OK I’ve finally stepped up and written this most fluid of lists down, so for better or worse, this is how I’ll recall my film viewing of 2006 when my memory has rotted and all I can go on are the documented facts. I’d like to point out that as Miss D said in her list, there are films which were technically released in ’06 that well deserve to be here, but the rules are very clear on this point – if I didn’t sit down to watch it in ’06 it can’t make the list. So sorry to Little Miss Sunshine, United 93 and Children of Men all of which I only got to enjoy well into the first fortnight of ’07.
Now that I’ve explained away some of the deficiencies, here’s what actually made the cut:
1. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (Park Chan Wook) – What can you say about a filmmaker who can so masterfully put together a trilogy of films as Park Chan Wook has. Not since watching Krzysztof Kieslowski‘s Three Colours trilogy have I felt so attached to a set of films, and struggled to definitively decide on my favourite. The balance of tone in Lady Vengeance is beautifully handled with Lee Yeong-ae‘s performance effortlessly gliding from calm innocence to vengeful agent of retribution.
2. 13 Tzameti (Gela Babluani) – What happens when ordinary people find themselves in extraordinary situations? Well if you’re a Gela Babluani character it could be a decent into a dark clandestine world with tension so amplified that it makes The Deer Hunter scene look like a Revels ad.
3. Brick (Rian Johnson) – Maybe it’s just the mistrustful side of my nature, but on paper the idea of Film Noir aesthetics meets high school didn’t jump out as a must see for me, but boy was I wrong! I’ve been a fan of Joseph Gordon Levitt‘s acting since his turn in Gregg Araki‘s Mysterious Skin, while every ounce of my being was drawn to Nora Zehetner‘s femme fatale Laura, who on a side note is just as good in the stunning series Heroes.
4. L’Enfant (Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne) – This is a film whose central character Bruno portrayed by Jérémie Renier kicks things off with such a despicable act, it seems inconceivable you’d want to invest in him even as an anti-hero for the 100 mins duration. However the Dardenne Brothers manage to make you care and hope for his salvation, while never excusing Bruno or apologising for him.
5. Lemming (Dominik Moll) – I’ve been patiently waiting to see what the next project would be from Dominik Moll after his unsettling friends reunited gone wrong feature Harry, He’s Here to Help. Lemming has been unfairly criticised as a simple David Lynch rip-off, but Moll deserves props for so skilfully maintaining a foreboding air of unease, as well as staging one of the most uncomfortable dinner scenes I’ve watched in cinema.
6. Hidden (Michael Haneke) – As both El Vez and Miss D have already stated in their lists, Haneke is more than at home exploiting the friction a slight amount of outside pressure can cause to established relationships. Protagonist Georges Laurent is transformed from victim to perpetrator with the reveal of a malicious childhood act of jealousy, whose effects ripple through the years and lives of Haneke’s characters.
7. Bubble (Steven Soderbergh) – There are so many reasons to like this film not least Soderbergh’s economical use of narrative, locations and the great turns he pulls from his non-professional actors. Also from an indie filmmaker perspective this is a wet dream. Made for $1.6 million on high-definition, shot and edited by Soderbergh and simultaneously released in the theatres and on cable/satellite TV, with the DVD hot on their tails, it virtually berates filmmakers for not grabbing their cameras to do the same. Bring on the next five!
8. Red Road (Andrea Arnold) – After seeing Arnold’s Oscar winning short Wasp multiple times and hearing that her first feature would be part of the Advance Party project, I had understandably high expectations going in. The space that Arnold gives her lead Kate Dickie to inhabit the role of Jackie is only equaled by the trust she places in the audience to discover Jackie’s story just as she [Jackie] pieces together the stories of those she spies on across her bank of CCTV monitors.
9. The Cave of the Yellow Dog (Byambasuren Davaa) – When Miss D excitedly suggest we spend our cinema cash on a film about a little nomad girl who finds a dog, I wasn’t convinced, especially as her frame of reference was the director’s previous film The Story of the Weeping Camel. (which to my shame I’ve yet to see). Once again I discovered that if you have strong characters and an equal sense of storytelling, you can tell any story and make the themes and emotions relevant to any audience.
10. Shortbus (John Cameron Mitchell) – Even after hearing the interview Mitchell gave on Marc’s Movie Adventures, a part of my brain was still expecting to see ‘the film with real sex’. While I’d be lying if I said Shortbus didn’t contain lavish amounts of bump n grind action, it somehow manages to not be a film defined by the beast with two backs, but rather left my jaded soul feeling cleansed in the ability of people to turn around their situations for the better. I can’t recall a time I smiled so much after a screening.