1 The Master
Paul Thomas Anderson, USA
The sheer, radioactive strangeness of the film is what exerts the initial grip – then the oustanding performance of Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell. Perhaps it should have been called ‘The Disciple’.
Miguel Gomes, Portugal/Germany/France
In turning a melancholy drama about three lonely women in modern Lisbon into an African colonial idyll of adulterous love, Portuguese director Miguel Gomes pulled off the year’s greatest conjuring trick.
Michael Haneke, France/Germany/Austria
A devastating experience that joins Michael Haneke’s icy, immaculate style to an intrinsically emotional subject: what happens to a harmonious marriage when the wife suffers a series of debilitating strokes.
4 Holy Motors
Leos Carax, France/Germany
Born from the womb of cinephilic history, raised into a many-headed beast, dangerous and passionate, it shows how cinema can recall its past and augur its future.
5= Beasts of the Southern Wild
Benh Zeitlin, USA
I’ll never forget Quvenzhané Wallis cookin’ up a storm with a blowtorch, or the miracles unfolding in the sweaty Cajun bayou. First features don’t get much better.
→ Read Isabel Stevens’ interview with Benh Zeitlin online
→ Read Nick Pinkerton’s review in our November 2012 issue [Subscribers’ link]
5= Berberian Sound Studio
Peter Strickland, UK/Germany
Sound is pivotal in Peter Strickland’s blackly comic, stylish and off-kilter riff on 1970s Italian horror, which thumbs its nose at English pastoral roots – with a very English irreverence.
7 Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson, USA
Wes Anderson’s film struck a chord in its exuberant use of Benjamin Britten’s music, but I also loved it for its great humour and surprising (for this director) humanity.
8= Beyond the Hills
Cristian Mungiu, Romania/France/Belgium
The brilliant final scene cemented my faith in Cristian Mungiu’s sensitive and searing realisation of this story – based on real events – of a disruptive intruder persecuted by a religious community.
David Cronenberg, Canada/France/Portugal/Italy
David Cronenberg’s sleek adaptation of Don DeLillo’s urban road movie, as elegant, cool and rebarbative as the stretch limo Robert Pattinson’s antihero travels in.
8= Once upon a Time in Anatolia
Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey/Bosnia & Herzegovina
Like a nod to Yilmaz Güney’s 1982 classic Yol, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s film takes on the multilayers of Turkish life in an epic road movie. Perfect cinema, for me.
8= This Is Not a Film
A sketch for an imagined film, an essay on both the nature of reality and the ever-expanding properties of lo-fi digital cinema, this is a funny and moving portrait of the artist as prisoner of conscience.