Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Best Films of 2016 (Sight & Sound)

From the January 2017 issue of Sight & Sound, here are my top five films of the year:

  • Sieranevada (Cristi Puiu)
  • Fuocoammare [Fire at Sea] (Gianfranco Rosi)
  • Fai bei sogni [Sweet Dreams] (Marco Bellocchio)
  • Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello)
  • Khesht o Ayeneh [Brick and Mirror] (Ebrahim Golestan, 1964)

I have smuggled onto the list one film revived from the past: Brick and Mirror, which is by far the most stylistically daring film I have revisited (and occasionally presented and screened) in 2016. Golestan's bleak masterpiece, arguably the best of Iranian pre-revolutionary cinema, captures an atmosphere of political anxiety and paranoia and transforms it into a timeless image of any society governed and manipulated on the basis of fear of the other -- more or less a mirror held in front of us at this troubled moment in the 21st century. But this also reminded me of the fact that in a year that was cinematically (and otherwise) not so great, it was revivals and retrospectives which made life more pleasant. Life-changing retrospectives included the exhilarating Deutschland 1966 (Berlinale) and the glorious, all-35mm Universal Pictures: The Laemmle Junior Years 1929-35 (Il Cinema Ritrovato). The latter featured the most poignant piece of social realist cinema of the depression era, Laughter in Hell (Edward L. Cahn, 1933) which remains for me the unsurpassed discovery of the year.