SEVEN OF SEVEN – A Magnificent Seven

Each day during our final week, one of our regular writers will pick out seven highlights from our seven years of existence. Today, it’s the turn of Indy Datta, who has been reviewing new releases for Europe’s Best Website for all seven of those years. Actually, scratch that, because the lazy bastard stopped after reviewing Creed two years ago. Maybe he gave up after that to pursue his true metier as a predictor of best supporting actor Oscars. After he recovered from that burn, we asked him to sum up his 7 years of watching and reviewing.

House of Tolerance

So, this isn’t a best of list, but here’s, sort of, a rundown of 7 (sort of) of the films that define the last 7 years for me. Obviously, if you asked me to come up with a completely different list, I could give you one I’d be just as happy with [Maybe there’d be more female directors on it? – Sexism Ed]. But here goes.

The Masterpiece:
L’Apollonide (Souvenirs de la Maison Close)
 –  d/scr. Bertrand Bonello, 2011
Bonello’s baby terrorist flick Nocturama, on Netflix now, was one of 2017’s best, but L’Apollonide (aka House of Tolerance or House of Pleasure) is my film of the decade so far, rendering the closed world of a Parisian maison close (an upscale licensed brothel, staffed by indentured women working off their debts) at the dawn of the twentieth century in such anthropologically precise, cinematically sensual and intimately felt detail that, paradoxically (we leave the Apollonide’s four walls just once), its scale and sweep feels huge. Bonello’s jittery unpicking of screen space and time with split screens and recursive edits puts a rocket up the stale conventions of period representation in film. Every time I see this film, at the end, I want to stand and applaud, and then watch the whole thing again immediately.

For the record, if I were going to do a best of list, No.2 here would be this.

The Arthouse Behemoths:
A Separation
– d/scr. Asgar Farhadi, 2011

The Turin Horse
– d. Béla Tarr & Ágnes Hranitzky, scr. Béla Tarr & László Krasznahorkai, 2011
The alpha and omega of the last decade’s festival/arthouse/world cinema scene; a breakthrough film from a new master of humanist drama and a valedictory statement from a forbidding sculptor of light and time. Both films are the inheritors of theatrical traditions – the Iranian film is Chekhovian, the Hungarian one Beckettian, but also completely cinematic in their synthesis of staging and performance.

The Family Film:
– d. Paul King, scr. Hamish McCall & Paul King, 2014
(and, yeah, why not… Paddington 2 – d. Paul King, scr. Simon Farnaby & Paul King, 2017)

Paddington 2
The full force of Heyday Films’ hard-won Harry Potter expertise brought to bear (bear emoji) on infinitely more likeable material, updated and fleshed out with endless love and skill, and zero cynicism. Charmingly shaggy and panto-ish when they should be, beautiful and emotional when you least expect it, surely these are the best kids’ films of the last heptade? Remember when Colin Firth was going to be the voice of Paddington? Wild.

The Blockbuster:
Edge of Tomorrow
– d. Doug Liman, scr. Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth, 2014
Even at its most sausage-factory-like, the studio tentpole business still extrudes plenty of stuff worth watching (there was a really good X-Men movie last year, even): but it’s fair to say that little of it these days is not based on properties the audience isn’t already deeply familiar with. The marginal box office performance of this Tom Cruise/Groundhog Day/big sci-fi guns extravaganza probably didn’t help, and so now we get endless Potterverse from Warner Bros instead: but the film itself is endlessly rewatchable fun. Even the ending kind of works for me now.

The Documentary:
– d. Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel, 2012

Chosen after a lot of dithering over the astounding The Act of Killing – this product of the “Sensory Ethnography Lab” at Harvard University repurposes the YouTube GoPro video method and aesthetic to produce a dazzling avant-garde digital portrait of the brutality and beauty of industrial ocean fishing. People are going to be pilfering shots from this movie for decades.

The One that Got Away:
– d. Bong Joon-ho, scr. Bong Joon-ho & Kelly Masterson, 2013
It’s easy, and fun, to blame Harvey Weinstein for Snowpiercer’s travails (still no UK release of any kind), but Bong’s madcap dystopia on rails was always too weird to really land. If you cherish Bong’s work, that’s a big chunk of the point – that combination of Spielbergian chops and off-kilter sensibility. Makes no sense at all, of course, and what could make a film more timely than that in 2018?

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