by Jaime Grijalba.
Welcome to 2017 and as it’s been the tradition over here, at the beginning of the year, I begin with a list of the best films that premiered in my country during the past year. I don’t know how many of the releases I managed to see (mainly because the site I use to log the films that I watch crashed in August), but I kinda watched everything that I wanted to see. Also, some of these films were watched before 2016, as they were part of festivals that I attended or that I watched online on some form. The films here played for at least a week in a theater in Chile. Hope that this serves more as a way to show what’s actually playing here and what we get, more than any semblance of what my personal taste may be. Enjoy!
As last year, the texts that go with the films are part of things that I wrote earlier, either reviews, Letterboxd entries or whatever it may be.
10. The Revenant (2015, Alejandro González Iñárritu)
“There was a video making the rounds, about how it seemed that most of ‘The Revenant’ (2015) was lifted, style-wise, from Tarkovsky’s films, and while I’m still not sure of the intention of the video maker, if it was to slam Iñárritu for his lack of originality, or to pinpoint to those ignorant to the fact, the idea of where the Mexican director got some of the images and ideas from. But I must say that the film feels like nothing Tarkovsky would ever do, but that doesn’t mean that he is inherently better or worse than either, one can like a blunt approach while others appreciate something more poetic. Because no matter how elegiac or spiritual some of the images in the DiCaprio led film are, the movie takes a completely brute and blunt approach to its images, he doesn’t need delicateness because he doesn’t strive for that, he wants us to experience the human emotion and suffering as close and as real as it can get, and he has been doing so since the start of his career, so people complaining about how he has changed, I don’t think that witnessing to all the suffering that DiCaprio gets is any different from the agonizing and hurtful performance of Sean Penn in ’21 Grams’ (2003, Iñárritu). Of course, in this film it’s much more brutal, and the bear scene is just excruciating, at both times you want to keep looking but you can’t, the choreography there marred with the special effects has made its mark in how the scene plays and how the bear mauls the DiCaprio character is just harrowing to witness.”
9. Victoria (2015, Sebastian Schipper)
“The much talked one-take film. It wouldn’t be that much talked about if it wasn’t a film that was done in one take if that take didn’t last over two hours, but it does, so we talk about it, which is a shame, because it’s barely one of the many wonderful things that this film does right. First of all, the performance of the title character is charming and wonderful, played by the Spanish actress Laia Costa, she plays the shy yet still confident immigrant that works heavy hours in Germany so she can live there, after abandoning piano studies there. Perhaps the best scene of the film and one of the best sequences in any movie of 2015 is when we find out about her story, while she plays a melody on the piano, talking with one of her new found German friends, it’s a beautifully framed and carefully composed scene that is the last moment of calm before the storm hits. It obviously evolves into something more action packed, when the characters that Victoria finds outside the discotheque she was in have to rob a bank to pay a debt that one of them had incurred when he was in jail. Obviously there’s the miracle that the film was done in one take and that there were only three takes made in total, so the level of organization, specially when we slowly see the sunrise and then the way that the characters tire themselves and must rest for a while, it feels real and you become breathless with the characters, and any film that can achieve that only through the power of the images, sound and a superb control over the camera movements and the performance of the characters, is amazing. Besides, there’s so much more layered under the one-take ‘gimmick’ (which I don’t think it is), the issue of inter-European immigration, work and the youth of today. A keeper.”
8. Busanhaeng (2016, Yeon Sang-ho)
“The best zombie film in a decade”.
I wrote a review in Spanish for this film’s local release. It mostly talked about the power that this film has in terms of pure spectacle, how the ideal setting to see this film is a full house of people cheering and clapping at the violent scenes, getting emotional in the wake of the dead characters and, sure, laughing at the ridiculous parts. It’s one of the best experiences that I had on a theater in a long time, and I can’t wait to find out which film will have the same impact on me as this one did in the context of a festival.
7. The Nice Guys (2016, Shane Black)
“Charming and funny beyond what I could’ve probably envisioned in the first trailers, reviews and videos that I watched. It isn’t only one of the funniest films that I’ve seen in a while, but it’s also one of the best films of the year. It doesn’t bring too much attention to the time period in which it takes place, and it has an impeccable acting job from everyone involved (in a perfect world Angourie Rice would be at the top of the chart of obtaining the Best Supporting Actress award at whatever whatever I know that no one cares about awards), and I’m really thankful that the film plot almost doesn’t make sense, and that the characters are flawed to the point of exploitative and even slapstick comedy. I mean, I’m remembering every plot point and every sequence and I can’t even tell you what I had for lunch today (I had chicken and pasta, now I remember), and that’s incredible for someone with these many films in my brain. An absolute blast, from beginning to end, and even if I had some doubts in the beginning about the characterization of Gosling’s daughter, it all made sense with time, and the best part about it: I found out myself, and they didn’t have to put a “scene” with tears and emotions and crying.”
6. Carol (2015, Todd Haynes)
“I can honestly say that the main reason why this got a higher rating from me this time was because I watched it on a cinema. I could feel the cinematography this time, as well as I could notice so many more things than what I could sense the first time, for example:
– We are constantly reminded that we are watching a racconto, the film is told from the perspective of Therese while she’s traveling in a cab to the party that we only see at the end of the film. Her face, translucent, can be seen in certain sequences, in pans and sweeps, as if to remind us that what we see is fleeting, it will all come down to that cold familiarity and that hand on the shoulder that was such a “nothing” touch, but it already felt insanely powerful.
– The scene with the lawyers now makes more sense to me, for some reason I misunderstood some of the reasons behind Carol’s reasoning, and now it all makes it so much more powerful to me.
– The repetition of “Flung Out of Space”. Oh. My. God.
– Hey, it’s the girl from “Portlandia”, right?”
5. Elle (2016, Paul Verhoeven)
“Beautifully twisted and wonderfully constructed into what might be the tensest thriller that I’ve seen in quite some time, and coming from Verhoeven, this just feels like a continuation on a honest and carefully researched look into the psyche of sexuality and its perversions. Many will come out shocked or offended at the brave and strong demeanor of the main character, but I think that its stance confronting the tribulations that she’s showered with is a more telling defense or attack towards whatever it is that people said against this film. It’s a near masterpiece, and only a few moral questions towards the end of the film make me queasy about going fully to bat on this one for eternity.”
4. Kaze tachinu (2013, Hayao Miyazaki)
I realized that I haven’t written anything about this film, that I watched in 2014 and that only received a release this year in Chile. I remember tearing up with this film, having such a profound experience with it, regarding the value of hard work compared to the experience of love and what it means to someone who is so focused in what one has to do. It’s a film about sacrifice in behalf of your own self, in behalf of your own feeling of love, and about how dreams may come true in the most strange and surprising way. It’s also a film about cool plane designs, about failing and trying again, about demonstrating how you can be better than most, without failing to feel what you have to feel when confronted with sadness and death. A film whose background of violence and real life doesn’t detach it from the insane beauty that is in every painted frame, from the dream sequences, to the earthquake, to the planes crossing the sky and leaving their shadows on the fields, this movie is the best farewell that Miyazaki could have… and happily it also isn’t, as he’s making a new film.
3. La recta provincia (2007, Raúl Ruiz)
“A TV miniseries for Chilean TV that was edited together and is now receiving a limited run after a restoration, one of the last things that Ruiz oversaw. This is the same copy that will be playing at the Cinematheque Françoise, and so I wanted to make myself see it in a big screen, and it was a wonderful experience. Just shy of three hours long, this is mostly an exercise in the futility of storytelling, and maybe the most absurdly and obsessively Ruizian film, where the most important element is the performance of documentary director Ignacio Agüero as a dumb countryside’s mama’s old boy, and how the stories, at the beginning, seem to follow a completely normal structure (people tell stories and we get inside of them), but then there are stories within stories, and sure, the game is still comprehensible, but then characters from other stories start popping up in other character’s stories, the narrations mix, suddenly we enter dreams, we see our main characters walk into the story because they have fallen asleep while listening to it, and at the end we are witnessing the story itself being told again, before it happens, both as a prophecy and as a recount of the same tale, so we know just how futile the whole experience was. An incredible labyrinth that I can’t recommend enough.”
2. Adieu au langage (2014, Jean-Luc Godard)
“That dog knows its shit, literally.
That girl knows her shit, literally.
That guy knows his shit, literally.
Never heard so many different reactions to one of the most beautiful and baffling moments of the year: “wow”, “What the fuck”, “this bastard”, “that’s it, I’m leaving”, “trippy”, “amazing”, “fuck this”.
My favorite film of the year so far, and I don’t understand what happened and yet I’ve never been so entertained and challenged by a film in a very long time.”
1. The Hateful Eight (2015, Quentin Tarantino)
“The plot of the latest QT film could be craftily summed up as: “A group of men come together and solve racism by coming together and repeatedly hit a woman in the face.” I’m not here to defend this movie, nor to explain why it was my favorite film of last year, but to advise you to watch it again and try to see beyond the obvious elements that were the subject of the hottest takes of 2015. This western mystery is a play in disguise as a big operatic snowy masterpiece, where every performance is among the best roles that the cast have had in their careers (MVP: Demián Bichir, playing the most honest and least racist Mexican caricature in a major American motion picture in the past couple of decades). The script is masterful not because of the dialogue (that is also really good) but because of how many genres it manages to balance without losing the structure and the fun, moving from horror to action to mystery to a speech that seems derived from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. It’s a film that addresses the state of the world in which we live, maybe in more ways than it initially thought it would. And it’s also playing in 70mm, enhancing the theatrical look, and giving the audience the experience that Tarantino envisioned.”
Look forward to the top 20 of 2016 soon enough.