I think 2014 will go down as a landmark year for me. Some of my favourite films such as Inside Llewyn Davis and Under The Skin will only continue to grow in stature I’m sure. Differently, this year has been interesting more than anything. Signs that cinema is fighting the televisual fight are still strong but the artistic battle for big screen hearts and minds seems to be a losing one. Most of these titles were sadly viewed on a small screen and my most memorable big screen experiences were seeing old films for the first time on 35mm at cinemas in London and New York. James Gray’s The Immigrant would be in here but the film still doesn’t have any kind of UK release, which is an absolute tragedy. I have also done two things I have never done before with my 10. First, I’ve bundled two films in one listing. Seeing as they are PTA films I am sure MarBelle will let this slide [Hmmmm!]. I’ve also left off two films that ordinarily would make the list; they are Carol and Mad Max: Fury Road, in order to write a bit about films that deserve more coverage but as always my list comprises films released theatrically/officially in 2015.
10. TANGERINE – Sean Baker
Seething street energy. The way Sean Baker’s storytelling grips through the familiar before changing course with the smallest of gestures or lines of dialogue is really masterful. Absolutely electric filmmaking.
9. A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT – Ana Lily Amirpour
Another film that puts cinematic storytelling at its heart despite limited financial means. As a result, social and cultural themes bubble under the surface of a gorgeously shot and atmospheric genre movie. Jim Jarmusch meets John Hughes.
8. HARD TO BE A GOD – Aleksei German
Brutal, unforgiving and unrelenting. I still don’t know what is going on in Aleksei German’s posthumously released epic of the human soul and body. I said when I saw it “One of those films that demands a second watching at least yet spends the entirety of its duration making you never want to set foot inside it ever again”. I stand by that.
7. THOU WAST MILD AND LOVELY – Josephine Decker
What I loved most about this stark and brazen slice of Southern Gothic melodrama was how cinematic it was despite its clear budgetary constraints. An important reminder that a lack of money should not mean a lack of cinematic vision and imagination. Sumptuous filmmaking.
6. JAUJA – Lisandro Alonso
Concurrently full of wonder and bitterness. A gorgeously poetic piece of cinema about the journey of life. By turns funny and nihilistic, confident and philosophical.
5. STRAY DOGS – Tsai Ming-liang
Finally released after wowing the festival circuit Tsai Ming-liang delivers again with his rain-drenched evocation of the lives of the 99% in Taipei. There’s hope here, in slivers, in this celebration of humanity and nature’s outliers.
4. THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY – Peter Strickland
The sexiest film of the year also commented slyly on the mundane mechanics and machinations of relationships. The latest from Peter Strickland is a delicious homage to classic erotica and also, simultaneously, a wry comment on contemporary co-habitation.
3. MOMMY – Xavier Dolan
In your face, delirious, crude, arrogant, touching, kitsch, transcendent, fearless. I have chosen to embrace Xavier Dolan’s raw, youthful exuberance and give myself over to it. This feels like his most complete and uncompromising film to date and it’s awash with cinematic virtuosity.
2. INHERENT VICE (+ JUNUN)- Paul Thomas Anderson
My favourite filmmaker delivered a delicious hang out movie that gets better with every viewing. Dripping with stunning visuals and packed to the rafters with amazing performances. He also knocked out probably the best music documentary of the year in his spare time.
1. LISTEN UP PHILIP – Alex Ross Perry
Yes I’m biased, having known director Alex Ross Perry since screening his debut feature Impolex at the final Filmstock film festival in 2009. His third feature is a confident, hilarious and scabrous tale that recalls Woody Allen, Hal Ashby and Elaine May whilst simultaneously confirming Perry as a special talent.