1. Sweet Dreams / Fai bei sogni (Marco Bellocchio)
The polite dismissals and general indifference
shown by critics toward this masterpiece by Bellocchio stun me. Is this ‘mother and child’ melodrama just too sentimental for them
all? But it’s a brilliant move on Bellocchio’s part
to marry his long-nurtured psychoanalytic themes, and his frequently surreal
sense of lived experience, to this pained, deeply moving story. Bellocchio has lost not an iota of his skill, or his artistry.
2. Twin Peaks: The Return (David Lynch/Mark Frost)
3. Lover for a Day / L'Amant d'un jour (Philippe Garrel)
It started by
slowing everything down, and then it went way, way out, inch by inch, week by
week. Absolutely nothing like the original 1990s series, The Return was a deep meditation on … returning, precisely: the
difficulty of returning, through time, in one’s body, to any kind of origin,
whether that origin is a town, or one’s self. However you slice it, it’s a
grand, momentous achievement, including some of the finest work Lynch has ever
I’m a lifelong sucker for Garrel, but I’m filled with a special admiration in the
face of the ‘trilogy of female desire’ formed by Jealousy, In the Shadow of
Women and now Lover for a Day. Using
a 75 minute, black-and-white, widescreen format across the series, Garrel and his phalanx of writers compress the usual
dynamics of his films, finding new tones of melodrama and comedy alongside the
usual melancholia. They are perfect movies.
4. Detroit (Kathryn Bigelow)
5. Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello)
As a steadfast fan of Near Dark and Blue Steel, I have tenaciously resisted the mainstream shift in
Bigelow’s career represented by The Hurt
Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, even
as I’m glad their success has put her back in the industry game (and Zero Dark Thirty, at least, does improve
on later viewings). But what I took to be the political evasions of those films
– evasions in relation to terrorism, and war – become, by displacement, the
central subject of the powerful Detroit,
which is really about the State’s terror regime in a condition of urban, race
war. Not a ‘return to form’, but a new and exciting form for Bigelow to have
In France, tragic real events trounced the surprise factor in Bonello’s provocative, stylish portrait of young terrorists
for whom Paris is a plaything to be ‘occupied’ and blown up. A political film
made in the manner of an American B genre special of the 1970s, stunningly
cinematic in its concatenation of time, space, place and event. With a daring
two-part structure: the first is all restless movement and travel, while the
second hunkers down in the adventure-playground of an abandoned department
store – resulting in several brilliant set-pieces, and a chilling finale.
6. Hermia & Helena (Matías Piñeiro)
The films of this Argentinean director have, in scarcely a decade, swiftly
become as internally networked and interrelated as those of Garrel throughout his life. The same ensemble of actors, the suite of variations on
Shakespearean themes and situations, the playful interweavings from Rohmer and Rivette … it can veer toward cinephile preciousness and even pretention, but here the
level of inventiveness is kept high and fresh. An absolute
delight, with some truly surprising and satisfying deviations.
7. The Unknown Girl (the Dardennes)
tight-knit filmmakers have run the risk, like many contemporary auteurs reliant on the festival and arthouse circuit, of making their style and subject into a rigid template that gets
exactly repeated every time … or else their ‘signature’ will be neither recognised nor honoured. Where
the disappointing Two Days, One Night (2014) showed the brothers in a trough – if not on a treadmill – The Unknown Girl re-finds their
inspiration, in a firm meshing of narrative moves with ethical questions. It
edges a bit closer to the outright ‘mystery thriller’ that one senses the Dardennes have always wanted to make.
8. Song to Song (Terrence Malick)
fickle tastes of the art film crowd flowed away from Malick after his ‘comeback’ with The Thin Red
Line, and flowed back again, briefly, for The Tree of Life. Otherwise, it’s been pretty much a bloodbath of
abuse and rejection of this filmmaker’s still formidable experimental spirit. To the Wonder, despite my best efforts
as an appreciative fan, lost me momentarily, but both Knight of Cups and Song to
Song contain some of his most dazzlingly lyrical conjunctions of sense,
sight and reflection.
9. The Assignment (Walter Hill)
This marvelous film got thrown under
the bus of instant oblivion even faster than Nocturama – and for roughly
similar reasons of political over-sensitivity. Based on his own graphic novel, Hill
hits his best groove in this fast and furious tale of gender-tinkering and bloody
revenge. Sigourney Weaver has a particularly juicy part in it.
10. Creepy (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
The fantastique is everywhere these
days, far beyond its usual, cozy berth within the horror genre – supernatural
premises have invaded even the homeliest TV event-series, and ghosts of all
stripes are ubiquitous across story modes. Kurosawa, over both cinema and TV, holds to his well-honed manner of downplaying outright
fantasy/horror elements in order to dwell within the uncanny and unsettling,
the realm of the slightly ‘off’ – and Creepy is among his most ingeniously constructed contraptions. Cristina Álvarez López and I made an
audiovisual essay about one aspect of it (its ‘social mise en scène’), here at MUBI NOTEBOOK.
A special word for two
Australian films: Alena Lodkina’s finely chiseled debut feature, Strange Colours, and Bill Mousoulis’
freewheeling Songs of Revolution.
Both deserve to be much more widely screened, programmed, seen and discussed.
… and, apart from Twin Peaks: The Return, there was much
terrific TV: Jane Campion’s Top of the
Lake: China Girl, Fargo Season 3, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Girls, Big Little Lies, The
Americans, Better Call Saul, Dark, Blindspot, The Deuce, Glitch …
© Adrian Martin