We’re only 6 months into 2013, but what a year it’s already been for film. Festivals around the world, including our own in Sydney, turned out some of the most diverse and enjoyable line-ups in recent memory. The world’s top filmmakers such as Nicolas Winding Refn, Park Chan Wook and Quentin Tarantino brought their A-game with exciting new releases, and we saw a host of ground-breaking debuts.
After considerable discussion/argument/bargaining here at the World Movies office, we’ve pulled together our list of the 10 best international films released in 2013 so far in no particular order.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know on the World Movies Facebook page.
LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE (France/Japan)
Screened in May in a special season at ACMI, Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami outdoes himself with this follow-up to the acclaimed ‚ÄòCertified Copy’. Delving into the modern condition amidst the brightly-lit hustle of Tokyo, ‚ÄòLike Someone In Love’ tells the story of Akiko (Rin Takanashi) who spends her aimless days between student life and a part-time escort job. Exquisitely filmed and eerily haunting, this is one 2013 film we cannot forget.
Park Chan-Wook’s (Oldboy) latest film deeply divided critics and audiences, but we loved it. Australian women Nicole Kidman, Mia Waikowska and Jacki Weaver star in this deliciously overwrought Gothic psychodrama about the arrival of a charming but sinister Uncle into a young family’s life. Gory, stunning and simmering with sexuality, we’d like to think this is the kind of film Hitchcock would make today.
ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Denmark/France)
There isn’t too much more we can say on this film. Probably the most anticipated international film of the year, it made its premiere at Cannes to a vehement mixture of boos and standing ovations, before going on to win the top prize at the Sydney Film Festival 2013. You’ll have to make your own assumptions about it – but this hyper-violent revenge tale sees the magical reunion of Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn after Drive, then throws Kristin Scott Thomas in for good measure as a bloodthirsty matriarch. We couldn’t get enough.
BEYOND THE HILLS (Romania)
Christian Mungiu’s Romanian drama won Best Screenplay and Best Actress for both leads Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutu at the Cannes Film Festival 2012, so we were delighted when it was added to the Sydney Film Festival line-up this year. This stark story follows Alina, who returns from Germany to ask her true love Voichita to leave the nunnery she has joined. But soon love is overshadowed by the destructive power of religion, with Alina deemed possessed by the stern priest. What follows shocked us more than any other film this year.
One of the funniest movies this year, Sightseers is about two people that would kill to get out of their banal vacation. Literally. Stars and writers Alice Lowe and Steve Oram make two horribly unpleasant characters completely likeable, as we follow them on them on a camping trip that turns gruesome in this pitch-black comedy from UK director Ben Wheatley.
UPSTREAM COLOR (US)
It’s hard to describe Upstream Color without making it sound like an impenetrable non-narrative mindbender. It’s actually one of the best films of this year, and has been the hot ticket at festivals all around the world. Shane Carruth’s follow up to the lauded cult hit Primer is a visually magnificent creation, about two souls drawn together by their shared experience of a bizarre kidnapping. This will have you scratching your head for days.
FRANCES HA (US)
Despite being filmed in black and white, this Noah Baumbach film could not be more vibrant and full of life. Charting the mid-twenties pitstop in life where adulthood settles in, what could have been a melancholic tale is buoyed by an energetic, idiosyncratic and altogether joyous performance by breakout star Greta Gerwig – who also co-wrote the film. It’s drawn comparisons to HBO’s zeitgeist-capturing series Girls, but this is a quiet masterpiece all of its own.
We happily saw a cinematic release for No in Australia earlier this year, which we can only hope means more people know about this brilliant Chilean film. Featuring a winning lead performance by Gael Garcia Bernal, this is the story of a young advertising executive who is tasked with the campaign to bring down the country’s dictator, Augusto Pinochet. A fascinating examination of how media hype and spin influence the political process then and now.
DJANGO UNCHAINED (US)
Arguably the most Hollywood film in our list, it was impossible to ignore the brilliance that was Quentin Tarantino’s latest film. The vividly violent exploration of American slavery saw an Oscar-worthy performance from Christoph Waltz and a bone-chilling turn from Samuel L. Jackson. Our favourite Tarantino film to date.
BEFORE MIDNIGHT (US)
Richard Linklater’s ‚ÄòBefore…’ trilogy is one of the seminal film series on the nature of love, marriage and long-term commitment. The latest (and potentially last) film meets up with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke’s characters (they also share a screenplay credit with Linklater) nearly 20 years after the original. We recommend watching the first two films beforehand, but even as a standalone experience this is more truthful and touching than any onscreen romance you will see this year.