It is that time of year again. Yes we are talking about the top 10 films of 2015. What you haven’t read of these lists? Well then please have a read!
A never better Colin Farrell is the schlub who has a limited time to find a partner to avoid turning into an animal in this blackly funny film which has a lot to say about relationships. Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (his previous films Dogtooth and Alps are also worth seeking out) filmed this in Ireland and it is the most wonderful of cultural hybrids. A great script adds to the fun.
The sickeningly young and talented Xavier Dolan (5 feature films made and only 26) has made an exquisite melodrama that succeeds because of the depth of love for the trio of main characters in the film. It is a technical marvel shot in a 1:1 aspect ratio which is essentially a perfect square and it occasionally broadens out in a glorious way. His English language debut will arrive in 2016.
Goodbye to Language / Adieu au langage
From the sickeningly young to the grand old master of French cinema Jean Luc Godard comes his latest film Goodbye to Language (his 43rd film). Godard picks through the bones of cinema and produces the only essential 3D film. Messy, occasionally painful to look at and infuriating, it is also a jolt to the heart for dull modern cinema and the placated audiences who love to be led both visually and with predictable sound cues. It is a one off kind of brilliant. And you will probably hate it. I did – until I didn’t.
Denis Villienieve’s previous film Prisoners was well received but was overlong and bloated. Enemy is quite the opposite: it is economic, layered and very bleak. The film is beautifully shot, in the grimiest of browns, seemingly discolouring everything. There is some gorgeous and indeed disturbing imagery on show here as well. This is probably Jake Gyllenhaal’s finest performance(s). See it, get freaked out and then see it again.
So if Paul Thomas Anderson couldn’t quite hit the heights of his two previous films that does not mean there is not greatness in here (The Master and There Will be Blood are amongst the finest of this century). An adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel, it involves a ridiculously complex investigation by Joaquin Phoenix as Doc Sportillo. There are elements of The Big Lebowski, Airplane and The Long Goodbye here but it is underpinned by the loss of the hippie dream in the US in the 1960s as it gave way to the 70s and Nixon. Sadness permeates even as we laugh. The reputation of this feel will grow as the years go by.
The Duke of Burgundy
A breathtakingly beautiful film full of stunning imagery that is also tremendously sexy. Two terrific lead performances and not a man in sight. What more could you ask from a film. Strickland’s follow up to Berberian Sound Studio is superb with underlying themes such as aging and the effort needed to keep the spark in a relationship.
The Look of Silence
Joshua Oppenheimer’s acclaimed follow up to the stunning The Act of Killing (probably the best documentary this century) is another deeply disturbing tale from the bleak history of Indonesia. Whilst the previous film looked at the genocides from the perpetrators perspective, The Look of Silence is from the perspective of the victims. Beautifully shot and very moving this is a double bill of extraordinary filmmaking. Like The Act of Killing this is grim but absolutely essential.
Ok things aren’t getting any cheerier here. The Tribe is the epic gangster film in microcosm set in a Ukrainian school for the deaf. Told entirely in sign language with no subtitles (trust me, far easier to watch and follow than you would think) this is a brilliantly directed film that is nonetheless at times very disturbing and difficult to watch. The Tribe is one to steer clear of if violence upsets you. If you can take it, there are rewards in a film that is absolutely committed to its ideas from start to finish.
In a House that Ceased to be
This is as good as filmmaking got in Ireland in 2015. Unflinching and heartfelt, the humanitarian efforts of Christina Noble are put in perspective with In A House That Ceased To Be, one of the finest Irish documentaries in many years. A film that is in turns funny, angry and unbearably moving, director Ciarín Scott has fashioned cinematic catharsis and, in a nation that desperately needs it, that catharsis is an outpouring full of relieved joy, guilty anguish and righteous rage.
We end with a film I saw in early January and it has still not been bettered. Foxcatcher tells the true story of Mark and Dave Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffolo) Olympic gold medallists at wrestling and their disastrous relationship with American millionaire John Du Pont (Steve Carrell). This a cold and disturbing film that plays at a deliberate pace (I know some people who were not fans) but it is always fascinating. All three actors are great but it is Carrell quiet and kind of numbly terrifying as Du Pont that stays with you. This is a chilling film and a modern classic.
Best of the rest:
OK I did like some happier (though not necessarily happy) films so here is my best of the rest.
The best blockbuster of the year was Mad Max: Fury Road and there really wasn’t any contest.
For animated/’kids’ films the best was Inside Out but I was also a big fan of Paddington and the excellent Song of the Sea which flew the Irish flag.
Best oddity that essentially no one saw was London Road – difficult one to describe this. It is a musical/non-musical about the true story of a serial killer in Ipswich. Sounds like it couldn’t work but it really does.
Speaking of Irish films this was a stellar year. Terry McMahon’s Patrick’s Day and Frank Berry’s I Used to Live Here are both excellent. Gerard Barrett’s Glassland is well worth a watch. Your mother will love John Crowley’s Brooklyn (I merely liked it but Saoirse Ronan is stunning in it). There is also a brilliant documentary from Tadhg O’Sullivan called The Great Wall that explores very real physical, political and psychological boundaries. Tana Bana is another fine documentary from Pat O’Connor story of the traditional versus modernity amidst the city of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges in India. I have already mentioned the excellent In a House that Ceased to be and The Lobster.
The surprises of the year were the excellent Straight Outta Compton (and what great music as well) and the terrific Spanish post-Franco thriller Marshland.
Cross the road to avoid – Both Terminator Genisys and Jurassic World were crimes against cinema. I watched them so you don’t have to. You have been warned.