Our end of year lists continue here at FG, laughing in the face of 2014. Here are my top ten films from 2013, which will also be making up some of the choices in a forthcoming collated FG writers poll.
10. 'Jeune Et Jolie'
The premise may elicit expectations of wanton sex scenes and French glamour, or seem to put it in the genealogy of films like 'Choses Secrètes', but François Ozon’s drama is emotionally honest rather than gratuitous. Marine Vacth’s performance as a teenage prostitute is captivating, and portends a glittering career.
9. 'Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa'
Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge character has a long and storied history in British comedy, and the transfer to a feature film required something special. Thank god that if anything, 'Alpha Papa' is sharper and more awkward than Partridge’s previous outings. A magnificent and hysterical tragi-comedy.
It’s a black-and-white silent film, but 'Blancanieves' is no gimmick. A gorgeous retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s 'Snow White', Pablo Berger’s fantasy displays stunning imagination and heart. Its inspirations have been well catalogued by critics, but it really is unique, even as it exhales film history in every scene.
7. 'The Place Beyond The Pines'
Derek Cianfrance’s two and a half hour triptych might be a little daunting, but the story of two families and the true nature of inheritance is intuitive and brilliantly observed. A fantastic ensemble cast, including Ryan Gosling and Rose Byrne, evoke the melancholia of fate without being fatalistic.
6. 'A Field In England'
Ben Wheatley’s latest feature was talked about mainly in regards to its distribution model, which saw it released simultaneously in cinemas, on DVD, on television, and on the internet. Similarly, the movie itself brings the experimental into the mainstream, with a story of hallucinogens and magic set in the British Civil War, played out with moments of visual madness.
Richard Gere gives us the performance of his career in Nicholas Jarecki's study of a man so deep in egotistical rationalisation he can’t stop tearing his own life apart. A thematic counterpoint to last year’s 'Margin Call', it animates all our suspicions about the kind of person it takes to be a financial tycoon, and then shows us the personal tragedy that it precipitates.
4. 'Only God Forgives'
Another critically divisive movie, 'Only God Forgives' was the subject of both a walk-out and a standing ovation at Cannes. Some viewers saw Nicolas Refn's intense visuals and graphic violence as a mask for a sparse plot, while others saw it as an expressionist noir rendered with modern vitality. I think it’s obvious which camp I’m in...
3. 'Like Someone In Love'
The measured build of Abbas Kiarostami’s second venture outside Iran is in keeping with a style perfected over decades, but the urban flush of Tokyo adds a contrast of colour to his otherwise ascetic story. Swelling with pathos but never asking for pity, Rin Takanashi’s abashed prostitute anchors a series of moving performances.
2. 'Cloud Atlas'
The Wachowskis critically divisive adaptation of David Mitchell’s novel sees a bingo card of stars playing multiple parts over seven storylines, in a hugely ambitious project to depict the contiguity of human experience. Its success or failure depends on whether you find its tendency towards melodrama affecting or affected, but it remains a paragon of formal parallelism.
1. 'Upstream Colour'
Shane Carruth’s anticipated follow-up to his time-travel hit, 'Primer', continues to see him triumph in multiple production roles. It’s implicit narrative at its best, and the straight-forward chronology makes a better vehicle for emotional content than his necessarily tangled previous work. An evocative masterpiece by an emerging auteur.
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