Ribbon – Michael Haneke
I had high hopes and massive expectations for The White Ribbon, which many critics were already dubbing as the director’s masterpiece – a bold statement considering it has competition of the highest order from the likes of Hidden, Time of the Wolf and Funny Games. Although, I may not agree that it’s Haneke’s magnum opus, it is without doubt an impeccably crafted film with a thought-provoking narrative, that demanded a second viewing less than a fortnight later (I enjoyed it even more the second time – surely the sign of a great film).
As well as being treated to a whole heap of cinematic treats on the big screen, this year Channel 4 also decided it was about time they introduced some fresh, original feature films to terrestrial TV with their surprisingly impressive Red Riding Trilogy . Helmed by three different directors, each film has its own distinctive visual style (one shot 16mm, one shot 35mm and one shot digital on the Red One) and the Trilogy as a whole employs a dream British cast including Paddy Considine, David Morrisey, Peter Mullan and Sean Bean.