Two of the films on my list are shorts – Vladilen Vierny's poetic La Fémis graduation film Exil and Manuel Alvarez Diestro's beautiful experimental film Displacements – 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 woefully 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, and I wasn't able to see the two films I was anticipating most: Pedro Costa's Horse Money and Ceylan's Winter Sleep. I look forward to catching up with them in the new year.
Although not among the best, there were a few strong 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 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) is an interesting companion to it. Here, the 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), Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-Ho)
The worst: Bastards (Claire Denis), Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 & 2 (Lars von Trier)
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)