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Favourite Films of 2014 – David Turpin

leviathan

It’s December which is the season for making lists, and we are no different here at the Workhorse. We asked David Turpin to add his two cents with a list of his favourite films of 2014. From here on in, I’ll leave you in the capable hands of Mr. Turpin.

My Favourite Films of 2014 – By David Turpin

10. Nymphomaniac Vol. 1

I lack the time, will or inclination to speculate about what Lars Von Trier is “up to”, which I sense is increasingly the point of his films, but I enjoyed Nymphomaniac while it was on. Some people bemoaned the decision to split the film in two, but I thought there was a very clear distinction between the consistently grim second instalment and the lighter first. A kind of Joy of Bad Sex, Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 invented a curiously Scandinavian new genre – the miserable lark. It also featured a paint-stripping cameo from Uma Thurman that tickled me pink.

 

 

09. Paddington

Of the two films about London multiculturalism Ben Whishaw made this year – the other being the watery Lilting – Paddington was the clear winner. Delightfully silly from start to finish, Paul King’s updating of Michael Bond’s beloved character was respectful to its source while having a distinctive patchwork texture of its own. Its moral on the benefits of social diversity was all the more welcome for being blessedly restrained, and the human cast – particularly Sally Hawkins and Nicole Kidman – took to their parts with aplomb.

 

 

08. Venus in Fur

A stage-bound adaptation of a David Ives play, Roman Polanski’s film was a trifle, but a supremely enjoyable one. The physical resemblance between Mathieu Almaric’s director character and Polanski himself was extensively commented upon, but the film really belonged to Emmanuelle Seigner. Delightfully pervy though it was, Venus in Fur ultimately registered as a work of respect and admiration, created by a world class filmmaker to celebrate his wife of 25 years. As such, it was unexpectedly touching.

 

 

07. Noah

One of the most doggedly individual films I saw in 2014, Darren Aronofsky’s epic had the daring to present the familiar Old Testament story as a piece of secular science fiction. Not all of it worked – a typecast Ray Winstone seemed particularly out of place – but when it did, the film was electrifying.

Noah contains six or seven moments of visual grandeur that I have found impossible to shake, and not many films of any scale can offer that. Also, it was fairly unique in being an action blockbuster less concerned with spectacular destruction than with the beauty and fragility of our planet and its life forms.

 

 

06. Leviathan

Andrey Zvyagintsev’s monolithic indictment of contemporary Russia exerted a vice-like grip for its lengthy running time. Terrifically acted by a large cast, the film had a depth of characterisation and density of allusion that are more often associated with the novel than the feature film. However, it balanced this literary quality with a bravura technique that was pure cinema.

 

 

05. Maps to the Stars

David Cronenberg’s treatment of Bruce Wagner’s screenplay didn’t strike me as much of a satire – it felt curiously non-specific and disconnected from the reality of present-day Hollywood. That didn’t matter, though, because in Maps to the Stars, Cronenberg married his forensically cool mature style to a clutch of memorable performances (including a go-for-broke Julianne Moore), and a weird mythological subtext – producing something strange and arresting on its own terms.

 

 

04. The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears

Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s follow-up to Amer was another gorgeous fetish object distilled from Italian giallo – this time with a side-order of luscious art nouveau. The circular, masturbatory narrative frustrated some – not least because its Freudian conclusion is given away by the title – but every frame of this film offered an oasis of sinister glamour. Cattet and Forzani are among the most unapologetically cinematic filmmakers currently working.

 

 

03. Stranger by the Lake

Alain Guiraudie’s sinister, sun-throbbed suspense drama conjured a sense of place like no other film this year, and raised a number of provocative ideas that were all the more troubling for their subtle treatment. Like Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water reworked by David Hockney, the film set tongues wagging with its extremely explicit sex scenes, but it was also notable for having one of the most striking screen murders in recent memory.

 

 

02. Ida

Pawel Pawlikowski regrouped after the disappointing The Woman in the Fifth with his best film to date. Ida was the most beautifully photographed feature of the year, with an indelible lead performance by the extraordinarily expressive Agata Trzebuchowska. Also, as running times seem to bloat further every year, Ida’s lean 80 minutes were a reminder of the power of concision.

 

 

01. Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer’s film was a radical distillation of Michel Faber’s novel that shed, among other things, its explicit commentary on the meat industry. The result was a thrillingly enigmatic, and occasionally very moving, combination of glassy science fiction and Scottish desolation, with a career-best turn from Scarlett Johansson. The otherworldly score by Mica Levi was justly acclaimed.

 

 

My Least Favourite Film of 2014

 

Yves Saint Laurent

There were plenty of more ostentatiously terrible films in 2014 – Transcendence and Horns both spring to mind – but for sheer, mind-numbing superficiality, this authorised hagiography of the French fashion designer took some beating. Over the longest 106 minutes I spent in a cinema this year, Jalil Lespert’s film constructed a facile diorama out of a potentially intriguing subject. Bertrand Bonello’s rival biopic, Saint Laurent, was a disappointment coming from an interesting director, but it at least offered a tonier cast and some visual flair.

 

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