Who and what defined the cinema of 2013? Delve forth for the answers.
You might say that it’s been a strong year for the movies.
From the sharp deconstruction of the French tradition of a star cinema of Bruno Dumont’s Camille Claudel,1915, to the biting satire of the American cinema of Paul Schrader’s The Canyons, revolution was in the air. No better is this exemplified than in a pair of American youth movies that at different points during 2013 seemed shoe-ins for this list, but somehow didn’t quite make it: Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring. The former subverted the images of, and expectations brought with, it’s own star players, whose backgrounds stem from Disney and Spider-Man, while the latter explored the vacuousness of celebrity via an aesthetic and presentational code that aped the subtext neatly. Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha tackled similar notes of the vacuous and over-privileged, with it a film very much openly aware of the complaints often levied at such “unlikeable” character types, and quashing it’s critics before they had a chance to. An air of revolution lingered too over the theatres of Paris, out of which was born the a movement of sorts that came crashing in to the mainstream French cinema via a Cahiers du Cinéma front cover declaring “Jeunes cinéastes français, on n’est pas morts!” (“Young French directors, Cinema Isn’t Dead!“. 2 Autumns, 3 Winters was the lone effort that reached these shores, and with it a star was borne by the name of Vincent Macaigne. It’s unusual for Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second to so vocally exclaim the quality of contemporary of French cinema (we prefer the older stuff), but with Blue Is The Warmest Colour we have a third French film in the top half of our top ten this year.
In Terrence Malick we had a lone gunman of sorts, and the sole auteur of the old guard represented. While criticised in some quarters for bordering on self-parody, we prefer to see To The Wonder as the natural evolution of the Malick aesthetic; as David Lynch’s Inland Empire was to his own Mulholland Dr, Terrence Malick’s latest film plays out like a more concentrated coda to 2010’s best film, The Tree Of Life. It’s pure, unrestrained Malick, with the director freed from the dual shackles of weighty expectation and technological constraint (To The Wonder utilises a variety of film formats, from the camera on an everyday cellphone right through to 70mm). Technique too led the way with another of our favourite films of 2013. Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess saw a 21st Century filmmaker resort to a 20th Century method of filmmaking with his film shot on a primitive form of videotape. In spite of this, or perhaps *because* of this, Bujalski’s film remains compulsively cinematic. Fellow American independent iconoclast Shane Carruth made one of the biggest creative impressions with Upstream Color, a beautiful picture that marks the end of the kind of sabbatical that would draw tabloid comparisons towards the method of Malick, were such things of interest to that side of the industry (thankfully they’re not).
And through this all reigned a distinct sense of Cinephilia. Park Chan-wook knowingly channeled Hitchcock with Stoker, while Sion Sono made a mini-masterpiece with Why Don’t You Play In Hell?, which forms an unlikely trilogy comprised of Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mepris and Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso. By curious coincidence the Godard film turned 50 this Winter, and Cinema Paradiso half that. The aforementioned Frances Ha, The Canyons, Blue Is The Warmest Colour and 2 Autumns, 3 Winters all carry with them a similar feeling of cine-literacy and a love for the movies themselves. The combined cinema of 2013 has been a joy to wallow in.
The Complete Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second Top Ten Films Of 2013.
10. Why Don’t You Play In Hell (Sion Sono)
9. Stoker (Park Chan-wook)
8. Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski)
7. Upstream Color (Shane Carruth)
6. The Canyons (Paul Schrader)
5. Camille Claudel, 1915 (Bruno Dumont)
4. 2 Autumns, 3 Winters (Sébastien Betbeder)
3. Blue Is The Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche)
2. To The Wonder (Terrence Malick)
1. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach)