21) Wuthering Heights (Andrea Arnold, UK) Adapting Emily Brontë's novel from 1847 is a perfect project for the stark realist Andrea Arnold. Her previous films Fish Tank (2009) and Red Road (2006) have captured audiences with their brutal honesty and inspired storytelling. With perhaps the most visually poetic atmosphere since Lynne Ramsey and Claire Denis, Arnold manages to emphasize every snowflake in this austere tale of lost love without a single lazy hint of narration. Do not miss this for the world.
22) The Kid with a Bike (Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France/Italy) Can these Belgian brothers make a bad film? Seriously? Like their Rosetta (1999), The Son (2002), and L'enfant (2005), this is yet another hypnotic neo-realist journey portraying modern-day youth like no other in cinema. Every character makes unexpected and inevitable decisions. No moment is false. The Dardennes create movies that make life feel more real.
Check out part one here and part three here. More from the man who slept nary a wink at TIFF 2011 (or so it seems!) follows.
11) Twenty Cigarettes (James Benning, USA) Following the basic concept of 20 different people smoking an entire cigarette gives each segment its own time frame. It allows the viewer to get into a rhythm that becomes as addictive as smoking itself. Being a non-smoker, I found myself hypnotized by each person's physical stance and style as well as what each participant must have been thinking about during the five to eight minute process. Museum cinema at its finest.
12) La folie Almayer (Chantal Akerman, Belgium/France) Adapting Joseph Conrad doesn't sound that exciting, even for fans of Chantal Akerman (Jeanne Dielman, 1975). But there is something absolutely alluring about this experimental mood piece. Feeling abandoned and lost in the jungle becomes a state of mind here; the film sincerely builds towards two of the most beautiful shots Akerman has ever created. With an audacity that can infuriate even the most weathered cinephile, this 65-year-old French auteur has created a new work that is crisp, inventive, and quite alive. For anyone who was also ignited by Godard's most recent abstraction, 2010's Film socialisme — here's another from an innovator who we too often take for granted.
1) Oslo, August 31st (Joachim Trier, Norway) This bleaker-than-bleak exploration of drug addiction hypnotically deconstructs the genre, exposing previous entries like 2000's Requiem for a Dream as oddly glorified and even romanticized. As with his surprise hit Reprise (2008), the soundtrack for Trier's film (Chromatics, White Birch) seals the colder-than-cold universe that lead character Øystein (played brilliantly by Anders Borchgrevink) inhabits. Not for folks who can't handle needles dangling out of arms.
2) This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi, Iran) As immediate as a heart attack, this 75 minute documentary by prison-bound Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi (who is serving a six-year sentence with a 20-year ban on directing films or even talking to the media), truly is not a film. What is it actually? How about a terrifying cry for expression from one of the most daring and political filmmakers alive. While the world waits for his hopeful release, go watch The White Balloon (1995), The Mirror (1997), The Circle (2000), Crimson Gold (2003), and Offside (2006) as soon as possible.