As 2017 comes to an end, here is Cinetalk.net‘s personal ‘Best’, regardless of proper North American distribution deal or not. Asia had some strong stories to tell, but again, American distribution was pretty bad. And they are angry when people download…
And, yes, Mr Almodovar, the big screen should be the place to see flicks, but we are in 2018. So if you want to get into a real honest fight, go against the numerous barriers of your friendly distributors preventing us to freely choose the films (and the medium) we should see… We want unlimited access worldwide, now.
Note that three films are a unanimous choice at Cinetalk.net:
A Taxi Driver (South Korea)
We already closed the books when we attended Fantasia 2017’s final screening. But what a great finish. It became a personal favorite of the team. Hun Jang’s A Taxi Driver, starring Kang-Ho Song (The Host, Age of Shadow, etc) in one of the year’s best performances, is based on a true story within historical tragic events in South Korea in the 1980’s. A German reporter hires a Seoul taxi driver to take him onto the set of a bloody uprising falling under military control. They are the witnesses of large-scale demonstrations and of a deadly reprisal. Soon they go into hiding and have to find a way to get out of the area with the precious life threatening images they gathered. A manhunt through the countryside ensues.
With A Taxi Driver, director Jang shows that Mainstream Cinema can be great. The balance between entertaining value and drama is well crafted. He wanted large audiences to know about a not so distant dark past that is almost forgotten. So he goes, with very well paced film tricks, from humor, to drama to suspense effortlessly (for instance, the car chase is gripping and adds efficient dramatic purpose).
A Taxi Driver is a confident and committed piece of solid filmmaking. Although it still can be fully appreciated at home it is also the kind of film providing clues on why it is still an amazing experience to see films with an audience.
Dragonfly Eyes (China)
A techno-love story made of surveillance (digital) footage. Not to everyone’s taste (it is pretty experimental) but a Cinetalk.net favorite (Daria stills hold a grudge because I stole this title from her list). We both dig.
Mon Ange (Belgium)
With no money (when production started) director Harry Cleven had to rely on poetry and imagination in bringing to the screen his love story between an invisible man and a blind girl. Pretty ironic since his medium is about visuals. A charming, essential film. No big budget is needed to do one of the best films of the year (the ‘production’ year is actually 2016).
Daria’s FNC Review here: https://cinetalk.net/2017/10/11/fnc-2017-mon-ange-belgium-2017/
A Man of Integrity (Iran)
We often hear about director Jafar Panahi’s troubles with the Iranian authorities. But his pal Mohammad Rasoulof (they were sentenced during the same period) is also far from being out of trouble. While on parole he was arrested again last September.
The crime? Carefully exposing the country’s officials corruption in his latest drama : A Man of Integrity. Just the title is enough to reveal the full irony of Rasoulof’s situation. We follow the uncompromising journey of a man battling the corrupt society surrounding him. On and off screen we might add. Sharply written, great ensemble cast, straight to the point with a final embracing the overall bleak irony it is based on.
From start to finish, Mohammad Rasoulof knew he was heading for trouble with A Man of integrity. Still, he did it the way it was obviously meant. respect. Hope he is safe.
Bad Genius (Thailand)
In America we missed out on this insane comedy-drama that had a huge success in Asia. A shame. Is it blocked because Hollywood may want to do an unflavored remake? God knows. Check this out:
Our Fantasia Review Here: https://cinetalk.net/2017/07/27/fantasia-2017-bad-genius-thailand-2017/
Blade of the Immortal (Japan)
Takashii Miike had to come up with something pretty special for his 100th assignment as a director. Blade of the Immortal is 100% Miike extravaganza with the proper budget to fill in some ambitious battle sequences. Like he did with his remake of 13 Assassins (2010), he shows he can easily handle blockbuster action-packed films.
Daria’s Review Here: https://cinetalk.net/2017/12/01/blade-of-the-immortal-japan-2017/
Free and Easy (China)
A peaceful, loony, independent farce from China. It takes patience from the viewer as it is mainly playing on subtlety of characters rather than plain action (it is rather slow paced) but it is ultimately immensely rewarding.
Our Fantasia 2017 Review Here: https://cinetalk.net/2017/07/18/fantasia-2017-free-and-easy-china-2017/
Guko Roku (Japan)
Again this year Daria took assignment to follow the Tokyo International Film Festival and Guko Roku was among her favorites. Read why:
Daria’s Tokyo Film Fest Review Here: https://cinetalk.net/2017/10/26/tokyo-tiff-2017-gukou-roku-japan-2017/
Junk Head (Japan)
When you got talent, imagination and know what to do with it… you get Japan’s Junk Head. This fascinating work was introduced to us by Rupert Bottenberg a programmer at Fantasia Fest. While too many film programmers play political games with their selection, the man does his homework and takes great pride in finding, under the radar, jewels like this one. Mr Bottenberg certainly knows a thing or two about respect. Thus, the artists, public and (evil) film critics can trust his judgement.
For that specific reason we also went for the medium length Cocolors, when he suggested it and Daria is including it in our Best of list.
Junk Head Fantasia 2017 Review Here: https://cinetalk.net/2017/07/24/fantasia-2017-junk-head-japan-2017/
Cocolors – Fantasia 2017 Review Here: https://cinetalk.net/2017/07/28/fantasia-2017-cocolors-japan-2017/
Marlina, the Murderer in Four Acts (Indonesia)
Mouly Surya’s film is a beautifully shot tale of revenge playing like a Western with some effective dark humor. The main protagonist, a woman named Marlina, is out for justice and she means business. Colorful.
When you go, nowadays, for an adaptation of local legends, that’s the way to do it. Brilliant Estonian ‘folktale’ drama. Nicely shot, great atmosphere:
Fantasia Review Here: https://cinetalk.net/2017/07/21/fantasia-2017-november-estonia-2017/
Well this is 2016, but it came to us through Fantasia in 2017 and Daria dug it. See her nice review below:
Fantasia 2017 Review Here: https://cinetalk.net/2017/07/28/fantasia-2017-rage-lee-sang-il-2016/