The results of Sight & Sound‘s annual film critics’ poll will be online next week, but In Contention‘s Guy Lodge has posted the top 11. 100 elite film critics (Peter Bradshaw, “Harmin’ Armond” White, etc.) were asked to tally a list of 2011’s five “best, favorite or most important” films.
Lodge says it was “a foregone conclusion” that Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life would be #1, and that it got way more votes that the runner-up, Asghar Farhadi‘s A Separation.
1. The Tree of Life (d: Malick). Wells comment: First hour is deeply moving, beautiful, and at times astonishing. The second hour not so much. Things come apart, the center cannot hold.
2. A Separation (d Asghar Farhadi). Wells comment: A fascinating window into family and community values, not just as they exist in present-day Tehran but pretty much anywhere when you boil it all down. The combination of Farhadi’s simple, direct shooting style and the deeply compelling performances are blended with a story that hits on a riveting moral-ethical issue. The upshot is a dividend that is socially and psychologically revealing in a way that is truly exceptional.
3. The Kid With a Bike (d: Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne). Wells comment: A minor Dardennes film and nothing to do cartwheels over. I disliked the obstinate-woodpecker personality and the dogged, loon-like tone in the voice of Thomas Doret, the red-haired lead character called Cyrill.
4. Melancholia (d: Lars von Trier). Wells comment: A morose, meditative in-and-outer that begins stunningly if not ecstatically and concludes…well, as you might expect a film about the end of the world to wrap up.
5. The Artist (d: Michel Hazanavicius). Wells comment: A delightful bauble and a valentine to silent silver-screen cinema. A necessary thing to see and be delighted about for any serious film fan. But it has no real soul or undercurrent of its own. It’s all borrowed, all referenced.
6. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (d: Nuri Bilge Ceylan). Still haven’t seen it, but I’ve been told it’s a fairly trying sit that will play best with Ceylan faithfuls.
6 or 7. [Tied for sixth place]. The Turin Horse (d: Bela Tarr). Haven’t seen it.
8. We Need to Talk About Kevin (d: Lynne Ramsay). Wells comment: A beautifully painted, radiantly colored, anti-verbal horror film about a sociopathic monster. Emotional rat poison.
9. Le Quattro Volte (d: Michelangelo Frammartino). Haven’t seen it.
10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (d: Tomas Alfredson). Wells comment: Ambiguous and clean and masterful in the manner of a slowed-down pulse. It’s a furrowed-brow spy film, cautious and probing and undashing, submerged in a world of half-clues and telling looks and indications…London fog and brain matter and ’70s technology…it’s just atmospherically dead-on.
9 or 10 [Tied for 10th]. This Is Not a Film (d: Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmash). Haven’t seen it.