#5 Hadewijch (dir: Bruno Dumont)
Until New Wave Films released Bruno Dumont’s Hadewijch earlier this year it was looking like British admirers and critics of the French director wouldn’t get to see his 2009 work on the big or medium-sized screen, resorting to importing a DVD from France. Shot in 4:3 with flat, but no less striking, cinematography by the brilliant Yves Cape, Hadewijch is the story of a young upper-class girl who begins her spiritual life as a tortured novice in a convent. Her devotion to Christ and general angst slowly turns sinister as she comes under the influence of a terrorist sect. Dumont is the heir apparent to Dreyer and Bresson – with added bite.
#4 Margaret – Director’s Cut (dir: Kenneth Lonergan)
Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret was the subject of intense tweeting this time last year. Critics were cheerleading the American picture as if it were the second coming. #TeamMargaret became much time-lined the nom-de-tweet. The flick opened in one UK cinema in London and, er, that’s it. Fast forward to July 2012 and a Blu-ray edition, which featured the Director’s Cut and clocked in at a couple of minutes under three hours, gave viewers a better opportunity to check out Margaret’s delights…
Anna Paquin is superb as the sometimes unlikeable teen who causes a bus crash, feels immense guilt and screws her teacher (played by Matt Damon). Lonergan’s intentions feel more aligned to literature than cinema and he might have regretted not writing a novel given the time it took for his film to see the light of the projector. (5 years and change.) It’s a film with a lot on its mind: time, place, guilt, 9/11 hangover, personal and collective memory, dodgy accents (I’m looking at you, Jean Reno) – all gorgeously filmed by Claudio Miranda. Margaret is a masterpiece in all its imperfect glory. A quiet stunner.
#3 House Of Tolerance (dir: Bertrand Bonello)
Bertrand Bonello’s House of Tolerance (L’Apollonide Souvenirs de la maison close) is a very strange movie, which some found uncomfortable and even went so far as to accuse it of being downright misogynistic. (It isn’t.)
The film’s loose approach to narrative uses documentary-style techniques, repetition and fantasy. The contrast between the opulant costumes and set design with the cold business of prostitution lends this film a striking concept. Each character is a mystery and although several unfortunate events befall the working girls (such as the woman with the Joker-type grin and the syphillis case), they are never portrayed as overly weak.
Bonnello, however, provides no answers to countless questions. This feels more honest and open than being judgemental and reactionary. The use of modern music lends it an anachronistic and emotional flavour, too. The scene in which the girls dance to Nights in White Satin is achingly beautiful. House of Tolerance is a remarkable work that does something not often seen in the movies or society: treats prostitutes as human beings.
#2 A Horrible Way To Die (dir: Adam Wingard)
Adam Wingard’s unusual movie boasts an exploitation-style title then spends eighty-two minutes undercutting such genre expectations. I first saw A Horrible Way To Die at FrightFest in 2011 and was really happy when it got a DVD release in March 2012, hence the movie’s inclusion here.
Amy Seimetz is excellent in the lead role as emotionally-shattered Sarah, a recovering alcoholic terrified her serial killer ex (played with great understatement by AJ Bowen) is en route to exact his revenge. Joe Swanberg also puts on a good show as a fellow boozehound. The moody score by Jasper Justice Lee, the sound montage and Wingard’s haunting approach that captures past and present in a spectral tone makes for a very original take on the serial killer picture. People: you need to see this.
#1 Cosmopolis (dir: David Cronenberg)
Cosmopolis is as talky as a screwball comedy and as visually wild as only cinema can be. David Cronenberg’s timely dissection of the haves and pseudo masters of the universe features an assured performance from Robert Pattinson as a man who just wants to get a haircut and ends up on an increasingly distracted quest that takes in existential angst, free market economics, a spot of casual murder, romance, sex, a prostate examination and anti-capitalism protests. A truly special work that demands you pay attention all the way, this one will stick in your head for weeks.
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