With minimal festival attendance in 2012, this years’ list was built mainly through random visits to independent cinemas and the ever-increasing availability of internet film on-demand (2012 was definitely the year of Curzon on Demand for me). With 2011 SXSW hit Natural Selection, Steve McQueen’s follow up to Hunger – Shame, this year’s indie breakthrough Beasts of the Southern Wild, Wes Anderson’s latest hit Moonrise Kingdom, the latest Herzog doc Into the Abyss, The Dardenne brothers outstanding The Kid with a Bike, The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, God Bless America and many more missing out on the top ten. This final list is a compilation of the films of 2012 that left me entertained, amazed and inspired:
Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos
If you’re looking for avant-garde, experimental filmmaking, then you need look no further than the recent cinematic revolution happening in Greece. Following on from his 2009 festival/DN hit Dogtooth, Alps from director Yorgos Lanthimos is another example of the innovative, challenging cinema coming out of the mediterranean county at the moment.
9. LAST DAYS HERE
Dir: Don Argott & Demian Fenton
Whilst Sacha Gervasi’s 2008 heavy-metal documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil, told the story of one of the genre’s most influential yet commercially unsuccessful bands with a humorous slant, Argott & Fenton’s film approaches a similar subject from a totally different angle. Documenting the recent years of Pentagram frontman Bobby Liebling, an underground icon who finds himself at the crossroads of life and death, this hard-hitting doc is an often tragic and upsetting story which shows the darker side of the quest for stardom.
8. SOUND OF MY VOICE
Dir: Zal Batmanglij
Combine the unsettling cult behaviour portrayed in Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene with the weird time-travel elements of Donnie Darko and you’re someway to describing the plot of Batmanglij’s debut Sound of my Voice. Featuring Another Earth star Brit Marling producing another powerful performance, this unique film has you on the edge of your seat throughout its brief duration.
7. MONSIEUR LAZHAR
Dir: Philippe Falardeau
With two films from France on my list this year, The Kid with a Bike just missing out and Holy Motors still to watch, 2012 has obviously been a successful year for French cinema. Falardeau’s touching story of a supply teacher trying to deal with the aftermath of a school suicide, as well as his own ghosts, is an emotional, powerful journey performed by an outstanding cast.
6. ELECTRICK CHILDREN
Dir: Rebecca Thomas
What’s not to love about a film that centres around an innocent mormon girl, who finds herself pregnant by immaculate conception, after listening to an old cassette tape of The Nerve’s Don’t Leave Me Hanging On the Telephone? Chuck in a lo-fi aesthetic reminiscent of The Virgin Suicides and Gummo, skateboarding teens and a Culkin brother and Thomas’ feature debut has got instant cult classic written all over it.
Expecting a cold, harsh crime drama, I quickly warmed to Maïwenn’s character based study of a tightly bound child protection unit working within some truly harrowing situations. By the end of the film’s 127 minutes, I was physically exhausted, emotionally drained and completely engrossed by what I had just witnessed. Polisse shows the marks of a confident filmmaker at work – one who knows police films don’t always need to be about car chases, gunfights and slides across car bonnets.
4. THE COMEDY
Dir: Rick Alverson
With widespread reports of walkouts during screenings at Sundance, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Alverson’s “anti-comedy” – but I certainly wasn’t expecting dialogue revolving around Hitler’s indigestion and how hobo dicks are actually cleaner than surgical scalpels. Feeling like Von Trier’s The Idiots directed by Harmony Khorine, if the provocative and challenging The Comedy is the future of comedy, then count me in.
3. THE WALL
Dir: Julian Pölsler
Pölsler’s adaption of Marlen Haushofer’s novel of the same name is a shining example of what happens when all aspects of filmmaking come together in perfect harmony. The cinematography, sound design, performance and narrative fuse with breathtaking effect, making The Wall a truly unique cinematic experience.
2. THE IMPOSTER
Dir: Bart Layton
With a plot that many would probably find unbelievable in a work of fiction, The Imposter has to be the stand-out documentary of 2012. Chronicling the disappearance of 13 year-old Texan boy Nicholas Barclay, Layton’s thrilling film has more twists and turns than you would expect to find in a Hollywood thriller. Not content with letting his feature rest on its powerful story, Layton weaves his cleverly reconstructed plot with atmospheric Noir-ish visuals, adding to The Imposter’s nail-bitting tension.
1. ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA
Dir: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
At its core, the sixth feature from Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan appears to be a film about waiting, where not much happens and much more goes unsaid. At 150 minutes, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is certainly in no rush to get to its finale (not that it really has one), but Ceylan’s film is perfectly paced, beautifully shot and packed with atmosphere and mystery. Films like Once Upon a Time in Anatolia don’t come along very often and whilst Ceylan’s film won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, those who do appreciate the craft of its director will find they may well have discovered a true classic of the 21st century.