In 2018, including festivals, I hung out in a cinema for a little over 400 hours. That’s a little less than one movie every other day. And what do we get out of it all? 20 excellent films, quite varied, but with a dark and arty atmosphere. Here are my twenty favorite movies of the year, and keep in mind that this top is purely personal, subjective, and that it only concerns the movies I’ve seen. My complete list is available here!
A few centuries after Narco, Gilles-Lellouche signs a strangely luminous film, around the most anti-cinematographic environment possible (just after the Gabriel Péri stop on the 13): a swimming pool. Inside swim depressed losers, at the bottom of the hole, all with a serious problem to solve. And since sports and team spirit are good therapies, they will move forward together. The film is raw, borderline cruel, then it gets hot and hopeful again, until a slightly surreal happy ending. These men (and Virginie Efira, always at the top wherever she is) are broken, beautiful, failed, and put into perspective this famous masculinity adored by French podcasts – here, she is sensitive, fragile, she says what she thinks and is not afraid to transmit her emotions. It’s almost subversive, and we’re still talking about a comedy. “Stop puking, it’s not productive. ” Bonus points for Philippe Katerine, at the top of his game.
They meet at a Nouvelle Star-style audition, he’s a handsome Manoukian, she’s got an icy, fiery voice. Together, they will restore the coat of arms of the Soviet bloc through the prism of art, dances and patriotic songs. It’s crazy love, so irrational, then it goes west while there’s still time, but she doesn’t want to. And that’s TRAGEDY. They run around, the years go by, they become stateless, art and feelings take up too much space on top of each other… in short, they are animated by simple and effective dramaturgical conflicts, stuck in a sophisticated black and white. The musical sequences are galvanizing, all beautiful to cry. It’s old emulated cinema, it’s by Paweł Pawlikowski (Ida) and the final dialogue is great. It’s beautiful. (See also: Leto, Roma)
You probably haven’t heard of this Deauville Festival survivor. Blindspotting is the story of a friendship doomed to be compromised: Buddy A tries to let his last day of parole go by without any trouble, Buddy B (a Macklemore clone) is a hyperactive, perpetually pissed off guy who never goes around without a gun. A is black, lives in a crappy neighborhood in Oakland, and witnesses police violence – not to say murder of a black guy by a white cop. Now, are we gonna fall in line without flinching, or are we gonna go back to solitary? They’re both movers and shakers, and the actors are pals like pigs in real life. And this injustice will be the source of a film, you guessed it, very societal about America and its current demons. A beautiful (sic) postcard about Oakland and its gentrification, and an amazing ability to navigate between tones and genres, wandering between hilarious punchlines and the stunning shot of a baby playing with a gun. Even if its ending is a bit heavy and prescriptive, it’s still infinitely better and cooler than the whole Spike Lee. Blindspotting is the annual avatar of the self-respecting and self-respecting American independent film industry.
High-concept horror film by Jim-de-The-Office, Sans Un Bruit does everything well. Reminder of the titles: monsters will zigouille you in two-two if you make too much noise. John Krasinski and Emily Blunt have to deal with this somewhat awkward parameter of daily life, and try to stay alive on a remote farm. Except that: the woman is pregnant, she will have to give birth in silence, and babies are not known for their silence. Best film in the “do your own thing” category: only one and a half hours to explain the concept, play with a minimum, present disturbing elements and deal with them. At one point, we are shown a nail sticking out of a stair board. That’s to be expected, but we grind our teeth so hard in advance, it’s worth it. There’s not one scene too many, not a single bit of humor missing, so please take it all in stride. Too bad the French poster’s all crap, but I’m nitpicking.
This film is INTENSE. And very anxious. It’s Paul Thomas Anderson, so it’s very concentrated in his work, there’s more meaning than images in the footage, and we don’t have the complete reading grid until very late. This film could be carried by its characters alone, and its central role as an egotistical artist and the Oedipus a little too present. It’s much more than “gneu gneu suffering/giving up everything for art”. It’s British, it’s fashion, it’s a toxic relationship like a good omelette with poisonous mushrooms, it’s masochistic tango, it’s Phantom Thread and it’s close to excellence.
Unsurprisingly, the latest Wes Anderson is great. In this animated film, he talks about the dogs (or is it the old Japanese?) that are kept in a giant garbage can in neo-Japan. The obsessions are there: symmetry everywhere, budding love between teenagers, sepia tones, all-star casting. The characters speak and respond with thoughtful timing, as if they were in a rakugo sketch. Grammar is cultivated right down to the camera movements, which are also sketches in three acts. Akira Kurosawa is referenced everywhere. At the sound, it’s Desplat playing taiko. Weebs love it, moviegoers love it. The film is an example of fluidity and attention, it is to be watched in its original version.
Well, now I think I understand Noah’s cinema. Thirty-something is approaching, youth is leaving, tastes are changing and evolving… or maybe he has made a successful best-of of his repertoire? The “kid having fun with extreme ideas” side is still there, but there’s not that unbearable or soothing little trick that his critics can find in his other films – Enter The Void is graphically splendid, but it’s three years too long, for example. Climax is much shorter, technically impressive, its first (dance) sequence is fantastic. The rest is simplistic and complex at the same time, surrounded by a list of funny little things – the muffled buzz, the boxes that knock you out with gifts of general truth, the discussions of those dancers who secretly can’t see each other. It goes wrong, the camera keeps rolling and rolling over. Clivant, as usual, but for once the thing is compact and sensible enough to work.
“What do you do for a living? – I’m running to my doom ”
Live fast, die young. Christophe Honoré’s cinema is not always the most accessible, but the timing is good: one year after 120 BPM, Honoré is screening in Vincent Lacoste (big up to freshman year, cool too), who meets an older playwright with AIDS. And let’s go for the love story where we quote great authors instead of doing so, love, because it’s a morbid risk. The dialogues are devilishly written, you have to accept it. Same lemonade as Robin Campillo, especially in its ability to recreate the 90s. And yet, it’s a film in the antipodes. It’s obviously an intimate subject, into which he injects a lot of romance and romance. He’s not afraid to be cultural, and chooses a brighter angle for an outcome we know is fatal. We find Denis Podalydès in a real role, yippee!
The new Mamoru Hosoda continues its Sainte-Beuvienne approach of “the stages of my life told in cartoon”. In this episode: the arrival of the second child and the jealousy of the first, in an incredible home in Yokohama, all in horizontality. Science fiction, family, space management, what if the real new Spielberg was him? Mirai sounds less grandiose than his previous films, but that should in no way be held against the author. “Filmed” at child’s height, a bit mechanical and dueling but still inventive and enchanting, the formula still works. Not sure that it will last forever, he is unloved by the fans, who don’t always accept that he won’t make a fourth “grandiose” film in a row.
Irony: the movie. Not the sexiest of this selection, the most theatrical as well, it is literally a drama in three acts. Here’s the pitch. “Michael and Dafna, married for 30 years, lead a happy life in Tel Aviv. Their eldest son Yonatan is doing his military service at a border post in the middle of the desert. One morning, soldiers ring the doorbell of the family home. “They think he’s dead. But we follow him right after, not knowing the time frame. Then we go back to the parents. Something’s not right. Then we finally understand everything and apply the palm of your choice on the face, for one of the best falls of the year. In the meantime, we are witnessing the theatre of tragedy and absurdity in the IDF, where brave soldiers are bored in an inclined box, when they do not make huge mistakes or deceive boredom. No paragraph will do justice to this political film, which is not much loved at home, at least not by his staff, you will quickly understand why.
You think there are no more good horror movies in the movies? Implied, not “films made to walk automatically and that drive teenage audiences crazy fighting in the middle of a screening”? Everyone – including them – should look at Heredity. In front, no one’s talking out of turn. You can’t really scare people anymore, but this film makes them squirm in their chairs, again and again. His morbid imagery (he is not afraid to show everything), Toni Collette’s performance, a few moments of bravery in directing make him an intense and precious moment in this cinema year. Bonus point: one of this year’s most beautiful “OUPSSSS” moments. As soon as a character mentions an allergy, you know it’s going to matter later. BUT LIKE THIS? The audience saw blurry.
Maybe a nasty bias of recency, because this one invites himself very late to the party, but my ancestors, what a visual slap. You just have to get past the script on rails (you guessed it all as soon as you saw all the characters, and the story is seen and reviewed) and everything else slams away. It’s a creative animated film…by Sony, make a wish. It’s visually delicious from start to finish. All the time, ideas for movies, comic books, manga. Games of positions, framing, movement, animation and animation, the work is immense and it feels. He makes the Spiderverse bazaar playful and exciting, and buries all the live-action films, which suddenly take a huge turn for the worse.
Well, the family unit is ruined, which is a great constant in this ranking. With Stéphane Brizé’s En Guerre, we took a step aside on the subject, with alienation at work as the nodal point. In Nos Batailles, the life of Romain Duris breaks down at lightning speed. At the local Amazon-but-not-Corner-Amazon, one of his colleagues commits suicide. The next day, his wife leaves. We need to explain this to the kids. He loses his footing a bit and fights, figuratively and a bit literally. Our Battles is a concentrate of despair that points but never really invades, a permanent disaster scenario, but always with a glimmer of hope at the end. It sounds physically exhausting, it’s not that exhausting: there’s an end of the tunnel, a warmer fall, so all is forgiven. Even his dry wit always hits the nail on the head: when you ask HR to do something because the warehouse is too cold, you have to wear a Christmas hat. And then there are these superb scenes, a card that doesn’t pass and which triggers an unfortunate sequence of events, a discussion with a sister who’s re-lettering, a dance about Michel Berger… everyone improvises most of the dialogue, it shows, it all becomes more real. (See also: In War and another film much higher up in this ranking)
The pleasure of seeing La forme de l’eau and Del Toro crowned at the Oscars was very real. But here is the real sleeper hit of this selection. The panels of revenge and its French title to sleep outdoors evoke very raw emotions in the viewer. Injustice, incomprehension, and that good old revenge and its simple and soul satisfying stakes. Yokels, racism, dirty cops, a mother who won’t let go and an awful murder that seems to go unpunished for life. It’s not all black and white, but it’s a little bit… and, in the middle, a completely lunar beating sequence shot. This movie is mesmerizing.
Best blockbuster of the year. Wouldn’t Mission Impossible be supplanting James Bond? Tom Cruise’s official yes man, Christopher McQuarrie, is stacking up to offer the closest thing to perfect entertainment. Long, dense, it passes in a flash, and masters the management of tension – one solution, two problems that appear. In the end, there are only five big action scenes in this film, and they are all excellent. We combine rowing and plumage, we allow ourselves zinzin ideas for filming, Tom Cruise gives a lot of himself, in short we are not taken for idiots. What a panard!
The second Kore-Eda of the year is also the Palme d’Or 2018. Widely deserved: highly subversive in Japan, he tells the story of arbitrary ties, not those of blood. The family that cheats, the family that cheats, the family that steals: don’t do that at home, etc. Halfway through, he goes into a trance, and all the scenes count triple. Immersive like the devil, full of (common) sense, well filmed, well interpreted, there is no real flaw. Very political but not that, he’s still in theatres and he could blow up this essential director in France, go for it. (See also: his American penchant The Florida Project, where the ostracized white trash America is summoned to Disneyworld)
The premise is fantastic. Sam drops by a Parisian party to pick up some stuff from his ex’s place. He locks himself in, falls asleep, and it’s the zombie apocalypse when he wakes up. It’s all about survival in Haussmanian apartments and in an empty Paris (somewhere between fantasy and cinematic achievement) – and making concrete music in moments of boredom, because why not. You go, Sam. And we’re having a great time watching French genre film at its best. (See also: In the Mist)
New wave, avant-guardist, retro, all at the same time, it is Bertrand Mandrico who makes a black and white film where five bad boys must be punished and are sent to a paradise island where they will learn camaraderie and virility. Except that, you’ll soon find out, the whole cast is made up of girls – including the Vimala Pons tornado. Les Garçons Sauvages is a huge artistic license in itself. Each image, each shot, is a little delight, is the result of a cinematic idea. It’s zinzin and very aesthetic, promised to many future specialized retrospectives and schemes, therefore excluding, but it is to be seen without conditions. (See also: the movie just after)
One of the dramas of the year. This film by Ryoo Seung-wan was distributed in one and a half theatres – literally – all over France. France thus deprived of an epic footage, which tells the story of the internment of Koreans on the island of Hashima by the Japanese. With a budget of $21 million (three million less than Visitors 3), this film gives the impression that each brouzouf has been weighed and used the most intelligently in the world. EVERY shot is zinzin’ on Battleship Island. It’s a mural that we would like to last for hours and hours, which has received attention in inverse proportion to what it deserved.
Some honourable mentions for breathing before number 1, who is very hairy: The cool biopic award goes to Me, Tonya. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is saved by Bayona, because it is Bayona and it is the best (argumentation is my credo). No one can see Mandy normally, it will not be distributed, you had to drag your spats in festival. It’s a shame because this is probably the last interesting movie with Nic Cage. And what a movie… I have a great fondness for Assassination Nation. And Damien Chazelle releases a movie and he doesn’t even make it to the top? First Man is not lacking in qualities, it is true, but competition is tough. Without further ado…
Ow. Whoa. OIL.
The best film of the year is of great darkness and perversity. Tough luck. Even years, probably. Had this top existed in 2016, it would have consecrated Nocturama.
Even the title is great. The film of the year is also a first feature film by the very, very, very promising Xavier Legrand. It is also a great tragedy: the Besson couple is getting divorced, and the joint custody of their son is forced. The boy no longer wants to see his father, the latter, taciturn, is accused of violence, and it is not yet known whether the mother is a victim or indifferent. The obvious drama is played out with a slightly perverse suspicion on the part of the spectator. All the keys to the film will be disseminated to the watchful eye from the first sequence – a civil hearing that will make this preliminary decision – or throughout a second screening, which will know where the film lands. No need to wait for the conclusion, which pours into the horror movie, to lose years of life expectancy to stress like never before. Jusqu’à la garde is a virtuoso film that finds pure anguish everywhere in a daily life that will speak to everyone. It’s an awful time to spend but a great moment of cinema, and the direction of the actors and its leading trio is Dantesque. Love is dead forever, too bad, but bravo. As for the cinema, it’s doing well.