Sunday, April 15, 2012
(My) Best of 2011: Director
What Andrew Haigh does with his camera in Weekend defies the cinematic idea of intimacy, because we forever wonder: how did he get his actors to become so unaware that they were playing characters and were being filmed? Not even pornographic films, which are supposed to be chronicling moments of complete intimacy, are able to make us feel like we're invited to the party. The way in which he managed to get the equipment and crew inside Russell's (Tom Cullen) little apartment from example at some point or another would've demanded that we became aware of the limitations imposed to movement. However this never happens, all along we're meant to feel not like voyeurs but like guests. Whether Haigh invited us to make us more aware of social causes or merely because he wanted to give us a taste of what falling in love feels like, he is always leading us without us feeling directed. He finds sublimity in the subtle.
Who would've guessed that David Fincher would craft his most personal movie to date, from an international best-seller which had already been turned into a movie? His take on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo isn't only a procedural thriller, but an open dialogue with a universe he still doesn't get. If god talked through Terrence Malick in The Tree of Life, Fincher talks through god as he wonders about the way in which the human race has turned the notion of civilization into chaos. Why are the Adams of the world so keen on destroying the essence of the Eves? Why is history so important and yet disregarded with such ease at one's convenience? Why can't nature and progress go hand in hand? Fincher shows us a dark, icy world in which humans have become nothing more but pieces of ice, awaiting a thaw that might just never arrive.
Not since Manhattan had Woody Allen delivered such an endlessly pleasurable work of art. You're thinking The Purple Rose of Cairo or Hannah and her Sisters, right? Yet even those dealt more strongly with deeply melancholic currents of thought. In those movies he questioned the universe, in this one he questions and then seems to find enlightenment in the lack of an answer. His previous effort was a movie that came out with harsh, bitter tones, something acceptable but that reflected awfully because for a moment it teased of a career that would go downhill from there. Perhaps Midnight in Paris resulted so successful because it was a surprise. Not everyone can grab life and find hidden gems among its every day misery in the way Woody can.
Not since Joshua Marston's Maria Full of Grace had a feature length debut felt so electrifying and had such subtle "look at me" power. Is it a coincidence that both movies are commanded by strong female characters undergoing extraordinary situations? Perhaps not. The one true thing is that both debuts felt like the work of masters of the art form, only leading us to wonder, how will they ever be able to top this?
The mad Dane has done it again! After his previous movie which was an undeniable masterpiece, he might've actually gone ahead and delivered the most flawless movie of his already breathtaking oeuvre. His gorgeous Melancholia followed a pattern that was quite common in 2011 films: realizing that the world sucks, that humanity is rotten and that this might all just implode one day, but still they found something beautiful among the decay (see Drive, Midnight in Paris, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Bridesmaids, Shame). What makes Melancholia different from all of these movies is that each and every frame in it shined with the sort of artistry that eludes most filmmakers for as long as they make movies. To see how Lars orchestrates chaos and turns it into a gargantuan opera conformed by sensitive, chilling arias is nothing if not mesmerizing and despite his film's tragic finale, it reassures us that if there is a god, he wouldn't want to destroy a civilization capable of creating such beauty.