Ceasar Must Die by the Taviani Brothers.
Ceasar Must Die by the Taviani Brothers.

This has been a pretty good year for movies though I thought that it was not as strong as 2012.

My favourites among the new releases in the order which I saw them:

I Wish / Kiseki, Japan 2011.

Director and writer Hirokazu Kore-Eda produces a magical portrait of the world of childhood.

Caesar Must Die / Cesare deve morire, Italy 2011. Written and directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. Brilliant, Shakespeare’s play produced and performed in the high-security Rome Prison of Rebibbia. One groans that these talented filmmakers’ work only occasionally makes it into the UK market.

Paradise: Love, Faith, Hope / Paradies: Liebe, Glaube, Hoffnung Austria, Germany, France 2012. This trilogy of films from Ulrich Seidl is impressive both in its formal rigour and in the moral rigour with which it treats is characters. At times I laughed at times I cried.

The Great Beauty / La grande bellezza, Italy / France 2013, directed by Paolo Sorrentino.

The most stylish film I have seen this year: the final track along the Tiber is magnificent.

The Artist and the Model / El artista y la modelo Spain 2012.

Its greatest virtues are the script by Jean-Claude Carrière and the director Fernando Trueba: the black and white ‘scope’ cinematography of Daniel Vilar: and the pairing of Jean Rochefort and Claudia Cardinale.

Best Documentary that I have seen:

McCullin UK 2012. Directed by Jacqui and David Morris.

This was a record of the work of Don McCullin, who has specialised in war photography. This is a powerful record of a portfolio of really fine work, and the moral dilemmas involved in covering war are clearly set out.

The most impressive performance that I have seen:

Barbara Sukowa in Hannah Arendt, though I found the film problematic.

My favourite canine performance:

Lutz in The Wall / Die Wand, despite the traumatic scene late in the film.

Silent films:

For me the best was The Self-Seeker / Shrurnyk, UkrSSR 1929 and directed by Mykola Shpykovskyi and featured in the Ukrainian programme at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto. The nominal hero of the film and title is Apollon; a petit bourgeois caught up in the Civil War between ‘reds’ [the good guys] and ‘whites’ [the bad guys]. But the real star is a camel that invariably saves the day.

The heroic camel in The Self-Seeker
The heroic camel in The Self-Seeker

The discovery of the year was the work of  Ol’ga Preobraženskaja, whose film were featured at Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna. Among these gems was Kaštanka (USSR, 1926) which featured my favourite canine performance from early cinema, Jacky as the title character.

Most annoying film of the year:

It has to be Django Unchained USA 2012 from Quentin Tarantino.

The film clearly involves a wealth of talent, but ‘never has so much been expended to so little effect’’

The film I most disliked:

Only God Forgives Denmark, France, USA 2012.

I wonder if it is derogatory to David Lynch to suggest that this is a poor pastiche of one of his films.

The film I found most dubious:

Act of Killing various UK countries 2012.

Joshua Oppenheimer refers to cinema verité regarding his documentary revisiting the 1965 Indonesian genocide: actually it falls between fly-on-the-wall and Big Brother.

Finally, my nomination for Audience of the Year:

all those brave film buffs who came along to the Gothic Film Festival at Kirkstall Abbey in early November. One kind soul offered me a blanket to wrap in. I thought it was worth it.