While all film publications are hard at work recycling the same 30 films in their end of year lists, it's time for me to highlight my favorite films I've seen in 2019. You should know the drill by now, but for those who aren't familiar with the setup yet: I don't limit myself to the films with production year 2019, I simply make a selection from all the films I've seen in 2019. For someone who has a taste for Asian/obscure genre cinema (and a dislike of film festivals), that's simply the sanest way to do it, as it takes certain films at least a couple of years to surface. Should you be looking for more prime recommendations, here are the lists from all previous years. 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008.
10. The Brand New Testament [Le Tout Nouveau Testament] (2015)
A superbly fun and charming mix of comedy and fantasy. Van Dormael creates a world that thrives on an endless stream of ingenious little details. The execution is terrific, the acting exemplary. Just a smidgen too repetitive during the middle part, but don't let that hold you back, because there is so much to enjoy here.
09. The White Girl (2017)
Stunning little drama about three unlikely characters who meet up in a small Hong Kong fishing village. Doyle's work is as great as ever, this time around he got the help of Jenny Suen to straighten out the rest of the film. Superbly acted, beautifully shot and featuring a strong score, this is one of the most overlooked films of 2017.
08. Last Sunrise (2019)
China is finally getting into the sci-fi game. Last Sunrise plays like a mix of Boyle's 28 Days Later and Sunrise, although the tone of the film is more solemn and introspective. Wen Ren serves a nice blend of small drama and exciting sci-fi, just don't expect too much in the way of action and grand effects.
07. Godzilla: The Planet Eater [Gojira: Hoshi Wo Ku Mono] (2018)
A worthy finale to the trilogy. Low on action, but that shouldn't come as a surprise to those who've seen the previous films (a must). Instead, Planet Eater takes a more philosophical route, while still delivering some monumental visuals. It's a most welcome addition to the Gojira franchise, though true fans will beg to differ.
06. A.I. Rising (2018)
AI Rising is an oldskool, but very moody and pleasantly focused sci-fi film. There's a little too much name-dropping in the beginning (Asimov's Law, Schrödinger's Cat), but apart from that it's a very strong and atmospheric exploration of the relationship between human and android. It's the kind of sci-fi I've been craving for a while now, glad to see it might be making a return.
05. Killing [Zan] (2018)
Starts off a little restrained, especially for a Tsukamoto film, but once it gets going it becomes an unstoppable force. Well acted, beautifully scored and largely defined by Tsukamoto's trademark camera work, Killing is a film that may be short and light on plot, but leaves a big impression nonetheless. Great stuff.
04. The Forest of Love [Ai-naki Mori de Sakebe] (2019)
The Forest of Love is a film about a loose canon in a world gone mad. As things start to spiral out of control, Sono rids himself of every last bit of restraint and delivers a film full of raw energy and excess, raging towards a completely warped and gruelling finale. Not for the faint of heart, but Sono fans are sure to have a blast with this one.
03. Book of Birdie (2017)
Equal parts drama, mystery and horror. This self-funded film rises way above itself to deliver an ethereal yet discomforting experience. Great actors, lush cinematography and a superb score add to the overpowering atmosphere that draws you in right away and doesn't let go until the final notes have died.
02. Climax (2018)
Gaspar Noé and Benoît Debie are finally reunited again. Climax isn't quite as intense as Noé's best films, but it's far more intense that most of the other films out there. A great soundtrack, mad cinematography and a dire descent into madness make this a film that needs to be experienced rather than understood.
01. Paris Is Us [Paris Est à Nous] (2019)
Starts off as a French variation on Drake Doremus, but turns a lot darker after the 30-minute mark. Paris Is Us is a film that doesn't rely on a solid narrative, instead it slowly morphs into a cinematic poem that reflects on the recent events in Paris. It's quite the experience, just keep your expectations in check when watching this film.