Given the pitiful range of films usually available to Perth cinemagoers, I'm pleased that I managed to catch several of my favourite films this year at blink-and-you'll-miss-it festivals and screenings. I had to resort to torrenting for only two of them (Lisandro Alonso's Jauja and Amat Escalante's Heli) and I'll be sure to pay to see them again when I'm given an opportunity to do so.
Of the 34 films currently on release in Perth, a meagre three are non-English language. Palace Cinema's slate of foreign releases remains frustratingly conservative, as they tend only to bank on Sundance and Toronto hits, or Cannes prizewinners of European or American origin. To give an indication, since 2000, twelve of the fourteen Palme d'Or winners have been released theatrically here, with the only exceptions being the films that aren't European or American: Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Thailand) and Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Winter Sleep (Turkey). However, I'm hopeful that the new programmer for Perth International Art Festival's Lotterywest Film Program will broaden its currently Eurocentric focus, and the Iranian film showcase sidebar of Revelation International Film Festival (now in its second year) remains an invaluable addition to the city's film calendar.
Two of the films on my list are shorts – Vladilen Vierny's poetic La Fémis graduation film Exil (the video embedded below is the trailer, not the film) and Manuel Alvarez Diestro's beautiful experimental film Displacements (no trailer available) – and I caught Tsai Ming-liang's Journey to the West when Arte made it available briefly for streaming earlier this year (however, watching a Tsai film on a computer screen now feels painfully inadequate, having watched one [Stray Dogs] for the first time in a cinema last year). The biggest disappointment for me was Claire Denis's grimy and unpleasant Bastards, which reunited many of her regular cast in a film that reminded me only of a more artful and less exploitative "torture-porn" film. I wasn't able to see the two films I was anticipating most – Pedro Costa's Horse Money and Ceylan's Winter Sleep – and look forward to catching up with them in the new year.
Although not among the best, there were a few strong and interesting Australian films. David Gulpilil gives the strongest performance of his career in Rolf de Heer's Charlie's Country, one of the only recent Australian films willing to tackle national issues. Jennifer Kent's The Babadook is an enjoyable horror film that strikes a nice balance between an old-fashioned gothic ghost story and the excesses of contemporary horror. Although nowhere near as accomplished as Joshua Oppenheimer's lauded The Act of Killing, the low-budget East Timorese melodrama Beatriz's War (co-directed by Bety Reis and Luigi Acquisto; the latter is Australian) forms an interesting counterpoint – indeed, it is conceptually the very opposite – to the former film, in that real-life victims of the Indonesian occupation perform the roles of both victims and perpetrators, rather than The Act of Killing's emphasis on the murderers.
My top ten in alphabetical order:
Honourable mentions: Adieu au language (Jean-Luc Godard), The Babadook (Jennifer Kent), Beatriz's War (Bety Reis & Luigi Acquisto), Charlie's Country (Rolf de Heer), Come and Play (Daria Belova), A Hijacking (Tobias Lindholm), Locke (Steven Knight), The Past (Asghar Farhadi), Sacro GRA (Gianfranco Rosi), To Kill a Man (Alejandro Fernández Almendras), Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)
Overrated: 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen), 20,000 Days on Earth (Ian Forsyth & Jane Pollard), Boyhood (Richard Linklater), Her (Spike Jonze), Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh)
The worst: Bastards (Claire Denis), Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 & 2 (Lars von Trier), Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-Ho)
Great films I caught up on: The Battle of Chile (Patricio Guzmán 1976), The Big Red One (Samuel Fuller 1980), In The City of Sylvia (José Luis Guerín 2007), Climates (Nuri Bilge Ceylan 2006), Cure (Kiyoshi Kurosawa 1997), Edvard Munch (Peter Watkins 1974), The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On (Kazuo Hara 1987), The Ghost Ship (Mark Robson 1943), Hail (Amiel Court-Wilson 2012), The House is Black (Forough Farrokhzad 1961), Je, Tu, Il, Elle (Chantal Akerman 1975), Leopard Man (Jacques Tourneur 1943), Man Hunt (Fritz Lang 1941), A Man Vanishes (Shohei Imamura 1967), News From Home (Chantal Akerman 1977), Salaam Cinema (Mohsen Makhmalbaf 1994), School of Rock (Richard Linklater 2003), Tabu (F.W. Murnau 1931), Uzak (Nuri Bilge Ceylan 2003), Zorns Lemma (Hollis Frampton 1967)