Jean Dujardin and a deerskin jacket form an unusual partnership in this surreal French comedy horror, approriately named Deerskin, which sees him team up with actress of the moment Adele Haenel.
Georges appears to be having some kind of mid-life crisis, hence his purchase of around seven thousand euros for a deerskin jacket. With the seller ecstatic with the money, he throws in a camcorder alongside it which sets up a path of unusual behavior from its main character.
With his bank account blocked by his estranged wife and the bank refusing to loan him money, he is forced to improvise methods to keep on top of his finance, such as pawning his wedding ring in exchange for staying in his hotel.
He soon makes an ally with waitress Denise whose passion for editing films motivates her to help him out financially with the budget to keep making the film by loaning him money. The film within a film features himself where he harbours a bizarre vendetta against people in the low-key town wearing inferior jackets with progressively gruesome consequences.
Director Quentin Dupieux crafts this unusual hybrid of dark comedy and slasher horror in 75 minutes with a character whose increasingly desperate behaviour goes from strange to downright depraved.
Initially, his work sees him ask people to declare their dislike for jackets and place them in the boot of his car, before he drives off with them after paying them with part of the budget. But what starts as just an unusual dislike turns into something far more intense as his behaviour mirrors that of a slasher killer, going from hiring willing people to killing those who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, the conventions of horror displayed vividly.
It is gory but never is the film scary, its surrealism meaning that the dark humour defuses any sense of fright but still power to express shock at how warped the so-called one-man war against clothing has become.
His mentality appears to be one of dubious nature as scenes often depict him having imaginary conversations with the deerskin jacket inside his hotel room, suggesting a deficiency in his mental state. He also possesses a lack of integrity with the waitress who winds up as his editing partner after persuading her that his ‘colleagues’ in Siberia appear to have ceased contact. As Denise, Haenel is entertaining as ever in a role that sits well alongside Dujardin’s such as when she explains how she once edited Pulp Fiction into chronologic order.
Her commitment to his project is detailed when he requests that she removes her own jacket, agreeing to do so when she makes it clear she won’t do anything sexual which he insists is not what he’s working on. Her gullible nature is existent but the character is also strong enough to be played as the conventional dim-witted accomplish, if one can argue her role as such.
With a correct balance of genre, Deerskin is a film so wacky and inventive that it makes Dupriex deserving of conversation amongst the likes of other surrealist directors like Luis Buneul and Jan Svankmajer. On paper, it looks like an idea doomed to fail on paper but with engaging performances from Dujardin and Haenel, it is an experience not to be forgotten in a hurry.
Last month Bong Joon-ho made history when he won amongst others the Best Director and notably the Best Picture Oscar for a darkly comic social commentary Parasite, a film which also scooped the Palme d’Or at Cannes back in May. Watching the film and upon reflecting afterwards, it is hardly a surprise given its status as a gripping and intriguing piece that balances humour with tragic undertones.
Ki-taek lives in a cramped and squalid ground floor apartment with his wife Chung-sook, son Ki-woo and daughter Ki-jung, their financial struggles implied not just by their living arrangements but by small things such as their desire to seek fre WiFi at the expense of their neighbour. Struggling in their careers of selling pizza boxes, the family see an opportunity to escape their mundane life when Ki-woo accepts an offer at the behest of a friend to work as a tutor for the daughter of a wealthy family whose lifestyle marks the flip side of them.
Before long he integrates into the family to the point where his parents and sister deceitfully gain jobs working as a driver, housekeeper and art therapist hiding from their new employers that they are all related.
As their charade continues, the family see their new lifestyle as an escape, but of course the ruse can’t go entirely smoothly and the dynamic is challenged by the uncovering of secrets they would not have prepared for. Joon-ho develops the characters and their motivations by focusing more on the comedy in the first half, such as a recurrent gag involving a drunken resident who urinates in the street in full view of the basement flat window, culminating in a slow motion scene involving a bucket of water.
Compare that to the seeming bliss the Parks endure in their secluded mansion, a world away from the near-claustrophic setting the Kim became accustomed due to the implied multiple loss of jobs the father has gone through.
As the Kims worm their way into the Park household, the film does so in a manner akin to Pedro Almodovar’s darkest dramas, their methods to gain status at the expense of others illustrated, notably when they take advantage of a housekeeper’s peach allergy through the guise of supposed tuberculosis.
The first half is more about the characters and the emphasis on the contrasting of the lives in which the two families live their lives, requiring patience as the story sets up the characters’ and their actions and then presents the job in the second half of the family being tested as they battle to maintain their meticulously-designed con game. It is from then on that the film notches up a gear turning into a hugely engaging thriller with a sense of unpredictability thanks to the revealing of a unique twist, a testament to the originality of Joon-ho’s screenplay. His direction is littered with shots that reminded me of Jacques Tati’s Playtime, Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity and the films of Michael Haneke, whilst scenes of suspense play amongst his strongest points.
The highlight comes when the family take advantage of having the house to themselves treating it as their own, only for circumstances to force them to try and flee the house without being caught seeing as all four are only meant to be in the house together in a professional capacity. A particular sequence inside a living room is a lesson in creating suspense, made more impressive with what comes before it and the subsequent scenes that then follow, as if enough has not occurred then.
It is not often that humour, suspense and tragedy are involved in the same film, yet the film works because it is so competent at all three of those features. The final moments are a reflection on the ambitions that lie amongst us; its summation making for a poignancy in a film about those who just want a good life and struggle how to get up to where others have done so with apparent ease. Its timeliness is clear in an era where the gap between rich and poor narrows and how the cinema can take us to places we have an understanding of and twist into unorthodox areas.
If recent cinema has shown anything, it’s that foreign films are better than American and the film that usually wins the Palme d’Or or the Foreign Film Oscar turn out to be much better than what won Best Picture. This year Parasite won both the Foreign Film Oscar (renamed the International Film Award) and Best Picture, making for the first time in years that the Academy have got it right with the top prize, a symbol representing how foreign language cinema is worthy of the top prize America has to offer. The BAFTAs showed it could be done in the 1970s when they awarded Truffaut’s Day for Night Best Film and after 92 years, the Academy have finally followed suit.
With Parasite, Joon-ho has made one of the most original films of recent memory, a versatile and engaging study of class, ambition and society that stands out as the finest Best Picture Oscar winner since Argo and the best Palme d’Or victor since Amour. Kamsahamnida, Bong.
Iceland is the setting for a distinctive piece by Icelandic director Runar Runarsson called Echo, a collection of shots that bring to mind the work of fellow Scandinavian director Roy Andersson.
Comprised of 56 takes, this focuses on short events happening in the lives of a bunch of Iceland citizens as Christmas approaches. a series of day to day activities taking place one-by-one. There is no real plot to the film but more a focus on characters who appear in one shot before the film moves to the next before we get to know them properly.
Amongst the shots, all done in a static style, we observe a young girl being reprimanded in a school gymnasium for hitting another pupil who started on her, a father struggling to arrange a bank loan whilst his kids play nearby, a building site worker being informed of strikes over pay and a road rage incident bring streamed on Facebook Live.
It takes a short while to get used to this style but overtime, the style is accepted and the events we see become more appealing to digest. The best scene occur later in the film particularly a poignant shot where a remorseful woman confronts at a bus stop a woman she recognised as someone she bullied in school. Both actresses are impressive but particularly the bullied woman whose discomfort is felt and whose forgiving and subsequent walking away is poignant in a scene punctuated within the cold setting.
There are shots that appear simple but are presented almost like works of art such as the opening scene of a car travelling in a car wash, supermarket workers ditching out of date food into bins that could have been given to the homeless or a dog hiding under a settee as it moves in discomfort at the sound of fireworks outside.
The director shows scenes that some can relate to, such as when at a Christmas party, a polotical broadcast leads to argument and a subsequent storming off of one of the guests. At least one scene will strike as familiar to a few watching given its tendency to focus on relatable events. The joys of life, ie stepdaughters introducing to each other through piano-playing or the sadness of life as expressed when a woman breaks down in tears at work over a bad phone call.
The film carries itself by presenting these everyday characters who go through a range of emotions and in some cases have an impact despite their scenes being short, as part of the directors intentions.
Some scenes are not worthy of their presence however, almost tinkering with the story overall before another sequence soon sets it back on motion. A young man taking a phone call from a sunbed seems like filler while a shot of a group of men socialising in a garage upon bring chucked out by ones wife seems somewhat flat. The first half seems a mixed bag for that reason and risks losing interest but thankfully the second half pushes ahead and provides the film with the often emotional beat it aims for.
Its distinctive appearance may not be to everyone’s taste but in general, it’s a slice of Scandinavian life that warrants the time of those who will appreciate it. The ensemble casting presents almost as a variety performance where there is only one chance to really make an impact and for the most part, it delivers its intented effect.
A fatal hit and run incident is the basis for Supernova, a tragic , intense yet solid piece from Poland that marks the feature film debut for director Bartosz Kruhlik.
What starts as a mother and her two young sons walking out on her alcoholic husband quickly turns into horror when the pursuing father comes into contact with a driver. When he drunkendly vomits into his car, the driver furiously speeds off and the drink falls into a ditch. Off screen we hear the sound of a car slamming into people and the simultaneous screams.
The driver it transpires is a well known politician, and he chooses reluctantly to flee the scene, only coming back up on making a phone call. As police arrive, a particular officer appears more shocked than he should be, implying a connection with the victims. With a desperate search for the driver being thwarted until the superior arrives, various characters are connected by this one incident and lives will never truly be the same again.
It acts as a thought-provoking social commentary with the film’s second half exploring the methods of corruption, blackmail and the idea of one rule for the powerful and one for others.
The main character Slawek finds himself torn between his duty as a police officer and his connection to the victims revealing secrets that add a twist to the already delicate scenario. Kruhlik continues to build on the events that threaten to escalate beyond the controls of the officers, including a female officer whose suggested lack of experience give fuel to the behaviour of others.
Part of its success lies in that one would expect the build -up to the fateful hit and run sequence to be where the film with its intensity. But the film just continues to become more and more so with several particular life-or-death scenes making for heart pounding viewing, even when a sense of predictability is apparent in one of those.
Even when the politician at the heart of this tries to present as human, his arrogance makes him an unsympathetic type to the point where the viewers rally along those who want to see him punished. Whether he will get punished or not given his status is what adds to the intrigue of where such power will take us and if what may be his saving point may turn out to be his downfall.
As the synopsis states, we know there will be a hit and run but still exactly when makes for the opening scenes as tense to view. When each car approaches and the determination of the father persists, it prepares us almost straightaway for a work far more high octane than the average Hollywood blockbuster.
The fact that all this is done for the most part in the same location is a testament to the directors adeptness at creating effect within an small space. In only his first debut feature Khrulik suggests a director with a keen eye for telling a story that is realistic as it is intense. It is of course an unsettling view and one that takes viewed down roads that can cause upset but for those who can cope with such devastation, Supernova is a solidly directed and well acted piece that is competently expressed in less than 80 minutes.
The idea of interweaving characters and the idea of date is where the director earns his stripes as it asks if all this could have been avoided if the vomiting into the car did not occur. The act of asking what if plays in the mind as the more the situation escalates the more such comes into mind.
ADAM Sandler is not the first name you think of for the role of a Jewish New York jewellery salesman in a thriller by the increasingly interesting Safdie brothers, but after this, it might be a calling card to stick to the genre.
Uncut Gems starts off with the discovery of an opal by miners in Africa before panning out of a hospital screen to reveal the colonoscopy undertaken by Howard Ratner (Sandler). Immediately afterwards, Ratner goes back to his day-job and incurs the wrath of his brother-in-law and notably his vicious henchman who Ratner is in serious financial debt with due to his chronic gambling addiction.
The answer to all his problems comes with the purchase of the aforementioned opal which Ratner plans to auction off in the hope of of becoming a millionaire, freeing him of debt and securing his dreams. It means he can life live with his mistress and find the stability that life with his divorcing wife is lacking in. But that is if the debt pays off, as he discovers where given the circumstances that follow, nothing should be taken for granted.
Energy is key here with the Safdies crafting a thriller that at times is frequently a nerve-jangling, heart-pounding work and providing an excitement rarely seen in modern American cinema nowadays.
Ratner appears to be chasing the American dream, yet the odds seem stacked against him with various scenarios making life increasingly difficult for him. His acquainteship with a self-parodying version of NBA star Kevin Garrett playing himself threatens to derail his hopes early on because of his belief in supersition that the opal brings.
In the funniest sequence in a film that is often as such, Garrett’s beliefs lead down a path which combines Ratner’s assistant Demany (Lakeith Stanfield), a faulty mantrap, a phone call from Ratner’s colon doctor and his beloved fish, all as the colleagues try to maintain their work ignoring what seem like regular workplace events.
Suspense is built up with natural flair as the Safdies drag their lead character into a spiral of intense activity where he goes from the following to the followed over again, each day and each event passing becoming more dangerous and the pressure intensifying.
Straightforward events like going into work or attending his daughter’s school play brings its dilemmas with the frequent turning-up of those he owes money making life more inconvenient. Just watching Ratner trying to explain his way out of dilemmas or challenge the circumstances that have fallen his way are at times mesmerising as they are relentless, the inability to help himself clear as day.
Part of the success of this comes from the ease in engaging the material with the belief that if things are as intense in the first half, what is it going to be like in the second half. To call the second intense is an understatement, with the auction that Ratner rests his hopes on (and which involves a hilarious turn by Judd Hirsch as a long-suffering relative) not telling the end of the story, the narrative of all-or-nothing coming into play.
The unpredictable multi-stranded finale is done with such intrigue and creates so many possibilities it makes their previous work, the solid Good Time appear like Downton Abbey in comparison, the breathlessness it invokes. It examines addiction and the need for adrenaline, threatening to make or break our antihero. It asks us what is avarice and when is the right time to walk away and is there ever a right moment to go all in? These questions leave us triggering debate at the end, asking us what if.
Sandler in the performance of his life shuts up those who see him as a sell-out and remind us he is capable of finding dramatic work that reflects the talent of his not often seen. The box-office success of this film suggests that it is a path that Sandler should explore on a more sporadic nature, going back to his unappealing comedies to appease his core audience but returning now and then to treat those who appreciate this kind of work.
The Safdies will have some task for their next project to be anywhere level-pegging with this and if they do, it could put them one step closer to a special reputation within their profession, with or without their lead actor.
Imagine if you left your apartment, cycled to a park where you had arranged to meet your sister and girlfriend and arrived there to discover park full of dead and injured bodies lying on the ground, the victims of an Islamic terrorist attack. Your girlfriend is maimed, physically and psychologically, and your sister is dead. And then you have to take full-time care of your niece.
That is exactly what happens in Amanda, a heart-warming, anger-provoking yet tender story of family courtesy of our French neighbours.
Vincent Lacoste plays David, a landlord living in the centre of Paris who specialises in renting out homes to foreign tourists on business. He is close with his sister Sandrine though they are estranged from their mother who lives in London.
At the heart of the family is her seven year old daughter Amanda. David also begins a relationship with Lena (played by Nymphomaniac’s Stacy Martin) who is in the process of renting out one of the flats he runs.
Tragedy strikes when Sandrine is killed in a terrorist attack that brother avoids narrowly at one point chillingly driving past them on motorbikes. We don’t see the attack take place but the aftermath where dozens are seen bloodied on the floor in a audible wave of crying is chillingly presented.
What then follows are the highs and lows as the uncle is duty bound to act as guardian of his bereaved niece, a process he barely copes with as he mixes the inevtiable moments of child tension with work and crucially managing his own grief, using the presence of his friends as an opportunity to let out his actual feelings.
The aftereffects of a terrorist attack are ones that sadly Parisians will relate to, notably in the scenes that depict the streets outside of his flat that are usually bustling but are left eeriely deserted, with armed soldiers the only ones around. It would take only a terroist symapthising bastard to not feel effected by the delicately-managed sequence when David bravely confesses to Amanda the horrific news that her mother is not coming back home.
Lacoste gives a moving and emotionally charged performance of a bereaved brother. His chemistry is in touch with young actress Isaure Multrier, who is often stellar within her status as a bereaved daughter. His finest moment is depicted when in a busy train station, Paris back to normality, whilst holding a sign for the couple he waits for, he walks around in floods of tears, the passing commuters too busy in their own lives to even ask if he is okay.
Stacy Martin is also quietly moving as a happy go lucky sort whose shoulder injury and mental anguish from the attack leaves her a timid shadow of her prior self and leaves the relationship arguably precarious. A walk on a busy street with him is ruined when firecrackers are sounded, her frightened stance showing how much damage such attacks can leave those who survive.
The brutalities and horror of Islamic terror contrast with the vibrancy of the life that the characters lead wit such normality in the first act, marking the shift in tone that serves as a reminder that not only are we watching a film but one where the nation is still healing the scars of the attacks of the mid 2010s.
A Wimbledon tennis match makes an interesting setting at the climax of the film presenting the film with an added poignancy given the sister had bought the tickets for the brother prior to her death. It’s not a pleasant view throughout but there’s enough detail of human spirit to justify its status as an emotionally charged motivation that life goes on and life always wins. A tribute to the vibrancy of French culture if this film was any.
Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida sees a novice nun about to take her vows when she learns her late family were Jewish. Accompanied by her alcoholic aunt, they journey around Poland to uncover the disturbing truth of their fate. Filmed in beautiful black-and-white cinematography, this was the first Polish film to win an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, a most deserved accomplishment.
9. Drive (2011)
Nicolas Widning Refn’s uber-stylish thriller starred Ryan Gosling as an unnmaned stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver, forced to fight to the death to protect his next-door neighbour and son from LA’s underworld. Co-starring Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston and a sadistic Albert Brooks, Drive cemented its status as one of the finest thrillers this decade, as well as possibly the most violent.
8. Calvary (2014)
Brendan Gleeson is the Catholic priest threatened with murder in approximately one week by a child abuse survivor seeking revenge by targeting an entirely innocent priest. In that time, he awaits his accepted fate by observing the lives of the disturbed individuals of his parish in an Irish coastal village. Contrasting material-wise to the director’s previous film The Guard, Calvary is Irish cinema at its best with a genuinely devastating denouement.
7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2010)
The first and by far the superior of the Swedish adaptations of Steig Larsson’s trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is edgy thriller at its most gripping. Noomi Rapace is sensational as the bisexual computer-hacker whose chemistry fits with the late Michael Niqvist’s journalist hired to investigate a young woman’s disappearance 40 years earlier. A lesson to David Fincher and Hollywood-the originals are never bettered.
6. The Dance of Reality (2015)
The octogenarian Alejandro Jodorowsky’s first film since 1990 is a semi-autobiographical surreal fantasy chronicling his childhood in a coastal town in Chile, dominated by a singing mother and an abusive Stalin-idolising father. The first in a supposed continuation that to date has continued with Endless Poetry, The Dance of Reality was a standout feature in a decade that has seen Chile seal its place as an exciting and important area of modern cinema.
5. Silent Souls (2012)
Alexey Fedorchenko’s Silent Souls sees two men mourn the loss of one’s wife by travelling by car to bury her body via an ancient tradition of their religion, accompanied by a pair of caged buntings. Though only 75 minutes in length, this stands as the highlight of Russian cinema this decade, a moving examination of love and metaphysics featuring some of the most striking imagery since the days of Tarkovsky.
4. Cycling with Moliere (2014)
Fabrice Luchini is the retired and disillusioned actor persuaded by superstar actor Lambert Wilson to return to the stage for a production of Moliere’s The Misanthrope. As they rehearse at the former’s house on the Ile de Rue, taking turns playing different characters, their competitive nature gradually increases. Hilarious at times, well-written and with a surprising twist, Cycling with Moliere is the decade’s finest comedy.
3. Sarah’s Key (2011)
Kristen Scott Thomas plays a journalist in 2009 Paris researching the Vel D’Hiv Roundup of Jews by French police in 1942. Upon learning the apartment she’s inherited from her in-laws was owned by a Jewish family arrested, she starts looking for what became of the daughter who escaped the Nazis. Alternating past and present, Sarah’s Key is compulsive and educational viewing, a sure-fire candidate for title of the most devastating film in recent years.
2. The Tree of Life (2011)
Terence Malick’s Palme d’Or-winning examination of the creation of life and analysis of a family of five in 1950s Texas is cinema at its most enchanting. Brad Pitt is the father who combines loving and stern treatment of his three sons, while Sean Penn plays an adult version of one reflecting the death of one. Ambitious, visually stunning, well-acted and above all fascinating, this is not just the decade’s finest American achievement by a country mile, but an example of when American cinema was expected to deliver masterpieces.
1. The Great Beauty (2013)
It took four years for the best film this decade to appear and what a monumental achievement it was. Paolo Sorrentino sealed his position as perhaps the leading director in European cinema today with his love letter to Rome society, The Great Beauty.
Toni Servillo is Pep Gambardella, a 65-year old journalist who sleeps and interviews performance artists in the day and at night, attends the parties and social gatherings that welcome him with open arms. Living off the wealth he created thanks to the success of an iconic novel he wrote in his youth, he re-evaluates what could be left of his life upon learning that a woman he fell in love decades earlier has passed away.
From watching a talented young girl craft an unorthodox art piece to visiting a late zoo where giraffes disappear, to Pep’s brutally honest monologue directed at a female friend that leaves his fellow partygoers wincing, there are so many sequences to be won over by.
A film that appears to get better upon each viewing accompanied by a memorable soundtrack including Kronos Quartet’s interpretation of Martynov’s The Beatitudes, this may turn out to be the greatest Italian film of all time. One thing for certain though, it is the greatest film of the 2010s.
For ten years, cinema has seen its fair share of films that stand alongside the very best of what previous decades had to offer.
And though American cinema saw a lull in delivering classics halfway through that has mostly persisted, that reminded us that Hollywood is not the only place to look for entertainment and originality.
From Belgium to Japan, Russia to Ireland and a strong showing of new domestic talent, these 50 films showcase the best of an eventful decade that adds pressure to the next.
This list accounts for films that were released in the UK from 2010-2019.
50. The Social Network (2010)
With an Oscar-winning script by Aaron Sorkin and a relentless BAFTA-winning direction from David Fincher, the biopic of Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg and subsequent lawsuits was robbed of the Best Picture Oscar by the more crowd-pleasing The King’s Speech. It also made stars of Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and notably Rooney Mara and Armie Hammer.
49. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2015)
The last film from Isao Takahata, Studio Ghibli’s tale of a tiny baby found in a bamboo shoot who rapidly grows into a princess and is adopted by the elderly couple who found her. The ending, something Pixar wouldn’t dare consider, rates as one of the most unbearably moving this decade and possibly Ghibli’s saddest moment.
48. Rust and Bone (2012)
Anchored by powerhouse performances from Marion Cottilard and Matthias Schoenarts, Jacques Audiard’s exploration of an affair between a bare-knuckle fighting single father and a whale trainer who loses both her legs is his best film to date, as well as his most devastating.
47. Tinker, Tailor Solder, Spy (2011)
Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of John le Carre’s most famous novel bought out one of the best performances its lead Gary Oldman, supported by an envying ensemble cast of Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, Toby Young and John Hurt. Theres a belief that when many fine actors appear in the same film, the result is a disappointment. This is an exception.
46. Roma (2018)
Alfonso Cuaron’s semi-autobiographical love letter to his Mexican heritage deservedly won him a second Best Director Oscar earlier this year. Solidly acted and at times mesmerising, Roma cements Netflix’s deserving of a seat at the table. It may also prove to be the precursor for what the film industry is shaped to be in the 2020s.
45. The Levelling (2017)
Led by rising star Ellie Kendrick and veteran actor David Troughton, a fraught relationship is deciphered between a farmer and his daughter in the wake of a family suicide and the Somerset floods. Hope Dickson-Leach achieved more in her debut feature than some directors do with their first several. A one to keep a very close eye on in future.
44. Gravity (2013)
One of the decade’s finest blockbusters, Alfonso Cuaron’s pulse-pounding space thriller saw George Clooney and an Oscar-nominated Sandra Bullock as astronauts striving to return back to Earth after a disastrous mission. Visually striking and unexpectedly emotional, the film rightly earned its eight Oscars, including Cuaron’s first for Director.
43. Like Father, Like Son (2013)
Hirokazu Koreeda displayed his talents on multiple occasions this decade with the likes of I Wish, Our Little Sister and Shoplifters. His tale of the effects of two families discovering their six-year old sons were deliberately switched at birth went a long way to cementing his position as possibly Japan’s leading director.
42. Arbitrage (2013)
Richard Gere is the morally corrupt hedge fund manager standing to lose it all in one of the decade’s most competent thrillers. Just as entertaining as it is thought-provoking and boosted by Gere’s portrayal of a man you find yourself rooting for when you know you shouldn’t.
41. Phantom Thread (2018)
Though he let himself down with his Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson bounced back as expected with an exploration of couture in 1950s London, reteaming with Daniel Day-Lewis. A piece of history in its own right but for another reason if Day-Lewis keeps his word regarding his retirement after filming concluded.
40. L’amant Double (2018)
Francois Ozon’s erotic thriller may be seen by some as a vanity exercise in provocation, but is really a highly intriguing story with reference to the love triangle between a disturbed art gallery worker and identical twins, one of whom is her psychiatrist.
39. At Eternity’s Gate (2019)
The final years of the life of van Gogh are portrayed with flair from Julian Schnabel and distinguishing from previous biopics of the man. Willem Dafoe’s performance as the tortured genius is heartbreaking with the opening voiceover wishing for things we take for granted a particular highlight.
38. The Town (2010)
Ben Affleck’s cops-and-robbers thriller is an exciting and intense piece that sits well alongside Heat, Mystic River and his previous Boston-set thriller Gone Baby Gone. Released several months before his death, it also features a show-stealing Pete Poselthwaite as a florist and sadistic crime boss.
37. Amour (2012)
Jean-Louis Triginant is the husband and a BAFTA-winning Emmanuelle Riva is the wife whose marriage is tested by her diagnosis of dementia. Michael Haneke’s harrowing examination of elderly life rightly won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and the Oscar for Foreign Language Film, as well as earning a rare Best Picture nomination for a foreign film.
36. The Wind Rises (2014)
Hayao Mayazaki’s years-spanning tale of a young man’s dreams of building aircraft in pre-World War II Japan demonstrates Ghibli’s place as a distinctive and in some way superior than their Pixar counterparts.
35. Black Swan (2011)
Natalie Portman won awards galore for her portrayal of a ballet dancer whose reality is distornted as she prepares for a performance of Swan Lake. Visualise The Red Shoes directed by Polanski and it might resemble Darren Aronofsky’s highlight of the decade.
34. Django Unchained (2013)
Though controversial for its racist language and graphic violence, Quentin Tarantino’s slavery western is as hugely entertaining as it is darkly comic. Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio are hero and villain whilst Christoph Waltz chews the scenery as the slave’s mentor Dr King Schultz.
33. The Turin Horse (2012)
Inspired by Nietzsche’s encounter with a mistreated horse and focusing on the isolated lives of a father and daughter, Bela Tarr’s final film to date is an unsettling but worthy end to a most distinctive career.
32. The Revenant (2016)
Leonardo DiCaprio finally won the Best Actor Oscar in Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu’s ambitious revenge western, a brilliantly-directed insight into one man’s bloodthirsty determination. The opening battle sequence, the bear attack, the climactic duel; every cent of $135million was well spent.
31. Testament of Youth (2015)
Boosted by a remarkable performance from Alicia Vikander as Vera Britton, this anti-war drama works not just as a damning insight into the effects of world war but also as a tribute to those who stood up against convention.
30. Mia Madre (2015)
From issues looking after her ailing mother to struggling to contain an arrogant John Turturro, Margherita Buy is the film director battling the elements in what may be Nanni Moretti’s magnum opus.
29. Let the Sunshine In (2018)
Though her previous works suggested an unwanted presence, Claire Denis redeemed herself with this relationship drama starring a most enjoyable Juliette Binoche as she seeks to find long-lasting companionship in middle-age.
28. Dunkirk (2017)
Though sceptical about the idea of a World War II drama that featured Harry Styles, Christopher Nolan’s take on the Dunkirk evacuation turned out to be a top-quality war thriller bringing a non-stop energy backed by its ensemble cast. One of the decade’s most intense.
27. Widows (2018)
Confirming his ability as one of the decade’s best directors, Steve McQueen proved to be as adept at genre thrills with this thriller about several unlikely women forced to commit the criminal activities their thieving husbands died doing. Word of advice; works best if you avoid the 1980s ITV drama this was adapted from.
26. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Wes Anderson’s gag-a-minute adventure of a bellboy’s time working for an eccentric hotel manager in the 1930s benefits as ever from his auterish approach. Though many positive things can be said, the ridiculously ensemble cast for one, the unlikely Ralph Fiennes’s emergence as a genuine comedy actor is arguably the film’s selling point.
25. Rams (2016)
Two brothers who live on the same farm but haven’t spoken to open another for 40 years must must work together when their sheep are threatened by a scrapie outbreak. Often funny but desperately sad at times, few films this decade have an ending that lingers as long as this.
24. Tale of Tales (2016)
Though his two previous works were disappointments, Matteo Garrone reermerged with his comedy/horror/fantasy telling three stories inspired by Italian folklore. A queen requiring a sea dragon’s heart, a sex-obsessed king and a princess’s encounter with an ogre; you need to see it to see why.
23. Wrinkles (2014)
Proving that animation should not just be restricted to youngsters, this Spanish adult animation about Alzheimer’s sufferers in a nursing home keen to avoid the dreaded ‘upstairs’ section is one of the decade’s distinctive features. An often moving tale of friendship in twlight years.
22. The Imposter (2012)
With a story made more shocking for the fact it was true, this documentary about how a young man assumed the identity of a missing teenager and how the truth came out is as effective as ten Hollywood thrillers out together. To retain its effect, one advises however to only watch the film onc
21. Lady Macbeth (2017)
With a star-making turn from Florence Pugh, William Oldroyd’s debut feature is a fascinaitng exploration of murder, adultery, deciet and soceitietal features in 19th century Northumberland. Proof the British film industry can thrive if budgets are kept under a million pounds.
20. Argo (2012)
Ben Affleck continued his flair for directing with this reconstruction of a CIA-led effort to rescue American diplomats trapped in Iran in 1980 by posing as filmmakers working on a fake B-movie. Also working grandly as a quotable satire on Hollywood, this is easily the best film to win the Best Picture Oscar in this decade.
19. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2018)
An interesting character study where not everybody turns out to be as one-dimensional as suspected, Frances McDormand is the foul-mouthed mother taking on the local police following her daughter’s unsolved murder. Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson are hysterical as the dimwitted cop and dying police chief respectively.
18. The Brand New Testament (2016)
Maybe the most inventive film of the decade, this Belgian satire portrays God as an abusive patriach in Brussells who invents the torments of everyday life. When his young daughter reveals to the world the dates of people’s deaths, she flees to recruit a new set of apostles, whilst the powerless God pursues her. Feelgood and deliciously funny.
17. Up in the Air (2010)
George Clooney is the man who is hired to inform people their jobs have been lost in a wit-drenched comedy drama from Jason Reitman. At times hilarious and at times poignant, this story of everyday people probably wouldn’t have worked without the casting of its lead, whose charm and motivations make his character likeable straightaway.
16. Archipelago (2011)
When Tom Hiddleston plans to go to Africa for a year to promote sexual health, his mother takes him, his sister and a live-in cook on a holiday in the Isles of Scilly. But it is marred by petty arguments that threaten to destroy the family. Notable for its wince-inducing restaurant scene, this remains the highlight of Joanna Hogg’s career so far.
15. Two Days, One Night (2014)
A stellar Marion Cottilard gives one of the great modern performances as a depressed mother who tries to persuade one-by-one her colleagues to give up their much-needed bonuses so she can retain the job she faces losing. The Dardennes’ exploration of working-class life plays both as an indictment on internal work practice and a sound morality play.
14. The Skin I Live In (2011)
With one of the greatest twists in cinema, Pedro Almodovar’s pseudo-sexual thriller sees Antonio Banderas’s obsessive surgeon and his mother holding Elena Anaya hostage inside his mansion. Unpredictable and downright surreal at times, not only the best of his four features this decade, but also one of his best outright.
13. The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)
This three-act crime drama depicts a motorbike stuntman who upon becoming a father begins robbing banks, setting off a chain of events involving a police officer and their sons later in life. Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper in their pre-musical drama lives anchor a unique thriller that Hollywood has struggled to better since its release.
12. The Secret in Their Eyes (2010)
More known for defeating The White Ribbon to the Foreign Film Oscar, this Argentinian thriller is as devastating as it is mysterious. Ricardo Darin plays a writer who is haunted by a murder from his judiciary days 25 years before, of which the investigation and his friendship with a new colleague is presented in flashback.
11. Shame (2012)
Steve McQueen’s exploration of sex addiction is a powerful adult drama but best avoided if in the early stages of a relationship. Michael Fassbender has never been better as the sex addict living in New York whose careful routine is interrupted by the arrival of his neurotic sister Carey Mulligan, his situation and addiction worsening as the film progresses.
It’s the decade that will go down as practically the weakest in decades for American cinema. But certainly not for world cinema as a whole. And even a couple of American films managed to find a way in.
My blog starts off where the decade leaves us; the 50 greatest films that came out in the UK from 2010-2019.
Italian soul-searching, Chilean surrealisms, British espionage, America in the past, Polish self-discovery, French feuding, Russian metaphysics, the battle of the sexes, the addictions of pleasure, the frauds, the mysteries, it is all here.
This may divide.
And all will be revealed in the next several weeks. Spread the word.