Ten in 2010

Le Quattro Volte

And so, like a wet goat, another year is born; an ideal opportunity to reflect on 2010 and make widescreen resolutions for 2011. You may already be wading through Top Tens up and down the cyberland, but here’s my own little twist ending to the cinematic story of 2010, namely a countdown of the scenes that have afterburned themselves the most onto my film-addled brain.

2010 has been a challenging year for world cinema, with the arrest of Iranian director Jafar Panahi and the demise of the UK Film Council looming largest. And sadly, both Foreign Language Oscar winner The Secret In Their Eyes as well as Apichatpong Weerasethkul’s Palme d’Or prized Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives left me strangely cold. With only Un Prophète, Gainsbourg and Of Gods And Men to really write home about, stalwarts of European cinema, France and Spain, haven’t fared so well this year as Italy, with the deep yet farcical Loose Cannons or the spiritually moving and excitingly protagonist-free Le Quattro Volte. (Although it has been a good year for model turned actor Nicolas Duvauchelle making his name in André Techiné’s The Girl On The Train, Claire Denis’ White Material and Antony Cordier’s Happy Few.)

Io Sono L'Amore

Italian directors, such as Nicolo Donato and Luca Guadagnino also brought us the fantastic Danish gay neo-Nazi film Brotherhood and the gloriously grand Tilda Swinton love letter I Am Love, while Abbas Kiarostami and Anton Corbijn chose Italy  for their multilingual Certified Copy and The American. Romanian cinema still shines brightly with quietly moving Police, Adjective and The Happiest Girl In The World while Israel has had two of the best films of the year with Lebanon and Eyes Wide Open.

Really though, it’s been South America’s year, Argentina not only winning the Oscar but also challenging its audiences with delicately nuanced films, such as Delfina Castagnino’s subtly captivating What I Love The Most or Marco Berger’s utterly convincing Plan B, outshining Pablo Trapero’s The Lion’s Den or Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman. Striving against homophobia and towards sexual openness has provided some great South and Central American films, both minimalist such as Leap Year, funny like Contracorriente or sublimely mythological like Julián Hernández’ Raging Sun, Raging Sky. And next year’s very round Bolivian film Zona Sur is bound to keep South America at the top.

Un Prophète

Here though are my top ten scenes from 2010, in no particular order.

A Prophet: Chills as Malik leaving prison ready to immerse himself in family life as a flotilla of black mafia cars hum.

I Am Love: A startlingly skittish ending to this refined Italian family drama, climaxing on a heartbeat montage of elegant, empty rooms.

Of Gods And Men: Swan Lake pounds as tearful monks take their last supper, with sublime facial cinematography from Caroline Champetier.

Brotherhood: Love in the time of the swastika, tension builds as Lars and Jimmy get it on at a neo-Nazi party.

Certified Copy: How does she do it? Juliette Binoche goes from tragedy to comedy in the blink of an eye and the curl of a lip in a heartmelting restaurant scene.

Le Quattro Volte: A sheepdog directs actors of a Passion play up the garden path, ultimately leading to a Jeunetesque chain of chaos and rampaging goats.

Eyes Wide Open: As Orthodox Jews try to resist the love between them, Aaron gives Ezri a heartbreaking, last-stand thump.

A Single Man: The film may have more sequins and spangles than a Gucci dress, but Colin Firth’s reaction to hearing about the death of his lover Jim is razor sharp.

The American: The opening scene of ruthless hitman George Clooney shooting his girlfriend in the back of the head on a frozen Swedish lake is utterly shocking.

Illégal: Anne Coesens mouthing tearfully to her son in Russian from behind the glass of her detention centre window is heartbreaking.

And so 2011 is already getting off to a good start with 127 Hours, The King’s Speech, American trailer-park indie movie Blue Valentine, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Biutiful and Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan all hitting cinemas this month. With Tran Anh Hung and Mark Romanek bringing unfilmable novels such as Norwegian Wood and Never Let Me Go to the screen, it looks like a good year for Japanophiles. Gus Van Sant’s kamikaze Restless looks like an interesting new departure, while Xavier Dolan follows up debut I Killed My Mother with his elegantly referential breakthrough hit, Les Amours Imaginaires.

Personally, I’m hoping for better things from Almodovar this year with the back-to-Banderas The Skin That I Inhabit and remain ever optimistic that Wong Kar Wai may have a stunner up his sleeve with martial arts drama The Grandmasters. Lars von Trier’s Penelope Cruz scifi movie Melancholia will hopefully see the director head towards less wincing shores (even an absence of talking animals would do it for me) and we won’t have long to wait before we discover what John Cameron Mitchell makes of Pulitzer Prize winning play Rabbit Hole. But I’m looking forward to Guillaume Canet’s good time French comedy Little White Lies. (Won’t it be nice to see Marion Cotillard speak French again?) And as I can’t pass up on either a Lynne Ramsay or Susanne Bier film, I’m looking forward to both We Need To Talk About Kevin and In A Better World. There’s lots more to look forward to, including Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies, Sebastian Silva’s Old Cats or Paddy Considine’s directorial debut Tyrannosaur. And as we gradually enter awards season once again, UK cinemas should be sitting pretty. For a while at least.

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