2017 in Sight and Sound

Films

Favourite Pictures

20. – Félicité (dir. Alain Gomis)

The particularity and singularity of poverty, the suffering it magnifies, and the love it contorts. Gomis fashions the determination of movement and the need of stillness with remarkable power.

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19. – John Wick 2 (dir. Chad Stahelski)

Written about this one elsewhere, but as it ranks among the best action films of the century it is hard not to want to say more. Under Stahelski’s direction, honing all the right gun-fu lessons he learnt from The Matrix series, this world’s efficency at inflicting violence and death becomes a terrifying and ethically charged abyss, ending with a reflections that takes on strange moral dimensions not just for the characters but for the audience: “You are now entering reflections of the soul.”

18. – Call Me By Your Name (dir. Luca Guadagnino)

Beyond the beauty of the story and the power of the performances, Weerasethakul’s sometimes DP Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s photography imbues summer as a spatio-temporal phenomenon with an amorous lightness that is truly remarkable.

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17. Phantom Thread (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

Love and care as consuming violent dependency; class mobility as psychically damaging in the non-dissolution of class as such; art coded with the unspeakable pain inflicted by the world and the World.

16. – Snow. Steam. Iron. (dir. Zack Snyder)

“All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl”, says Godard, possibly forgetting the need of a camera. This ommision Zack Snyder does not make, including it as an element and symbol within this four minute short. As meditation on violence and how it intersects with the three components needed for a film, Synder goes so far as to evoke the possibility of this triadic problematic as fundamental to cinema by assuming the form of the silent film. In this way the critique becomes, modifying Resident Evil: Retribution, a gun: it’s like a camera men too often point and shoot.

15. – Good Time (dir. The Safdie Brothers)

I have my reservations as to the oscillation in photographic styles, as this one shifts between homages to exploitative TV such as Cops and the more conventionally lit and coloured world that Sean Price Williams captures. Despite this the Safdies are doubtless operating at a level of sympathy that is deeply felt and wrought into every level of the film, as they dare an audience lapping up the adrenaline-fueled action to leave as Buddy Duress’ Ray’s words come to apply to Ben Safdie’s Nick: “Now look at my fucking face.”

14. – 120 Battements par minute | BPM (Beats per Minute) (dir. Robin Campillo)

While the attention paid to central medical issue is one that is less potent today than at the time of the setting of the film, it is no less the case that the depiction of fraternity and the formation of political consciousness and challenge is rarely as clearly, powerfully, and methodically captured as it is here.

13. – The Florida Project (dir. Sean Baker)

The precarity and injustice of modern America is seldom so plainly displayed. The starkness of the colour scheme and the vivacity of the childrens’ performances are primed to contrast in the most loaded ways with the pain on display; a world designed to dare its inhabitants to publically display unhappiness, constantly messaging that it’s disallowed. A great work of empathy and concern for the many otherwise forgotten.

12. – 그 후 | The Day After (dir. Hong Sang-soo)

Hong’s seemingly quite common filmographic reflections on male spinelessness appear to be reaching new and richer heights with the advent of his relationship with Kim Min-hee. The open challenges of women as they interplay with the trope of masculine cowardice form new and exacting complexities as the traditional temporal playfulness snaps into a concluding linearity.

11. – 方绣英 | Mrs. Fang (dir. Wang Bing)

Narrating the unnarratable, speech and the unspeakable, dying life and living death. Wang’s camera has a capacity to capture the point of intersection wherein so many supposed binaries meet, overlap, and in the end dissolve. One lives, one dies, and all else moves on.

10. – Split (dir. M. Night Shyamalan)

Having absolutely no awareness to await a twist of the scale that concludes the film, I admit that my naive self left the screening very excited. Shyamalan wrings suspense and eschews blockbuster dualisms with ease, situating the questions and complexities of morality and personhood deep within the film’s being.

9. – L’Amant d’un jour | Lover for a Day (dir. Philippe Garrel)

“[G]enerational bonds grow to be stronger than familial ones”, writes Neil Bahadur and accurately so, as Garrel captures the problematics implicit in relationships and the values held between ages. Difficulties abound and loyalties split in dichotomous fidelities to the self and others. Complicated and conflicted in the richest and most thoughtful of ways.

8. – The Lost City of Z (dir. James Gray)

Gray presents the inside of colonial consciousness and the fraught nature of aristocracy within a realm of slowly changing gender, racial, and class politics and failing attempts to escape from the worst effects of this nexus. It is a knowing aesthetic exercise as one gathers that Gray intends to ask the viewer to assume a double vision, asking for the world and values of the film’s subjects and those of its viewers to co-exist. Gray is neither afraid of or condescending in presenting this difference, with the conclusion sitting the viewer in its most contested site. It is a crescendo possessed of visual wonder and all the while a culmination rife with the conflicts of witnessing the mind of an escaping yet-undoubtedly-imperialist victim finally glorious in his own death.

7. – A Quiet Passion (dir. Terence Davies)

Melancholy fragments and impressions of a life of restriction made free in poetry. The dissatisfaction expressed and released through Nixon’s performance in particular, with regard to the masculinities and religious fervour she is surrounded by, is remarkably moving. Davies’ approaches the biopic in a refreshing manner, refusing to chart mere biographical detail but to capture slivers of time evocative of a whole; marked by its concerns, terrified of its limitations, and desirious of more than could ever be penned.

6. – Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (dir. S. S. Rajamouli)

Rajamouli showcases an exceptional command of symbol and the exteriorisation and visualisation of all emotion and moral decision. The director takes historical and mythical epic to new heights as every moment participates and expresses its importance in the film’s narrative movement and the characters’ attempts to create or situate themselves in a moral arc to their universe. Colour, sound, and the painting that digital cinema allows are put to great and entirely novel use, not just in the achievement of the aims of the film’s characters aims but also in that of the cinema itself.

5. – 밤의 해변에서 혼자 | On the Beach at Night Alone (dir. Hong Sang-soo)

The manner in which Hong can play with time in distinct but entirely disorienting cuts is always remarkable, and no less so here. The shifts in time appear to transgress fictionally real and cinematic dimensions, as with Kim’s Young-hee awaking in a movie theatre after having been abducted on screen. Basic awareness of the film’s undoubteded commentary on the the real life Kim-Hong affair and subsequent public relationship only but adds to the meta-real and meta-textual complications; becoming greatly moving as the film seems to become a site of articulation of the love, longing, and apology each artist has for the other.

4. – Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (dir. Paul W.S. Anderson)

Few American film series have proven themselves to be as intellectually and visually astute as Resident Evil (arguably post-Afterlife). Anderson treats sci-fi as the richest of texts, playing with and dialoguing questions of post-humanism with corporate hegemony, misogyny, and Christian fanatacism. The symbols and ideas (trinitarian post-humanism) are powerfully expressed and reach the most personal and meta of conclusions. In all its violence, this world showcases great and most profound possibilities of love extended to all. (More here.)

3. – Song to Song (dir. Terrence Malick)

Ephemerality, profundity, and the space in which the two meet. Few edit as intuitively as Malick or create with such stark awareness of the antagonisms and pain inherent to modern life. The lives of the characters present themselves with great immediacy and the camera asks for nothing but love as the despair and joy are visualised before the viewers’ eyes. Malick’s new tendency toward montage and emotional-philosophical voiceover takes on expansive inter-personal dimensions—in departure from say Knight of Cups, which favoured a near solipcistic attention to an individual—that form rich emotional cross-polinations. This interactive abstraction that underlines being lost in the world enriches the philosophising, as one finds the filmmaker not demonising or teaching but assuming the fact of a deeply transient reality and attempting to imagine therein instances of universal ideals defined by and that find importance precisely in their being marked by this emphemerality.

2. – 十五小时 | 15 Hours (dir. Wang Bing)

A radical visualisation of the concepts of labour, time, commodity production, and the violence of capitalist social necessity. Wang’s philosophical deployment of differing modes of time and how each correspond to his inhabitation of this particular historical space is as masterful as it is painful. The moral vision borne out in this work cannot but end with a political demand for change.

1. – Twin Peaks: The Return (dir. David Lynch)

The greatest moving image achievement of the century so far, let alone the decade or they year. A singular document of American media, poverty, suburbanism, insitutions, nuclearity, and morality. Lynch takes up, processes, reflects, and heightens his life’s work in photography, sound, and moving image; recognising in horror and humour, tragedy and comedy every contradiction present in existence. The singular effects of individual and collective wounds, violations, and traumas are never lost throughout, written it seems deeply into the fabric of existence in screams; as victims come to know the power of the disturbing power of bad infinity and supernatural entropy.

Favourite Performances

James McAvoy in Split

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Cynthia Nixon in A Quiet Passion

Kim Min-hee in On the Beach at Night Alone

Nahuel Perez Biscayart in BPM (Beats per Minute)

Kyle MacLachlan in Twin Peaks: The Return

Favourite Direction

M. Night Shyamalan for Split

S. S. Rajamouli for Baahubali 2: The Conclusion

Paul W. S. Anderson for Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Terrence Malick for Song to Song

David Lynch for Twin Peaks: The Return

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Music

Albums

10. – More Life by Drake

Cover

9. – The Iceberg by Oddisee

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8. – Turn Out the Lights by Julien Baker

7. – Ruler Rebel by Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah

6. – War & Leisure by Miguel

Science Fiction by Brand New

Process by Sampha

DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar

2. – Carrie & Lowell Live by Sufjan Stevens

1. – HNDRXX by Future

Songs

10. – Sky Walker (feat. Travi$ Scott) by Miguel

9. – No Long Talk (feat. Giggs) by Drake

8. – New Orleanian Love Song II (X. aTunde Adjuah Remix) by Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah

7. – 137 by Brand New

6. – Shadowboxing by Julien Baker

5. – Drawn to the Blood (Live) by Sufjan Stevens

4. – Lookin’ Exotic by Future

3. – Apple of My Eye (feat. Raphael Saadiq) by Rick Ross

2. – Cut to the Feeling by Carly Rae Jepsen

1. – Biking by Frank Ocean

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