Winner: Walerian Borowczyk
Honourable Mentions: Guy Maddin; Jean Rollin; Fukui Shozin; Alain Robbe-Grillet; Douglas Sirk; Yuasa Masaaki
"Best Discovery" is open to many things, but in this it was all directors, some of them who I have encountered before, but I've properly introduced myself to this time this year. Every one of them have shown themselves to be ones I'll hold onto greatly. I admit a greater emphasis, and preference in the unconventionality of the creators is celebrated in this selection - Rollin's and Robbe-Grillet's forms of surrealism, Maddin's tributes to classic cinema by way of cinematic alchemy, Fukui's urban brutality - there is yet also the emotional highs of Douglas Sirk, far from an ironic director, and Yuasa, a deeply neglected director in terms of access to his work who brings high concepts and emotional depth together in anime whilst able to depict the unexpected and be humorous too.
The winner is the one I was spurred to view his films with immense interest, through the campaign of DVD company Arrow, already succeeding in a small way to boost his critical reputation, before he became obscured by time, through making me a convert. I now look on to seeing as much of Borowczyk's filmmaking as possible thanks to their hard work and looking for short films online before their releases were even fully restored to put on physical media. With all these directors, each work, even flawed ones, still contribute to a portrait to them, but every film and short, animated or live action, I've watched of Borowczyk's have all been great, from drastically re-evaluating The Beast (1975) to seeing gems like Blanche (1971) for the first time. Even a film like Emmanuelle 5 (1987), the infamous last film he made, the one that marred his career probably more than making erotic art movies, is still better than most director's films regardless of how cheese ball it is and that most of the film was probable filmed by someone else. He was a man who was able to juggle stop motion animation, reminiscent to Jan Svankmajer's but, rather than texture, his obsession was with the form of them, with live action drama with the same level of imagination and inspiration.
The apparent success with Arrow's campaign has led to Docteur Jekyll et les femmes (1981), a film lost in right issues for many years, to finally be accessed within 2015, and one can only hope the older Polish short animations and the late seventies work onwards get as much care and devotion from them or other groups. After Immoral Tales (1974) and The Beast, Borowczyk would fully dive into the divisive erotic era of his career that led to his drop in critical standing, which leads to a fascinating question for a new fan of the late auteur's work to be asked - what films within this era are potential hidden gems awaiting to be rediscovered? The first feature film I saw for this year was Emmanuelle 5 anyway, and if that didn't put me off, then there's bound to be great films in his later career.
Winner: White of the Eye (Donald Cammell, 1987)
Honourable Mentions: Like Someone in Love (Abbas Kiarostami, 2012); The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962); Kemonozume (Masaaki Yuasa, 2006/Anime Series); Careful (Guy Maddin, 1992)
Like with the previous category for this post, all the following stand out for something specific, which considering the numerous choices I could've had, made this difficult to choose. To make it easier, I only choose one film per person, though for the most part, any other films or works I saw from those mentioned were just as rewarding and brought up in another section. The ability to turn a small drama into something profound through Kiarostami's skill; an emotionally rich western from John Ford; Yuasa taking a conventional, repeated and usually tedious anime series plot line and turning it into something strange, unconventional, and in the best way, effecting for a work that, for all its monsters, is more about a love story between two people who shouldn't logically be able to fall in love; and the film, while his third, that brought Guy Maddin to attention, where he was not put off having never seen an actual mountain film like those made in 1920s Germany by making his own, painted in faded postcard colours about the psychological mindsets of the people in the mountainside as much as about the danger of a landside taking place if someone utters a word louder than a whisper.
Just for the chutzpah, how unnerving and different from any other film it feels, I'm willing to put Donald Cammell even over John Ford, for the fact that White of the Eye does exist, a rift on the American serial killer film that splits into spiritual and psychological content that disturbs the clichés immensely. That Cammell was unable to make more than four films and a short over three decades is saddening seeing a film that pulsates like it, but White of the Eye is still there and, finally able to be seen, it's a startling film to exist.
Also nominated for this reward includes Douglas Sirk for All That Heaven Allows (1955); Walerian Borowczyk for Goto, Island of Love (1968), Jacques Rivette for La Belle noiseuse (1991); Ichikawa Kon for An Actor's Revenge (1963); King Vidor for The Crowd (1928); Kawase Naomi for Shara (2003), with an added note that 1) the rain soaked festival parade sequence was a highlight, and 2) anyone who films themselves giving birth for real onscreen, directing and in a role in said film, is placing themselves in front of the camera with an openness you could only see shown by directors like Stan Brakhage, and probably more so then him, that is rare; Alexander Mackendrick for the Sweet Smell of Success (1957); Theodoros Angelopoulos for Alexander The Great (1980); Michael Curtiz for Young Man With A Horn (1950); Mario Bava for Rabid Dogs (1974); Rouben Mamoulian for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931); Joel and Ethan Coen for Barton Fink (1991); Jafar Panahi for Crimson Gold (2003); Paolo and Vittorio Taviani for Caesar Must Die (2012); Marco Ferreri for Dillinger Is Dead (1969); Jean-Louis van Belle for The Sadist With Red Teeth (1971); Douglas Sirk for The Tarnished Angels (1957); Derek Jarman for The Last of England (1988); F.W. Murnau for Phantom (1922); Tengiz Abuladze for Repentance (1984); Fukui Shozin for Rubber's Lover (1996); Raoul Ruiz for City of Pirates (1984); Terayama Shuji for Throw Away Your Books, Rally In The Streets (1971); Jean Renoir for French Cancan (1954); and Jurj Herz for Morgiana (1972).
Best Re-Watched and Reappraised Film:
Winner: The Beast (Walerian Borocyzk, 1975)
Honourable Mentions: Baise-Moi (Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh, 2000); Salome (Carmelo Bene, 1972); Burn After Reading (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2008)
Sometimes, you dismiss, even hate, a film on the first viewing, only for many years later, or a shorter period of time after, to give it another chance and discover the mistake you made, realise and understand what the director(s) were going for, or that you were blind to the original point within them. Unlike films that you'll never return to, something nags at you, an image or a moment stays in memory, suggesting that something better than in films you'd usually praise existed in one you thought you hated. Burn After Reading was once, like for many, a disappointment for me from the Coens, just for the anti-ending which I felt completely undermined the film's point in existing. But A Serious Man (2009), their film after, not only turned me to becoming a Coen brothers fan, but became an inexplicable Rosetta stone for their whole filmography, the levels of absurdity, coincidence and fate being played out of the characters' control obvious even in the straight forward genre films. A deeply funny film now, this turns that anti-ending into the most appropriate and one of the darkest in the directors' filmography, more so then No Country For Old Men (2007) and their apparent serious films. Set within Washington and made during George W. Bush's presidency, this also becomes the political satire in the Coen's career, but rather than choose cheap rhetoric for either left or right wing politics, the brothers instead offer that stupidity is writ large, pointlessness is inevitable in most circumstances, and barring the female figures, Frances McDormand's and Tilda Swinton's characters, who for their flaws are the only intelligent people against most of the males, everyone is doomed to failure. Because of another film of the directors', it means Burn After Reading gains a new context in hindsight.
Salome was reconsidered just for how many images were stuck with me long after viewing it for a year or more so. Comparable in its grotesqueness to the more extreme, corporal flourishes of Pier Paolo Pasolini, and the hyper-fantastical sets of Federico Fellini but with an artificiality of a film like Pink Narcissus (1971) and a hypractive, loud presentation that is entirely its own, my only Carmelo Bene film viewing belongs to an area of cinema, in Bene, deprived from us as film fans in easy to access forms, but if it was if Salome is to be attested to, it would open a new room in what you could do with cinema. A take on the titular story where large men affectively smear grapes and wines on themselves rather than actually eat it, rubbing their faces into nude women's forms, surrounded by Roman decoration if done by a Las Vegas casino or an proto-eighties nightclub from an American action film long before the eighties was in utero. Salome herself is both strangely beautiful, yet with her completely shaved head and giant proportioned eyes and lips, looks like an alien in her own existence, the centre of a barrage of extravagance between beauty and utter camp that takes place, from fruit bowls to jewellery being fetishised, to flesh of both genders being lusted over in Soviet montage editing. And then there's the image that burnt itself into my mind so deeply it led me to return to the film, a man crucifying himself, with a hammer and nails, with his own hands. If Bene's films were easier for me to see, he may likely take the jump up along with the Borowczyks and Fukuis as a mind searing discovery I hold highly.
Baise-Moi was once, back in college when I was eighteen, the worse film I claimed to have seen, a pretty embarrassing statement in hindsight, but the reason was because I was expected a nihilistic Thelma and Louise type of film, having still never seen Thelma & Louise (1991) mind you, but got something that was just completely misanthropic about the entirety of mankind. Revisiting it for the first time for at least over six years, with a vastly different viewpoint and preferences to cinema, it still has flaws, poor music cues being chosen the biggest, but it feels vital and a necessary purge of rage to view. It feels like, as a male viewer, the metaphorical equivalent of being castrated seeing it, which feels completely justifiable, and the film gains immediately more recognition from me, from the worst I've seen to one that I will gladly defend, and maybe hold more and more highly the more times I see it, from the decade of pretentious transgressive films from male directors that came after it, including from France, that made the need by two female directors, with their two female leads, to make a film with hardcore sex, gruesome yet "cool" violence and a punk, raw aesthetic to blast standards of good taste from women's viewpoints. In hindsight to how issues of censorship and treatment of sexuality, and women's rights, are still sour in the new decade, a film like Baise-Moi feels like a necessary charge against perceived morality ahead of its time. The only reason it doesn't get the reward, because going from the worst film you've seen to a vital film to see is a one-of-a-time moment, is because of Walerian Borowczyk's The Beast.
Like Baise-Moi, when I viewed The Beast I was an easily offended, little twerp who would rather watch an overrated movie like The Usual Suspects (1995) than a film that was actually good. I kid a little, but it's amazing how I've managed to become more transgressive in my tastes instead of more conservative one from a teenager to an adult when it's usually the other way around. This was the year Nekromantik (1987) finally was released in the United Kingdom, a film that people were amazed was ever released, but I was not shocked by anything in it at all, and as I will write of later I am mortified that anyone would be offended to the point of banning the film in the first place regardless of whether it was a good film or not. The Beast, revisiting it, left my jaw on the seating area I was on, and is even more shocking in this era.
It also turns out to be utterly hilarious. Somehow twisting Luis Bunuel's style of satire, which is amazing to actually consider, The Beast is gleefully perverse and, in the end, what it celebrates is this perversity while mocking the apparent moral guardians with their questionable behaviour, an obvious idea but not when there is prolonged woman and beast sex in the woods that ends with both participants in orgasmic bliss. For me personally, we are still trying to deal with the transgressive films made in the seventies, because many have managed to still be shocking and more so now, like Sweet Movie (1974), and there are films like Terayama Shūji's Emperor Tomato Ketchup (1971) that I am understandably hesitant to see even if it is seen as a piece of art, the boundaries these films pushed having become more restricted and troubling for many now. The irony, when a film like Nekromantik gets a release only now, is that a film we've had uncut since the early 2000s still have a greater edge because The Beast has a mindset that feels sadly lost, one potentially more progressive than our supposedly harmonious one now, a film I can get in my local HMV but whose ideals are ignored for the worst in us. And it's not a lie how hilarious this is - I had no idea how funny this was, either because I have a sick, weird sense of humour, or I rarely see a film that actually goes for the throat, not with nihilism, but with utter delight in its decadence.
Best Anime (TV Series/Straight-To-Video/Film etc.):
Winner: Kemonozume (Yuasa Masaaki, 2006/Anime Series)
Honourable Mentions: Kaiba (Yuasa Masaaki, 2008/Anime Series); Midori (Harada Hiroshi, 1992); The Visions of Escaflowne (Akane Kazuki, 1996/Anime Series); FLCL (Tsurumaki Kazuya, 2000)
I must thank one man from the internet, who goes as Nrh on multiple sites, as he is directly responsible for me being able to see two entries in this category. If he is reading this, thank you, which I mean with utmost sincerity. How Yuasa Masaaki's work is not more available in the West baring for the lucky anime fans in Australia is baffling, considering the cult growing him and his contribution to the popular cult animation Adventure Time. The other peculiar aspect, remarkably in this case, is how Kemonozume when from being the weakest of the three TV series I've seen of his, alongside Kaiba and The Tatami Galaxy (2010), to his best. Probably because what looks like a potentially ramshackle, weird for the sake of weird story whose plot has been found in countless other anime, it turns out to be the one that takes the bigger risks, the more idiosyncratic, from its "sketchy" animation style including some live action inserts, its willingness to be gory and erotic, its greater emotional gamble, more emotional than even Kaiba surprisingly, and the inherent weirdness, from a villain wearing Mickey Mouse ears to our hero having a training montage with a monkey as his sensei, one that doesn't even talk.
Out of all of them, the emotional depth is the brightest, the willingness to have an end where loved characters actually die, where the central Romeo and Juliet like story, but with sexual and mature adults, has a real romance rather than the stick figures anime fans usually have to put up with. Kaiba, though, was a great way to continue on, the next series he did chronologically, smart and intelligent sci-fi, which goes as far as briefly subverting gender alongside its ideas of memories and their importance, one of the only anime series where a single twenty or so minute episode both felt like a full story for me and, in a character we only see in that particular and never see again, manages to break your heart, more so when they live on in an unexpected way. Its look and style, its music, its conclusion in just twelve episodes to work, all of it makes it beautiful and it's amazing its seen as a difficult work, one which puts people watching it or apparently for it to get a English language DVD release. The Australians should be praised for their good taste.
Midori is a true difficult anime. Never officially released in its home country, not necessarily banned, only able to be seen by its creator's request if shown at the end of an elaborate carnival. Made entirely by himself independently, and back when anime was handdrawn, with contribution in the music. The original film print likely lost. Only available officially on French DVD or online. At only forty or so minutes, it does have to rush itself and undercuts moments of importance, a foul and unsettling period story of a young girl forced to join a travelling freak show in early 1920s Japan, a unique look based on the original manga by Maruo Suehiro, with moments that will just cause mortified horror to appear on viewers' faces. But it is elegant and for all its taboos broken, it's a dark, unsettling tale where, regardless of the cruelty shown, we feel sympathy continually for the titular protagonist while the freaks, the magicians and ringleaders all clash with each otherand the world is completely unfair to Midori by pure accident. The nihilism, more than the content, is the really unsettling aspect that makes it a bitter, if magnificent achievement, to swallow.
The Visions of Escaflowne started out as a potential disappointment - a serial like structure for a fantasy, dragons and swords but with added giant robots for knights to pilot, always undercutting its drama because I knew the characters would escape it unscathed. But halfway through, it grew on me, a strong female protagonist who, even on the sidelines, is still in the centre, a potential romance triangle between her and two male heroes that becomes tangled and complicated, and side characters including villains who have something behind them all to lead them forwards, with some complexity to the relationships. It's a rare, sadly rare, thing to have storytelling too that is well written and interesting like this in a twenty six episode anime series, having sat through some tedious series that were only half that length let alone the same. Only by the ending did I realise how much of a great romp the series was, and the re-release for the UK on DVD expected for the later months of this year cannot feel like an eternity to wait for. Finally, FLCL, an erratic, difficult to follow work, but exactly like Escaflowne, it was only at the end I appreciated how well made it was, how memorable the characters were, and how openly unconventional and refreshing it felt in style. It's not a surprise it became a gateway work for new fans and got people excited, because it was utterly fun to watch whilst taking huge aesthetic risks anime doesn't do enough of. And if Kemonozume wins for best opening credit theme, FLCL, despite the tough fight with Kaiba, gets best ending credits and end credit song mini-award.
One anime unfortunately left out was Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack (Hirao Takayuki, 2012). Rotting fish robot hybrids. Sharks with legs. The strangest, and unexpected, type of sex scene I've seen all year, and a type of out-there content throughout it that makes it's the closest to the straight-to-video anime of the nineties and eighties in a long time for me to see, something you don't get anymore. Most I've seen that try to recapture it, whether it would be good in large doses or not, have not had the mad energy this has, which is as much because, being from the same manga author, Ito Junji, of Uzumaki (1998-9), it was already unconventional before being animated. The notion there is a work, based on a manga, which features sharks with legs and it actually depicts it as many would hope it would be done is an achievement in itself.
Best Cult Film:
Winner: Rabid Dogs (Dir. Mario Bava, 1974)
Honourable Mentions: Careful (Dir. Guy Maddin, 1992); The Swimmer (Dir. Frank Perry, 1968); Rubber’s Lover (Fukui Shozin, 1996); Gone In 60 Seconds (H.B. Halicki, 1974)
Amongst the films considered as well were Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People (1963), a story about survivors on an island growing to hate each other that just happens to be a Toho monster movie as well involving mushroom men; The Beast (1975) which has already been praised enough; Dreadnaught (1981), one of the most imaginative and elaborate martial arts films in existence; Roger Corman's Edgar Allen Poe adaptation The Tomb of Ligeia (1964); and two that have a lot to say about, Oriental Blue (1975) and Nekromatik (1988). Oriental Blue is the first porno film I've seen that isn't an art film. When porn is usually clips, to see a full narrative feature is something very different. It's amazing to see a film that is actually well made and has some cinematic flourish! It's amazing to see despite the scuzz and its plot it is a porn film you shouldn't be ashamed to watch even if its got 42nd Street New York grim all over it. Its amazing Peonies Jong in the lead, despite playing a Fu Manchu villain, manages to be a charismatic woman you want to cheer on despite being the villain. And it's amazing that, even while it may be a distracting concept for someone to act in a scene and have real sex on screen for a lengthy period immediately afterwards, she and everyone, male and female, is someone who you want to watch onscreen, with a hell of a lot more personality than what even softcore actors have now. The film also has the least expected, and dumbfounding, appropriation of a pre-existing score, which means I will never be able to listen to the music from Enter The Dragon (1973) the same way again.
Nekromatik's release in the UK is a wonderful thing, but having watched it and not been shocked at all, it leads me to shake my head in disbelief about the reactions it got in the first place. Yes, I understand if people find the ideas being shown, including the central one involving necrophilia, to be disgusting and offensive to them, because such ideas are not pleasant things for many to even picture or see done with DIY practical effects, but as a no-budget film its director openly admits was improvised in its creation, the idea that the film is still controversial, is banned in Iceland, and was even controversial back when it was first released to be an utter embarrassment for the species. That obvious, if great, practical effects, artistic image distortions which disrupts the strength of the infamous sex scenes, and an arty tone was seen as moral degeneracy, it shows a lot of censorship and social outrage up as being pathetic
Especially as, for all the censorship and importations of bootleg Nekromatik videotapes that were likely destroyed by British customs, the cult that has surrounded this film in the UK, and that its survived longer than most censorship campaigns from when it was first made, its an ironic, if fitting, revenge we get the film in a lavish, celebratory home media release. Now, having found it not to be disgusting, not even disturbed by the real rabbit killing sequence, having seen abattoir footage in other films and skinned rabbits in butcher shop windows, the film is more of an unconventional romance drama, where the grim and the low budget abstract moments are the more bold and interesting aspects than the mere shock of some of the other content. It comes off as a charming, weird little film, and yes, I realise those are eyebrow raising words to say when the film is partially about necrophilia, but when you have witnessed The Beast, your Baise-Mois, your Sweet Movies, people are terrible for jumping forward to being intentionally offended, and we place offense as a higher priority rather than the point the directors were wanting to make. Nekromatik is more of a satire rather than anything intentionally disgusting, and it'll be a curious site, if we get the sequel its home country of Germany tried to have destroyed, manages to show how arbitrary and slightly sad the controversies around these films may be.
In terms of a cult movie, the ones you'll hold onto have a quality to them, that makes them good, and something at the same time you don't find in conventional films, like those already mentioned and those I choose as honourable mentions. Halicki's Gone In 60 Seconds devoted itself to car chases and feels like it does them better than most. Rubber's Lover was a viscous, energised blast to the senses, reminiscent to Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) but was radically its own creation. The Swimmer is a great drama, but as for many others, it deserves to have that cult tag instead because its decision to depict its metaphor about a man's growing regret by having him swim through people's pools on the way home, and make it a literal metaphorical journey, is something that shouldn't be damped and ignored by naming it as anything else other than a cult film. And Careful is a great film, but Guy Maddin's opus is as in its own existence in tone and presentation as you could get. For the winner, Rabid Dogs, there is the sad fact that, for whatever inexplicable reason, the original cut was not preserved, and without wanting to blame anyone, or blame Mario Bava's son Lamberto, the fact that the only surviving source for the original cut and audio is videotape is both tragic, and knowing how difficult to preserve and fragile videotape is, is going to mean that in decades time, the existence of this original cut on DVD and Blu-Ray is going to be undercut if that surviving source becomes lost itself. But for now, the fact that Rabid Dogs did get a Blu-Ray release, again by itself enough to lionise Arrow as a DVD/Blu-Ray distributor, and is available means you also get to see one of the meanest and cynical Italian genre films that may have been made in the country's hayday for the film production. A film from a man who had to keep up with the new trends in genre cinema, economic and striking in how it's made, in the actors he choose, in being tasteless, and having a sting in its tail that hurts the viewer by the end. That we have it at all is something to be thankful for.
Best Music Album Listened To For The First Time:
Winner: Purple Rain by Prince and The Revolution (1984)
Honourable Mentions: California by Mr. Bungle (1999); Remission by Mastodon (2002); The Seer by Swans (2012); Hounds of Love by Kate Bush (1985)
It's not all about films, and everyone has other hobbies, music a more universally embraced art form. If you dig, you realise that even someone who doesn't like difficult movies can yet enjoy some of the most unconventional and difficult music possible, and the advantage of music in how it effects us when we engage with it means that, barring in mind personal preference, experimentation can be found even in Top 40 hits. Music is an area that needs even more devotion from me as much as cinema, needing to appreciate albums specifically more as, with these examples, a full album can be more rewarding than a single compilation, in contradiction of how CDs are left aside for MP3s for the most part.
I'd thought California by Mr Bungle would be the best, then I realised I never heard Purple Rain in its entirety until this year. As I've said, experimentation can be found in popular songs, and the likes of When Doves Cry is why I say this. Truly a magical experience to listen to, and I cannot hide my desire to see the 1984 film tied to it in its eighties glory. If it wasn't for Purple Rain, it's the Mr. Bungle album that's stayed with me; having now heard the three albums they've made, yet to return as Mike Patton has concentrated on other projects, California feels like the part where, if they continue(d), they'd melded their experimentation and mad genre blending into potential pop hits, songs so catchy whilst retaining their uniqueness that it's sad this album never had singles. Remission, again like Purple Rain, was an album that I never heard in its entirely, but it cements how much Mastodon are one of my favourite bands; they've become much more commercial on their latest album from 2014, but the distinctness of all the albums is in their favour in hindsight, the noisy sludge metal of Remission still able to sting after listening to songs repeatedly by their own. The Seer was my introduction to Swans, an entire dimension of sound that feels like being sucked into a vortex, and my first proper Kate Bush album heard, beautiful music that, again, was able to become popular but is completely experimental and different, especially when it gets to the second half and the Ninth Wave suite.
Also considered was Riitiir (2012) by Enslaved, the other metal album that I feel in love with, which would've gotten a high position if it wasn't against such strong competition, extreme metal that is utterly graceful and mind shearing at the same time; No More Heroes (1977) by The Stranglers, post-punk that is intelligent and is still edgy, with purpose rather than tasteless, after all these decades; The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and Wish You Were Here (1975) by Pink Floyd, phenomenal peats of rock music, The Great Gig in the Sky for the former and the David Gilmour guitar solos for Shine On You Crazy Diamond audio bliss; Permanent Waves (1980) by Rush, fun prog rock; Heartbreaker (1973) by Free, beautiful soulful rock; Peace Sells...But Who's Buying (1986) by Megadeth, metal with a real snark and bite rather than adolescent whining; Drama (1980) and 90125 (1983) by Yes, the former great prog rock, the later an incredible surprise, a slide to a more commercial pop prog album that yet is made into real, good music; and John Zorn's 1989 Naked City album, the demented yet strangely fitting match of grindcore and abstract jazz, which somehow manages to have one of the best covers of the James Bond theme just behind the surf rock version by Japanese band Surf Champlers.
Winner: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962)
Honourable Mentions: Goto, Island of Love (Walerian Borowczyk, 1969); White of the Eye (Donald Cammell, 1987); Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, 1957); Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets (Terayama Shūji', 1971)
Goto, Island of Love is my favourite film of the year, but with what is going to be talked about in the next and last award, for this penultimate one I'm going to give the spotlight to another film that truly deserves it, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance a western per excellence for its emotional depth without losing the excitement of the western or the good nature humour. Made in the early sixties as well, there it is fitting that, as the late sixties would be where new innovations, new boundaries broken and new directors and movements came to be, the veterans of the older generations, like John Ford, were still able to cement incredible films like this one as their last works or so in the early sixties. Goto, Island of Love will be talked about soon, a one-two discovery I can thank Arrow DVD releases for alongside White of the Eye. Sweet Smell of Success was a film that I knew as being critically important, but finally seeing it, it is not only a film I hear is a masterpiece but I feel and agree is a masterpiece, surprised by how good they really mean it to be. And Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets was a vast, overwhelming mass of politics, stylistic flourishes, documentary against fiction material, and overriding rock music that feel vitalizing. The lack of Terayama Shūji'films available in an assessable form is irritating, but if you can find this film, it's a one-off experience.
Films also considered, and all the following are incredible films you should see, are All That Heaven Allows (1955); Caesar Must Die (2012); the experimental documentary Leviathan (2012); the experimental animation An Optical Poem (1937) by Oskar Fischinger; Upstream Color (2013); the entirety of Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Trilogy of Life - The Decameron (1971), The Canterbury Tales (1972) and Arabian Nights (1974) - willingly to cheat including this, since I've seen The Canterbury Tales many years ago, because the entirety of the trilogy seen together, in any order, adds to all three films when placed together; La Belle noiseuse (1991); Sanjuro (1962); Alexander The Great (1980); The Beast (1975); The Nude Vampire (1970); Young Man with a Horn (1950); Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931); Like Someone in Love (2012); Shara (2003); Barton Fink (1991); the important experimental short Ballet mécanique (1924); anime television series Kemonozume (2006), even if it contradicts the award's title; Rabid Dogs (1974); Medea (1969); French Cancan (1954); and The Tarnished Angels (1957).
Best Cinema of the Abstract Film:
Winner: Goto, Island of Love (Walerian Borowczyk, 1969)
Honourable Mentions: White of the Eye (Donald Cammell, 1987); The Nude Vampire (Jean Rollin, 1970); Horrors of Malformed Men (Ishii Teruo, 1969); Rubber’s Lover (Fukui Shozin, 1996)
Considering the blog's name, it would be fitting to end with the films that feel the most appropriate for this blog, those that would represent the theme of the blog perfectly. Barring two honourable mentions, White of the Eye and Rubber's Lover which I have written reviews for, every one of the following are worth covering at some point. Goto, Island of Love is the perfect representative because, while not the most abstract or odd of the candidates, it's the best in terms of quality and in terms of depicting something never seen on screen before or after, a different world set in a kingdom where most of its landmass is gone, one with familiarities to the viewer's but also very different. The winner and the four honourable mentions are all films which feel radically different from convention, in mood inherently off-kilter while yet avoiding the wacky and the ironically weird in favour of being serious, even when the content is ridiculous. From an island where everyone seems to have a first name beginning with G, where everything is run down yet elegant within this decay, the American desert town landscape of the eighties as a serial killer stalks around it, or France as envisioned through pulp literature and erotic vampires, the films create environments with their own rules of cinema that cause them to become bolder and instantly memorable. Be it the delirium of the erotic-grotesque-nonsense of Horrors of Malformed Men to the industrial cyberpunk delirium of Rubber's Lover, these films prickle and scorch with energy that, even if they are as quiet aesthetically as a mouse, radiates as you view them.
Amongst those considered as well is the metaphorical swimming pool-as-journey drama The Swimmer (1968); the esoteric sci-fi realist drama Upstream Color (2013); ID (2005), aka. Ido, the second and last film by Tetsuo, The Iron Man star and co-cinematographer Fujiwara Kei, a ramshackle mess about the id, rage, comedic Three Stooges interludes and the director herself turning into a pig humanoid monster but, like an obscure prog rock album, still layers itself with great moments amongst the erratic overall content; the perversity that is The Beast (1975); Leviathan (2012) an experimental documentary set on a fishing boat that goes as far as having the camera upside down on the front for a long amount of time amongst its other scenes; Dillinger Is Dead (1969), where gas mask producer Michel Piccoli gets bored one night, paints a gun red with polka dots, makes a lot of food and starts wondering why he's putting up with the life he has; Ballet mécanique (1924), a avant-garde quilt of shapes and moving images whose original score, which was too complicated to add until within the Millennium, is just as dense with everything from sirens to propellers. Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People (1963), with its literal mushroom trip; Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets (1971), a time capsule of Japan in the early seventies; City of Pirates (1984), the late Raoul Ruiz's meshing of various stories surrounding a female protagonist, from a mass murdering child to a man who has an entire family for multiple personalities, that I flat out despised and thought was a pretentious bore for the first half but through the second half became a great surrealist journey when I gave into its logic; Guy Maddin's take on a mountain movie Careful (1992), plus his melodrama Archangel (1990), about a town that still believes World War I is still being fought, and The Saddest Music In The World (2003), where Isabella Rossellini is at one point, as someone with no legs, given two glass ones filled with beer as a token of affection; Kemonozume (2006), an anime series about a human in a group meant to kill monsters who falls in love with one of these monsters and run off together; John Turturro getting desperate in front of a typewriter in Barton Fink (1991); and finally the metaphysical pulp romp that is Alain Robbe-Grillet's Eden and After (1970), although frankly all the films that were released in the Alain Robbe-Grillet DVD (orBlu-Ray) box set the British Film Institute released can all qualify together as one legion-like entity. Every one of these films together in one last reflection back on 2014, along with the entirety of this end of year project, combined into one strange, multi-coloured band of great cinema and I cannot complain I wasted a whole year when I saw such films.