Contribution to the 2007 World Poll
Some of the films here probably should have gone on my 2006 list and there are probably some missing that will wind up on 2008’s list. Nevertheless here are my top ‘new’ films that I happened to see in 2007 (which were all released theatrically somewhere during 2007 for the first time!)
1. Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007)
2. Control (Anton Corbijn, 2007)
3. Atonement (Joe Wright, 2007)
4. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
5. Jindabyne (Ray Lawrence, 2006)
6. INLAND EMPIRE (David Lynch, 2006)
7. Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
8. Once (John Carney, 2006)
9. The Counterfeiters (Stefan Ruzowitzky, 2007)
10. I’m Not There (Todd Haynes, 2007)
Although I didn’t see anything that I would describe as a masterpiece or a potential classic, there were many excellent films in 2007 and I had a difficult time narrowing this list down. So here are another 15 films that I couldn’t bring myself to not mention.
11. The Last King of Scotland (Kevin Macdonald, 2006)
12. The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass, 2007)
13. Bridge to Terabithia (Gabor Csupo, 2007)
14. Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino, 2007)
15. Tell No One (Guillaume Canet, 2006)
16. La Vie en rose (Olivier Dahan, 2007)
17. Knocked Up (Judd Apatow, 2007)
18. A Mighty Heart (Michael Winterbottom, 2007)
19. The Band’s Visit (Eran Kolirin, 2007)
20. Rescue Dawn (Werner Herzog, 2006)
21. Ten Canoes (Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr, 2006)
22. Away From Her (Sarah Polley, 2006)
23. Stranger Than Fiction (Marc Forster, 2006)
24. Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant, 2007)
25. This Is England (Shane Meadows, 2006)
At a glance it is clear from this list what a fantastic year 2007 was for music films. Not only was there the understated yet unashamedly life affirming Once but three music biopics that focused on the music and its relationship to the performer rather than a standard tabloid-style life-story approach that is often favoured. The brilliant Ingmar Bergman meets English kitchen-sink melancholy of Control, the radical impressionist symbolism of I’m Not There and the non-lineal narrative of La Vie en rose all transcended the restraints of the genre.
Two of the year’s finest films were German language films, with The Lives of Others and The Counterfeiters, both of which explored moral complexities during two of Germany’s darkest chapters. Hollywood demonstrated that there are filmmakers still capable of making crowd-pleasing genre films that rise above mediocrity and blandness. High quality action, comedy and family films all made a tentative come-back in 2007 with The Bourne Ultimatum, Knocked Up and Bridge to Terabithia leading the pack. Last year I was impressed with Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006) and Inside Man (Spike Lee, 2006) for skilfully infusing serious examinations of racial and class politics in England and the USA respectively into entertaining thriller narratives. This year Tell No One did the same things for France and Jindabyne did the same for Australia.
Two of the few directors who can still genuinely be regarded as auteurs took their preoccupations in new directions. David Lynch alarmingly went further out of left field than he has ever done before with Inland Empire but still produced a startling film about identity, artifice and male violence. On the other hand David Cronenberg presented his fascination with the mutability of the body, the complexities of identity and the impact of violence and its sexual connotations in his most mainstream film yet with Eastern Promises.
Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof was simply too well written to properly pay homage to 70s exploitation films like it was supposed to but was nevertheless a thrill for people who loved good dialogue and great car chases. Pan’s Labyrinth was Guillermo del Toro’s best film to date and The Last King of Scotland was an impressive fiction film début by the brilliant documentary filmmaker Kevin Macdonald.
The biggest surprise of the year was Atonement, which was probably the most richly cinematic film I saw this year. It may have been a literary adaptation but its masterful cinematography, editing and sound design explored concepts of memory and perception in a way that transcends the limitations of the printed word.