Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Cemetery of SplendourOf all the filmmakers currently hailed as top shelf artists, I have probably struggled the most with Weerasethakul. His cinema is slow and visually modest and to date I have never quite found my way in. But I think I am finally starting to get it. At a time when mainstream cinema (and life) seem infinitely far from introspective art, the true artists probably feel they need to be even more extreme in their approach. In Weerasethakul's case, this means no non-diegetic music, very long takes, almost no camera movements and almost no close-ups. Weerasethakul forces us to stop in hopes that we will actually spend some time contemplating within the long quiet spaces he sets up and creates. If the critical responsibility of art is to make us look at ourselves and our world, Weerasethakul is fully answering the call. Joining the ranks of Ozu, Dreyer, Bresson, Kiarostami and Hou Hsiao-hsien, Weerasethakul is boldly continuing the legacy of transcendental filmmaking with each challenging film, each rigorous scene, and each extraordinarily disciplined frame he painstakingly offers to us.
Jeremy Saulnier's Blue Ruin
Hints at Shogun Stories and suggests that Saulnier might be one of our cinema's great new genre moodmakers. What impresses most is how much Saulnier accomplishes visually, rather than through verbal exposition, and his command of atmosphere and tone.
David Simon and William F. Zorzi's Show Me a HeroMy most memorable viewing experience last year was seeing the entirety of The Wire for the first time. I was astounded by Simon's ability to simultaneously juggle so many rich characters and the way he so gracefully glided around the different corners of the carefully detailed and observed world he had created. Simon moves the focus from Baltimore to Yonkers but the result is similar, another microscopic study of a section of our community and a work that lodges itself deeply into our personal and moral fabric, and shifts us.
Arnaud Desplechin's My Golden Days
I came in with massive expectations having followed Les Inrockuptibles' coverage of the film's debut at Cannes last year. As with most of Desplechin's work, this one is ambitious, sprawling, novelistic and very modern in its construction and execution. If Desplechin had only chosen a different actress, a different type of face for Esther, this one might rank at the very top of his films but as it stands it is entertaining, at times extraordinary, but only partially affecting.