Artwork: Olena Burdeina (FA_Photo) via DALL.E3
Alexander Rodnyansky is a Ukrainian director and producer, multiple Cannes Film Festival winner, four-time Oscar nominee, and Golden Globe winner. The magazine «Variety» regularly includes him in the rating of the 500 most influential people in the global entertainment industry.
Once a year, Alexander Rodnyansky publishes a list of the best films of the outgoing year.
«I hope my recommendations will be helpful to those of you who are passionate about meaningful cinematography and, even in our challenging times, find a moment to watch it. The order of films in the list does not matter», — wrote Alexander Rodnyansky in his Telegram channel.
#1 LA CHIMERA. DIRECTED BY RALICE ROHRWACHER
The final part of Alice Rohrwacher’s trilogy (the sequel to «Miracles» and «Happy Lazarus»).
1980s. The special flair of Arthur, an English archaeologist brilliantly played by Josh O’Connor (young Prince Charles from «The Crown»), allows him to find tombs containing ancient Etruscan artifacts.
With a sprig of vine in hand, he wanders through Tuscany — not searching for treasure, but dreaming of finding an entrance to the afterlife to meet his deceased lover, Benjamina. But Arthur’s special gift is also utilized by professional tomb raiders, the «tombaroli»…
#2 PAST LIVES. DIRECTED BY CELINE SONG
This movie is being hailed by many critics as the best of the year. It is a humble story about an unlived life, a world left behind, immigrant dreams, choices made, and saying goodbye to the past.
A boy and a girl were best friends as children, but at the age of 12, the girl’s parents emigrated from South Korea to Canada. The girl took the Western name, Nora, so there was no way the boy could find her. After 10 years, Nora moved to New York to become a writer.
She found the boy, or rather a young man, online for a joke. But the distant relationship with the difference in time zones exhausted them. During the next break, stretching for another 10 years, the heroes had time to build an adult life. She — in New York, he — in Seoul.
Before proposing to his girlfriend, the grown-up boy decides to see the already-married Nora and make sure that he makes the right choice. They meet the three of them — the grown-up boy and girl and… her husband.
The action of the movie takes only two days. And a lifetime.
#3 ANATOMY OF A FALL. DIRECTED BY JUSTINE TRIET
Winner of the Cannes Film Festival and triumphant at the recent European Film Academy Awards.
The story of a writer living in the mountains, accused of murdering her own husband. The trial, in which the 11-year-old visually impaired son of the accused plays a key role, becomes a space for reflection on roles in the modern family, but most notably on the shaky boundary between what to many outside observers appear to be solid facts, and to those for whom these facts have become part of their lives, only material for interpretation.
Starring the stunning German actress Sandra Hüller, known for Maren Adé’s «Toni Erdmann», Alice Winocour’s «Proxima», and Jonathan Glazer’s «The Zone of Interest».
#4 POOR THINGS. DIRECTED BY YORGOS LANTHIMOS
This movie generated a wave of long-forgotten enthusiasm from professionals and won the Venice Film Festival’s main award.
Disgusting and wildly appealing, absolutely innovative and in many ways traditional, frighteningly realistic and entirely conventional, this film tells the story of a woman (Emma Stone) in Victorian England who committed suicide but was brought back to life by the new «Dr. Frankenstein» in the guise of Willem Defoe. It is no coincidence that his name is short and clear — God (God — shortened from Godfrey).
He himself is the result of his own father’s experiments. A monster assembled from many different fragments.
God transplants to a woman found in the Thames the brain of her unborn child. The result is an outwardly adult woman who quickly goes from infant to intellectual feminist before our eyes. She goes through this path in a variety of ways, having been an engaged bride, a kept woman, a prostitute, and even a communist.
Visually, this film is steampunk with unrecognizable London, Lisbon, Paris, and Alexandria, air streetcars and airships, inconceivable animals (chickens with pig heads or dogs with goose heads), and intricate costumes, combining the styles of the late XIX and the end of the XX century.
#5 THE ZONE OF INTEREST. DIRECTED BY JONATHAN GLAZER
This ambitious adaptation of Martin Amis’ novel won the second most important prize of the Cannes Film Festival — the Grand Prix. The movie is a metaphor for the state of today’s world, familiar to many from life in present-day Russia.
The family of the commandant of Auschwitz lives enjoying the fruits of the prosperity of the position of the head of the family. A beautiful house, a swimming pool, a garden, servants, daily gifts from daddy. Nothing disturbs their family’s happiness; only from time to time, there are gunshots, screams, and smoke from the camp’s chimneys, which makes it difficult to breathe…
The lives of those who kill. And most importantly — their families, who do not want to hear, know, or understand what is happening.
And again starring the stunning Sandra Hüller.
#6 OPPENHEIMER. DIRECTED BY CHRISTOPHER NOLAN
A movie about responsibility. In this case, the responsibility of a scientist for creating a weapon of mass murder. An atomic bomb. About the unrelenting torment of conscience. This is not a traditional biopic with detailed details of the biography of the creator of the terrible weapon. This movie is the story of the creation of this weapon by an outstanding scientist.
Usually intellectual and rational, Nolan, in this movie, is unexpectedly emotional. And makes the audience really worried. Cillian Murphy played the primary role of his life — Mozart from physics. The comparison is appropriate — Nolan himself mentioned the influence of Milos Forman’s «Amadeus» on him.
And how good is «Salieri» here. Robert Downey Jr., as the head of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Lewis Strauss, is unrecognizable. His character is fierce, envious, smart, and petty. What is especially important in the movie is that Oppenheimer is trying to punish not for sympathy for the communists but for remorse. The very torments that prevent him from living his life in peace.
#7 KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON. DIRECTED BY MARTIN SCORSESE
The great director made a three and a half hour picture about the killings of the Osage Indians in the early 20th century in America.
Here is the irony on the barren lands where the Osage had moved: discovered rich oil deposits. The Osage, who had recently lived a natural life, became wealthy and began buying furs and cars, building rich houses, and hiring white servants. They were joined by white laborers for their livelihood. And they quickly discovered that killing naive Osages could achieve the desired success much faster than ordinary labor.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, in the roles of touching fathers of families and ruthless killers, are good desperately. And lead actress Lily Gladstone, in my opinion, will be Emma Stone’s main rival in competition for the Oscar.
An epic tale of greed, cruelty and cynicism. So important to Scorsese is the story of America.
#8 THE TASTE OF THINGS. DIRECTED BY ANH HUNG TRAN
The Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Director went to a movie that was a rare case of genuine viewing pleasure for me. This film is an adaptation of Marcel Ruff’s novel «The Passion of Doden Buffan» written in 1924.
For two and a half hours, in the movie, they cook. Taste. They recall names, most of which will say nothing to people far removed from the Belle Époque «The Beautiful Era» of the late 19th century, a time of flourishing culture, science, and industry that ended with the catastrophe of World War I.
The secret to the viewer’s enjoyment in this movie is the constant Benoît Magimel, Juliette Binoche, and… food. I am not a fan of haute cuisine, but perhaps no one has ever filmed it like this. This movie is about love — for cooking as an art, for women, and for a way of life. Culture in its highest sense.
Magimel’s character touches a pear soaked in wine and the curves of Binoche’s naked body with equal tenderness. A subtle, deep, and therefore sad picture of the transience of life and the value of co-creation.
#9 THE BOY AND THE HERON. DIRECTED BY HAYAO MIYAZAKI
The legendary director, the author of «Spirited Away», «Princess Mononoke» and «My Neighbor Totoro», after seven years of work, released a film that he called his will, made for the sake of his grandchildren.
12-year-old Mahito loses his mother in the first scene of the movie, burning in the ruins of a bombed-out hospital in Tokyo. Unable to cope with his grief, Mahito moves to the luxurious estate of his father and his new wife, who is expecting a child. There the hero meets a strange heron, who tells the boy that his mother is alive … And invites him to the forbidden tower …
«The Boy and the Bird» is the poignant finale of the great storyteller’s entire career.
#10 MENUS-PLAISIRS: LES TROISGROS. DIRECTED BY FREDERICK WISEMAN
Frederick Wiseman has been making films for over half a century about various social institutions: a school, a hospital, a university, a police station, a mental institution, a court, an opera, a library, and even a Benedictine monastery.
Together, these films add up to an epic portrait of Western civilization, in which every detail has symbolic significance. The 44th film of the movie classic is about Troisgros, a family-run restaurant founded in 1930 in central France that has held 3 Michelin stars for 55 years and four generations.
Wiseman takes us on a beautiful journey from the fresh vegetable market to the cheese processing plant, the vineyard, and the organic cattle ranch to the backyard garden that supplies the restaurant.
#11 HIT MAN. DIRECTED BY RICHARD LINKLATER
An unexpected romantic comedy for the author of the trilogy «Before Sunrise» and the wonderful «Boyhood». It is based on the true story of a Texas police agent posing as a hired killer.
This artistic type, changing the appearance and manner of behavior under each customer, puts a few dozen unlucky criminals in jail trying to get rid of spouses, partners, or neighbors.
But then among the customers he meets a very beautiful young woman…