Films of 2011

30 12 2011

Now I’ll be the first to admit that my film ‘blogging has become a little bit… well, shall we say ‘sluggish’ this past year. Travelling, film-making and working in an office have all played their part in slowing the once Amazon-like flow of words from my keyboard to a trickle as has, it must be admitted, a streak of laziness running through my bones like words through a stick of rock.

On the other hand, my film-going habit has continued apace and at various points this year I’ve found myself spellbound, surprised, shocked and staggered in the cinema. Below then is my selection of the finest films released in the UK in 2011. 

As for 2012, well I can only promise to redouble (or perhaps even re-quadruple) my efforts in the new year, and to endeavour to share some thoughts on cinema with you much more often.

My Top Six

Le Quattro Volte / The Four Times (Michelangelo Frammartino)

A story of goats, goatherds, charcoal-makers and burly men who cut down trees. Set deep in the Calabrian countryside, Michelangelo Frammartino’s film straddles a fine line between fiction and documentary. Its four stories are based around observations of Italian peasant life and loosely correspond to Pythagoras’ ideas about the different states that the soul passes through during transmigration (or reincarnation): mineral, vegetable, animal, man.

There’s hardly any dialogue yet the film contains some of the most dramatic and involving scenes that I’ve witnessed in the cinema all year. A baby goat becomes lost from the flock and wanders bleating over the winter hillsides; a sick old man gathers dust swept up from a church floor and mixes it with water to drink as a medicine; a towering fir tree is chopped down in the forest, hauled into a medieval hilltop town and re-erected in the market square for a local festival.

Particularly staggering is a 10-minute scene featuring a Passion play, a sheepdog, a pick-up truck and some escapee goats, miraculously choreographed in one unbroken shot. An antidote to Terrence Malick’s overblown Tree of Life, this is a piece of work that should be sought out by film-makers, students of film and anyone else interested in the poetic power of cinema.

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3 09 2009
Christ, it's 'Antichrist'!

Christ, it's 'Antichrist'!

When did you last walk out of the cinema? That’s a question often asked of film directors, critics and other cineastes. Well, personally, I can say that I’ve never walked out before the end of a film. I’ve sat through cranium-numbing Godard cine-essays, I’ve braved the worst of Jim Carrey, Steve Martin and Adam Sandler, I’ve stood manfully on the deck of the sinking Gucci-designed steamer that was Sex and the City: The Movie, all the while saluting and determined to stay until the bitter end.

You see, if you leave early you might miss something important. You might miss the best bit of the film! You might miss the one beautiful and profound moment of truth that the film-maker has to communicate to the world. And so, even if I have my doubts, I always stay put until the final credits roll.

Except… well, maybe once I did walk out. It was at The Showroom Cinema in Sheffield, in 2002, I think. The film was Audition by Takeshi Miike. In mitigation, I have to say that my sudden exit had nothing to do with the quality of the film. No, it had more to do with the rush of blood to my head and the queasy feeling in my stomach.

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