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Generoso’s Top Ten Films of 2013, My Supplemental List, Big Disappointments, and the Two Worst Films of the Year
Posted for Generoso Fierro, Asst. Curator at The European Short Film Festival at MIT, friend of Boston Hassle, & more.
This year ended very strong as I was lucky to have seen Paolo Sorrentino’s newest “The Great Beauty” just a few days before writing this list. It is the third year in a row that an Italian film has been on my list (Reality and La Quattro Volte) which gives me hope that Italy is finally creating world class cinema again. My number one is easily the best film by Jia Zhang-ke since his 2004 masterpiece, “The World”.
As for “Blue Is The Warmest Color,” Cannes has sadly again used it’s Palm D’Or to credit a dreadful film that is more about advancing their own political agenda than recognizing a work of art. Truthfully, I didn’t expect much from the head of the jury, Steven Spielberg, a director who hasn’t made a great film since that one he made with the hungry toy shark.
Love to you all and I welcome your comments. xo Generoso
MY TOP TEN FOR 2013
A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhangke) China
Four independent stories of murder based on real events show the pains of a rapidly growing China. Zhangke’s best film since 2004’s take on globalization, ”The World”. A brilliant collection of nastiness, containing top performances from all.
The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino) Italy
A kind of sequel to the Italian masterpiece “La Dolce Vita” may seem like a very bad idea, but Sorrentino who last dropped the ball in his US debut film “This Must Be The Place”, knows well the excesses of his homeland and delivers this surrealistic gem.
Tabu (Miguel Gomes) Portugal
Drawing visual inspiration from Murnau, this low budget story of the colonialism pieced together from the friend of a retired woman suffering from dementia was poignantly told by avoiding sentimentality and nostalgia.
Like Someone In Love (Abbas Kiarostami) France/Japan
Legendary Iranian director Kiarostami gives us three characters, an elderly professor, a prostitute, and a jealous boyfriend but he also leaves their intentions vague and that draws our interest in. The ending is sudden but oddly fits into the film’s construction. Another fine film from the exiled Kiarostami.
Beyond The Hills (Cristian Mungiu) Romania
A young woman visits her childhood friend who resides in an Orthodox convent but when the woman’s passions are rejected her behavior turns violent and the members of the convent perform a crude exorcism. Another fine story of women pushed into a desperate situation from the director of “Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days”
Drug War (Johnnie To) China
Timmy Choi is a drug lord and when the cops catch him he becomes a rat, a really really big rat. Maybe one the most slimy rats in the history of films actually. Director To knows action, and he does it well here, but unlike previous films (Vengeance, Breaking News) he leaves behind his cool style and makes one of the bleakest, nastiest crime films in my memory.
Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski) USA
Just at the dawn of the 1980s, we see the change coming from the self- help, free love 1970s to the arrival of a cold TRS-80. Computer geeks gather in a hotel, presenting and playing their versions of computer chess while the vestiges of the 1970s play their part in different rooms. Shot on consumer grade VHS equipment from that era, it is an incredibly funny and eerie time capsule.
Bastards (Claire Denis) France
Inspired by William Faulkner’s” Sanctuary”, this dark tale of revenge has protagonist Marco (a fine performance from Vincent Lindon who was in Denis’Friday Night) going after the man he believes caused his brother-in-law’s death. Like the aforementioned “Drug War” this one never lets up. A noir where there is not an ounce of light or humanity.
Only God Forgives (Nicholas Winding Refn) USA/France/Thailand
If “Drive” was Refn’s homage to Walter Hill’s “The Driver” and Michael Mann’s “Thief”, this is Refn’s hunky silent western hero running into Apichatpong Weerasethakulesque eastern logic and singing mutilating policeman. There is a great comedy here living not so subtlety beneath the dark reds and Kristin Scott Thomas’ foul mouth mother character. Leave your assumptions behind and have fun.
This Is Martin Bonner (Chad Hartigan) USA
This intimate story of an Australian man whose position at a faith-based prison release program facilitates a relationship with a recent parolee was a real surprise at this year’s IFFB. Director Hartigan based his screenplay on his own father’s experience, and it’s his closeness to the titled character that comes through brilliantly. A perfect small film with heartfelt, realistic dialog.
Masquerade (Choo Chang-Min) South Korea
When a king fears possible assassination, he hires a peasant to impersonate him. This works out fine until the actual king is poisoned and the peasant must now continue the masquerade to keep the country from falling apart. A period piece that is bizarrely comedic and very clever.
No (Pablo Larrain) Chile
Part three of Larrain’s “Pinochet Trilogy” presents the plight of Rene, an ad executive who must assemble the “no” campaign to oust Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet during the 1988 referendum. He must fend off bullies and his boss Lucho (another fine performance by Larrain regular Alfredo Castro) who is running the “yes” campaign. All of Larrain’s films use interesting filming techniques and for “No” he chose professional grade videotape equipment from the era.
Houston (Bastian Günther) USA/Germany
A corporate head hunter from Germany comes to the titled town to locate the head of an oil company. In his travels he is shadowed by a friendly yokel he meets in a hotel bar and slowly has his personal life fall apart. The narrative takes us on more than a few surprising turns and provides a truly eloquent ending.
Almayer’s Folly (Chantal Ackerman) Belgium/France
Another film of dark colonialism makes the list this year, this one based on the novel by Joseph Conrad. Colonialist Almayer’s relationship with his daughter Nina unravels due to greed in the jungles of Malaysia. The narrative is well constructed and starts strongly but does loses some steam towards the end . Still, a fine watch for its desperate tone.
Camille Claudel 1915 (Bruno Dumont) France
Another biopic on the life of the tragic sculptor and graphic artist that differentiates itself from the 1988 Bruno Nuytten film as director Dumont concentrates on Claudel’s life when she was confined to a mental facility. The film is a showcase for the talents of Juliette Binoche who conveys a sadness that is rarely captured on film. Her performance alone is reason to see this.
Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass) USA
Paul Greengrass may be the best action director working in the western hemisphere. The true story of the kidnapping of Captain Richard Phillips from the Maersk ship Alabama by Somali pirates. Greengrass has a rare ability to draw tension from real life events as he did with his 2002 film “BloodySunday” about the 1972 Derry, Northern Ireland massacre. Considering that the last ninety minutes of “Captain Phillips” takes place in a four man escape vessel, he keeps the action flowing while giving you insights into every player.
The Place Beyond The Pines (Derek Cianfrance) USA
How I adored Cianfrance’s debut film “Blue Valentine”, mostly because of his ability to tell the story of a doomed marriage using a non-linear narrative without it seeming gimmicky and without losing the emotions of his leads. Sadly, someone gave Derek a lot of money and too many A-listers as this overly ambitious muddled mess does this opposite of “Blue Valentine”, a soulless film with a silly plot that doesn’t give you an empathic character. Also, someone should just tell Bradley Cooper to stay away from everything that has an ounce of humanity in it.
Stoker (Park Chan-wook) USA
Poor Park Chan-wook. Having no grasp of the English language left him at the mercy of screenwriter Wentworth Miller who had no previous writing credits and whose acting resume includes such classics as “The Family Guy” and “Prison Break”. A pathetic joke of a suspense film with a core thesis that claims that sociopathic behavior is genetically passed down. Add to that the ridiculous shoe symbolism and you add Park Chan-wook to the list of such notable foreign directors like Emir Kusterica, who should’ve never come to Hollywood. Let’s hope that Park’s fellow countryman, Bong Joon-Ho doesn’t suffer the same fate with “Snowpiercer”.
WORST FILM OF THE YEAR (A TIE)
An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty (Terence Nance) USA
This intolerable hunk of Brooklyn hipster crap was remarkably funded by Jay-Z and Questlove, whose funds added pointless animation to “spice up” this story of a pathetic “artist” who spends the entire film whining about some girl who he doesn’t have the courage to speak to about his “feelings”. The added over narration sounds like something Eric Andre would add to a montage of a vomiting man dressed up like an ice cream cone who can’t get a date on the F train.
Blue Is The Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche) France
Julie Maroh’s comic book “Le Bleu est une couleur chaude” is here made into a pretentious three hour soft core porno treatment by the Tunisian director of the equally pretentious 2010 film “Black Venus”. Here Abdellatif wastes no time in crucifying the film’s protagonist Adele by using some of the most tired symbolic elements to highlight her bourgeoisie tendencies. Throw in some of the most excessive close up shots, scissoring and you have something that the talent less Cannes jury president Steven Speilberg was blown away by. What an enormous waste of Lea Seydoux’s talents as an actress. My advice is to go back and watch her unheralded performance in Rebecca Zlotowski’s 2010 intelligently made coming of age film “Belle Epine.”