I'm not really a man of melancholy and traditions, unless they are just plain and unmistakably useful. So here we go again (do check the 2008, 2009 and 2010 editions for more valuable recommendations), my rundown of the 10 best movies I've discovered in 2011. A list of films you simply need to see, if not you risk the chance of missing out big time. No new content, but a solid reminder should you have missed some of my film reviews this year.
10. Balade Triste De Trompeta
If you're looking for some prime Spanish amusement then look no further than De La Iglesia's latest film. A truly amazing mix of action, drama, comedy and exploitation-like elements, featuring everything from clowns to machine guns and even some old-fashioned warfare. It may take a little time to get used to the many genre shifts, but once you're hooked this film won't let you go until the credits start rolling.
Juliets is a warm and cozy anthology project that limits itself remarkably well to the boundaries of its initial concept. The film features three expanded short films, each transporting Juliet to a different time frame and exploring the classic Juliet character in each of its settings. The three directors involved clearly grabbed this chance to put their skills on display, turning this project into a pretty effective recap of the strengths of Taiwanese drama cinema.
08. Revenge: A Love Story
Still high on the success of Dream Home, Josie Ho's 852 Films released Revenge: A Love Story. And while operating in a completely different genre altogether, the marks of its origin are clear enough. This film is one mean, cold-hearted son of a bitch, presenting a stone-cold revenge story with the proper grit and nastiness, leaving you quite perplexed but strangely satisfied. A great return to form for Cat III films, only a lot more stylish compared to its predecessors.
07. The Fourth Portrait
Definitely a film for those who can stomach 90 minutes of subdued and stilted arthouse drama. There isn't much in the way of a coherent storyline, most scenes are detached snippets torn from a young boy's life and there is no real conclusion to this film. The execution is absolutely lush though, sporting stunning visuals, a beautiful soundtrack and an overall warm and calming atmosphere. The Fourth Portrait may be a rather demanding film, but when you engage yourself it does deliver in spades.
06. Sodium Babies
Some films are made with so much love that they start to tear at the seams. Sodium Babies is not a perfect film and could use some cleaning up left and right, but the Decaillon brothers put in so much passion and energy that it's pretty easy to forgive the film's faults. Especially when many of the scenes do manage to impress, resulting in moments of sprawling and dazzling cinema throughout this little gem. It's a pretty unique film, freed from genre conventions and obvious clichés, hurling its way to a great finale.
Slowly but surely some modern influences are creeping into traditional Taiwanese drama cinema. Even though Blowfish is quite traditional at its core, the film is more direct and a bit more daring, though without actively effecting the typical atmosphere of these type of films hold. The result is a warm, loving drama with some modern touches left and right. Lee paints visual poetry with only a few passing dialogues and two actors who give their all.
Forget Nakashima's colorful and uplifting films, with Confessions he taps right into a darker part of his soul. The result is a wry and gritty revenge tale that circles out of control as things progress. At least, the story itself does because Nakashima holds a tight grip on the direction and leaves absolutely nothing to chance. A stunning film boasting an effective punch in the gut, leaving you behind somewhat dazzled and bewildered.
2011 was not a particularly good year for Belgian cinema, lucky for us Benjamin Vir&eactue; provided us with some hope for the future. Even though Cannibal sounds like simple genre fare, it couldn't be farther from the truth. This film is a dark, brooding and surprisingly atmospheric little horror film with completely turns itself around in the final 30 minutes and manages to linger long after the end credits faded from the screen.
Redline is one of those rare films that managed to materialize itself against all odds. It's not a realistic project, catering only to a very limited audience but sparing no expense whatsoever to be the biggest and boldest piece of animation extravaganza ever produced. If you are part of its limited target audience though, it's without a doubt one of the best things to have come along in years, sporting two hours of over-animated fun and weirdness where no frames were spared to blow you off your chair.
01. Honey PuPu
Honey PuPu is easily the biggest surprise of the year for me. A film that isn't just about young people, but is actually constructed using the language and living patterns of youngsters today. A film that breathes the internet generation, finding meaning and beauty in aggregation of ideas and content rather than finding it in purity and depth. It's a lush mix of beautiful visuals, great music and modern poetry. Definitely not for everyone, but if you're interested in the generations that will at one time take over from us, a must see. Definitely my boldest and brightest recommendation of the year.