‘Holy Motors’ Is Our Film Of The Week

Recovered from a long career hiatus, Leos Carax’ return is our favourite movie this week, and so far this year. ‘Holy Motors’★★★★★, an uniquely personal work from the director of ‘Pola X’ and ‘The Lovers Of The Bridge”, blends multiple genres and references to the history of cinema on a series of episodes defying the conventions of logical narrative and shaping up a beautiful homage to cinema. Denis Lavant gets in chameleon-like shape to portray several different roles as a mysterious limo drives Mr. Oscar around Paris, taking him from project to project. Ultimately a love it or hate it affair, ‘Holy Motors’ won’t leave anyone unchallenged. We’ll be lucky if this season brings any work that can rival its formidable qualities.

Other strong new releases this week are smart sci-fi thriller ‘Looper’★★★½ and taut German drama ‘Barbara’★★★★. Former films of the week ‘Killing Me Softly’ and ‘About Elly’ hold their place in our recommended Top 5. Don’t miss any of them!

Check the full Top 20 here.

Leos Carax (NEW)

Visionary, Genius or just plain bonkers, this personal tribute to cinema by cult French auteur Carax is the first true masterpiece 2012 has delivered. Criminally left empty-handed at Cannes, its many episodes see Denis Lavant being driven around Paris in a mysterious limo to a series of different assignments. Mr. Oscar, his character, jumps from finance investor to street beggar; from crime to motion capture; Eva Mendes to Kylie in a mind-blowing genre hopping ride referencing many significant landmarks in the history of film.
Andrew Dominik

Brad Pitt continues his enviable string of fine roles with this look at organized crime’s decay as a metaphor for the current state of the US in the midst of the financial crisis. This is Pitt’s second collaboration with Andrew Dominik, heading one of the most impressive casts in recent memory where some usual suspects (James Gandolfini ; Ray Liotta; etc.) are joined by rising stars Ben Mendelsohn and Scoot McNairy. The film also benefits from a darkly comic screenplay filled with sharp dialogues and remarkable one-liners.
3-LOOPER ★★★½
Rian Johnson (NEW)

Despite an unfortunate promotional slogan hailing it as this decade’s ‘The Matrix’, this excellent example of high concept sci-fi is one of the best works the maligned genre has offered for quite a while. Set in a near dystopian future when a shady business of time travelling hitmen is booming; to avoid legal troubles, after a number of years every one of them is sent to kill his future self. A disturbingly puffy-faced Jonathan Gordon-Levitt discovers his older version in Bruce Willis and rebels against his fate. Great fun!
4-BARBARA ★★★★
Christian Petzold (NEW)

One of the Berlinale’s winners and Germany’s submission for the foreign language Oscar, the best reviewed German movie since ‘The Lives of others’ shares the common subject of how police oppression invaded the sphere of citizens’s privacy under the communist rule in East Germany. Nina Hoss collected raves for her performance as the doctor who finds herself banished from Berlin and relocated to a remote Northern town hospital.

5-ABOUT ELLY ★★★★½
Asghar Farhadi

‘A Separation’ was Roberawards favourite film of 2011 Thanks to its international success, now Asghar Farhadi’s former opus gets a much deserved release and it’s nearly as superb as its illustrious successor. Another complex moral tale where in the middle of a friends’ gathering for a weekend in the sea, the disappearance of one of the guests would open a can of worms filled with lies and recriminations.

Olivier Nakache & Eric Toledano

The highest grossing French film of all times begins the conquest of Anglo-Saxon markets. Omar Sy and François Cluzet give superb performances as the streetwise unemployed guy and the quadriplegic millionaire that hires him as a carer. The story of their odd friendship focuses in the comic clash between their opposite backgrounds and happily avoids most of the usual sentimentality that goes with those matters. Easily a contender for feel-good movie of the year, a Foreign language Oscar may also be in the cards.
7-TABU ★★★★½
Miguel Gomes

An homage to Murnau’s classic silent film of the same title, Miguel Gomes offers one of the most inventive works of the year. As brave on his impeccable technical choices as it is poetic on its narrative, ‘Tabu’ was shot in beautiful black and white and structured in two part covering a lady’s present in Portugal and past in Africa and the impossible love story that shaped her life.
John Cassavetes (NEW)

The father of American independent cinema in one of his lesser known works; Ben Gazzara, Peter Falk and the director himself star in this study of male bonding and midlife-crisis, received with a mixed reaction when originally released in 1970.

Joe Wright

Joe Wright amazes with this adventurous adaptation of the 19th century literary classic, taking Tolstoy’s Russia close to Baz Luhrmann’s camp territory. Its experimental production design is one of the most accomplished of the year, mostly shot indoors imaginatively using every resource that a theatre play could provide. Boasting a (mostly) brilliant cast, it’s likely to provide Kiera Knightley with another chance to join the Oscar race.

10-LAWLESS ★★★½
Joe Wright

John Hillcoat’s excellent third feature goes from the near post-apocalyptic future of ‘The Road’ to the American countryside during the prohibition era through this story of local legend, bootlegging brothers. Beautifully shot, superbly cast and with Nick Cave extending his regular collaboration with the Aussie director from soundtrack to screenplay duties.

Bart Layton

Reality beats fantasy on this thrilling documentary about the implausible identity theft of a Texan kid, found by the authorities in the sound of Spain three years after his disappearance. A jaw-dropping dramatization of the process to get the boy reunited with his family, overeager to hold on to the new hope even when the evidence against it was rather strong. This week it passed the £1 million mark at the British box-office. Congratulations.

Peter Stickland

Paying tribute to both the sound in movies and the distinctive ways of 70’s Italo horror, Peter Strickland second feature is quite an achievement on creating disturbing atmosphere and climatic build-up with a deliberate economy of means, in which the arrival of British sound specialist to a sleazy Italian studio to work in the effects of a new horror film leads to a psychological downward spiral with unforeseen consequences.
Sam Fell & Chris Butler

The first of three horror inspired animated flicks to come to our screens this season tells the story of a kid who can see ghosts in a town that hides the curse of a witch about to become real. A totally enjoyable story, referencing many classics of the genre, that also contains a strong anti-bullying message in its core.
David Frankel

Warm performances by Streep and Lee Jones elevate this gentle comedy about a married couple reaching golden age. Their intimate life has practically disappeared, but the wife longs to recover it and gets her reluctant husband to embark on a trip to a Couple’s Therapy clinic . Steve Carell’s comedy skills get unexpectedly muted in the rather serious role of the couple’s counsellor, but elsewhere a solid screenplay offers plenty of laughs and touching moments. ‘Devil Wears Prada’s David Frankel best work to date.

15-VERTIGO ★★★★★
Alfred Hitchcock

Fresh from replacing ‘Citizen Kane’ as the best film of all times according to the most recent Sight & Sound poll. Alfred Hitchcock’s legacy is celebrated on a comprehensive retrospective at the BFI with ‘Vertigo’ being the biggest jewel on a magnificent crown.

David Koepp

Just when we thought Hollywood had replaced old-fashion action thrillers for superhero adaptations comes along this adrenaline-boosting ode to the urban bike messenger. Races through New York; the perils of delivering an envelope with hot content and the fight between hero Joseph Gordon-Levitt and corrupt policeman Michael Shannon all make for great fun and mindless entertainment

Lauren Greenfield

It seems the financial crisis has even hit the privileged 1%. The king of share time in the States saw his multi-billion company crumble on the eve of his own tower’s opening in Las Vegas. The star of this insightful documentary, however, it’s her compulsive wife and the chaos surrounding a family life whose extravagant master plan, inspired by a trip to Versailles, was to build the largest home in America.
Pete Travis ★★★

A more faithful adaptation of the popular dystopian comic that improves on the former, Stallone starred attempt. Mega City Four rotten block cities are the setting for the battle between all-empowered criminal gangs and law enforcing Judges. Dar, Slick and packed with fast-paced action stunts that reminds other recent genre highlights such as ‘The Raid’, even the 3D is well used.

Woody Allen ★★½

Woody Allen European tour get a stopover in Rome with this hodgepodge of four different stories, mixing US visitors; residents and locals, tributes to cinema and reality TV criticism. Even for his uneven recent standards, this feels close to another career low. Fans of the veteran director will still find plenty of his familiar wit and wisdom, but newcomers may not be too impressed.

Alejandro Jodorowsky

One of those avant-garde auteurs for whom the concept of cult movie was probably invented; Chilean Alejandro Jodorowsky’s disturbing blend of extreme religious and sexual imagery; psychological trauma; surreal nightmares and circus, all wrapped up in psychedelic overtones, left an indelible stamp still appealing to new generations. Often referred to as his finest hour, ‘Holy Blood’ gets now a limited re-release.

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