The best films of 2012
Featuring The Master, Shame, Berberian Sound Studio, Tabu and Skyfall
Five years after 2007’s multi-award-winning There Will Be Blood there was more than a little anticipation for Paul Thomas Anderson’s next project. The Master is the director’s tale of an enigmatic leader of a cult-like group called The Cause. It led to some minor controversy when it was first announced due to its similarities to Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard. Regardless, the film wooed critics with two outstanding performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix. Expect it to sweep the board come awards season.
Many wondered what artist Steve McQueen would do next, after the critical success of his gruelling, yet astonishingly crafted film Hunger, the story of Irish republican Bobby Sands. He chose to team up with screenwriter Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady, The Hour) for a film set in New York about a sex addict. Working again with Michael Fassbinder, Shame is a powerful depiction of emotional alienation with impressive performances from Fassbinder and Carey Mulligan as his vulnerable sister.
Peter Strickland’s second feature is a claustrophobic thriller set in the world of 1970s Italian horror film production. The story of a mild-mannered British sound engineer (played by Toby Jones) who travels to Italy to work on a particularly gorey, low-budget film was a finely crafted mystery which blurred the lines between reality and fiction. It was also a celebration of the hidden art of foley – with rotting vegetables, used to make sound effects, becoming an atmospheric visual motif in the film.
One of the most distinctive films of the year, Portuguese director Miguel Gomes’ second feature is a rich tale about memory and the passing of time interweaving two stories, one set in contemporary Lisbon and the second in colonial Africa. It premiered at Berlin Film Festival where it won the FIPRESCI prize before coming to Edinburgh International Film Festival this June for its UK premiere.
The plot might be a bit thin but how could you not be carried away by this spy romp, filled with some of the best action sequences the silver screen has seen in a long time. From the opening scenes involving a motorbike chase across the rooftops of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to a close shave with a komodo dragon and a fitting finale in a Highland manor house: Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) delivered a thrilling and spectacular Bond.