Favourites from 2012


Once upon a time in Anatolia

I am afraid I am the last to post a listing for 2012, however I have been laid low with a viral infection: fortunately there were not a lot of exciting new releases around. However, unlike Des, I thought 2013 was a great year for films.

Five favourite new releases:

Once upon a Time in Anatolia / Bir zamanlar Anadolu’da, Turkey / Bosnia-Herzegovina 2011.
I saw this film three times. It retained its luminous images and sounds but increased in complexity at every viewing.

The Nine Muses, UK 2010
A documentary by John Akomfrah and some of his colleagues from the old Black Audio Film Collective. The film was challenging but beautifully filmed and recorded with highly intelligent content.

My Week with Marilyn, USA / UK 2011
Not a great film, but a great performance by Michelle Williams. In one scene she poses at the foot of a stairwell for the working members of the royal household – you could be back in the 1950s actually watching Marilyn.

About Elly / ‘Darbareye Elly’, France / Iran 2009.
This film received a UK cinema release because of the success of the director’s more recent Nader and Simin, A Separation / Jodaelye Nader az Simin, 2011. Unfortunately his earlier film Fireworks Wednesday (2006) is apparently only being made available on DVD.

Amour, France / Germany / Austria 2012.
The film has fine direction from Michael Haneke, but what most impresses are the performances – Jean-Louis Trintignant, Isabelle Huppert and, notably, Emmanuelle Riva. Emmanuelle Riva’s first film was Hiroshima mon Amour (1958); now 85, and fifty five years later comes Amour – what a spring and winter of a career.

Five re-issues or restorations on film and other formats.

Die Weber

Die Weber

Die Weber / The Weavers, Germany 1927
This classic silent political drama has been restored by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Stiftung [the film archive in Wiesbaden]. I was fortunate enough to see this both at Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna where the film enjoyed a musical accompaniment of a soundtrack on the print. Then I saw it a second time at Il Giornate del Cinema Muto where it was accompanied by a live piano accompaniment. Both occasions used the DCP format: the transfer seemed pretty good, but the black and white image did lack the tonal range likely on 35mm. Even so it impressed, as did the cast that included William Dieterle and Arthur Krauβneck. They are part of a C19th Weaver’s revolt against lowering wages and the introduction of machines – territory paralleling the studies of E P Thompson.

Girls of Dark / Onna bakari no yoru, Japan 1962.
This was one of the most interesting films in the Tanaka Kinuyo retrospective at the Leeds International Film Festival. It looked good in black and white Tohoscope. And it was a fascinating women’s drama with a memorable final sequence.

Tess, France UK 1979.
Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel has been restored by Pathé and Éclair using digital technology. It is released in the UK in 2013 and should be in a 4K digital version. I saw it at Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore. The screening started at 1030 p.m. so I only planned to watch the first hour – but it looked so good I was seduced into the whole three hours.

Marcel Ophüls and Jean-Luc Godard: The St-Gervais Meeting, Switzerland 2011.
This recording was filmed and screened in a digital format at the Bradford International Film Festival and runs for 44 minutes. We witness a conversation between two of the most intelligent, intriguing but utterly contrasting filmmakers in modern cinema. The meeting is fascinating, illuminating and extremely witty.

James Cagney DVDs.
I found three DVDs in a 50p basket outside a local shop – Public Enemy 1931, Roaring Twenties 1939 and White Heat 1949. I watched them one evening after another over the weekend. Another revival this year was a 1980s Parkinson television interview with Orson Welles. At one point Welles claimed that Cagney was the greatest screen actor of all, [he presumably was thinking mainly of Hollywood]. An unusual choice, but after watching these three classics I think he could be right.

And, finally the least favourites ….

Beasts of the Southern Wild, USA 2012.
I thought this the most over-praised film of the year: and now its up for Oscars!

A Dangerous Method, UK 2011
I thought this contained the most over-praised performance of the year.

The Master, USA 2012-12-22
I found this the most interminable film of the year.

I should add that the above film was actually surpassed by one I watched on Film Four – The Notebook, USA 2012. However, this last film did bring to my attention my favourite caustic comment I read this year – Peter Bradshaw’s Guardian review quoted in Halliwell’s DVD & Video Guide:

“Dentistry in the Renaissance could not have been more painful than watching this.”

One comment

  1. Roy Stafford

    Apart from not seeing Amour and Die Weber and disagreeing with you on Keira Knightley in A Dangerous Method, I think I’m with you on these choices. I’d forgotten Nine Muses was this year as I saw it in 2011 and must soon watch it again. I’m glad you picked out Michelle Williams and Tess – which I look forward to seeing on the big screen.


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