TOP TWENTY-FIVE BEST FILMS OF 2012
25. BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO
This story about a mild mannered sound recordist from England working on an Italian horror film set in the 1970’s was one of my favourites back when I saw it at MIFF and it has stayed with me ever since. A tribute to the “giallo” (Italian thriller) films from the 70’s, the biggest strength of “Berberian Sound Studio” is the fact that it is not actually a giallo. However it cleverly homages the genre via the use of its beautiful stylized images that would feel right at home in any real giallo. All the staples are there: the leather gloved hands, close-ups on machines showing their inner workings, knives glistening as they catch the light, etc. The fish out of water storyline takes a massive turn in its final third as “Berberian Sound Studio” becomes a mind-fuck of a film that wouldn’t look out of place on David Lynch’s filmography. While I still find a lot of the finale a mystery, it is one I am intrigued to work out via multiple viewing of “Berberian Sound Studio”. Also for a film about sound, the sound recording and editing is sublime and lives up to the film’s subject matter. While Peter Strickland’s film is not for everyone’s taste, those who do not mind the bizarre, I wholeheartedly recommend “Berberian Sound Studio”. Click here to read my original review.
This is the film that had no right to work on any level but turned out to be one of the most entertaining of the year. “Eega” is an Indian film about a man, who after being murdered and reincarnated as a common housefly (!), decides to go out for revenge against the man who killed him in an attempt to also save his girlfriend. Reading a logline like that, you could almost assume that this film is a joke, but director S.S. Rajamouli handles the material with respect and attacks the story with a sense of realism (well, with as much realism as you can expect from a film about a fly going out for revenge), that makes this film work. This fly can only do things a normal fly can do, so it is interesting the way he goes about getting his revenge, especially during its numerous and brilliantly handled action scenes. The CGI of the fly itself is spectacular making you believe that what we are watching is actually happening and the animators have given the fly real character too. With the exception of a few song and dance numbers before our hero is murdered and reincarnated, “Eega” is constantly entertaining and for a film with an extended running time of over two hours, it never lags – in fact for me, the time just “fly-ed” by (oh ha ha). Click here to read my original review.
23. THE HUNT
This was another of my favourite films from MIFF this year and to be truthful should be higher up on this list except I have only seen “The Hunt” that one time and my memory of the film isn’t as great as I would have liked. Anchoring this film is a sensitive and emotional performance from Mads Mikkelsen who plays a kindergarten teacher wrongly accused of the sexual abuse of one of his students. My favourite thing about his performance is when you can see his anger towards the adults who continue to accuse him of this crime even while the little girl who originally accused him tries to inform them all that she made the story up, and yet he never once shows this anger to the young girl once. He understands that she does not realize the gravity of the situation she has created because she is just a little girl, but clearly believes that the adults should know better. The film also looks at pack mentality and how easily inhumane acts can be committed by normal folks when part of a pack. “The Hunt” has been beautifully written and directed by Thomas Vinterberg, and was one of the most emotional films that I saw in the entirety of 2012. The very final scene of the film is brilliant in the fact it cleverly illustrates how when you have been accused of a crime of this nature (even if you are innocent), you are never fully free of being suspected. Click here to read my original review.
22. KILLING THEM SOFTLY
I was a massive fan of Andrew Dominik’s previous film “The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford”, so the five year wait between films was definitely felt. “Killing Them Softly” is about a hit-man who comes to Boston to assassinate two amateur thieves who make the mistake of stealing from the mob and then brag about it to the wrong people. You would think that with a plot like this, the film would be a normal action type thriller, but Dominik doesn’t go the normal route, instead the film is much more of a drama that makes broad political statements particularly attacking capitalism in today’s America that is suffering through recession. It is clear that Domink believes that humanity is gone and that anyone will do anything for money these days. I have heard a lot of people complain that the film is boring and incredibly long, but it just flew by for me. It was ninety minutes of engaging conversations and very stylized action. The film stylistically was almost the complete opposite of Dominik’s previous film, however Greig Fraser’s dark and moody cinematography is just gorgeous. All of the performances in the film are great, although if you are going into this film expecting it to be a “Brad Pitt” film be aware that his character regularly weaves in and out of the film and it is a much more of an ensemble piece. My only problem with the film is that some of the political points are hammered home a little too strongly with the over-use of the 2008 (which is when the film is set) televised election campaigns.
“Pieta” actually has a similar theme to “Killing Them Softly” as it really is about the evils of money and again, what people are willing to do to themselves and others for money. “Pieta” is the latest film from South Korean director Kim Ki-Duk and his first formal narrative based film since 2008’s “Dream”. It is a great return to form from this brilliant director as “Pieta” ranks highly amongst his best which considering his oeuvre is a huge statement. The film is about a brutal and sadistic loan shark whose life is turned upside down when the mother who abandoned him as a child returns to make amends. Once his mother enters his life, he begins to look within and see all of the pain he has caused, but will his past sins let him change for the better. Right from the opening frame of “Pieta”, it is obvious that this is a film by Kim Ki-Duk, and on the topic of extreme capitalism, it appears that he is very angry and sees little hope for humankind. “Pieta” is anchored by two wonderful and nuanced performances from Jo Min-Soo and Lee Jeong-Jin (as mother and son respectively) and as usual for a Kim Ki-Duk film, it is beautifully shot. “Pieta” is a brutal film at times but is a very rewarding experience. Click here to read my original review.
Keep an eye out for Part 2: #20 - 11.