My Favorite Films This Year (올해의 영화)

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A surprising number of films that I’ve (re)discovered this year were products of digital cinema. I have only good memories from sharing, watching, and discussing these films with my closest friends, acquaintances, and strangers. The list’s roughly in order of preference:

1. Histoire(s) du cinéma. JLG. 1998. (screened at Cinémathèque Seoul)

JLG declares that cinema is dead. And yet, we see something new in its disappearance.

2. Persona. Ingmar Bergman. 1966. (ECC)

Watching it multiple times (four or five, I believe, at Ewha Women’s University) made me appreciate it more deeply each time. Films being made today seem so unambitious and tedious in comparison.

3. Holy Motors. Leos Carax. 2012.

Cinema as life, and life as cinema.

4. Mauvais Sang. Leos Carax. 1986.

Modern love never looked so youthful and vibrant on the screen. Denis Lavant makes it all possible.

5. Shirley: Visions of Reality. Gustav Deutsch. 2013. (CGV Apgu)

Deutsch’s work is far more than an interpretation of Edward Hopper’s paintings. It reveals fictional and mysterious qualities of Hopper’s works in brilliant and humorous ways, while reminding us that we’re watching a film. Its usage of voice-over narration could have been better, but I’d like to err on the side of being overly enthusiastic about this film until my second viewing.

6. L’étrange couleur des larmes de ton corps. Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani. 2013. (Busan International Film Festival)

Expect mysterious phone calls, unexplained torture, obscure dialogues, orgasm induced by surveillance camera, creepy old lady (and guy).

7. Cinéma Metaphysique: No. 2, 3, and 4. Nam June Paik. 1967-72. (NJP Art Center)

Paik’s humorous gestures, making it both hilarious and profound, won me over. A stroke of genius.

8. Being Two Isn’t Easy. Ichikawa Kon. 1964. (Korean Film Archive’s KOFA)

The camera movement in Ichikawa’s film, especially towards the end, is pure poetry.

9. To Be or Not to Be. Ernst Lubitsch. 1942. (Cinémathèque Seoul/on blu-ray)

As much as I appreciate other cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare, this one probably comes the closest in fully capturing Shakespeare’s penchant for mistaken identity, romantic jealousy, and ambiguity.

10. The Eclipse. Conor McPherson. 2009. (ECC)

McPherson, who’s excellent as both a playwrights and a filmmaker, comes up with a film that jolts you out of your seats, and then puts you in tears with beautiful shots of Ireland’s landscapes. And there’s also Ciarán Hinds… enough said.

Runner-ups include (and there are many):

Un héros très discret (Jacques Audiard, 1996/IPH screening), Liberté et Patrie (JLG/Anne-Marie Miéville, 2002/Cinémathèque Seoul), Days of Being Wild (Wong Kar-wai, 1990/CGV Shincheon), High and Low (Kurosawa Akira, 1963/Cinémathèque Seoul), The Master (P.T. Anderson, 2012/Plaza Frontenac Cinema @ St. Louis), World on a Wire (R.W. Fassbinder, 1973/KOFA), Snowpiecer (Bong Joon-ho, 2013/BIFF), The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (P. Greenaway, 1989), Seopyeonje (Im Kwon-taek, 1993/BIFF), Avatar (J. Cameron, 2009), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks, 1953/on blu-ray), Blowjob (Andy Warhol, 1964)

An entracte for everyone to relax and celebrate New Year’s Eve:

P.S.

Films I really wish I had not seen:

1. Pilseon 2 (필선 2). Ahn Byeong-ki. 2013. (Bucheon Film Fest)

2. The Story of an Old WomanAleksey Gorlov. 2013. (BIFF)

3. Cinema Paradiso (international version). Giuseppe Tornatore. 1988. (CGV Ori)

4. The Face You Deserve. Miguel Gomes.  2004. The only film from this year that I couldn’t bear watching until the end. (Cinémathèque Seoul)

5. Stoker. Park Chan-wook. 2013. (somewhere in Chicago with a friend from Normandy)

Overrated film of the year: A. Cuaron’s Gravity.

…and a host of student films, including mine, that filled me with disgust and made me want to run out of the screening room.

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