1. Beasts of the Southern Wild– No matter how skilled a filmmaker is, rarely does a movie come along that creates a cinematic world that is seething with a new kind of life, a world or vision that movies haven’t seen before. Director Benh Zeitlin, working with a do-it-yourself low budget commune of filmmaking talent and some extraordinary “non-professional” performers, does that with Beasts of the Southern Wild. The ferocious story of Hushpuppy (the amazingly talented child actress Quvenzhané Wallis) and her small, increasingly hopeless village on the other side of a Louisiana levee is filled with fantastical, visually stunning sequences as well as low budget narrative economy. It is this year’s biggest contradiction, and its biggest success.
2. Amour– Michael Haneke’s second movie in a row to win the Cannes Film Festival’s highest honor (the Palme D’or) is the director’s most empathetic and devastating work to date. As the camera lingers in the apartment of Georges and Anne (legendary French performers Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emanuelle Riva in devastatingly good form), we become privy to the elderly Parisian couple’s tender, haunting final moments together. It is a slow crawl toward death, absent plot twists or Haneke’s sadism. Watching it yields no pleasure, but everything from the incredible performances to the wonderfully precise camera movement lingers long after the movie ends.
Rust & Bone Directed by: Jacques Audiard Written by: Jacques Audiard & Thomas Bidegain (screenplay), Craig Davidson (story) Starring: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Céline Sallette and Bouli Lanners
The French drama Rust & Bone, from equally French director Jacques Audiard, assembles some of the most talented people in all filmmaking departments together to tell an emotionally and physically violent story about love and survival. It could’ve so easily been Oscar bait if the writing and the performances weren’t so emotionally uncompromising.
Audiard made a huge splash in many film circles in 2009 and 2010 with A Prophet, a violent and uncompromising vision set at the genre crossroads of organized crime and prison films. Rust & Bone, while still concerned with the loss of humanity and the repression of violent impulses, tells a decidedly weirder story about a homeless father and son and a whale trainer.