My favorite films of 2019


Amazing Grace

(versão em português aqui)

The list criteria remain the same as usual: films seen for the first time in 2019 that had their first public screening in the past three years.  The difference is that I scrapped the honorable mentions and did a write-up on everything. The order doesn’t mean very much, a movie at #37 is one I liked more than at #57, but I could’ve had it at over #34 or under #40 in a different day.  Beyond all those, it is worth making to remark over Amazing Grace, Aretha Franklin gospel mass that Sydney Pollack shot in 1972 but was only edited now. I didn’t think it quite belonged in this list, but it is a spectacle far beyond just a concert show. A matter of faith.


Above the Rain

The best new short I saw this year was Ken Jacobs’ Above the Rain followed closer by Jonathan Schwartz’s A Leaf is the Sea is a Theater. Alguns outros destaques:  ________ (Kyle Faulkner), The Fountains of Paris (Stephen Broomer), The Marshall’s Two Executions (Radu Jude), Music from the Edge of the Allegheny Plateau (Kevin Jerome Everson), Shakti (Martin Rejtman), Two Basilicas (Heinz Emigholz), Vever (for Barbara) (Deborah Stratman), X-Manas (Clarissa Ribeiro).  Also,  Toshio Matsumoto’s 1986 Summer which was recente discovered.

100) Second Time Around/Segunda Vez (Dora Garcia)
History (in this case Argentina’s, but it could’ve been Latin American or the third world as a whole) as a series of echoes. Garcia’s editing work is exceptional.

99) The Emperor of Paris/L’Empereur de Paris (Jean-François Richet)
By far the year’s best superhero movie. The best solved among Richet’s industry films and the studio recreation of Napoleon-era Paris is great.

98) In Like Flynn (Russell Mulcahy)
A little after becoming a star Errol Flynn wrote an autobiography of his times as an Australian seafarer with the clear intention of mix life and image and this adaptation from Mulcahy takes his clues from him in a film that seem to come from any cinema decade but this one. Mulcahy remains one of the mainstream cinema’s best stylists.

97) Casa (Leticia Simões)
Intimate, but with a panoramic vision. Starting from her family portrait, Simões manages to trace a history of Brazil from the last decades of slavery until lulism. Her mother is one of the best film characters of current Brazilian film and there’s a strength in the conflicts between the three women that our current fictions rarely achieve.

96) Varda by Agnes/Varda par Agnés (Agnés Varda, Didier Rouget)
Varda leaves the stage. Like much of her late work, it is a film that starts on herself and reaches the world. One starts by thinking “but she already did The Beaches of Agnes” and by the final scenes think “but I’m glad she did this one as well”.

95) Bisbee ’17 (Robert Greene)

On the possibilities of resistance imagination in US today. As a reflection on how American mythology depends on an erasure of a history of violence it is almost Fordian (if Ford had been to academia).

94) Dolemite is My Name (Craig Brewer)
Eddie Murphy giving body to an entire tradition of American black comedy. It made me think a lot about Mario Van Peebles’ Baadasssss.

93) La Ciudad Oculta (Victor Moreno)
Madrid’s underworld and its many lives portraited with great imagination by Moreno.

92) Bimi Shu Ykaya (Isaka Huni Kuin, Siã Huni Kuin, Zezinho Yube)
Two power tensions, the patriarchy affected by the filmmaker’s grandmother rise to command the tribe and the presence of a film camera, very well put together by the three directors.

91) Black Mother (Khalik Allah)
History and resistance written on images of a return to director’s home Jamaica. Another strong film about colonialism heritage.

90) Master Z: Ip Man Legacy (Yuen Woo-ping)
An spin-off from the popular series Ip Man that is superior to most of its movies. Yuen Woo-ping has directed very little in the past couple of decades with uneven results focusing more in his first rate work as an action choreographer, but he gets back here to the energy and creativity of his films from 1978-1994.  Great action scenes reinforced by an above average cast (Zhang Jin, Michelle Yeoh, Dave Bautista).

89) The Nightshifter/Morto Não Fala (Dennison Ramalho)
Brazilian outskirts, a history of violence, A damnnation tale very well imagined by Ramalho who confirms here the promise of his early shorts blending horror inherent violence and a good eye for Brazil’s daily life.

88) Triple Threat (Jesse V. Johnson)
For those that take pleasure at martial arts choreography, Triple Threat offer some of the worlds best performers (Iko Uwais, Tony Jaa, Tiger Chen, Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White) under a barely there East/West conflict excuse staged by Johnson who has one of the better eyes around for bodies in movement.

87) High Life (Claire Denis)
A minor Claire Denis film perhaps (I think cinematographer Agnes Godard absence is very felt), but all the material between Robert Pattisson and his daughter is terrific and as a visual essay about life and freedom, it has strong moments.

86) Chang—ok’s Letter (Shunji Iwai)
Shnji Iwai remains a master of epistolary drama. Chang-ok’s Letter is a series of four shorts about Family rituals and the efforts of a housewife that keep up with them. It is better than any recent Koreeda family dramas.

85) Cassandro, the Exotico! (Marie Losier)
Losier dominates like few the art of film portrait and knows how to give her characters a great political expression. The meeting here between Cassandro and her camera and the manners which it erases the space between performance and living politically couldn’t be much stronger.

84) 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (Johannes Roberts)
Roberts is a good genre craftsman, but this is an unexpect experimental film. One comes to watch some shark action, but stay for a study on textures of underwater lightning and movement.

83) Let It Burn/Diga a Ela Que Me Viu Chorar (Maíra Bühler)
A very dramatic concentrated documentary taken by an specific despair. It is an observational film, but also a history of erasure. On this, Bühler was the right filmmaker at the right place and time and her film takes a strong symbolic force on today’s Brazil.

82) Polizeiruf 110: Tatorte (Christian Petzold)
Christian Petzold has been contributing TV movies for the German crime series Polizeiruf 110 for a few years now. It is an opportunity for him to umagine an alternate world in which he had a long career as a B-movie filmmaker. Tatorte is the best of those so far, a simple tale of intimacy, death and aging.

81) The Beach Bum (Harmony Korine)
Korine filming a series of hangout duets between Matthew McCounaghey and a group of special guest stars (the better ones are probably Snoop Dogg and Martin Lawrence). An experiment that is sustained by how each moment lives intensely.

80) Avengement (Jesse V. Johnson)
Johnson and Scott Adkins are the best low-budget action team of the past few years, they make for quite specific pairing the former stuntman with a taste for underworld tales and the athletic taciturn figure who knows like few how to sell a gesture of violence in movement. Avengement is probably their film that best match their different sensibilities, the choreography is less remarkable than in Triple Threat, but the action fits perfectly with its violent world. It is like a Dardenne film, but instead of a character hyper-focused in their Christian redemption, one follows a brute descending to hell while beating up everyone who cross his path.

79) In The Heart of the World/No Coração do Mundo (Gabriel Martins, Maurilio Martins)
The name of Brazilian producing company Filmes de Plastico has always amused me because since their earlier shorts no one around here makes less plastic films. The careful eye towards daily life on their hometown Contagem has get the most attention, but In the Heart of the World more than any of their other movies makes clear that what move them the most is a desire for fiction and Gabriel and Maurilio Martins do here an entire reclamation of an imagination.

78) Just Don’t Think I’ll Scream/Ne Croyez Surtout Pas Que Je Hurle (Frank Beauvais)
About desire, anxiety and living in the world this past decade through the gesture of disappearing into movies. There’s a lot that can be said about Beauvais work, but the way his editing abstract the 400 movies used has something very strong and truthful about the experience of watching films, somewhere between Robert Bresson and Michael Bay.

77) Us (Jordan Peele)
It is a better thriller than Get Out, that is sometimes limited by standard second film anxiety. Peele is more free and capable filmmaker even if sometimes the superimposed meanings risk overloading the film. For the first two thirds in particular the manner in which it connects the thriller mechanics and its social malaise is very strong and it never lacks in creativity playing with its doubling motif.

76) The Cannibal Club (Guto Parente)
Another social horror film that knows how to play with the genre natural symbolic abrasiveness. A grotesque satire more effective the more obvious its central image is.

75) Jeanne (Bruno Dumont)
Sort of a complement and reversal of the heavy metal operetta that Dumont did on Joan of Arc’s childhood a couple years ago. More conventional than the earlier film, but still eccentric enough to send a good deal of audience at my festival screening walk out. A comedy about the choreography and perceptions of power.

74) Tomorrow and Thereafter/Demain et Tous les Autres Jours (Noémie Lvovsky)
From the gesture of seeing and arriving at the world. Lvovsky strongly throw herself at the possibilities of childhood imagination and find it a specific form of trembling.

73) John Wick 3: Parabellum (Chad Stahelski)
It can gets drunk on its own mythology, but Reeves and Stahelski still combine for the best baroque action on current American film.

72) Dare to Stop Us (Kazuya Shiraishi)
Shiraishi was an assistant for Koji Wakamatsu at his late life and here uses him as an opening for a look at Japanese counterculture in the late 60s, early 70s. I have my doubts if a movie that gives an entire bloc of action to the shooting of PLFP/Red Army – Declaration of War can be made by someone who doesn’t share Wakamatsu’s radical worldview, but the immersion that Shiraishi proposes has a lot of power and the movie also has a lot to say about the compromises women make to move around sexist places like filmmaking.

70) A Bread Factory Part One: For the Sake of Gold e A Bread Factory Part Two: Walk With Me a While (Patrick Wang)
One of the more ambitious experiments on current American cinema. With an ample and very well imagined world and many ideas about art and community while mixing public life and a sense of constant performance. It is two individual 2 hour films in continuous dialogue with each other.

69) Mirai (Mamoru Hosada)
Growing up as a series of negotiations in the middle of a harsh world. Hosada remains one of the masters of the contemporary animation and his combination of childhood imagination and pain is deeply felt. It would make for a strong double bill with Lvovsky’s film.

68) Corsario (Raúl Perrone)
Pasolini’s ghost paying a visit to Perrone’s Ituzaingó. A lovely delirium about filmmaking and being mediated by Perrone’s passion for the Italian filmmaker.

67) Paul Sanchez is Back!/Paul Sanchez Est Revenu! (Patricia Mazuy)
Manhunt as behavioral comedy. It is a film that is very much part of a tradition of French genre cinema taking by a desire for an imagination, but that also is very conscious about all the mythological constructions inherent to it.

66) We Make Antiques! (Masaharu Take)
About tradition and craft, its value and its ridiculousness. Something that always annoy me about current cinephilia is a difficult at dealing with genre cinema that exists outside of dominant cultural industry, we lose a lot of popular imagination by avoiding this exchange. This is all to say this tender and hilarious con comedy about the world of Japanese antiques would never play at a major festival or getting commercial released around here and we are all the poorer for that.

65) Tonsler Park (Kevin Jerome Everson)
The American democratic myth in action. Everson bets on a counter-image, we are in the middle of a Wisemanian documentary about a voting precinct in a black neighborhood and haunted by the specter of voting supression. A movie about all the faces we do see and all the ones we can’t

64) I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians (Radu Jude)
Bitter humor about historical amnesia and its consequences. That it is about Romenia, but at the same time so universal just reinforces its desperation.

63) Alita: Battle Angel (Robert Rodriguez)
On how Rosa Salazar’s eyes find a truth in a complete artificial world. Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron are a successful marriage between sensibilities fascinated by the possibilities of the digital image.

62) Night is Short, Walk on Girl (Masaaki Yuasa)
The discoveries of the romantic night imagined by the freedom of animation.

61) The Forest of Love (Sion Sono)
Sion Sono stole money from Netflix and throw each one of his obsessions into 150 minutes that is everything wonderful and bad about his cinema put together.

60) Film Catastrophe (Paul Grivas)
From the making off of a Godard film we arrive at an archeology of neoliberal Europe in front of a history that disappear.

59) Pig (Mani Haghighi)
An absurd serial killer comedy about living and creating under an authoritarian state.

58) The Great Pretender (Nathan Silver)
A comedy of mirrors between theater and life, a little like if Rivette was taken by American pragmatism, which makes sense in a film that is also about the derangement between France and US.

57) Atlantics/Atlantique (Mati Diop)
Part gothic romance, part ghost film about bodies haunted by capital.  It is a film that exists in that space between inhabiting the surface of images’ texture and a search for connections that bring back the body to a primary position. Atlantics is about materiality in its many forms.

56) July Tales/Contes de Juillet (Guillaume Brac)
Two small summer shorts. French youth vignettes under a careful eye that understands the urgency of bodies, but doesn’t know the meaning of narrative drive. Summer sleepiness, to have all the time in the world, but be intense at every given moment.

55) The Brink (Jonathan Li)
Soi Cheang produced this Chinese neonoir that ressembles his nihilist action films from the late 00s. Some great action scenes.

54) The Yellow Night/A Noite Amarela (Ramon Porto Mota)
I’ve already wrote about this spiritual slasher by Ramon Porto Mota twice, here and at Cinetica and I’m not sure I have too much more to say but it is part Khouri, part Linklater and has a lot to say about the uncertainties faced by current Brazilian youth.

53) Ruins Rider (Pierre-Luc Vaillancourt)
Tactile space transposed to the texture of digital image.

52) Welcome to Marwen (Robert Zemeckis)
The artist is naked, alone with his beautiful and terrible imagination. A sick and painful film that no amount of Hollywood machinery can wash because it is part of the exposed guts.

51) The Lion Sleeps Tonight/Le Lion Est Mort ce Soir (Nobuhiro Sawa)
Nobuhiro Suwa putting Jean-Pierre Leaud to act against a group of children playing at making a movie and I’m far too much of an easy mark to resist that.

50) Chasing Dream (Johnnie To)
On the genuine in a world of fakery. A musical melodrama that is a triumph of To the stylist if not necessary To the auteur.

49) Hidden Man (Jiang Wen)
One of those 80s antropophagic Tsui Hark exercises updated to current official Chinese cinema. It makes along with Let the Bullets Fly and Gone with the Bullets, a loose trilogy of picaresque historical movies on 30s prerevolutionary China that start from western genres to imagine counter revolutions of a corrupt underworld. In all of them what stands the most is how Jiang Wen marries the freedom of the action with the pleasures of filmmaking.

48) Glass (M. Night Shyamalan)
One thing that fascinates me about late Shyamalan is how he is always looking for a mask to hide his aesthetic obsessions as if he was aware that he could only make them acceptaple under a camouflage, this one is  “a film by mr. Glass”. Like all his work it is a study about the need of believing in fiction that doubles as a dissection about how Hollywood sell the figure of the superhero. It would make a good double bill with the Zemeckis and it is worth notice that they were both treated as risible by the same film critics.

47) Marfa Girl 2 (Larry Clark)
The film world has left Larry Clark behind years ago and since them he has reduced his cinema to its essentials: body, camera and the distance between them.

46) Domino (Brian De Palma)
At the middle of this new De Palma film there’s a terrorist attack shot like an You Tube video and how the reader reacts to that description probably tells a lot about weather this isa film for him.

45) Portrait of a Lady on Fire/Portrait de la Jeune Fille en Feu (Céline Sciamma)
About a gaze that loves. To exist in a moment and everything that can remain back registered in an image. Sciamma’s camera films Adele Haenel’s smile and Noémie Merlant’s eyes. Of finding a fair and durable image for a desire.

44) The World is Full of Secrets (Graham Swon)
A group of teenagers sharing horror tales in Sternbergian close-ups.

43) Police Killing/Auto de Resistência (Natasha Neri, Lula Carvalho)
Brazilian autoritharian genocide as seen through the portrait of how our law works.

41) Fatal Pulse (Damon Packard) and The Irishman (Martin Scorsese)
Two complementary mythologies about 20th century US through its film imagination. Two experimental films, one made with some 100 bucks, and other with some 100 million. Packard’s film covers exactly the years Scorsese’s  jump around. Violent histories of power.

40) Better Days (Derek Tsang)
Teenage melodrama as a political weapon. The meeting between the high emotionalism of young romance and the weight of a police state. Tsang and his two main actors suggest all the strength of a sense of abandon.

39) When Margot Meets Margot/La Belle et la Belle (Sophie Fillieres)
If Raul Ruiz remade Vertigo as a French romantic comedy. From the double to self-recognizition, from a strong idea of fiction contained in those shared histories. Fillieres’ direction is an absolute control and both actresses are great, particular Kiberlain who has the best timing on reaction shots on movies.

38) Private Life (Tamara Jenkins)
At same time harsh and very close to its characters with a very good eye for relationships of power and responsability.

37) Streetscapes [Dialogue] (Heinz Emigholz)
The Streetscapes quartet that Emigholz released in 2017 move the architecture studies of his Photography & Beyond series towards putting the visited buildings in a clash with a new external element he decide to integrate in the film, in this case a dramatization of the filmmaker’s therapy. It is not a narcisistic movie, but almost its opposite, an acknowledgement that when we visit a place we bring with us a whole set of experiences.

36) Gemini Man (Ang Lee)
Ang Lee starting from a generic 90’s action movie to think about the visible on the current film image. And it has some terrific action scenes particularly that motorcycle chase.

35) A Home with a View (Herman Yau)
A comic nightmare about Hong Kong’s housing crisis.

34) Where’d You Go, Bernadette? (Richard Linklater)
At same time offbeat and conventional, with a very particular rhythm and an inspired Cate Blanchett performance. A good deal of the pleasure here is in the meeting between Linklater’s grounded eye and Hollywood sentimentalism of the plot that couldn’t be further apart, but go very well together.

33) Depraved (Larry Fessenden)
Larry Fessenden updating Frankenstein for a civilization reaching the end of times. Very smart about how it rethinks Shelley’s myth (just for being a film that manages to return to it while avoiding its anti-science side it would already stand out) for a new stage of corporate industrial revolution. The scene when the creature goes visit the museum is one of the year’s best.

32) Pain and Glory/Dolor y Gloria (Pedro Almodóvar)
More pain than glory. A film about getting exhausted at the end of a life. Banderas has rarely been this good onscreen, and that moment Leonardo Sbaraglia comes to visit him is something special.

31) Heimat is a Space in Time (Thomas Heisse)
20th century German history revisited through Heisse’s family history over a series of materialistic mementos and German landscape that carries it. There’s few scarier moments in 2019 cinema than that entire bloc of action that follows the rise of anti semitism in Nazi germany by way of a series of letters from the Heisse’s family archive.

30) An Eye and an Knife/O Olho e a Faca (Paulo Sacramento)
The possible reimagination of Reichenbach’s Filme Demência to current Brazil. It has more to say about the rise of bolsonarism than any of the films discussed about it.

29) Parasite (Bong Joon-ho)
Less a comic thriller about class struggle that the acknowledgment of an insurmountable abbys and all the apparatus including cinema that helps sustain it. That it exists in a complete impasse are both its limit and source of lot of its power as an exposition of a general malaise.

28) The Projectionist (Abel Ferrara)
On how the places we visit and our imaginations ended up gentrified.

27) Technoboss (João Nicolau)
A musical comedy about a grumpy 60s something travelling through Portugal fixing security systems for local hotels. A series of vignettes sustained through a very private subjectivity that’s very well imagined and it seems to me like a stronger film about a post European crisis Portugal than the 10 hours of Miguel Gomes’ Arabian Nights.

26) Bacurau (Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho)
The heritage of colonial violence is a country always ready to eat itself.

25) Readers (James Benning)
One of the rare James Benning’s films centered on human figures. Four shots of around 25 minutes of characters reading and all the expected performance games involved. The gesture of reading gains a physical weight.

24) Yara (Abbas Fahdel)
Fahdel made one of the decade’s essential films with Homeland: Iraq Year Zero his epic chronicle of his family before and after the American occupation. Yara starts from some of the same desires and formal principles in a fictional shape. A film about a place and how one relates to it, a chronicle about living in a disappearing world.

23) Tremble All You Want (Akiko Ohku)
A Japanese romantic comedy about a young woman and the ways her fantasy world collide with everything around her that is very well modulated and has one of the finest recent performances courtesy of actress Mayu Matsuoka. That final scene wouldn’t be out of place in a Cassavetes film.

22) Sibyl (Justine Triet)
Like their previous collaboration In Bed with Victoria, Justine Triet and Virginia Efira started from a very defined fiction from French imagination (here a psychological drama in the Bergmian manner) for a series of dramatic variations of increasing desperation and absurdism. To know oneself doublés into creating fictions to better escape one’s own neurosis. True to psychiatry, true to filmmaking.

21) The White Storm 2: Drug Lords (Herman Yau)
The war on drugs as great power fantasy of little consequence beyond the destruction of undesirable bodies. A self-destructive action film that falls apart in front of us suffocateed by its own incoherent text. Andy Lau plays a Bruce Wayne type with all his sociopathy underlined to such extant only an infantilized literalism could see as positive. As a film that relates financial capital, current fascism and urban violence there’s no recent spectacle quite like it. Among all the films from this list it is probably the most 2019, including its moral questionable parts.

20) The Wild Goose Lake (Diao Yi’nan)
A Langian manhunt film about the unforgiven eye of the Chinese police state. A sense of paranoia and underworld that feels very lived in. How one escapes when one wasn’t free in the first place?

19) Fourteen (Dan Sallitt)
A drama of time. Starts from one question (how to be available to a loved one that you think needs you) and show how it reverberates through a decade. But Sallitt always see it through reactions, in the small moments between crises that reveal what has add up through time. It is kind of reverse of Pialat’s We Can’t Grow Old Together, a violent film whose violent parts remain off-screen.

18) Killing (Shinya Tsukamoto)
A study on violence and the static body. In samurai fiction only the static body can slow down violence, but how when cinema asks it to move all the time? Tsukamoto after 30 years dealing with the representation of bodies and violence reaches a thoughful take that is surprising coming from him. And there’s all the violence his handheld camera brings to samurai imagination.

17) Martin Eden (Pietro Marcello)
The place of the artist in the 20th century industrial society, a tale of self-annihilation. A film of violent contrasts starting with the one between Jack London epic sweep and Marcello’s experience as a experimental filmmaker. It is the most Italian film made in a while and seem to take place in an out of time at a suspended Italy that’s at least all decades from the first half of last century in one. A sentimental education contaminated by a series of 20th Century Italy detritus that Marcello smuggle inside it. One of 2019 most radical films.

16) Danses Macabres, Skeletons, and Other Fantasies/Danses Macabres, Squelettes et Autres Fantaisies (Rita Azevedo Gomes, Pierre Léon, Jean-Louis Schefer)
I love how Schefer’s ideas are articulated through a film history. A very simple film that is its own form. Schefer’s brings his body and ideas that are completed in the way Gomes and Leon articulate them through image and editing. The proposed historical transfers and cinema becomes one and same.

15) Lady J/Mademoiselle de Joncquières (Emmanuel Mouret)
Emmanuel Mouret started his career as a comedian influenced by Jacques Tati and later moved towards a different kind of formalism that places him as heir to a classic French mise en scene tradition now that Rivette and Resnais are not among us anymore. At this revenge aristrocatic comedy there’s not a shot that the camera isn’t in the precise place. It is funny, sharp and desperate. Cecilie de France and Edouard de Boer are both immense.

14) Monrovia, Indiana (Frederick Wiseman)
In a certain way it is a complement to In Jackson Heights that Wiseman released four years ago, there he looked at the multiculturalism of the big American city while here he focuses on a sense of alienation of small town white community. It could play like an editorial, but Wiseman makes cinema through those faces and spaces in a universe of so many contradictory feelings. It ends at a funeral, bitterly.

13) Treasure Island/L’Ile au Tresor (Guillaume Brac)
Speaking of Wiseman, I like how the scenes with adults here seem to come out one of his films about institutions. The heart of the film are the scenes with kids playing and teenagers hanging out. A careful staged non-fiction.  About how to retake our places and our imaginations. A politics of leisure. Nothing more essential.

12) In My Room (Ulrich Köhler)
This year’s funniest comedy is about the impossibility of leaving civilization and all its foibles behind. It is an apocalyptical film that allows to project all of modern anxieties in its scenario. Is it possible to survive capitalism? The answer is a very pained laughter.

11) The Mule (Clint Eastwood)
Clint Eastwood taking the mantle of the ghost of American fiction one last time. A film on recognition and farewell, on looking at a changing world through your car window and dealing with all the bullshit one did because experience brings not wiseness, but an increasing large baggage of recriminations. It is a companion film to Gran Torino, but that was his final world on his screen image and The Mule a final breath about the limits of his libertarian individualism.

10) Liz and the Blue Bird (Naoko Yamada)
Musical melodrama as anime. A romance that exists through music, over the ways art expands our imagination of desires. The way in which the animation lines, the mythical story behind the play and the musical numbers combine to put us in the two teenagers headspoace is great. And Yamada should also get a lot of praise for her attention to body language. A very lived-in and immersed movie which isn’t that usual for an animation.

9) Dragged Across Concrete (S. Craig Zahler)
Do you know how Manoel de Oliveira shot every comma in his Dommed Love adaptation? Zahler sorta does the same to some imaginary pulp novel whose every detail of long car peeping sections to some moments of violence one kind wishes he wouldn’t imagine for a long  160 minutes. Like his other movies it is a trip to hell who turns an individualistic desire to provide/protect into a long and violent damnation vigil. Zahler is great tall teller and let’s be honest cinema has very few of those left.

8) Uncut Gems (Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie)
Adam Sandler taking the Sisyphus myth of modern capital as a degenerate gambler who is very sure he is winning when he is only advancing his death wish. A combination of pulp sensibility, accelerated narrative drive and a whole series of authentic detail and recurring use of non-pros in the supporting cast has a disorienting effect. As some have noticed it is an anxiety attack expanded through 125 minutes.

7) Synonyms/Synonymes (Nadav Lapid)
A desire to complete deny one self. Synonyms is a film about cultural suicide and its impossibility. A film that moves from Jewish diaspora towards a hostile cosmopolitan Europe. Synonyms made far more sucess than Lapid’s two very good previous films because despite the specific of its starting pointing Yoav’s alienated suicidal flight achieves a certain universal value, it is the character one victory, one can’t be able to escape our country psychosis, but maybe represent more than it.

6) Ad Astra (James Gray)
On dying alone in an universe that is so vast yet scarce.

5) Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa)
Vitalina, Maos
Costa returns to Vitalina’s episode in Horse Money and exapands it into an investigation about shadows and ghosts of colonialism. There’s no more emotive moment in 2019 cinema than when a clear sky finally appears here.

4) To the Ends of the Earth (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
The horror of the unknown, not of the supernatural like most Kurosawa’s films, but the one from a strange indecipherable land. It moves from a sense of alienation and paranoia to rediscovery with equal aplomb. The world never stops being mysterious, but Kurosawa allows his film and Atsuko Maeda to reach it.

3) Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)
A film about the economics of imagination, where everything is image and everything is performance and a constant negotiation between them. Brad Pitt driving his car while connecting all of this world strands is probably the image about this year’s movies I will retain the most. It is above all else a film of scenes, a series of moments fulfilled by gestures, surprises and life, imagined existences around American official dream life.

2) The Portuguese Woman/A Portuguesa (Rita Azevedo Gomes)
We never see Portugal, but it is to Portugal that it always return. The sea is conjured repeated times in contrast to the dry North Italian landscape. The Portuguese sea: the conquistador adventures, the renewal promise, an eternal return. The Portuguese Woman and the Portuguese woman both stage a displacement inside, to the guts of ab aristocracy that dreams its futile wars. As a counter point, Portugal persists as return, longing and loss. A world that need to be retaken. If there is on Portuguese cinema a strong sense of history, here it remains drained, in the wreckage, like the post battle tableau vivant that earlier the film made eternal.

1) The Traitor/Il Traditore (Marco Bellocchio)
Bellocchio filming Tomasso Buscetta as he informs on the Italian mob. It is two films in one, a long negotiation towards a death that was settled the moment one choose a life on organized crime and a carnivalesque trial in what is in dispute is not the facts of the case, but the whole of Italian identity. There’s two truths in Italy, the Catholic Church and the Cosa Nostra. It is a film about legal procedure and gestures of power as ways to reveal the frailty of the country’s foundational myths. On the Italian 80s and the spectre of Berlusconi to come.

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