As 2012 fades from sight as quickly as corroding celluloid, a final round-up of the best and worst of 2012 and those to look out for in 2013.
Strange Days by Mark Wilshin
As the credits roll on 2012, it’s easy to forget some of the great films this Olympic year has seen. And while recession-proof funding the world over has finally hit the big screen with fewer unique, daring or challenging films to pique our cinematic consciousness, Leos Carax’s Holy Motors notwithstanding, 2012 has been a year of special moments rather than of jaw-dropping films. Like a selection box of festive chocolates, we’ve salivated over the luscious delicacy of Amour and Keep The Lights On, nipped gingerly on the bitter sweetness of Shame and Elles, and gorged ourselves on the sheer sugar-coated fantasia of Laurence Anyways.
These are the moments which remain, like the glorious devil-may-care, head-turning entrance of Suzanne Clément in Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways, all ’80s extravagance and synthpop, or Juliette Binoche’s neck-bulging contortions in Elles, pleasuring herself on the bathroom floor with skin-tight honesty. Malgorzata Szumowska’s unerotic sexuality can only be rivalled by Steve McQueen’s Shame, a masterclass in depravity with one long wondrous tracking shot of a night run through Manhattan’s streets to redeem its stone-cold subject matter with some cinematic warmth.
Despite Skyfall or any of the other blockbusters in 2012, it’s Rust And Bone that for me wins the CGI award of the year, the vanishing of Marion Cotillard’s legs simply breathtaking. And it’s hard to deny, whether you liked it or not, that Leos Carax’s Holy Motors is one of the most visually stunning, if utterly perplexing, films of 2012. Almost in complete opposition, with none of the plastic fervour or visual hyperbole, are Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse and Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon A Time In Anatolia, glorious visual feasts encircling space and time. But for performance it’s hard to beat Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva in Michael Haneke’s Amour, while Ira Sachs’ Keep The Lights On probably provided the best script of the year, condensing an eleven-year relationship of love, sex, addiction and pain into a delicious 100 minutes.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment was Paul Thomas Anderson’s greatly anticipated The Master, though I have to admit everything from Boogie Nights to There Will Be Blood has left me hungry for a well-crafted story and a tighter script. Joaquin Phoenix is undeniably brilliant as the skittish simpleton, but the film reveals little about power, male relationships or even Scientology. There is however a lot to look forward to in 2013, starting with Pablo Larraín’s No – a national treasure of a movie recounting Chile’s story like no other. And there’s Wadjda – the first Saudi Arabian film directed by a woman, Haifaa Al-Mansour not only lifting the veil on an all-female school but also on a girl’s simple yet tabooed desire to cycle. Quentin Tarantino returns to form with Django Unchained while Baz Luhrmann storms through the Roaring Twenties’ greatest excesses in The Great Gatsby (though it’s hard to imagine Leonardo di Caprio coming even close to Robert Redford’s Gatsby). There’s Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond The Hills, Susanne Bier’s rom-com Love Is All You Need, Norway’s Oscar contender Kon-Tiki and perhaps most excitingly (and dare I say it after My Blueberry Nights, potentially most disappointingly) Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster.
Derek Cianfrance follows up Blue Valentine with The Place Beyond The Pines while François Ozon’s gloriously funny and cleverly scripted school-set comedy In The House provides the French director with a neat follow-up to the riotous campness of Potiche. Genre-busting directors Gus Van Sant and Michael Winterbottom turn in some big names with Promised Land and The Look Of Love (respectively) while Steve McQueen’s third feature 12 Years A Slave featuring Quvenzhané Wallis of Beasts Of The Southern Wild goes back further in time with a look at the American slave trade. Michel Gondry, with his familiarly unique brand of whimsy, unites Audrey Tautou, Romain Duris and Omar Sy in Mood Indigo, while Mira Nair gives us a fantastic adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist with a brilliant performance from the inscrutable Riz Ahmed in a taut teahouse-bound cat-and-mouse thriller.
Not to mention the hilarious, subtly futuristic and brilliantly scripted Robert & Frank, starring Frank Langella as a retired cat burglar getting back in the game with an unwilling automaton accomplice. And with new films too from Carlos Reygadas and Lars Von Trier to look forward to, 2013 is set to be another great year of world cinema. Proof perhaps that despite the reliance of film industries from all over the globe on household names and best-selling novels to assure box-office success, audiences can still be trusted with an auteur cinema of more than moments.