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Best Ten of 2014 by Alex Deleon

 

In reverse chronological order

 

NOTE: Not all of the films listed here were necessarily of the Calendar year 2014 but qualifify if this was the first time seen or were singularly impressive one way or another, even upon a second viewing.

1. "RIHAN. Un Pari Pimenté" --  ( A peppery bet) -- LAFF riot with class.  Sophisticated Moroccan Screwball Comedy viewed at Marrakech Film Festival in December.  Popular actress and style icon Asmaa Khamlichi and George Clooney look-alike Mourad Zaoui (pronounced 'Zowie' and he is!) make a high octane screen couple in a stylish comedy of errors that could go over big outside of Morocco if properly promoted. Written and Directed by Mohammed Karrat, well known in Casablancan film and TV circles. 

2. "Senki Szigete" (No man's Island. Viewed at the new Hungarian film week, Budapest, November.  Extremely savvy Contrary-to-reality Hungarian Comedy (Not quite surrealistic) could easily appeal  to western audiences.   Directed by Török Ferenc whose debut, Moszva Tér , 2000, put him on the Hungarian film map as a promising new director.  This one, his fourth feature,  marks him as a promising director of International scope. Török is currently teaching film courses  in the USA.


3. "Class Enemy" (Razredni Sovraznik), Slovenia. viewed at Cinefest , Miskolc, September.

Blackboard Jungle in Ljubljana. 

Surprisingly mature début film by 27 year old Slovenian director ROK BICEK, announces the arrival of a major new talent on the international film scene. A group of teenagers blame their demanding new German teacher and his strict approach to teaching when one of their classmates commits suicide. Entire cast is skillfully directed and highly commendable, but Igor Samobor is outstanding as the teacher under fire and charming fortyish actress Nataša Barbara Gračner also impressive as the school principal who has to deal with the outrage in the community stirred up by the student rebellion.  ripping, Bears multiple viewings,

4. "The Decent One" ( Himmler's Love Letters)   Offbeat israeli documentary about one of the most Indecent muthers who ever lived! ~ Directed  By Belgian Israeli Vanessa Lapa, shows another side of one of the mostv fiendish Nazil leaders, Heinrich Himmler by examining  a cache of his love letters to his wife that turned up recently in Israel. Himmler as doting father and loving husband is a shocking revelation in a slightly minor key. "The Banality of Evil Rides Again" would have been a better title for this remarkable documentary that may be passed up by many because of the innocuous sounding English release title. A must see for Nazidom buffs and all who are interested in innovative documentary film making. VIewed at Cinefest, Miskolc: Hungary, October.

5.  Nymphomaniac Part 2. Lars Von .Trier.  Viewed at Venice: Early September. The continuation of his epic critique of Sex and Society, Part 1 of which preemed at Berlin back in February.  Not at all shocking after the conditioning of Part 1 it carries forward the canny confrontational debate between Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgard.

Originally intended to be shown as a three hour unit but the breakup into two parts renders the relentless misery depicted more digestible.  In spite of scenes of actual copulation that would be rated XXX in a different context,  this is more of a Socratic dialogue on the subject of obsessive sexuality than straight pornography intended only to titillate the baser instincts, Nevertheless, many blue-nosed conservative fuddy- duddies, (such as Leonard Maltin!) not intellectually equipped to deal with Von Triers philosophical sophistication ( Ever heard of Fibonacci Numbers, youse guys?)  condemned the film or dismissed it as mere pornography, HONNIT SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE!

        

6. ANDIN, Armenians on The Silk Road.

Lush brainy colorful historical panorama of a little known aspect of The History of the famed Silk Road that originally served to transport Chinese silk (and  other  products)! To Europe and was the main connection between Europe and  the Far East for many centuries. Eventually buried  under the sifting sands of the Central Asia deserts  now remarkably resurrected in this  magnificent Armenian debut. By young  Armenian  intellectual  Ruben Guney (Chinese surname) -- A Very impressive debut indeed, that works equally well as an Academic history lesson or as a fascinating piece of documentary entertainment. BRAVO Ruben!

 

7. Gainsbourg, Vie héroïque, (g. A heroic life) -- 2010, is a French  film  written and directed by eminent French cartoonist  Joann Sfar, a lifelong devotee of the famed French popular song composer pianist and ugly lover of beautiful women. aside from that Gainsbourg was also a kind if Resusrance hero  as a child in Nazi occupied France, during WW II. ~~  I actually saw this back in 2010 but had nearly forgotten what an impressive piece of work it is, So, to refresh my memory I decided to see it again at the Yerevan film festival and it immediately registered as one of the best films seen this year.

Throughout a life size walking nose (la Gueule) serves as Gainsbourg's conscience and alter ego -- in itself a brilliant touch reflecting the director's  Bande Dessiné background. Actor Eric Elmosnino was awarded the best actor César in 2011 for his amazing incarnation of Gainsbourg  during which he consumed an amazing number of cigarettes. Laetitia Casta, sexier than the original Brigitte Bardot, land Anna Mouglalis, a perfect Juliet Greco round iut a perfect cast.  A most remarkable biopic easily watchable over and over again.

   

8. "Good Morning Karachi" skillfully directed by Sabiha  Sumar and introducing  a striking new Pakistani actress, Amna Ilyas. VIewed at Innsbruck Film festival, July.

Smashing political Drama: The Fashion Industry vs Fundamentalism in Pakistan. Somewhat reminiscent of " Good morning Vietnam"  but far more powerfull.  A most cogent condemnation of fanatic ISLAM in the potentially most dangerous (atomic armed since 1998) country in the world. Aside from that an excellent drama focussing on the struggle of a young woman to beat the system.  Beautifully shot and set aganst the ill-fated return to Pakistan  of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated on Dec. 27, 2007 ~  Brilliant!

 

9. "Monsoon shootout" this Rain drenched shootout AT The Bombay Corral - is the debut feature of Amit Kumar, starring Nawaz Siddiqui as a serial Hatchet  Killer --or was he? --   Three Versions of the same  event based on Kieslowski's "Blind Chance (1981) -- indicates a new direction in Bollywood, Viewed at Los Angeles Indian Film Festival, April.

 

10. "In Order of Disappearance"  Dir.  Hans Petter Moland.   Vengeance is Mine ~ with a Snowplough    Norwegian tongue in cheek thriller starring Stellan starsgard  as avenging  father of son killed by local Slavic Mafia. Title is an ironic take on the usual way of introducing minor actors in film credits: " In order of  appearance! -- in this whoop of a thriller as Stellan knocks off each guilty Mafioso the name if the victim  appears on the screen with a brief epitaph marked by a cross ... high powered entertainment in an unusual snowy setting. MY personal favorite at BERLIN  in February.


 

11. Nymphomaniac Part 1.   Berlin: semi hardcore pornography meets heady philosophy headin. Really should be combined with NO. 5 above.

 

12. Another one that MUST BE added:

'YA NE VERNUS'" (I won't come back) ~~ Byelorussian by Estonian director ILmar Raag.

A road movie about a beautiful college coed on the run after being turned off by a teacher She was in love with, and falsely accused of a crime she didn't commit, and an orphanage teenager on the run to find her long lost grandmother in Kazajhstan.  BUT the real subject of the film is the potential deadliness of LAck of love. Tremendously natural performances by Alla Emintseva (the coed) and 

VikacLobatcheva (the teenager) in the most memorable female performance of the year. 

If zinged to pick a SINGLE best one aa THIS is it!

 

HONORABLE Mention: Wes Anderson's "Grand Budapest Hotel" --

Nothing to do with Budapest and doesn't make much sense, but lots of fun to much especially to guess who's Who in All-Star cast behind  the extravagant makeup jobs.

 

Ps: Biggest Disappointments and/or Letdowns of the year:

1. Abel Ferrara's PASOLINI.  Abominable.

2. Richard Linklater's BOYHOOD, Terminally. Boring -- ankled at Miskolc. The most overrated film of the  year. Sheer boredom.

3. Mike Leigh's  misbegotten MR. TURNER~~ walked out on at Miskolc. destroys the beauty one appreciates at the museum.

Fondamentaliste Islam in Pakistan. urdu


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