1. Days- Two men sit on the edge of a hotel room bed. The camera is positioned at a remove, with one man angled toward it and the other facing away. They are looking at each other after a scene where a massage turned into an ecstatic sexual encounter; now, one man, the one facing the camera, gets a music box and hands it to the other.
This moment in Tsai Ming-liang’s Days cemented it as my favorite film of the year. The simple, nearly wordless exchange between the men (played by Lee Kang-sheng and Anong Houngheuangsy) is somehow more intimate and powerful than what preceded it. Before (and after) the two drift together, Tsai observes them apart, building a profound and disorienting sense of isolation as the men do things like seek treatment for back pain, clean and cook at an apartment, and wander the streets alone. The quiet, deliberate rhythms he builds in these various spaces are transfixing and linger in the mind long after the film concludes.
1. The Tree of Life– Terrence Malick’s epic tone poem weaves in and out of the life of a typical American family in 1950s Texas, zig-zagging between the creation of the universe and the afterlife in the process. By placing the location of his own childhood at the center of these celestial events, he puts a very personal spin on his warring perceptions of creation; the way of nature and the way of grace. As his camera weaves in and out of the O’Brien family’s lives (a three son household run by Brad Pitt’s nature and Jessica Chastain’s grace), the element of visual improvisation makes their everyday life and afterlife beautiful. Even if you hated it, you’ll never forget it. Read our review.
2. Certified Copy- Unexpected in every way, the romance film by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami follows two strangers as they meet up in Tuscany one afternoon and divulge into their passionate opinions on art, originality, philosophy and love. Over the course of a single afternoon, their relationship takes twists and turns, leaving the audience in awe of the puzzle laid out before them and clinging to the aesthetic beauty of its settings and characters to reveal clues. Sophisticated filmmaking technique brilliantly interlaces heavy academic, multilingual conversation with a flowing narrative to sculpt this as one of the most unique and thought-provoking films of the year. Read our review.