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My Top 5 Films of 2014

December 7, 2014

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OK, so I’m bending the rules a little with my inclusion of seven films – but there is a fair degree of cogency in joining the three French films together for the contrasting ways they dramatise the corruption of the family unit….

Norte: The End of History (Lav Diaz)

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If cinema is the most multi-sensory of mediums, then Lav Diaz is one of its purest exponents. Norte was perhaps the most polished and impressive exposition of filmmaking I saw this year. Diaz is able to infuse his domestic Philippine saga with a universal, almost apocalyptic, air.

Full review:

Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)

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One word: wow! If Norte: The End of History was the best example of sound and image-making I saw this year, then Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin unquestionably provided my most immersive and memorable viewing experience. It’s a quite staggering film that almost belies any rational analysis, particularly as Glazer seems to have envisioned it as a work – like that of David Lynch – to engage our subconscious and sense of the uncanny.

Full review:

The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

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My favourite Scorsese picture for many a year. He seems to have rediscovered the sheer zest, energy and storytelling chutzpah that I felt had, quite understandably, been fading from his work as he entered his professional ‘dotage’ and since he had begun making films from an increasingly snug industrial position. It’s a relentlessly intuitive satire on the sheer grotesquery of high-end capitalism, and is apotheosis of the Scorsese-DiCaprio axis (something to stand alongside the Scorsese-De Niro masterpieces of Taxi DriverRaging Bull and The King of Comedy).

Full review:

Boyhood (Richard Linklater)

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Quite simply an ingenious filmmaking concept – a narrative filmed at various junctures over 1 years, using the same cast for that entire period. But it’s one thing coming up with the idea, and quite another to execute it as brilliantly as Linklater does. Tapping into the best sentiments of his Before triptych, Boyhood works not through an overly-determined narrative, but because it quietly taps into a certain temporal and poignant ‘truth’ about life.

Full review:

Bastards (Claire Denis), Jeune et Jolie (François Ozon), The Past (Asghar Farhadi)

Here are three seemingly different films, by tonally disparate auteurs, but they all provided supremely assured and striking deconstructions of the French family unit.

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Bastards, even though relatively speaking a Claire Denis work in minor key, was still a superior exercise in genre filmmaking, which atmospherically outed an air of vile moral repugnancy at the heart of its family-in-crisis.

Full review:

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While Lars von Trier’s Nymphomania garnered all the attention, I actually preferred François Ozon’s take on an unusual female sexual odyssey, Jeune et Jolie, which was released to little fanfare at the turn of the year. Unfairly dismissed as an exploitative work merely as a result of its beautiful female lead, I thought this was a deceptively graceful and psychoanalytically complex portrayal of female sexual agency.

Full review:

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The Past was a masterful cine-theatrical work, with Farhadi showing a dramatist’s knack (and no little cinematographic flair) in gradually revealing how a woman’s bad relationship choices have a devastating, coruscating effect on an alarmingly large number of people in her orb.

Full review:

(December 2014)

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