The Weinstein Company

The 25 Best Films of 2012
The 25 Best Films of 2012

15

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

How one reacts to the knowledge that Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’s most thrilling scene is a tracking shot of an apple rolling down a hill and into a stream will likely foretell one’s response to the film as a whole. A sort of inverted police procedural in which a confessed murderer leads a group of policemen and other officials through the eponymous steppe in order to recover the buried corpse of his victim, Nuri Bigle Ceylan’s sixth feature is majestically shot, quietly devastating, and utterly absorbing in its slow approach to teasing out its characters’ inner anguish. Gökhan Tiryaki’s CinemaScope photography is arresting throughout, with the moonlight and early-morning sun lending an almost glowing quality to the otherwise miserable men trading increasingly personal stories to pass the time, and the deadpan humor that punctuates their exchanges comes to reflect how desperate they are for even a moment of levity. Such moments do sporadically come, but once they’ve passed all involved are merely left with something new to mourn.  Michael Nordine

The 25 Best Films of 2012

14

The Day He Arrives

Shot through with a vein of melancholy that’s perfectly in keeping with its moody monochromatic cinematography, Hong Sang-soo’s The Day He Arrives is ostensibly a comedy of (ill-) manners centered on Seong-jun (Yoo Jun-sang), a former filmmaker who returns to Seoul after several years’ self-imposed exile in the countryside. Within this characteristically shaggy-dog narrative, Hong puts into play themes he’s returned to time and again: masculine irresponsibility, the emotional and psychological ramifications of random events, the paradoxical incongruity between our interiority and the social self we present to others. Only the emphasis this time out is on compulsive repetitiveness: Hong keeps resetting the clock by returning his drunken band to the same bar (ironically named Novel), just as Seong-jun seeks out the bar owner because of her resemblance to an ex, only to wind up repeating the same self-serving behavior. What’s more, Hong’s forking-paths narrative possesses an improvisatory musical quality, akin to the piece Seong-jun plunks out on the bar’s piano, reiterating recurrent themes amplified by revelatory variations. For Hong, these twin qualities establish our existential limits, representing the warp and woof of our very lives.  Wilkins

The 25 Best Films of 2012

13

Cosmopolis

In the end, it’s mere gravy that David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis unfolds in a world that eerily, and almost blatantly, reflects our modern headlines, its Occupy themes and global-capital woes perpetually looming. What’s truly depicted in this gorgeous adaptation of Don DeLillo’s prescient 2003 novel is the whittling down of the poster boy of individual, millennial anxieties, sparked by the deadly, rampant elixir of privilege, apathy, and telecommuting. From his rolling command center of a white limousine, the WiFi hot spot of the obscenely rich, billionaire Eric Packer (a revelatory Robert Pattinson) is at once linked up to the world and maddeningly removed from it, his personal, untried revolving door granting equal access to wisdom and delusion, personified by the limo’s parade of guests. Evoking its director’s past aesthetics and bodily interests with cool restraint, Cosmopolis is a wry, stylish nightmare of contemporary disconnect, and an audacious charting of all that crumbles when reality seeps in. With much dialogue lifted verbatim from DeLillo’s text, the film’s dizzying verbosity may be challenging to swallow, but in a cinematic year teeming with lone protagonists clawing for ways to survive, it has more to say—and to mull over—than maybe 100 movies.  R. Kurt Osenlund

The 25 Best Films of 2012

12

The Color Wheel

With his second feature, Alex Ross Perry shows aspiring directors how it’s really done when you’re young, relatively unknown, not beholden to a producer, and have balls as big as Vincent Gallo’s. One of the most memorable, original, and daring American indies in a long time, The Color Wheel slyly explores the immature relationship of twentysomething siblings Colin (Perry) and JR (Carlen Altman) over a road trip to retrieve JR’s belongings from her ex-boyfriend/journalism professor. The Color Wheel wears the unpleasantries of its often unseemly characters on its sleeve, and like in other recent films where audiences are asked to endure nearly insufferable leads, the effect of this can be repelling. But Perry and co-writer Altman mix these salty and bitter notes with humor as dark, thick, and sweet as blackstrap molasses, the result of which is a lively tone that frequently throws one off, walking a fine line between brilliantly amateurish and inventively planned. The Color Wheel isn’t only the year’s most transgressive film in the way the brother and sister find redemption in the taboo, but like Girls, it’s a stinging portrait of a generation.  Kalvin Henely

The 25 Best Films of 2012

11

Neighboring Sounds

Of course this upstairs-downstairs portraiture plays out with the tenor of horror. The class war is an inexhaustible source of terror—particular here, in Recife, Brazil, an affluent coastal town whose middle-class comforts are quite literally built up and around its history of poverty and oppression. Less social critique than abstract deconstruction, Kleber Mendonca Filho’s Neighboring Sounds is very much about the power of the cinema not to deliver, but to portend, and to that end its gears are always turning. Its sublime sound design, emerging at the intersection of ambient noise and musique concrete, offers a case study for how to suggest the existence of horrors we never see. Filho understands that an atmosphere of palpable dread sustains tension better than more sensational explication, and his commitment to withholding is, without exaggeration, worthy of Hitchcock. That it more or less forgoes the spectacle of an anticipated resolution is a necessary consequence of its methods; in other words, for Filho, process rather than payoff is the point. As Recife’s idle rich flaunt their privilege as lowly laborers circle them like sharks, conflict seems a guarantee. But the bubble of complacency in which these characters live doesn’t need to be punctured by violence. The status quo is damning enough.  Marsh

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