FLOWERS, IRON, WHISKY and VIOLENCE : A ‘TRIBUNE’ TOP TEN FOR 2005
(This article was written for the year-end issue of TRIBUNE magazine. Subscriptions are available – make ideal Christmas presents!)
On reflection 2005 proved a solid enough year for cinema – at least in terms of that small portion of the dizzyingly vast current global movie-making scene which found its way onto British screens. But with our multiplexes increasingly clogged with escapist, kiddie-centric fantasy (or noxious, "uplifting" dreck like Cinderella Man) and our arthouses too often stuffed with uninspiringly stodgy (mostly French) foreign fare, it's becoming harder and harder to track down the gems.
The depressing fate of Tod Williams' John Irving adaptation The Door in the Floor (showcasing a career-best performance from Jeff Bridges) which managed about two weeks in February before disappearing onto DVD, was perhaps all too predictable. It's one of three near misses for this year's shamelessly subjective Tribune Top Ten – along with a couple of multiplex-busting movies which proved rather easier to catch: Tim Burton's unexpectedly coherent Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (UK release: July), and Stephen Chow's deliriously demented, irresistibly hyperkinetic Kung Fu Hustle (June).
But now for the top ten – in the traditional suspense-maximising reverse order:
10. Juan Carlos Rebella & Pablo Stoll's Whisky (July)
Wonderfully bone-dry dysfunctional-family comedy from Uruguay, whose every word, gesture and shot is weighed and expertly slotted into place – resulting a feature with the dense economy of the finest shorts.
9. Cate Shortland's Somersault (March)
A strikingly sensitive debut from a very talented new writer-director, breathing new life into the tired coming-of-age/first-love genre and proving that antipodean cinema doesn't have to visit Middle Earth or Narnia to find magic…
8. Trey Parker's Team America : World Police (January)
Swiftian satire at its subversive best arrived on our screens with a loud bang at the very start of the year – a dead-on spoof of gung-ho Hollywood action movies played out with poisonous puppets which made some savage (and surprisingly accurate) digs at the current geo-political situation.
7. Terry George's Hotel Rwanda (March)
One of the most harrowing and devastating films of recent years, as befits the still-painful subject matter of Rwanda's mid-90s genocide. Features a superb and achingly Oscar-worthy turn from Don Cheadle – pound for pound, arguably America's finest actor right now.
6. Kim Ki-Duk's 3-Iron (July)
Near-wordless existential comedy-drama, the most accomplished and accessible work yet from South Korea's most acclaimed and controversial auteur.
5. C S Leigh's Process (July)
Beatrice Dalle goes off the rails… Pretentious uber-French psycho-drama or straight-faced spoof? A scandalously limited release meant few audiences got to find out the delicious answers for themselves.
4. Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers (October)
Bill Murray, marvellous again in a typically wry Jarmusch deadpan-a-thon – but unlike Lost In Translation, this time the film as a whole proved a worthy vehicle.
3. Jacob Aaron Estes's Mean Creek (April)
Deliverance meets Stand By Me in this drum-right ensemble drama from a debutant American writer-director whose next moves should be very closely watched.
2. Claire Denis's The Intruder (August)
Indescribable dream-poem of a movie from France's most remarkable film-maker, a network of tantalising elliptical fragments which almost cohere into something approaching a plot. Abandon logic, and surrender…
1. David Cronenberg's A History of Violence (September)
Equally suitable for arthouse, multiplex or at home on DVD, Cronenberg's career-crowning graphic-novel adaptation tells the story of an ordinary-seeming family man (Viggo Mortensen) whose peaceful life in the American mid-west may or may not hide a terrible secret. Simultaneously a gripping thriller, a fascinating psychological puzzle, a deft political parable and a masterclass in acting, writing and, most of all, direction, A History of Violence is head and shoulders the film of the year – and surely destined for any future decade-spanning top ten. Watch this space.
POSTSCRIPT : seen too late for inclusion, King Kong would have been #2.