The end of the year arrives (ouch!) and the time honored tradition of list creation is upon us. Reflecting on the year it was relatively strong all things (gulp… the economy) considered. So in that tradition I present to you my top ten of 2010.
1. Curling – Named Best Director at Locarno this year, Denis Cote’s previous work Carcasses screened at The Grand illusion last year. His newest film Curling is my film of the year. The opening sequence containing a single chilly image of a road on the Canadian prairie in the middle of a daytime blizzard, is amongst the most masterfully executed scenes this year. A new spin on family dysfunction, the film stars Emmanuel Bilodeau and Jean-Francois, a single father who shields his daughter so much from society that even at 12 he has never let her attend school. Filled with bundled white bodies adrift in a sea of frigid snow, you’re convinced that these harsh conditions and the characters rural isolation provide shelter from the most brutal forces of humanity. Look for it to premiere somewhere stateside in 2011.
2. Le Quattro Volte – Michelangelo Frammartino’s is an eye opener. Shot in the charmingly quaint village of Calabria (of Fellini fame), this four-part ode to man and nature connecting the dots among man, animal, vegetable, mineral — and dust. It is an observation of life starting with a goat shepherd and ending with the methodical burning of a tree. It has all the makings of a biblical play in the trappings of contemporary time. Another blurring of the lines between documentary and fiction, as Frammartino describes it “It took us almost five years to shoot the film, and it was plagued with problems. Then we returned to Calabria, where the film is set, various times, to film the tree in different seasons”. The tree in question is one of the films main protagonists, as are a dog, a baby goat, and a goat herder. Utterly original, this film will make its way to town sometime in the spring.
3. Daddy Longlegs – Josh and Benny Safdie’s outstanding feature chronicling the foibles of a floundering father, loosely based on their own father. The Safdie bros elicit one of the finest performances in decades from Ronald Bronstein, and over all give Cassavettes a run for his money. These guys are more than someone to watch, they’re the real deal and we were very glad to welcome them into our cinemas this past summer.
4. Cold Weather – The latest from Aaron Katz (Dance Party USA/ Quiet City) the film is simultaneously a story of siblings Doug and Gail getting to know each other after years apart and a mystery in the great tradition of crime and detective fiction. Part hommage to Portland part honoring of French crime films, Katz’s coy and funny thriller keeps audiences guessing, while sharpening his singular cinematic style.
5. Nostalgia For Light- Chilean Patricio Guzmán continues to find new and extraordinary ways to never forget the harsh brutality of the Pinochet regime. Here Guzmán opens perhaps the most interesting doorway, by turning his scope on the skies. Chile’s Atacama Desert houses one of the finest observatories of the stars, but it is also the final resting place for thousands of men assassinated in Chile’s concentration camps. This is by far one of the most moving exploration of the heavens and the Earth we’ve been given.
6. Double Tide – Many of you may have heard me rave about Sharon Lockhart’s outstanding Lunch Break, an 11 minute film slowed to the glacial pace of 80 minutes after I saw a screening of it in the Berlinale, where I started in an audience of 250 and finished with an audience of 25. Some attrition rate! Well last year I caught Sharon’s newest film Double Tide in which a female clam digger in the mudflats of coastal Maine and is filmed on the rare occasion in which low tide occurs twice within daylight hours—once at dawn and once at dusk. It was a stunning exceptional work of documentary labor, screened this time in a theater of nearly 500, and most of them stayed!
7. Putty Hill – An American indie makes my list! Matt Porterfield’s Baltimore set dramatic doc hybrid reveals a new slice of the American landscape. A young man dies of a heroin overdose in an abandoned house in Baltimore. On the eve of his funeral, family and friends gather to commemorate his life. Their shared memories paint a portrait of a community hanging in the balance, skewed by poverty, city living, and a generational divide, united in their pursuit of a new American Dream.
8. I Am Secretly An Important Man – Seattle’s punk poet laureate Jessie Bernstein finally got his due this year with Peter Sillen’s impressive and important documentary portrait, which closed our Local sightings Film Festival and got a theatrical run in our theatre. Its rumored to be opening in New york later this month and we’re still hoping to help it get some more dates on the West Coast.
9. Carlos (part 2) – Okay maybe its a cop out to select just one part of this 3 part epic, but part 2 of Olivier Aswsayas’ three part epic on Carlos The Jackal ignited every fear I have about flying. It was a tense two hours that provided the kind of visceral response that Hollywood promises but never delivers.
10. Chaque jour est une fête – I first caught this in Rotterdam and then again at SIFF this year. An evocative dream-like piece the film follows three women is riding in the same bus through Lebanon for a day’s journey towards the same destination: the mens prison. A journey of a woman’s body through the desert, El-Horr masterfully choreographs our gaze through a landscape that is both absurd and beautiful.
NOTE: I haven’t seen Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, which by all accounts would likely top my list.