Thursday, January 17, 2013


#5 Holy Motors (dir. Leos Carax):

Wiry French character actor Denis Lavant has been on my radar ever since his impressive contribution to Claire Denis' masterpiece Beau Travail.  His work in Holy Motors, overseen by long time collaborator/director Leos Carax, has yielded one of his best performance to date, as well as what might be the oddest film since David Lynch last made a feature (count 'em, six long years ago)Lavant plays Monsieur Oscar, an actor of sorts driven around Paris as he prepares to play various roles in the back of white limousine.  At the end of each stage of his journey, Oscar emerges an entirely different beast, ranging from a cold killer to a bag lady, a deranged caveman, and beyond.  

Throughout Holy Motors, there are clues and reflexive statements aligning the seemingly random journey to a larger commentary on film as a technologically-based medium going through what is either a growth spurt or the beginnings of a death rattle.  At the same time, one can easily read the same cues as a statement on identity.  Carax has designed a film that is open to competing interpretations and even enjoyable if no attempts at analysis are made at all.  Has there been a more interesting and weird use of motion capture technology this year (or ever)?  I think not.  To quote a woman who saw the same screening I attended: "can anybody explain to me what THAT was about?"

Holy Motors is currently still in theaters.  Hit up Mr. Movie Times for details of when and where.

#4 The Master (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson):

Paul Thomas Anderson doesn't usually swim in the shallow end of the pool when it comes to story.  But with The Master, he's produced a film that barely seems interested in its own plot, choosing to devote excessive amounts of time to being present with its characters while slowly abandoning thread after thread of story they inhabit.  Luckily, Anderson's provided the audience with two of the more interesting characters he's ever drawn in Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) and Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman).  The static created between these two men says more about what The Master truly is than any piece of exposition or connect-the-dots plotting ever could.  They are the story.

Read my review of The Master here.

The Master is scheduled for release on DVD & Blu-ray on February 26th.

#3 Wuthering Heights (dir. Andrea Arnold):

Here's the rare costume drama that never feels stodgy in the least.  Still, Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights may test the patience of many viewers with its stubborn (or is it thrilling?) insistence on depicting a world without modern distractions.  However, those willing to wait it out 'til the bitter end will be amply rewarded with an exquisitely rendered take on timeless themes found both within and outside of the source material.  Wuthering Heights only furthers the suspicion that Arnold will eventually be counted as one of our greatest filmmakers.
Read my review of Wuthering Heights here.

Wuthering Heights is currently unavailable on DVD & Blu-ray in Region 1.  It will presumably be release on home video sometime in 2013 in the U.S.

#2 5 Broken Cameras (dir. Emad Burnat & Guy Davidi):

Back in April, I wrote that, "I don't think I've seen a more affecting documentary this year than Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi's 5 Broken Cameras."  It's still true.  There hasn't been a week all year that I haven't thought about this film at least once.  I could say a lot more about it, but, really, everyone should just watch it instead.

Read my review of 5 Broken Cameras here.

5 Broken Cameras is scheduled for release on DVD on January 15th.

#1 Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan):

I viewed Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Once Upon a Time in Anatolia just before it screened at last year's Portland International Film Festival.  I knew that night that there was little chance that I'd encounter another film that could top it in 2012, despite there being ten months left in the yearWhen writing about it later, I hinted that the plot of the movie is a diversion from what the film is actually about.  Most films about a search for a body at night wouldn't stray far from the urgency of that charge.  Ceylan's film turns the floodlights directly on the men carrying out the search.   

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia tells us more about those men than anything related to the crime being investigated.  A completely original, utterly patient, and truly satisfying tale.  It's a stone-cold masterpiece; one for the ages.
Read my review of Once Upon a Time in Anatolia here. 

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is currently available on DVD & Blu-ray and can be streamed via Netflix.

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