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Thursday 21 December 2017

Eleven Films I Loved in 2017

by Rochelle Siemienowicz

I detest making Best-and-Worst lists. It seems like such a crude schoolboy's approach to films; like collecting and pinning beetles to a board and killing them in the process.

So let's call this a loose list of eleven films (not five, not ten, but eleven, just to be contrary) that I loved in 2017. These films delighted, surprised or impressed me in some way. They leave a trace or linger in my memory long after I saw them. 

Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Faces, Places (Agnes Varda & JR)
I raved about this playful, wise and life-affirming documentary on the August episode of Hell is for Hyphenates. It's a deeply egalitarian celebration of the value of ordinary people in unfashionable places. I can't get enough of Agnes Varda.

2. Raw (Julia Ducournau)
A sensitive and sophisticated cannibal coming-of-age tale, my review of this fresh, French, female horror is here on SBS Movies.

3. Get Out (Jordan Peele)
Combining horror, comedy and social commentary about America's race relations, this smart film worked on so many levels. It was genuinely scary, genuinely funny and I still think about it every time my teaspoon clinks against a cup.

4. The Party (Sally Potter)
I saw this hilarious metronome-timed black-and-white chamber comedy at the Melbourne International Film Festival and laughed so loud. The performances were universally delicious, but special mentions to Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz and Kristin Scott Thomas.

5. The Disaster Artist (James Franco)
Funny, astute and surprisingly warm, this portrait of a terrible artist, and the making of his terrible film, succeeds as a brilliant odd-couple buddy film. 

6. Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve)
Sublimely beautiful, there were scenes in this flawed masterpiece that transported and inspired me. I wrote a piece of memoir-infused film criticism about the film here at the Neighbourhood Paper.

7. A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies)
A strange and unsettling portrait of poet Emily Dickinson (whose poetry actually leaves me cold). This was one of those films that was sometimes difficult to sit through, and yet I'm glad I did because the experience of enduring it gave a sense of the life it depicted. Cynthia Nixon gives a singular performance as the eccentric, frustrating and tortured writer. Not a film for everyone.

8. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps give stunning and subtle performances as an obsessive couturier and his latest muse. A sophisticated and very beautiful film about love, power and the games people play. This story went to unexpected places in a most enjoyable way.

9. The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro)
Del Toro brings his fairytale sensibility to 1960s Cold War-era Baltimore. There's a strangely sexy fish-man, some Russian spies and frequent detours into song and dance. And yet it works, in no small part due to Sally Hawkins delicate portrayal of a determined mute woman who feels kinship with the beast and embarks on a mission to save him. 

10. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig)
This often hilarious depiction of the intense and difficult relationship between a commonsense mother (Laurie Metcalfe) and her whimsical daughter (Saoirse Ronan) is pitch perfect in its mix of love, disappointment and resentment. It made me think a lot about my mother, and made me grateful not to have a daughter, and made me eager to see what Greta Gerwig does next.  

11. Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino)
A languid film full of quiet moments and subtle gestures, this tale of first love and first loss is tangy and sweet. To be honest, much of the pleasure I had was in spending a summer hanging out under fruit trees with beautiful people who compose music, speak multiple languages and wander around without their shirts on. No money problems, no wars, no battles to save the universe, just the pulse of life and sex, and the time to explore exquisite emotions.

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