Films of 2010

31 12 2010


And so, without further ado, here’s my pick of the best films released in the UK in 2010:

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The American – A Review

1 12 2010

George Clooney, The American

George Clooney in 'The American'

Films about assassins can generally go in one of two directions. They can either play up the inherent air of stylishness, mystery and glamour that we seem to associate with hit-men, or they can try to play these associations down, and instead show us contract killers as they really are: flawed, desperate and, more often than not, a little incompetent.

Most directors seem to plump wholeheartedly for Option A (Le Samourai, Leon, No Country For Old Men), and even those who opt for Option B (Ghost Dog, Grosse Pointe Blank, In Bruges) seem to find it difficult to let go entirely of the studied, self-conscious ‘cool’ that we associate with the genre.

Anton Corbijn, whose 2006 debut Control told the story of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, here finds himself with a foot in both camps too. On the one hand, George Clooney’s Jack is an archetypal cool-as-ice hit-man: methodical, isolated and ready to kill in cold blood at the drop of a hat. On the other, as he lies low in a small Italian town after a bloody opening shoot-out in Sweden, he is a man haunted by his past and by the realisation that, if he were to put his work to one side for just a moment, he would find a life with precious little else left in it to call his own.

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We’re a long way from Phuket, Toto

19 11 2010
Apichatpong Weerasethakul

'Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives'

If a passing stranger with too much time on his hands were to ask me to make a list of the ten most important film-makers at work in the world today, then the name of the Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul would be somewhere near the top.

Unfortunately, as I’ve discovered from bitter experience, the opinions of a semi-employable film ‘blogger count for little in this cold, hard world of ours. So it’s gratifying to see that Apichatpong (or Joe to his friends) is finally starting to receive the international recognition that he deserves for his work, with a Palme d’Or win at this year’s Cannes Festival and his latest film set to represent Thailand at next year’s Oscars.

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Another Year – A Review

11 11 2010

Another Year Mike Leigh

I’ve always had mixed feelings about the films of Mike Leigh. On the one hand, the 67-year-old director’s work is unique, intelligent and ambitious in a way that other British films often struggle to be. On the other, in films like Happy-Go-Lucky (2008), High Hopes (1988) and Abigail’s Party (1977) there always seems to be an uncomfortably thin line between characterisation and caricature, a line which the director, with his famous, semi-improvised approach to performance, seems too often to stray across.

So it was with bated breath that I settled down to watch Another Year, Leigh’s latest film, and a contender for the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Another Year tells the story of a year in the life of Tom and Gerri (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen), a happily-married, middle class couple drifting slowly and contentedly towards retirement. He works as a geologist, she as a counsellor; weekends are spent tending their allotment and cooking for friends and family.

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Enter The Void – A Review

29 09 2010
Gaspar Noe, Enter The Void

It's all gone a bit Pete Tong... 'Enter The Void'

What happens to us after we die?: perhaps the oldest and most troublesome question known to mankind. A question, nevertheless, which Argentinian-French director Gaspar Noé (Irréversible, Seul Contre Tous) sets out to tackle with characteristic gusto in his intense new film Enter The Void.

Never one to shy away either from controversy or from mind-bending visuals, Noé casts his film as an unapologetic ‘trip’ movie, a staggering, high-concept piece that takes its cue from The Tibetan Book of the Dead as it recounts the premature death and ghostly wanderings of a young American in Tokyo.

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I’m Still Here – A Review

20 09 2010


Joachin Phoenix

JP, yesterday

A huge number of column inches has already been devoted to the question of whether Casey Affleck’s new film about the physical and mental disintegration of his brother-in-law and friend Joachin Phoenix, is a straightfoward documentary (as it says on the tin) or something far more contrived and mischievous.

Well, let me say straight away that I’m Still Here is very obviously not an ‘honest’, fly-on-the-wall record of events. Certain key scenes have quite evidently been scripted in advance, and Phoenix’s shambling, paranoid performance is simply too funny to be completely unplanned. To call it a spoof or a mockumentary is perhaps going a little too far though. Rather, it’s a record of a year-long tragi-comic performance, a living piece of installation art almost, for which Phoenix grew a big bushy beard, smoked a lot of dope and appeared in various stages of coherence in the US media. How far this performance spilled over into his off-camera life is anyone’s guess, but for much of the film the actor certainly seems to be pretty immersed in deep character, living and breathing the Method like some latter-day, hoodie-wearing Brando.

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Taking the Broad View

18 07 2010

Claire Denis, Isabelle Huppert, White Material

'White Material'

 Why are there so few female film directors? That’s a question that’s long been chewed over by critics, academics and the viewing public alike. Does the film industry, consciously or otherwise, marginalise female talent? Is it hopelessly macho and sexist? Or is the very act of film-making – arranging people, lights and cameras, ordering and categorising the world – one that speaks to male needs and neuroses much more deeply than it does to those of most women?

Beats me. But in a way, a more interesting question is: what kind of films do female directors make when they get the chance to do so? And are the stories that they choose to tell qualitatively different from those of their male contemporaries?

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