"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

January 4, 2012

The best films I saw in 2011

Let's start with the basics: what do I regard as good films? Films about real people (character), with atmosphere, rather than films where the plot or action are important. I love films where seemingly "nothing happens" or where "it's all talk," because in such films things happen on a deeper level inside the characters. I like films that are like a good literary novel, films where the director is the "author:" the director writes the script (alone or with others), he selects the actors, he is in charge of editing and the final product (which is of course teamwork). I dislike slick commercial films as so-called "blockbusters" - so most of Hollywood goes down the drain.

Such films don't have to be expensive - some of the best films have been made with small budgets. I also prefer actors and actresses who are not very well know, or even the amateurs used by the New Wave directors - a famous face disturbs the fiction, and famous actors usually are bad actors (more selected for their physical properties than acting abilities).

This being said, I also like a good genre film on its time, such as a noir film or a samurai movie.

So I like Japanese films by masters of understatement and ambiguity like Ozu, Mizoguchi, Naruse, Imamura, Shindo and Teshigahara. I like Korean films by Kim Kee-duk and Chinese films by Wong Kar-wai. Among my favorite French directors are Truffaut, Rohmer, Godard, Bresson, Polanski and Chabrol, I love the films of Bunuel, of Fellini, of Almodovar, and of course Bergman. In the U.K. Lean and Reed would be among my favorites, in the Germany Lang, Murnau, Fassbinder and Herzog. And in the U.S.? Hitchcock, Kubrick, De Palma, Lubitsch, Curtiz, to name a few...

But this is an ongoing process, I am still at the beginning of my voyage of discovery!

In 2011 I have initially used David Thomson's Have You Seen...? as a guide to selecting films, but I found this book too Hollywood-centered, so I also used The Rough Guide to Film which is on the contrary about "world cinema" - and about directors. But most of all I gradually found myself watching more and more films from the excellent Criterion list. Although I don't agree with all choices (a few unnecessary blockbusters, some silly cult films, pop festivals and documentaries), on the whole this is a very well-considered selection (several people are already blogging their progress through this list - for example, Criterion Confessions, Criterion Contraption, etc.- , so I won't do that!). And of course I also watch and blog about films that are on none of these lists, just because I think I will like them!

Here is my list of favorite films I saw and blogged about (due to time constraints, I on average only write about one film in every  three I watch) in 2011. I also include the Japanese films I have blogged about at Japan Navigator.

10 points out of 10
An Autumn Afternoon by Ozu
Casablanca by Michael Curtiz
Early Summer by Ozu
Late Spring by Ozu
Nights of Cabiria by Fellini

9 - 9.5 points out of 10

Boudu Saved from Drowning by Renoir
Dames du Bois de Boulogne by Bresson
Earrings of Madame de... by Max Ophuls
Humanity and Paper Balloons by Yamanaka
IT (Clara Bow) by Badger/Sternberg
I Was Born, But... by Ozu
La Ronde by Max Ophuls
Last Year at Marienbad by Alain Resnais
Late Autumn by Ozu
Life of Oharu by Mizoguchi
Passion of Joan of Arc by Carl Dreyer
That Obscure Object of Desire by Bunuel
Tokyo Story by Ozu

8 - 8.5 points out of 10
An actor's Revenge by Ichikawa
Body Double by Brian De Palma
Brief Encounter by David Lean
Contempt by Godard
Confidentially Yours by Truffaut
Kind Hearts and Coronets by Robert Hamer
Lady Eve by Preston Sturges
Mr. Thank-you by Shimizu
Munekata Sisters by Ozu
My Man Godfrey by Gregory La Cava
My Uncle by Tati
Peeping Tom by Michael Powell
Something Wild by Jonathan Demme
Sunset Boulevard by Billy Wilder