Rather than list the best films made in 2008, I'll leave you with the best films I encountered this year. It's a selection of 10 films from a total of about 350+ (I'm on a healthy diet of one film per day on average), all of them gems that can't be missed. And even if you've been paying close attention to my movie review, it's a good reminder of films you might have forgotten about. Dig in!
10. À l'Intérieur
French horror is doing awfully well and À l'Intérieur deserves a lot of praise for that. A well developed creepy atmosphere, nice and gory ending and solid acting. To top that, it flung itself away from that B-movie feeling often pushing horror into the corner of inferior cinema. Great editing and very smart use of sounds. But above all, scissors, bellies and unborn babies turning your screen blood red.
09. The Wall-Passer
A film that could easily pass you by. It slipped under about every radar possible, cheer luck got me to watching it. A clever and interesting mix of genres, ever shifting as the film progresses. Romance, sci-fi and drama all get their share of screening time, the mix feels fresh and original. Not all that easy to track down, but a definite recommendation should you run into this one.
08. Dream (Bi-Mong)
The second Ki-duk film I watched this year and even though it proved a little step away from his landmark style, there's plenty of Ki-duk goodness to love here. Add to that a more than impressive role of Odagiri, an interesting language experiment, very solid soundtrack, a concept that's no less than genius and Ki-duk has made another winner. A touch better than Breath (Soom), which didn't make the list.
Hah! You think you like your humor dry and ice cold? Try Dai-Nipponjin. Deadpan serious docu-style film about an average Joe in Tokyo who turns into a Kaiju killer from time to time, saving Tokyo from the most idiotic of monsters. It's sense of dry, deadpan humor is uncontested and the film contains images that will stick to your eyeballs for the rest of the year. Instant cult classic.
06. Sparrow (Man Jeuk)
Johnny To has risen to the stage over the last couple of years, Sparrow is arguably his best film to date. Quirky, strange, nonsensical but immensely fun. Pickpocketing was never this stylish, humorous and elite. The climax of the film is one of the best scenes ever, taking five minutes to see two groups of people cross a junction. If you can pull that off like To did, you have talent.
05. Small Gods
A good year for Belgian cinema. Small Gods turned up out of nowhere and the Karakatsanis brothers instantly made a name for themselves. Well-timed humor, a harsh exterior, impressive shots and above all a level of weirdness that leaves you feeling uneasy. Cherry on the cake is the awesome soundtrack. The only thing missing now is a good DVD release.
French horror is hot. So hot in fact that some people were bound to get burned. Martyrs is French, definitely horror, but not a fun ride at all. It starts kicking in the gut from the start and doesn't let off until long after the credits stopped running down the screen. Intense film, strong acting and some imagery that borders on acceptable. But beneath that is a smart film that warrants everything it shows. Definitely the most powerful film of the year.
More Belgian goodness. Vinyan is Du Welz' proof of talent. Don't expect to see Calvaire 2, expect better. Du Welz affirms with stellar visuals, strong editing and a magnificent soundtrack. The descent into hell of the main characters is impressive and boast a marvelous climax. Belgium is alive again, and Du Welz is the man we should thank.
02. Eden Log
Eden Log is one of those films. Low budget, simple storyline, short and small. But talent is oozing out of its every pore. Visual bliss, strong soundtrack, intriguing from start to finish, no concessions made, all passion. It is not made for a specific audience, it just needed to be, which has a tendency to turn out perfect. Very cool genre film, putting Vestiel high on my "directors to follow" list.
And then there is Umfeld. It defies most cinematic laws. There is no storyline to follow, no characters to feel for, no dramatic events, just images and sounds. But so tightly nit together that they start a life of their own. It is far from perfect, but equally far ahead of everything else in the world of cinema. As abstract as can be, with Paap (Speedy J) and Pagano nicely freewheeling to make the way for a wider range of cinematic experiences.