I watched a lot of films during the first half of this year. Sadly, many of them were not very good. Some of them, happily, were very good indeed. Below are the best five I watched. Only one is a Hollywood film, and it’s more than fifty years old.
Secret Ballot, dir. Babak Payami (2001). I think this was the first Iranian film I’ve ever watched, and it reminded me a great deal of one of my favourite films – Elia Suleiman’s Divine Intervention from Palestine. It shares a similar black humour, although it’s a much more realistic film. Some of the set-pieces are absolute classics – especially the traffic lights one.
Atomised, dir. Oskar Roehler (2006). This is an adaptation of the novel by Michel Houellebecq. I thought the book very good, but the argument in its epilogue didn’t quite convince me. Roehler tries for the same effect with two paragraphs of text on-screen before the final credit… and they’re even less effective. Having said that, the film handles the story’s emotional arc more effectively, and the use of colour in the flashback sequences is cleverly done.
The Bothersome Man, dir. Jens Lien (2006). I still don’t know why I put this on my DVD rental list, but I’m glad I did. Its humour is even blacker than Secret Ballot‘s, and the scene where Andreas jumps in front of the underground train – the second time, not the first one – is hysterical.
For All Mankind, dir. Al Reinert (1989). I love documentaries on this topic – the Apollo lunar landings were an astonishing achievement, and I could sit and watch films about them all day. Reinert’s is probably the best one ever made on the subject, and incorporates some excellent NASA footage.
There’s Always Tomorrow, dir. Douglas Sirk (1956). Sirk was my one big film discovery last year – I fell in love with his movies after renting All That Heaven Allows – but despite making around forty films, most of them in Hollywood, only a dozen or so are available on DVD. There’s Always Tomorrow is one of the really good ones, and Eureka! have done this release proud. As they also have done for his A Time To Love And A Time To Die. If they then went on to do the same for the rest of his films, I would be really happy.
So, not an unsurprising set of films, given my taste in cinema. The second half of 2010 is going to have to work hard if it’s to beat the five named above. Oh, and look: no science fiction. Not, I have to admit, that I’ve ever been a huge fan of sf cinema. It’s always struck me as the written genre’s more flamboyant but less smarter sibling.