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VIFF2012: VanRamblings' Favourites at the 2012 Film Festival

Vancouver International Film Festival, VanRamblings' favourites at VIFF 2012

Over the course of the 16 days that the 31st annual Vancouver International Film Festival took place this year, there was much discussion as to which films were the favourites among those who were taking in more than 50 films. These films were the buzz films, the films that moved the audience to tears or to joyous ecstasy. The thing is, though, that what one person loves, the next may feel only meh about.

The above said, on this chilly autumn Monday, VanRamblings offers our favourites at this year's Festival, in some sort of approximate order, and why it is these films have made our 'best of' list. Tomorrow, we'll publish a list of our favourite VIFF 2012 documentaries, but first up today, our favourite 2012 Vancouver Film Festival narrative fiction features ...

Santi Ahumada, the star of Dominga Sotomayor's Thursday Till Sunday

1. Thursday Till Sunday
For VanRamblings, there was no other picture that screened at VIFF 2012 that so deeply rooted itself inside the experience of the character on the screen (11-year-old Santi Ahumada as Lucía, pictured left), than did director Dominga Sotomayor's lovely, amazing, absolutely original and utterly devastating début film, Thursday Till Sunday. The viewer was provided the unique perspective of sensing every facet of the unfolding horror taking place in the front seat of Lucía's parent's car, as Ahumada, Sotomayor and ace cinematographer Bárbara Álvarez allowed us access to a place we've never been before — in this case — behind Lucía's plangent, mournful eyes, and the catastrophic, unfolding horror she felt with her every sense, the wrenching disintegration of her parent's marriage, the inexorable watershed movement towards pivotal and unrelenting change for 11-year-old Lucía. That the directorial decisions taken by Sotomayor, the camera work by Bárbara Álvarez, and Ahumada's utterly natural performance fused to create the most affecting drama screened at VIFF 2012, means that for the viewer, apart from anything else we felt and witnessed while watching Thursday Till Sunday — an experience that can only be described as devastating — that we were witness, as well, to the emergence of a dynamic, signal new Chilean/Latin American directorial voice, and the birth of a major star in 11-year-old Santi Ahumada.

2. As Luck Would Have It: The film which touched us most deeply at VIFF 2012, the most devastatingly emotional film for us, with the most salient and honest expression of love we've ever seen expressed on screen.

3. When the Night: For us, on par with As Luck Would Have It, filmed as a Hitchcockian murder mystery (it's the insinuating score), with a great, great romance anchoring the film, honest, with fully realized characters (those scenes in the upper chalet ... omigawd), we saw it for a second time on Tuesday, and loved it again. We could watch When the Night again and again and again, and gain something more from it with each viewing.

Sarah Polley sitting at the controls recording her father's narrative, in Stories We Tell

4. Stories We Tell: Groundbreaking, reverential truth-telling of the first order, a story of a life unraveled and somehow pulled back into coherence, where tough, tough questions are confronted and answered, Sarah Polley's devastating documentary feature is nothing less than a cinematic work of art, a film that in exploring the dynamics of family, memory and truth, limns the ragged poetry of life. Shocking, melancholy, and lovely beyond words.

5. A Late Quartet: The finest independent American film of 2012, the most erudite film screened at VIFF 2012, with virtuoso performances from all involved, with a breakout performance by Imogen Poots — who holds her own in the august company of an absolutely amazing Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman as you've never seen him before, with a transcendent performance by Catherine Keener, and a performance by, and character arc for, Mark Ivanir that rivets you to the screen — this at all times amazingly watchable, finely-tuned drama about an eminent New York string quartet, and the internecine, often destructive politics within the group — sexual and otherwise — offers a juggernaut of precise, insightful, humane and heartfelt filmmaking that in 2012 knows no equal.

6. Liverpool: The most audacious filmmaking of 2012, writer-director Manon Briand's utterly original, of-the-moment, social media-flash-mob-infused delirium of a film announces the arrival of a new world class directorial talent, a new voice in film who in setting a new direction for film grabs us by the lapels and pulls us in, all the while informing us that, "This is the future of cinema, this is where we're going. Come on along for the ride!"

7. Neighbouring Sounds: A masterwork. Kleber Mendonça Filho's grasp of mise-en-scène is unparalleled — all at once benevolent, sentimental, melancholy, arresting and oddly oblique, and yet very much full of meaning, superbly constructed, beautifully shot, and infused with an aural landscape that serves, always, to inform our warm narrative appreciation of the film.

Yao Honggui, in Huang Ji's Egg and Stone, Vancouver International Film Festival

8. Egg and Stone: An absolutely remarkable début for writer-director Huang Ji, this Rotterdam Tiger Award winner represents the most auspicious début by an Asian filmmaker at VIFF 2012. The narrative offers a powerful indictment of male sexual privilege, the film an almost wordless, beautifully realized mood sense memory piece. Autobiographical, part of what will become a trilogy on the subject of the movement of young Chinese women towards empowerment. With one of the most wrenching choices by a filmmaker as cinematic material ever (the D&C), and a central performance by newcomer Yao Honggui that simply burns with intensity.

9. The Hunt: The most fully realized film at VIFF 2012, and the overwhelming Audience Favourite, human scale in every dimension, with superb performances by all concerned — the performance by 5-year-old Annika Wedderkopp, and the consistent relationship she maintains with Mads Mikkelsen throughout, and his relationship with her father — is central to the success of Thomas Vinterberg's beautifully shot, bleak and chilling new psychological thriller. The Hunt is Scandanavian cinema, af ekspertise, with its lambently rural, autumnal mise-en-scène, and its great fidelity in character realization. In the first rank of 2012 international film releases.

10. Something in the Air: With a greater fidelity than one would have thought possible, Olivier Assayas' new film captures what it meant to be a student radical in the late 60s and early 70s, as well as the milieu of the era — the protests, the marches, the casual nudity, frequent sex and changing of partners, the drug-taking, the focus on the arts as an agent for change, and the innumerable, deadening hours of debate relating to arcane points of radical political philosophy, where no one agreed on anything, when the worst thing someone could say about you was that you were bourgeoise. Reputedly an autobiographical account of Assayas' work within the French student radical movement, circa 1971, this immaculately realized cinematic work, with its exceptionally attractive cast — we'd never heard of nor seen India Salvor Menuez previously, but we'll be on the lookout for her now, not to mention how wonderful it was to finally see Lola Créton up on the big screen — emerges as a compelling cinematic entertainment, an historical document of a more hopeful and radical era, and so so much more.

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A scene from Canada's Best Foreign Language Oscar nominee, Rebelle (War Witch)

We also loved, and believe the following films to be in the first rank of films which were screened at the 31st annual Vancouver International Film Festival: Canadian Best Foreign Language nominee, Rebelle (War Witch); Tabu and Holy Motors (both due to return to the Vancity soon, both of which we loved); Michael Haneke's Cannes' award-winner, Amour, which as it did with Vancouver Board of Education Chair, Patti Bacchus, left us reeling; Abbas Kiarostami's masterful Like Someone in Love; the feel-good hit of VIFF 2012, the exceptionally well-made Come As You Are; Sundance award-winner and certain Oscar contender, Ben Lewin's, The Sessions; our first over-the-moon favourite at VIFF 2012 and one of the two best America indie films of the year, Any Day Now; the brutal and graphic 'rape as a victor's reparation of war' historical drama, Rose; Cristian Mungiu's delusional madhouse, yet austere, new film that transforms during its 153-minute running time into an intellectually acute and tragic tale of romantic heresy and religious dogma gone awry, one of VIFF 2012's strongest films, Beyond the Hills; and our favourite animated film, the at all times wonderful (we wept at points throughout), Ernest et Célestine.

Anailìn de la Rúa de la Torre, in a scene from Lucy Mulloy's award-winning, Una Noche

And, in wrapping up today's post, we would also express our appreciation for the craft of the filmmakers, who in putting their life blood into the making of their films, deserve yours and our appreciation for these very fine VIFF 2012 films: Lucy Mulloy's wondrously delightful, heart in your throat Cuban narrative, Una Noche; Sacha Polak's disturbing, entrancing and sexually twisted, Hemel; an early VIFF 2012 favourite, the at all times delightful Danish film, Teddy Bear (Denmark excelled at great films this year); Rodrigo Plá's exceptional, La Demora; the extremely moving, almost cinema verité, Aquí y Allá; one of our two favourite films from Québec this year, Rafaël Ouellet's exceptional slice-of-life character drama, Camion; Ken Loach's Scotland-set kitchen-sink drama, as only he can make them (which is to say, hopeful at all times and teeming with life), The Angels' Share; Sean Baker's humane take on the porn industry, and aging in America (with a breakout performance by Dree Hemingway), Starlet; one of our early favourites, the kitchen-sink father-daughter drama, Maya Kenig's exceptional directorial feature début, Off-White Lies; Nigel Cole's verging on Bollywood, East London set, likable, working class dramedy, All in Good Time; the first breakout film for us in preview, the best of the 'forbidden love' pics we saw at VIFF 2012, Morocco's, Love in the Medina; and, Hang Sangsoo's elliptical, engaging Roshomon-style picture puzzle of a movie, starring the always wonderful Isabelle Huppert, In Another Country.

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And, in closing today, please find a list of our favourite VIFF 2012 documentary films, humane and heartrending films of the first order.

(And, yes, we're aware Stories We Tell is on both lists, we loved it that much, as we believe Sarah Polley's new film to be both devastating narrative, and groundbreaking, heartrending documentary truth-telling)



Posted by Raymond Tomlin at October 15, 2012 2:27 AM in VIFF 2012

   

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