Thursday, 22 December 2011

My Top 5 Spanish Films Viewed in 2011

Given that I don't live in Spain, I tend to see films when they're released on DVD; usually a year after their initial cinema release. So, these films aren't all 'from' 2011 but I've limited myself to films that were released in Spanish cinemas in either 2011 or 2010. This top 5 is comprised of films that I viewed this year and wrote about on the blog -either as standalone posts, or as part of the Random Viewing thread.

1. Primos (Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, 2011)
A warm hug of a film -the affection that writer-director Daniel Sánchez Arévalo has for his characters is infectious. The collection of actors (Quim Gutierrez, Antonio de la Torre, Raúl Arévalo) who are becoming his de facto repertory company also form (along with Adrián Lastra, Inma Cuesta, and Clara Lago) one of the best ensemble casts of the year.

2. Pa negre (Agustí Villaronga, 2010)
A dark and otherworldly tale of innocence lost. A child's eye view of adult deceit and destruction. One of the most brutal opening sequences I can remember ever watching.

3. La mitad de Óscar (Manuel Martín Cuenca, 2011)
Probably one of the most atmospheric films I saw this year (in any language); it makes distinctive use of the landscape / geographic space and also assuredly cranks up the tension (we know that something is being pointedly ignored by the two siblings (bravura performances from Rodrigo Sáenz de Heredia and Verónica Echegui) but it hovers just out of sight for most of the film). It builds to a quietly devastating final scene between the two siblings that plays out in one long take with them in silhouette as the sun rises behind them: a strong contender for scene of the year, in my opinion (I saw the film back in September and it is still stuck in my mind).

4. Todas las canciones hablan de mí (Jonás Trueba, 2010)
A brilliant comedic romantic drama -guaranteed to put a spring in your step. I will hopefully write something longer about it in the New Year (it has only been briefly covered in a Random Viewing post so far).

5. Balada triste de trompeta (Álex de la Iglesia, 2010)
Not quite as batshit insane as the trailer makes out but nonetheless full of vivid imagery that scorches your retina and refuses to leave your mind (along with that song, which I have been humming ever since). Whatever your opinion of the overall whole (people seem to be divided between hating it or declaring it a masterpiece), I'd hope that most would have at least a glimmer of admiration for a writer-director going this 'all out'. Plaudits also go to the three leads -Carlos Areces, Antonio de la Torre, and Carolina Bang- the film wouldn't work if they weren't all committed to their roles, or if one performance overwhelmed the other two. The film will hopefully have a standalone post early in the New Year.

Honourable mentions: La mosquitera (Agustí Vila, 2010), Chico y Rita (Fernando Trueba & Javier Mariscal, 2011), Agnosia (Eugenio Mira, 2010), Flamenco Flamenco (Carlos Saura, 2010), La piel que habito (Pedro Almodóvar, 2011), La mujer sin piano (Javier Rebollo, 2010) and Héroes (Pau Freixas, 2010).

Films from 2010* that I still need to track down: Bon appétit (David Pinillos, 2010), El Gran Vázquez (Óscar Aibar, 2010), La isla interior (Dunia Ayaso & Félix Sabroso, 2010), Pájaros de papel (Emilio Aragón, 2010), Que se mueran los feos (Nacho G. Velilla, 2010), También la lluvia (Icíar Bollaín, 2010), Todo lo que tú quieras (Achero Mañas, 2010). *films from 2011 that I still need to track down will appear in a forthcoming post.

Films that didn't fit the 2010 / 2011 criteria but that you should definitely see: Los cronocrímenes (Nacho Vigalondo, 2007), Salto al vacio (Daniel Calparsoro, 1995), La madre muerta (Juanma Bajo Ulloa, 1993 -I wrote two posts on this one –here and here), Nadie hablará de nosotras cuando hayamos muerto (Agustín Díaz Yanes, 1995 -a longer post on this one will appear in 2012), and Entre tinieblas (Pedro Almodóvar, 1983).

Hero of the Year: Filmin -without this Spanish streaming service I would have seen far fewer recent Spanish films (I first saw three of my top 5 via their service, and a further 4 of the honourable mentions) simply because of how expensive it is to import DVDs. I am also more likely to take a 'risk' on films that I know little about -as was the case with La mitad de Óscar- when using an all-included subscription service, which broadens the variety of films that this blog covers and hopefully makes it a bit more interesting.

I’ll be taking a break from the blog between Christmas and New Year –I’ll be back in January with posts on films from 2011 that I still want to catch up with, and on the Spanish films due for release in 2012 that I’m most interested in.

Merry Christmas –and I’ll ‘see’ you in 2012!