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.
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.