End of year lists, a very fine tradition indeed. Like previous years (2008, 2009) I've assembled a list of the best films I've seen the past 12 months. No new content, all films and reviews have been featured on this blog before, but a very good reminder of things you should definitely put on your "to-see" list before you forget about them altogether. Brace yourself for a selection of cinematic excellence (at least according to my taste).
Chinese films are often quite traditional both in themes and presentation. Pk.com.cn is a welcome variation on the regular output, serving a hyper-modern romance dominated by social media and internet-savvy characters. The resulting film is quite unique, even outside the somewhat limiting confines of Chinese cinema. This one is for people who feel at ease in these modern times and dare to embrace the social revolution. Comes highly recommended.
09. Valhalla Rising
Chances are you won't be entirely sure what this film was about when the end credits start to roll across the screen. Not to worry though, the road that takes you there is an experience in itself. Beautifully shot and wonderfully acted by Mads Mikkelsen, Valhalla Rising is a testosterone-fueled adventure amongst rough men and even rougher men. Slide back into the couch and let this one come over you.
08. Air Doll
Koreeda returns with a lovely fairytale draped across a layer of pain and drama. The film features a sex doll coming to life, a simple yet effective analogy for the underlying themes of Air Doll. The result is a dreamy endeavor occasionally shred to pieces by the harsh reality of everyday life. Without a doubt one of my favorite Koreeda films so far and a welcome comeback after some more commercial movies.
07. Mr Nobody
Van Dormael went all the way and beyond, that's the least you can say about Mr. Nobody. It's overly ambitious and a little heavy-handed in places, but the level of detail is so overwhelming that I couldn't be bothered by such a minor glitch. If anything, Van Dormael's bold strikes of tackling anything in sight is a refreshing variation on arthouse cinema which is often dominated by subtlety and refinement. Hard to compare this one to other films, but not to be missed at all.
06. Paco And The Magical Picture Book
Remember when you were 6 years old? Your imagination was a lot bigger than what the world had on offer. Even fantasy never really seemed to completely satisfy your needs for colors and weird creatures. Nakashima comes damn close with his latest. He goes all out in this extremely colorful fairytale with a darker edge. An explosion of detail and strangeness molds this film into a surprisingly poignant little tale. I wish I could've seen this as a kid but the experience as an adult is just as good.
05. 22 Mei
Mortier returns with a bang. The humor is pretty much gone after Ex-Drummer, but Mortier's gritty style is still ever-present. A unique exploration of a single event and the people affected, 22 Mei is a drama that remains abstract throughout while still touching the core issues of its characters in a very emotional way. Definitely not for everyone, it's not exactly spirit-raising cinema, but by far one of the best films to have come from Belgium so far. A little bit of nationalistic pride is in place here.
Not quite animation, not quite comic, Godkiller is an awesome introduction into the world of the illustrated film. It takes some time to get used to the concept, the pure cyberpunk background story isn't exactly making things any more accessible, but once the film gets its grip on you there's no turning back. Pizzolo is definitely on to something here, add to that a grindingly pleasant soundtrack and what you have is one of the most original films of 2010. If you're an animation fan, you owe it to yourself to at least try it out.
03. Tetsuo: The Bullet Man
Initial reception of the newest Tetsuo film wasn't too positive. While somewhat understandable in a "that's how people are" way I cannot help myself but disagree completely here. Tsukamoto still has it. The film looks completely awesome, sounds completely awesome and is sure to burn a hole in your TV-screen before the end credits appear. Chances are you won't agree but Tsukamoto's film deserves at least a fair chance. A superb third act that easily beats the second film and doesn't have to be ashamed to hang around with the first film.
Matsumoto is a funny guy, that much was clear after watching Big Man Japan. With Symbol he goes several steps beyond and plants a true masterpiece. He exploits a very simple (yet original) concept to perfection and finishes it off with a complete bang of a finale. People say it's impossible to make original films these days, but I believe Matsumoto begs to differ. Wildly funny, inventive and stunningly unique, Symbol is a film that cannot be missed.
01. Enter The Void
It was a long wait for Gaspar's latest film and when it finally arrived most theaters were to stuck up to give us a proper chance of watching it. Enter The Void's crappy release schedule was another sign that the movie industry isn't really interested in its biggest fans. Luckily Enter The Void can be enjoyed just as well in the cozy confines of your own living room. Just close the curtains, turn up the sound and let yourself be swept away by the neon-lit world of Tokyo. A true cinematic trip if I ever saw one and already one of my top 3 favorite films ever.