BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR 2009


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Sublime

Un Lac / Philippe Grandrieux

English Title: A Lake

I kept catching myself staring at the film grain, and light reflected from the screen, thinking: "Gorgeous, Gorgeous, Gorgeous!" This is cinema at its very highest, a new vision that required its own expression, an ode to the paradise-communion, bound to be lost. The influences of Brakhage, Creation, Dog Star Man, Window Water Baby Moving, and many others are simply unmistakable.
Un Lac is a film of very few words, but a simple phrase like "Come Jurgen." acquires expending meanings.
It's suggestive, abstract and incredibly aware. The cold breath of Death ever-existant.
For Un Lac, Philippe Grandrieux was not only the producer, the director, the cameraman, he also played the piano for a Schumann piece.



Great

Public Enemies / Michael Mann

Click here to read my comments on Public Enemies.



Two Lovers / James Gray

Click here to read my comments on Two Lovers.



Good

Süt / Semih Kaplanoğlu

English Title: Milk

Kaplanoğlu's films begin very modestly, without revealing that they're building up. The meanings are hidden, compositions accurate, rhythms expressive. More the natural and undefinable symbols add to each other, farther we move from everyday life, while being somehow tangentially connected to it (which reminds me of Larry Jordan's works sometimes)... With a cinema as forceful as this, a simple chase scene (where we don't even see the person being chased) becomes metaphysical, and a dark sequence a vision of the world. This is a new way of seeing with a profound awareness of cinema.
Click here to read Eytan Ipeker's comments on Süt.



Singularidades De Uma Rapariga Loura / Manoel de Oliveira

English Title: Eccentricities Of A Blond-Haired Girl

Oliveira, now more than 100 years old, still making wonderful, original movies. He is embracing the artificiality of the medium, and still including in every shot the whole history of human consciousness.



Ricky / Francois Ozon

Other than being one of the most exciting fantasies ever seen on screen, it is a true poem of light. Before the screening at the Istanbul Film Festival, Francois Ozon mentioned that the movie was about finding your place in a family, or in a social group. When I asked about the particular and expressive use of light, he responded by saying that they made sure in the preproduction that the shooting schedule was getting near the summer as the story progressed. One can't really tell that the seasons are changing but it is sure that the quality of the light changes the whole time. And it's not only the structure of light in the whole film, each particular shot has very subtle, and effective lighting.
For example, in the scene above, where Paco and Katie meet the first time, Katie is in sunlight, and Paco comes from the shadow (walks through the depth of field) to meet Katie and walks into her sunlit world. When I asked Ozon about the lighting in this scene, he said "nothing is a coincidence!".



The Legend of Nile / Eytan Ipeker

I don't know if this is a disclosure, or my pride taking over, but: I'm producing Eytan's next movie: a documentary about Idil Biret.
Each one of his abstract works, always structured, develop in time, create their own language, which, in turn, is deformed sometime during the video's running time. The Legend of Nile is my favorite, partly because of its suggestiveness, and also because every part of the frame feels alive, and dynamic.



Vengeance / Johnnie To

My first Johnnie To in 35mm. If you take things for granted, this is a mechanical film that drives its plot to more and more action scenes. But if you look carefully, there's something about the obsessive way everybody in the film is obsessed. "What do your primary instincts mean when you've lost all your memory?" is a question To asks, but doesn't delve on much. Vengeance doesn't delve on anything much except the consistently imaginative frames, compositions and the puzzling lighting. There are many hints of a great vision, but I have to say the film isn't consistent in this.



The Edge of Love / John Maybury

Click here to read my comments on, and to see some screengrabs from, The Edge of Love.



Shirin / Abbas Kiarostami

Conceptual to the core, the rhythm of the video light reveals a world. Every face a landscape in this movie that goes to depths one can't even suspect without actually seeing it.
On a side note, I don't remember falling in love so many times in another two hours of my life. Kiarostami has her actresses in a mood that affects and touches his audience. And, of course, the beautiful poetry in the background is unforgettable.



Shaking Tokyo / Bong Joon-ho

Bong Joon-ho does wonders with lighting yet again... I don't know how he comes up with this very personal way of lighting things, or over-exposing... Hope somebody asks him about this. In Shaking Tokyo, the main character talks about how much he hates sunlight, how he sometimes watches the slight movements of light, etc. drawing closer attention the form on the screen. Bong Joon-ho's unique lighting presents a new, unique, tender way of seeing the world despite everything that distances us from it. Isn't the story of Shaking Tokyo somehow similar to what I just described?



Black Breakfast / Jia Zhang Ke

Click here for an interview with the director on Black Breakfast.


Mobile Men / Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Click here for an interview with the director on Mobile Men.



Bengi Dönüş / Özgür Özcan

Click here to read my comments on Bengi Dönüş.



Avluda / Cevdet Erek

English Title: In the Courtyard

It's a visual, formal puzzle, not to be solved. A wonderful awareness of space.



El niño pez / Lucia Puenzo

English title: The Fish Child

After her wonderful XXY, Puenzo comes back with a very personal way of lighting things, and a very bizarre vision of the world.



Bellamy / Claude Chabrol

I have to admit I am a bit disappointed in Chabrol's standards... Still, as always, surrealism resides in everyday life, and the oh-so-happy lives are always on the brink of destruction. A pleasure to see...



Le plaisir de chanter / Ilan Duran Cohen

English title: The Joy of Singing

Very funny film, with a wonderful sense of joy, and great use of classical music. It's not very often that Bach is used in such great precision in cinema. But there's more...



Impasse / Bram Schouw

Good rhythm, and wonderfully lit. I'd like to see more by Bram Schouw.




 

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