Saturday, 6 April 2013

Encore Awards (2012 in Review): Director

Even amidst all the conversation about Argo unusual rise to Best Picture fame with a corresponding director nomination from the Academy, I felt the more interesting suggestion of Affleck’s lack of a nomination was ignored in the face of various theories for the film’s award popularity. Specifically, what is the correlation between a theoretically “best” film and best “direction”. The two go together, so a great deal – yes – and still the overlapping is not essential.

So, then, my favourite directors of 2012 do not necessarily correspond completely with my favourite films. As I’m about to close the books, more or less on 2012, I still don’t feel completely excited about the films of the year but I’m enamoured with aspects of many – so that I’m very fond of this list of directors and which I could make space for a dozen more below, even as all of them would not be films I’d consider for my own top 10.

(Click on photos for links to reviews where available.)

Anna Karenina (Joe Wright)

It may not exist as his finest film or his most orderly, but on his fifth feature Wright’s technique as a director continues to grow impressively. Even taking into account Stoppard’s wisely adapted screenplay, the fine performances, or the great technical aspects Anna Karenina’s effectiveness lives and dies by Wright’s vision. Wright’s direction is feverish, yes, and sometimes particularly uninhibited but it is also always in favour of the story he’s telling that sort of skill is impressive. – and that’s not even talking about his use of the film’s stage conceit.

The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies)

Ostensibly this is the film least likely to be considered as a director’s showcase – Davies is, after all, very intent on using the film as a platform for the star at its centre. Yet, even as Weisz’s Hester envelopes the thrust of the film it’s very dependent on its directors. The way Davies operates the division between Davies the writer and Davies the director might become blurred but key ways that he uses time and time jumps in the narrative to great effect and his ability to eke out top tier work from his tree stars is proof of a director at the top of his game.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)

Because a significant part of Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is a mystery, Ceylan’s skill at evoking tension and eeriness is essential. Because the film, though, is not just mystery major kudos to him and his ability to balance the morality play portions, with the vague buddy comedy and the subtle tragedy beneath. It’s a lesson in control and maintaining of tension which the film depends and Ceylan’s largest boon in it all is that through all this the film never once loses its aching human centre. A true asset.


Oslo, August 31st (Joachim Trier)

For one thing, Oslo – which is arguably my most devastating film of the year, manages to emanate such indomitable warmth in key areas it only proves that Trier’s vision for this tale of loneliness, death and – yet, against all odds – hope is not a problematic one. More character than any 2012 film Trier’s appreciation and respect for his main character is striking and it’s that rapport between filmmaker and character (and actor) which makes this narrative so seamless and organic in development. And also terribly heartbreaking.

Tabu (Miguel Gomes)

The key to making this black and white, sometimes silent film, seem not like a pastiche or even homage lies in Gomes ability to direct his creation with an unusual freshness. There are parts of Tabu that are especially daring but there are also parts which are not wholly new, but under Gomes the entire creation feels unsullied and inspired and more importantly worthy of our time. It is, doubtlessly, the work of an artist taking pride and enjoyment in his work and it shows in a film that is as provocative as it is enchanting.

FINALISTS: Cloud Atlas (Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski) for handling varying themes, stories and tones with ace results; Holy Motors (Leos Carax) for an especially imaginative centre that never descends into the arcane; Killer Joe (William Friedkin) for fierce understanding of the trashy depths of its character and milking it to good effect; Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik) for the sheen of coolness and bravado but not without realness and grit; Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson) for a storybook like approach to young love without becoming fanciful; The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr) for a hellish and chilling glimpse of end of world banalities

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg); Frankenweenie (Tim Burton); The Impossible (J.A. Bayona); Looper (Rian Johnson); Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh); Rust and Bone (Jacques Audiard)

Previous Citations: ActorActress / Audacious Cinema / Cast and Casting / Cinematography / Forgotten Characters / Memorable Scenes / Openings / Sound and Music / Supporting Actor / Supporting Actress / Writing 

Which directors made 2012 better with their vision?


Anonymous said...

I really need to see Tabu! I keep hearing amazing things about it. I love your lineup though. Right now they are all in my top 12 (Gomes obviously excluded). None of them are in my top five though.


Anderson/Moonrise Kingdom
Audiard/Rust + Bone
Donzelli/Declaration of War
Zeitlin/Beasts of the Southern Wild

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

fisti tabu is definitely one worth seeing. i've not seen declaration of war, but that's a solid top 5. each of those directors, even when i don't love their films, are steadily controlling the ways their stories are told - for the better. i wish i' had space for anderson in my top 5.