The Top Ten Films in Twenty-Twelve’s Fallow Field (The Best)
I gave out some semi-honorable mentions in my previous post – HERE – which put forward my thought that this has been a relatively weak year for cinema, in so much as there is such a thing and so my Top Ten has been cut down to feature only five films. Here they are:
What can I say? I’m still a wannabe writer, i still struggle with the powerlessness of reality when it stands against the potency of fiction and I still have a penchant for people of a crimson coloured persuasion so I am still very much the ideal audience for this film. A film that is surely still just as smartly scripted by its star Zoe Kazan, as strongly acted by Paul Dano and his supports and as dashingly directed by the Little Miss Sunshine as it was back then; it sure still feels as such. The lightest of the films in my top five maybe, but by no means the least.
Not only have the emotions of this drastically undersold drama stayed strong since I saw it midway through the year, but the intellectual qualities of the film have actually strengthened. This is primarily because I made a rather obvious realization about the story, one that I should have made mid-way through it but didn’t due to the mental stress of MIFF and the general malaise of a Melbourne winter: Broken is a British-set remake of To Kill A Mockingbird. It seems so obvious now but at the time that went straight over my brain, perhaps because the film never once feels beholden to anything outside of British cinema: it has the innocence of a Shane Meadows movie, the social awareness of Mike Leigh and the tragedy of the Bard and places all of these tones within the structure of that infamous deep south story, making it more than its own.
The job of a list such as this is to condense a years worth of cinematic experience into a simpler, more easily digested form; to cut out the detritus and leave only the most daring, most dramatic, most devastating, most meaningful, most influential, most incisive, most insane, most hilarious …, et infinitum movies into a manageable, objective form. Finally enough this is also the job that Carax put upon himself with Holy Motors; his film tries, and succeeds, at being everything that cinema is, was and ever will be in the space of a single schizoidly sensible story. If you can only see twenty movies this year, make it this one.
In cinematic terms Amour is a two and a half hour long close up. Of course a hardened veteran director like Haneke would never actually compose a film with such cinematography, but this film of his feels that way. It shows you two people that are as close to each other as possible, truly in love, truly linked and over the course of its running time manages to let you into the relationship with them, just as it begins to fall irrevocably apart. Amour is beyond intimate as an experience, it’s an almost literal experience of love, of loss and of life the like of which cinema can usually only imitate.
Seeing Let There Be Light showed me what the movie was really about in a way that the constant novelty criticisms of its connection to Scientology never could. Yes this is a film about a cult and yes said cult resembles the one containing all of those high-class celebrities that we all so love to stalk but that’s not the story on show here. Instead the tale that Paul Thomas Anderson seems to be telling here – though who really knows? – is that of a life torn to pieces, peeled back to its most primitive states by post-traumatic stress and the many different methods of mixing that his ‘master’ uses to pull these ingredients back into the shape of a person.
Protagonist Freddie is then a human cocktail of sorts – and as equally volatile as one – in that he is invigorating to imbibe, demonstrative in the short term but soured and dangerous in the long; prolonged exposure to his strong spirit is dangerous. We, the audience, see this in the film and we, though unfortunately sober while seeing it, also somehow feel those same effects through the screen, through the window pane.
Hypnosis was one of the more prominent methods of personality re-assemblage during the period and so it is not by accident that the film is often described as ‘hypnotic’. We stare at the screen as Freddie swings from one side to the other, back and forward, left to right and right to left; Johnny Greenwood’s score striking strange trigger tones in a similarly straight pattern and find ourselves falling down Freddie’s rabbit hole, falling through the fingers of a cinematic master, which maybe isn’t so different to one of a cult. We are then having our own brains boggled and re-branded as we sit and watch the story unfold; The Master is both the trauma and the therapy entwined as one and it’s terrible and terrific as such.
The Master isn’t a film that really belongs on a list such as this, because it stands apart from everything else out there – for both good and bad, depending on who asks – but if it’s going to be here then it has to be at the top and if you’re going to see it be sure to do it in a dark room and on a big screen, while you still can.