By Sanriel Chris Ajero

Same script, different casts. My top 40 films of 2010. This list only includes those of foreign origins. I made the same list with local films and it can be found here.

Before the top 40, here are other lists I need to get out of my system.

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Now off to the good stuff.

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Runner-up:

UNDERTOW

Dir. Javier Fuentes-Leon

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Peru’s entry to the Academy Awards’ foreign language category is, in a husk, a ghost story. Definitely more depressing than scary, it recounts the sad fate that begot a married local guy and his secret forbidden love with the foreign town outcast. Never distracting and laughable, the use of the ghost and supernatural elements is delicate enough to drive the story to a rarely trod pavement and even elevate the story to a respectable and memorable piece of cinema.

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TOP 40

A harsh exercise of violence and its probable origins, Breathless takes us into the minds of people with different levels of aggression. Be it from a traumatic experience, a quest for revenge, or a simple video game addiction, nothing justifies these ruthless behaviour. The exposition and explosion of these acts take a striking and disturbing turn upon a realization that is indicative of a smaller scale effect of Haneke’s White Ribbon final act.

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By now, we’ve heard of everyone’s take on Aronofsky’s highly divisive and debatable new film. Though I’ve mixed feelings about it – being overdone but never really achieving much, I think a large portion of those who’ve seen it is in agreement that the last few minutes of Black Swan are among the most thrilling and exciting moments filmed last year. It definitely does not match its supposed companion piece, The Wrestler, but it is still a welcomed take on the other side of the coin – what wrestling is for men, ballet is for women. In the worlds of highly demanding professions, both Ram and Nina try to rise up there – though having totally polar opposite intentions, but with seemingly similar fate – letting loose, and literally leaping off.

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Detective Dee is action and entertainment of the highest rank. Our story takes flight a few weeks from the inauguration of the first female emperor of China. The grandest of all the preparations for the empress is the 100 meters tall Stupa, which also instigates the many mysteries surrounding sudden loss of lives around the empire. Carefully woven with astonishing choreography and logical twists and turns, Hark’s film is mostly enjoyable as it caters to both the brain and brawl, a difficult combination to master as Hollywood may prove over the years.

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Romania will always have a spot or two in my yearly round up. There is something stirring in the way they portray realism that touches me in the most uncomfortably bizarre manner. If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle may not be as subtle as their other exports, but the flagrant display of emotions and anger is something of extraordinary rawness that it still feels so believable, however distancing its prison main plot. A glimmer of Romanian subtlety shines anew with its final act when the couple sits down for the longest coffee break of their lives.

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Animal Kingdom is an eerily tranquil exposition of the life and the piecemeal death within a family of crooked criminals. With an almost impassive performance by new-comer James Frecheville, he fleshes out all the confusion ruminating into an innocent boy’s head as conflicting alliances try to forge his allegiance. Equally calm amidst the vigilant situation is standout Jackie Weaver who plays mother figure and whose “You’ve done some bad things, sweetie.” remark just basically sums up a character so complex you’ll have hard time judging whether or not she’s being loving and protective, or already verging on consenting and manipulating.

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However much it is a crowd pleaser, I say Scott Pilgrim vs The World is still not a film for everyone. People who easily get ticked off by the MTV generation and music video montages in films should be better off skipping this. But for the others who appreciate these types of art forms will most definitely be rewarded. Probably a budding cult favourite, it tells the quest of Scott Pilgrim, in unimaginable ecstasy and enthusiasm, to get the girl of his dreams by defeating her 7 other evil exes. Supporting this exuberant premise is a hip set of visual style that mimics watching video games and comic books unfold in your very eyes. Underneath the fun and hyper-stylized air lie the universally resonant issues of youth – betrayal, infidelity and love.

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With the overused lost-boy-finding-his-way-home plot as its milieu, the film’s redeeming element comes from its adorable form. Czech animator Sverak films this project using intricate puppets with the highest form of charm – Kooky in its core.  Kooky, the title character, is a pink doll that does not only embody innocence and optimism amidst the most predatory creatures, but also acts as a reflection of his young owner’s psyches. This balances out during a climactic final war sequence between the dolls and trashes that rivals the rousing spirit of the Disneys and Pixars.

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With the clever and elusive Banksy on the helm, one could expect nothing but the same qualities reverberating throughout this documentary. From the title that suggests the implication of the gradual loss of the value and appreciation of contemporary art, to the many issues it tries to touch on – a simple story of an ordinary man with an extraordinary obsession with videos, the documentation of the colourful history of street art, the character study of the most clandestine street artist, the rise of the new messiah in the form of Mr. Brainwash, a critique on modern art form, appreciation and interpretation of people – all leading up to a final twist that will leave your artsy ass dumb-founded.

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Enter the Void is the hallucinating brother and companion piece of Thai director Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives – both having two technically opposite takes on dying and what lies beneath it. Staying consistent to Noe’s trademark dizzying camera motions, wild riotous backdrop, and strong disturbing images, this film has similar, even more lasting effect than his former shockers. Most memorable is that beautiful, often painful sequence with portraits of childhood and family that will shatter one to pieces as it ends in one abrupt full stop.

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Amer can easily be coined a tribute to the giallo – from the obvious evocation of its looks and sounds, to the respectful nod to the genre masters. However, it does not seem to end there. Its take is on a different level – evoking feelings of different colours, textures and dimensions, and at the same time cleverly engages our senses. This was most effectively achieved by the middle section – the subtly erotic display of young female sensuality in the most uncomfortable situations – just walking around the park or riding a cab under the piercing sun. This may not be considered as one of the best of the giallo, but its colourful and yes, original take on it is quite interesting and is a welcome effort, especially in a genre so trite with Hollywood trash.

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Sleek and stylish, The American is a take on the subgenre in the highest of forms. Reminiscent of the Melville classic, Le Samourai, it also mounts a polished and calm lead man and a fluid pace that gives ample time to devouring its visual splendour. Most remarkable is Corbijn’s photographic pictorial style that reveals beautiful setup shots of the village, slowly mounting and foreshadowing (starting from the initial blurry and foggy sky shots that suggest unknown and uncertainty, to the gradual looming movements of as we get clearer vision and picture of the whole story) what is about to unfold.

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Who doesn’t love the good old Toy Story? Having grown up with Woody and Buzz all these years, watching the culmination of the trilogy just moved me to tears. Toy Story was my generation and as I bid my adieu, my heart will always have a special place for it. Like what Andy did, I guess it’s time to move on. – Cem Gatpo, contributor.

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“After the cinema, nothing surprises you. Anything can happen.” As the narrator speaks of this reverberating truth, we are left wondering how an 88 year old director seems to never run out of surprises. As brainy, experimental and playful as he was decades ago, Resnais plays around Wild Grass in a masterful manner – not only in its carefully-conceived plot twists, but much more in its entire effect. With the simplest of premises – a stolen bag found by a  stranger – unfolded into something bigger, now involving issues of love, obsession, mystery, and a confusing piece of art. Alain Resnais has proven, yet again, that his vision is never deteriorated by time, but instead builds up into something of a rare kind, something as elusive as a wild grass.

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Unlike the typical documentary propelled by interviews and news reel, Sweetgrass is driven by some of the most beautiful documentary footages of the flight of the sheep as they are led by an insightful bunch of cowboys through the slopes of mountains in Montana. With almost no-talk, we are presented with an observational documentation of the final trip of these sheep across the country and the possible loss of a highly-cherished American tradition. What makes it all-the-more moving is the stillness and serenity of the entire expedition, played with disquieting routine and regularity, but with the saddest and most reminiscent shepherds.

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From the forty films in this list, it is surprising to see that this feature is the one I had the hardest time writing about. I came upon the realization that this is largely due to the fact that the film has drawn me so close and attached with its lovely and stunning photography. It is where the subtlety in sensuality and seduction seeps in unnoticeably. By the time she tastes the shrimp dish for the first time or during that moment of flashy daylight sex scene, one could not help gasp for its sheer gracefulness. Also spot-on is the flight of the understated actions, all leading to a glorious final act that exploded with deliberate melodrama for intensified impact highly contrasted from the tone of the rest of the film.

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Prolific documentary filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa’s My Joy is one of the strongest feature debuts of the late. The film finds a perfect mix of the director’s affinity for documented accounts and a strong visual style that hurts in its accurate frankness. It takes off as a story of a man lost in his way of delivering a load of flour and ends up in the most chilling Russian village. Colder than the snowy weather is the unfriendly gaze of suspecting residents and the widespread yet muted aggression caused by the most terrifying men. Along the way, it touches upon political issues that as far-reaching as his documentaries – issues everyone has been repeatedly exposed to but just chooses to be muted about.

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Second viewing is required to capture at the very least the essentials of Godard’s latest film, Socialism – his three-sectioned look and comparison of communism and socialism. Almost cloaked in incomprehensibility, the film is not only a mishmash of seemingly irrelevant but beautiful digital images, but also in at least five different languages – with purposeful English subtitles only in random misleading phrases appearing in selected dialogues only. Challenging, is quite soft a word to describe the viewing and understanding process, as is rewarding being quite soft a word to describe the exalting feeling of experiencing this vision.

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Probably the most surprising and underrated blind-watch for me this year is this interesting take on how far Christians will go for that little ounce of miracle. Basically utilizing unknown cast, led by the effortless Sylvie Testud, Lourdes, in graceful pace and in a matter-of-factly manner, satirizes the pilgrim’s faith and fate. Year after year, thousands of pilgrims find time to visit Lourdes, as it is said to have unexplainably healed many incurable diseases of its believers. Christine, a wheelchair-ridden young lady, knows, within her, that she is not particularly the most devout type, but nonetheless visits the pilgrimage to give it a try. With subtle laughs from the most outrageous behaviours – the flirtiest nuns, the most condescending believers, the most competitive wannabe-healed, and even a miracle certification office – are just a few of the mockeries Hausner throws in that never felt dry and trite, but instead actually done with such classy style and admirable charm.

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Another addition to the new wave of realist cinema of Romania, Tuesday, After Christmas is a straightforward, almost too raw a depiction of infidelity and its wrecking effects to the people involved. Like other Romania drama of the late, the film never, not even for one scene, sensationalizes the situation, as would normal production do to give the narrative the fullness of its drama. It is played out to look and feel too real that one can’t dare and bear see how it concludes as it treads that inevitable final act.

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Mouth-watering is a word perfect to describe not only the food, but mostly the sumptuous words and dialogue in this two-man show. Veteran British actors Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson play the unnamed role of two former lovers reconnecting after 15 years over lunch. Both very much remember everything that used to be, but seems to have lost track of both their perfect vocabularies when the need of utilization arises. As the lunch progresses, we get bits and pieces of what happened – through discussions of food, poems, books and the King of Death. With some of the smartest displays of wits this year, I place The Song of Lunch as one of the most confident, articulate lunch outs I’ve tasted all year round.

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Originality results from a vivid imagination. Breillat, in her last two features, seems to be moving with an admirable supply of it. Tweaking a tale as old and overplayed as time, she tries to enter a world that no other storytellers of this fairytale has ever gone before. Spawning years, The Sleeping Beauty recreates and imagines, with uncompromising imagery, the many worlds and people explored and met by the princess while dreaming in her long slumber.

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Facebook has revolutionized the way every one of us communicates – probably in the most dreadful of ways. Not only were we forced to simplify our relationships and make petty conveniences out of our acquaintances, there is now an instinctive need for everyone to judge, rate and rank whatever and whoever we see on the basis of our own ideas of what is right and apt. This sickening need was perfectly reflected in the inception of the social networking world as envisioned by David Fincher in The Social Network. It opens with the relentless, rapid fire conversation between Zuckerberg and his girl whose pace not only sets the tone of the film but also implies the bullet-fast spreading of the disease that is Facebook. The conversation goes on and on to the point that nobody else can follow, turning it into another self-centered monologue that mirrors exactly what everyone is going through today. Equally compelling is its appropriate bookend with another reflection of such desire to be accepted, in both senses of the word.

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Rabbit Hole is quite a struggle to watch. It is a painful and honest depiction of how a couple deals with losing someone, and how they carefully try to reconnect what was tattered by a sweet swing of fate’s axe. Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play married couple Becca and Howie as they try to rebuild a life after having lost it recently in an accident. Kidman’s performance of Becca is at such level that gives us the privilege to experience a full spectrum of her emotions – from anger, to loss, to distraction, to hate, to coping, to longing, to anxiety, to grief, to guilt, and finally, to acceptance. Even more cryptic is how she was able to convey that range of emotions in an overlapping display. Keeping the film special is that magical glimmer of hope that takes over to shine a-light brighter than all those emotions combined.

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I’ve always been interested in the complications and dynamics of human relationships – the complexity of their emotions and the mystery of their unexplained reactions. There are a handful of these films here in this list, one being Rodrigues’ To Die Like a Man. Quickly shaping up as the next best gay/lesbian director, he strikes once again in this complex love story of an ageing drag queen and his young vulnerable lover. The entirety of the film focuses on the couple being together, but never looking like lovers. We watch how the drag queen cares for his lover, seemingly well beyond reason. This we get to witness – with full on awkwardness, even disbelief of its believability – until the third act that forced the couple to have their hearts and emotions exposed to its rawest. Then we understand, then we believe, then we invest, then we never forget. Interestingly, for a tale of a performer, Rodrigues choose to avert to show the drag queen lead in any of her well-regarded performances – building up yet another mystery element – this time his rise and fall to fame. A film that challenges one to seep into the many mysteries of the story – building up in a third act that not only explains but makes us understand.

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One of my favourite directors of contemporary cinema, Tsai Ming-Liang has yet to yield a film I do not like. A film within a film, Face introduces us to a filmmaker, much contrasted to Tsai himself, as he makes a film about the myth of Salome of the Louvre. Compromising his vision by casting box-office sure fires, we observe as the production takes off, not too long before problem ensues. Consistent with elements of Tsai’s previous efforts, we get glimpses of musical numbers, darkness and his flowing amusement with water elements. Probably his most mature and confident effort yet, Face comes face-to-face with a master in his top shape.

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Lee Chang-dong’s follow up to Secret Sunshine is a subdued depiction of morality and the disputes that may hamper its realization. Principal to this story is the grand performance of Yoon Jeong-hee as a grandmother dealing with issues of old age, money and a serious family crime. With disquieting information uncovered with every passing day, she decides to enrol in a poetry class to stimulate her senses and find focus in her life. Poetry may open our minds to rationality and beauty we may have been disregarding, but it can never stray and hide the reality that we eventually have to confront.  This drags desperation and morality into the picture as she takes a sip and a bite out of it for her family’s sake. With every quiet and restrained exposition left bare, Poetry turns out to be slow-burning and painful, so much so as we listen to that final sequence leading to the recitation of the heart-breaking Agnes’ Song.

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Coen Brothers’ remake of True Grit has the makings of an all-around American classic like its predecessor. It is top-notch and superior American filmmaking – that is technically stunning (special mention to that cinematography), thrilling, engrossing, well-acted, even comical, and has the highest respect to its classical Hollywood genre roots. What I find more interesting is the fact that this might not even stand out to become one of the Coens’ best films. This is a testament to their exceptional skill – and consistency. With their last two pictures being peculiar comedies touching on undesirable nature of men, it is refreshing to see them back to believing in the rousing power of the human spirit. Central to this is the breakout star of the year, Hailee Steinfeld, in her performance of a young lady brimming with both naivety and prudence – innocent yet cunning. Being very much crafty in bringing memorable moments in every film they make, the brothers did not disappoint as scenes involving Steinfeld’s negotiation, Bridges and Damon’s drunk shooting, the snake pit sequence and the film’s coda are sure to be remembered.

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Around a Small Mountain gives an insightful and interesting take on the fading magic of theatricality, cinema, beauty and life. In the Rivette sense of subtlety, we are taken into the world of theatre performers whose lives are nothing as outlandish and magical as their onstage presence seems to infer. Subtlety is cleverly tweaked as Rivette decides on a literally stagy presentation of the most ordinary tête-à-tête. Backstage, we observe a typical bunch of fearfully calculated people whose lives are outlined by their underappreciated stage performances and are defined colourless by their trivial conversations with the people around them.

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Rapturing as its subject matter, Claire Denis’ picturesque look into the civil war is equally lovely and colourful as it is dreadful and frightening. Within the middle of the war is a white woman reluctant to surrender her coffee plantation despite the threatening violence towards her and her family. The ever-amazing Isabelle Huppert plays this image of a strong woman, almost unreasonably so. Amidst the exercise of irrational violence, we see the film shifting focus en route for the third act as it veers away from the personal struggle of Maria and her family, to lean on a larger interest of the society. This was fully manifested by the final image of an unknown soldier bearing the hat of Le Boxer without a single hint of regret or worry. An implication of what the war has made out of these people – mad, vengeful, angry and hungry.

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Elegiac in tone and pace, Oliveira (100+ years old) proves that experience is indeed the best teacher. With every scene peering with mystery and magic, we watch him explore a rarely charted chapter of our history – the awkward beginnings of machines and technological advancements. It is a period that only first-hand experience can accurately depict – back in the days when one has to hunt around the whole town to get one camera owner, while we see people being upset about tillers who still work manually and not use the machines.

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We enter the world of a presumably long-time couple in their sexually-driven relationship. It is definitely not your typical relationship drama, or one can even go further into saying it is not your typical relationship, period. Each one assumes a convention-obedient, sexuality-dependent role in their relationship – and it is revealing to see both parties’ willingness to bend and compromise these stands for the value and benefit of staying together. More than an abstract portrait of complicated emotions, Everyone Else, as the title alludes, is more about the couple’s association to the world and how they are viewed by everyone else. From mindful adherence to uninteresting invitations, to conscious effort to wearing one’s best dress to please our friends, we tend walk with our best foot forward if only to send all the right signals – to shine the flashiest lights, if only to hide the darkness lurking in our hearts.

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This Valentine’s Day, make sure you don’t make this your date film. The most emotionally destructive film of 2010, Blue Valentine touches two distant ends in the life of a young couple – how they met and fall in love, fast-tracked to how they possibly broke apart and turn into another familiar tale of a love-gone-wrong. Played with perfection and the highest form of believability, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, played the couple and prepared for it by actually living together for some time. Acting is of top calibre – with some of the rawest emotions even at its most unsubtle. Most noticeable is the way Cianfrance smartly detached the film into two parts. The first part is the romantically wild meet up and dating stage, which was appropriately married by equally rough but enthusiastic handheld camera shots to evoke the spontaneity of their sweet escapes from the world. Second part was the heart-breaking half of the picture, as we find our couple sad, bitter and limp with the life they are treading. Here we find the camera in such contrasting stillness that evokes the monotony and loneliness that befall their family. Even more interesting is the obvious choice to leave off the middle part – the why – the largest segment of the relationship where all the memories were built – the good stuff, like enjoying one’s company, having a daughter and building a family, but also the worst stuff, like how they started drifting apart and fall out of love. It is especially painful, leaving this off, as it highlights even further the possibility and mystery of just falling out of love without any rhyme or reason.

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Without bordering into sappiness, Oki’s Movie may be Hong’s most emotionally affecting film. This, I’m telling you, is still within the realm of Hong’s world. Divided into several chapters and POVs of its characters, we slowly build two different pictures of relationships – both of which we know will not last. However saddening their fate, we find weird comfort in the fact that Hong’s characters are understanding and accepting of the passing of the tides, the temporary. Comparing to Hong’s previous works, Oki’s is rather quiet and driven by observation and feelings, but is probably a lot cleverer than his other talkative films, especially as it switches back and forth to the past and the present, the old and the new. This we get a full display of in the last chapter, as we not only get to see the two realities side-by-side, we even get a surprising convergence and collision of these, however worlds apart.

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Much of the beauty of Honey is in the emotions that its eloquent images evoke – and not from the rarity of words they speak. Testament to that, our central character is a 6 year old kid who decided to stop talking the moment his father started to go missing. Yusuf, the kid, actually need not talk at all. The film can be entirely narrated by his wide expressive eyes. With our very own eyes, the film compels the audience to observe, and participate with the film. We observe and marvel on the beauty of the landscapes, the astonishment and thrill of watching the bees as they get attracted to the hive, the security in watching Yusuf and his father tread the forest, the encouragement we silently give Yusuf as he is asked to recite and read in class, and the hope we send Yusuf as he tirelessly and unknowingly searches for his lost father. It is in the cumulative effect of these pictures that we are rewarded with a complete emotional experience unlike any other.

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Odd is probably the most fitting word to describe the viewing experience in watching Lanthimos’ mockery on despotic parenting, Dogtooth. But then again, after watching this film, we know words are misleading, even useless, as they are not what they seem. The film demands the full experience of its oddity. One can do away with the details and what it actually says – the filmmaker does not seem to care – not even naming its main cast (only the outsider was named) and not really banking on a concrete plot. On its baseline level, it is about a father trying to keep his family secluded from the world – teaching them the wrong vocabulary, never allowing them to go out their fence and not allowing any possible connection to the outside. This, however, is not as offbeat as how it actually played out – add prostitution, incest, cat hunting, Jaws re-enactment, keyboard licking, and the weirdest possible dance you’ll ever have the pleasure of seeing. Such is the beauty of Dogtooth. It does not intend to answer questions as it does not intend to apologize for its actions. In this day and age of Hollywood cliché and stupidity, it is sometimes enough to catch a refreshingly fascinating glimpse of originality, balls and peculiarity more than any laws of film and logic can afford.

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It is a rarity whenever a film is special enough to make me expose feelings so deeply veiled within me. Everyone who knows me is aware of my deep bias and connection to animated films. This year is no exception, though I have not seen much (outside these two in my list) that really stood out for me. Sylvain Chomet of the underrated The Triplets of Belleville adapted the unproduced Jacques Tati script about a simple story of magic and friendship. While retaining the subtle melancholic approach of Triplets, The Illusionist succeeded in drawing a bold connection between the characters and the audience. It also worked as an autobiography of Tati himself – a tribute to a great man, as much as the film is a tribute to a lost art form. Instead of winding it up like many of Tati’s films, Chomet chose to veer away, and take the painful bittersweet route. It succeeded, if making the spirit of Monsieur Hulot more alive than ever could be used as basis.

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Sofia Coppola’s penchant to documenting the lifestyles of the rich and famous (from the well-sheltered Lisbon daughters, to the lost film actor in Bob Harris, and to the lavishly boring existence of her majesty Marie Antoinette) reaches its most mature peak with her exposition of the life of Johnny Marco. Parallel to the themes but never repetitive of the examination of Lost in Translation, Somewhere patiently observes the life of a famous film actor as he deals with unceasing attention of ladies, the surprise visit of his 11 year old daughter, and a customary feeling of boredom, loneliness, alienation and nothingness. Coppola’s unconventional take on the vague and implicit may not be for everyone, but a closer immersion to its visceral flow and just letting it all unfold will prove to be the most effective way to enjoy this piece – for then you’ll find not loneliness or boredom, but an exalted sense of serenity. Each moment is presented in a played down episodic style that one would not find relevance to it until that companion scene placed perfectly somewhere else in the film. Case in point, we observe Marco as he exhaustingly watch a couple of pole dancers the same manner he watches his daughter perform her ice skating routine – two seemingly similar distant look from Marco but polar opposite in what emotions they are attempting to communicate. These episodes reward the audience with a series of the most genuine and effortless father-daughter interactions that add up to the very definition of the outwardly disconnected Johnny Marco – an actor, a playmate, a lover, a father, an ordinary man.

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Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, an unusual look into one’s acceptance of dying and death, is Joe’s most ambitious project to date. It touches a wide array of subjects – from history, mythology, fantasy, television, film, religion, politics and the most revered Thai traditions. This resulted in a mysterious and surreal fusion of the supernatural to the living. Added to this, animals were also given special references in the film – a water buffalo (that stood and remained still after escaping human shackles but almost wanting to be caught again), a moth (that was killed by relentless human instinct) and a catfish (that literally conquered a princess in the year’s most talked about sex scene). What was so impressive was how Joe was able to add these ostensibly dissimilar facets into one concrete vision of enigmatic nature. Furthermore, these were presented using a variety of filmmaking techniques – long static steady camera shots for most of the film, handheld trailing for the revelatory cave sequence and even still photographs for the riveting communist narration sequence. These varied approach will never add up if it were handled by a lesser abled director. Weerasethakul is one of the few auteurs that has mastered the art of his own vision, and his existence is one of the things we should thank the cinema for.

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Drinking seems to be a common delight of Hong Sang-soo’s leading men. In this feature (one of my favorites from him), we see much of that as well, as the framing devise for HaHaHa is a drinking send-off to a good friend. Having recently discovered they both went on a vacation in a small seaside town, they decide to recount both their experiences over numerous soju bottles. Incidentally, the two friends hung out with the same set of people during their vacations but never actually meeting each other. These coincidences are presented in such direct, effortless and clever manner that gives actual room for believability. If one will give it much thought, the stories we were told could be or could not be exactly what happened – accounting for the alcohol intake, and the influence of their professions. One is a film director, and he may or may not have over-sensationalized the idea of meeting, falling in love and leaving a beautiful town lass. The other is a film critic whose depression and general negativity may have aggravated his stories of breaking and subsequently mending his girl’s heart. With assured and confident direction, Hong propels the stories into a final act that makes us want to call a friend, go out, and have one nice conversation over alcohol.

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A film is regarded the best of the year for many a reasons – one of them for being a ground-breaking piece of cinema. This year, I opted to choose under that same basis. Certified Copy is nothing explosive and fresh in terms of style, nothing modern and cool in terms of effects and visuals. No, it is not in 3D. It is, pure and simple, talking filmed. It is a conversation drama about two people – a British author in a book conference and a woman who owns an art gallery. Julliete Binoche, in one of her best performances ever, plays this multi-lingual woman who accompanies the author in a tour around her town. It started playing as an intellectually romantic drama like Linklater’s Before Sunrise as they flirt their way into each other. Thankfully, towards its middle section, just as when the characters have grown in on the viewers, we were taken into a twist more explosive and ground-breaking than that of your favourite thrillers. The ground it breaks marks deeper than explosions – it is someplace vital – which made it all the more awkward and confusing. It breaks the conventions and makes us question how we see and hear things. The beauty of it all lies on how intricate and layered the script was written (Certified Copy could actually refer to a lot of things in the film). This is one of the most cleverly written scripts I’ve ever come across with. Though not your typical Kiarostami, fans and first-bloods will definitely be delighted and rewarded by this experience.

 

That’s it for 2010. Go on, share your lists🙂

P.S. As an added treat, I’m giving out doanload links for all the films in the top 40. Links are posted in a doc file which can be downloaded by clicking this – TOP 40 DLOAD LINKS