My Favourite Films of 2011

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The usual caveats apply:
a) there are many important 2011 films which I haven’t yet seen;
b) I tend to change my mind about films, so this is a snap shot of my opinions at this point in time;
c) I find it almost impossible to rank films in any great detail, so I tend to put them in alphabetical order within general blocks.

New Releases

In 2011 I was most impressed by:-

A Separation [Asghar Farhadi]: superbly constructed; great performances; and one of the best final scenes of the year. Worthy winner of this year’s BBC World Cinema Award.

Archipelago [Joanna Hogg]: I loved Hogg’s previous film, Unrelated, and was not disappointed by this impressive follow-up. Insightful, powerful filmmaking.

Las Acacias [Pablo Giorgelli]: from a simple narrative, Pablo Giorgelli creates a wonderfully rich, observant, deeply engaging study of two characters. Brilliant performances from the leads.

Le Quattro Volte [Michelangelo Frammartino]: unexpected delight; beautifully poetic; humane and funny. Along with The Artist, includes best performance by a dog!

Meek’s Cutoff [Kelly Reichardt]: slow, meditative, with unresolved ending: fantastic, of course!

The Artist [Michel Hazanavicius]: managed to catch this at the London Film Festival, and for once the hype was not an exaggeration. An utter delight from start to finish!

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy [Tomas Alfredson]: Alfredson’s follow-up to Let The Right One In brings a rich and subtle sensibility to one of the best scripts of the year.

The following were also excellent:-

Blue Valentine [Derek Cianfrance]: good performances; absorbing story.

Jess + Moss [Clay Jeter]: caught this little gem at the Cambridge Film Festival, mainly through word-of-mouth buzz about the film

Life in a Day [Kevin Macdonald]: another unexpected delight – totally absorbing and very moving.

Pina [Wim Wenders]: I’m not a convert to 3D, but at least this film used it in an interesting way.

Submarine [Richard Ayoade]: totally won over by this lovely film.

Tabloid [Errol Morris]: Morris in wickedly playful mood.

The Deep Blue Sea [Terence Davies]: a very welcome return from Davies, back with yet more proof that he is one of our greatest directors.

The Future [Miranda July]: I can see why July’s films are not for everyone, but I loved this one – even the talking cat!

Tomboy [Celine Sciamma]: another Cambridge Film Festival favourite of mine. Sciamma manages to get fantastic performances from the young leads.

True Grit [Coen Brothers]: some reservations, but still pretty good film. Particularly impressed with Hailee Steinfeld, and of course Jeff Bridges.

Tyrannosaur [Paddy Considine]: One of the highlights of this year’s Cambridge Film Festival, Considine’s first feature is astonishingly accomplished, with pitch perfect performances from Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman.

We Need To Talk About Kevin [Lynne Ramsay]: with a few minor reservations, Ramsay’s film is visually stunning and effectively disturbing.

Wuthering Heights [Andrea Arnold]: Arnold breathed new life into a familiar story. The main, first part of the film in particular is just astonishing.

Others to mention:-

Drive [Nicolas Winding Refn]
Eleanore and the Timekeeper [Daniele Wilmouth] (Cambridge Film Festival)
Honey (Bal) [Semih Kaplanoglu] (Belfast Film Festival)
My Dog Tulip [Paul Fierlinger/Sandra Fierlinger] (Belfast Film Festival)
Kill List [Ben Wheatley]
neds [Peter Mullan]
Page One: Inside The New York Times [Andrew Rossi] (Cambridge Film Festival)
A Screaming Man [Mahamet-Saleh Haroun] (Belfast Film Festival)
The Skin I Live In [Pedro Almodovar]: not one of Almodovar’s best, but still interesting.
The Tree of Life [Terrence Malick]: the central story is brilliantly told – a totally immersive experience; but the film is undermined by the irrelevant, trite, extravagant peripherals. I am genuinely baffled about why this is top of many people’s films of the year. Mind you, I’ll be interested to see what I think after watching the film for a second time.

Some special film related memories from 2011

– Watching Mark Cousins’ brilliant TV series The Story of Film – a monumental achievement and a real inspiration;
– Being given the opportunity to help out (in a small way) at The Cambridge Film Festival;
– Playing a small part in the success of the local community cinema – Screen St Ives
working with such a great team of people;
– Discussing cinema with the lovely people who regularly come along to the Arts Film Club;
– Discovering the films of Jos Stelling (and meeting the man himself) at the Cambridge Film Festival;
– Attending the Belfast Film Festival for the first time;
– Seeing Cria Cuervos (Raise Ravens) for the first time at the Arts Picturehouse;
– Seeing I Am Cuba for the first time (unfortunately not in cinema);
– Finally seeing The Travelling Players (unfortunately not in cinema);
– Revisiting some of Miklos Jancso’s major films;
– Our work film club reaching its 10th anniversary, and marking the event with a visit to the BFI Southbank to seeing the fantastic new print of Les Enfants du Paris.

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