The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea

The Deep Blue Sea

Black Pond

Into The Abyss

Moonrise Kingdom

The Hunter

A Separation

The Kid With a Bike

Switch

The Silence

Attenberg

2012 was a pretty good year for music, but it was a very poor one for movies. I made it to the cinema a good few times this year, but the majority of these visits were in the company of my two nephews. Obviously, their tastes are a little bit different to mine, but one of the films I saw with them nearly made my final list. That film was Pixar’s Brave and this animated adventure set in the Scottish highlands is certainly worth checking out, particularly if you’re in the company of some wee folk. One film I’d have liked to have seen at the cinema was Argo, which I’ll now have to wait for later this year. There are many other films that have already been released in the States and around the rest of the world that won’t make it to my shores until next year. In many cases, I’ll have to wait until a lot of those films appear on DVD as my local cinema tends to go for mainstream Hollywood fare. Hence, my list of best films of 2012 features many films that were released on disc in Ireland for the first time this year. As a result, around half of them were actually released in their original countries prior to 2012. Nevertheless, the first time I got to see these films was in the last twelve months, so here are my Top Ten Films of 2012 (in no particular order)

The first two films are from the UK. The Deep Blue Sea is an adaptation of a Terence Rattigan play and his namesake Terence Davies wrote the screenplay and directed the film. It’s set in the 1950s and Davies captures the period well and he also gets the best out of his actors in this tale of martital infidelity and sex. Black Pond takes place in contemporary England and boasts a pair of directors (Tom Kingsley & Will Sharpe), who also wrote the script. This low budget film is a dark comedy done in a faux documentary style that follows an unusual family and their relationship to a murder victim. The first-time filmmakers show a subtle touch and the cast of knowns and unknowns play it straight in what I thought was a very funny film. Recent documentary films have tended to produce better stories than fictional cinema and Werner Herzog has proved to be one of the best storytellers in this medium. Into the Abyss is a provocative film about capital punishment that focuses on the perpetrators and victims of a triple murder that occurred in Texas over a decade ago. Herzog interviews two men who were convicted of the crime, relatives of the victims and other people who had a part to play in the incident

While Herzog’s films tend to deal with dark themes, Wes Anderson’s films are more colourful in terms of music, characters and visual style. Moonrise Kingdom is set in New England in 1965 and focuses on a scout group that tries to track down one of its member who has gone on an adventure with a local girl. Daniel Nettheim’s The Hunter concerns a different type of expedition. The film is set in Tasmania and William Defoe heads a strong cast as he attempts to track down evidence of a rare animal without alerting the locals. The plot moves along slowly, which allows us to get to know the characters and to take in the beautiful scenery. Asghar Farhadi’s Iranian drama, A Separation, centres around a stunning performance by Leila Hatami as a woman who unsuccessfully tries to separate from her husband. Her subsequent attempts to find a solution to her marital difficulties has reprecussions for more than just her own family. A different kind of family dynamic is at the heart Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s The Kid With a Bike. Cyril is the kid who begins the film with neither a bike nor a family who cares for him. He befriends a hairdresser named Samantha who helps him to track down both his bike and his absent father

Frédéric Schoendoerffer’s Switch is mostly set in Paris, but begins in Montreal and follows an unemployed fashion designer named Sophie who makes the big switch to the French capital. Sophie’s choice soon turns sour and she finds herself being pursued by the police, including Eric Cantona as a credible and energetic police detective. Crime solving is also the name of the game in Baran Bo Oder’s German thriller, The Silence. The film plays like a Scandinavian thriller, as a young girl goes missing on the anniversary of a similar unsolved crime. The final film in my top ten is Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Attenberg. This Greek drama avoids any attempts at what we’ve come to know as the Hollywood style of narrative and is all the better for it. The film focuses on the relationship between two young women and moves along in an episodic fashion and poses more questions than it answers by the end

Of course, the use of music plays an important part in all of these films and I’m going to focus on four of them. A couple of songs appear from time to time in Attemberg. One of the characters is a big fan of the New York duo Alan Vega and Martin Rev’s band, Suicide, and the opening track on their 1977 debut features in Attenberg. The version of Ghost Rider below is performed by Scottish singer Paul Haig and is taken from his European Sun compilation from 1988. Attenberg also makes good use of Francoise Hardy‘s delightful 1962 single, Tous les Garcons et les Filles. Another song by the French chanteuse from 1962, Le temps de l’amour, appears in Moonrise Kingdon. Anderson’s film also uses a number of Hank Williams’ classics to good effect. One of them is Kaw-liga and the version below is by a fine proponent of cajun music named T.K. Hulin

A record player and a couple of vinyl records bring some moments of musical relief to The Hunter. One of those is by The Boss and the song is one of his most-covered. Catherine Feeny interpretation of I’m on Fire first appeared on a 2006 compilation given away with Q Magazine in 2006. The final song seems like it should be part of the soundtrack of The Kid with a Bike. However, Annette Funicello’s A Boy Needs a Bike by Kids on Bikes has nothing to do with the film. It’s part of an excellent series of free digital singles from a record company named Eardrums Pop. Each single is composed of two originals and a cover by the band in question and also some nice cover art. Perhaps some of the label’s songs will feature on subsequent cinematic releases. Let me know in the comments below if you’ve seen any of the films that made my top ten and if there are any you think I’ve missed

Ghost Rider (Suicide cover) – Paul Haig

Tous les Garçons et les Filles – Françoise Hardy

Le temps de l’amour – Françoise Hardy

Kaw-liga (Hank Williams cover) – T.K. Hulin

I’m on Fire (Bruce Springsteen cover) – Catherine Feeny

A Boy Needs a Bike (Annette Funicello cover) – Kids on Bikes