It’s finally here! Welcome to my obligatory annual blogger’s list in which I try to rank incomparable films that share one thing in common – a 2012 UK release date. I tried to limit myself to just 10 films this year after finding 20 a bit too many in 2011. I managed to whittle my list down to 10, then added two I felt I just couldn’t leave out. It’s my top 10, I can have 12 if I want to.
Holy Motors starts the list in a cautious manner. I slept through a lot of the film and confessed as much in my review. Watching a famously mind-boggling film in French while half asleep was a terrifying experience. I could barely read the subtitles and would often wake up to find the lead actor was playing a different character to when I was last conscious.
The film follows a mysterious man as he travels between appointments in a stretch limo. What appointments are these? I couldn’t even begin to explain. Suffice to say that each time the limo stops a different character step out to play a minor or major role in someone elses lives. The end is so bizarre I thought I had actually dreamt it. One of the Jo(h)ns I saw the film with has tirelessly defended it over the past three months and I couldn’t not include it in my extended top 10. In Jon’s own words:
“It came out of nowhere, it was beautiful, strange, intriguing and was utterly compelling even though I don’t think I really understood it. Just like a girl I used to fancy.”
No other film on this list includes two erect penises.
How could I not? This film about a retirement home in India catering only to British actors of the finest pedigree. It was a film featuring both Dame Judi and Maggie, comprised of a myriad of storylines and was consistently funny and touching for the entirety of its two-hour running film.
Many have said that the success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is down to its ability to pick up the grey pound. While I admit that this is one of very few films last year that could be said to specifically cater to the older generation I think the appeal expands far beyond the wrinkled amongst us. As I exited the screening at 20th Century Fox in Soho Square (ahem) I instantly texted both my mum and my sister (such is the life of the single blogger) to let them know that their new favourite film was hitting cinemas in a couple of months.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a warm hug that everyone can enjoy and famously (well, not really) made me want to whisk Judi Dench off to India and retire in a dilapidated hotel.
Keith Lemon: The Film
It’s hard to describe Keith Lemon. He is a character created by Leigh Francis of Avid Merrion and Bo’ Selecta! fame who is brash, sexist, and makes me laugh more than he should. Essentially Keith Lemon is the personification of ITV2 which makes this film ITV2: The Film. What a horrible thought.
Shadow Dancer (limited release)
The completely wonderful but frequently appearing in awful films Andrea Riseborough takes the lead as an IRA member turned informer in this period thriller opposite Clive Owen and Gillian Anderson. Meaty stuff.
The Imposter (limited release)
Superb documentary about a Frenchman who impersonated a missing Texan teen. It will grip and bewilder you. Entertaining but never exploitative. I absolutely loved it.
F for Fake (limited release)
Orson Welles’ final film gets a cinematic re-release. Ostensibly a documentary about fraud the film itself may well be one big ruse. Go and have a gander and then read the internet’s theories.
Circumstance (limited release)
Iranian drama about two teenage girls and their growing sexual rebellion. Can their love survive their Circumstance? Will sexy-Iranian-films become the new sexy-French-films? Do subtitles automatically make a sexy film that bit classier? Is it a little reductive to call any film featuring any form of sexuality a “sexy film”?*
Tim And Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (Prince Charles Cinema only)
If you are like me and unfamiliar with the work of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim then the trailer for Tim And Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie will fill you with fear and confusion. If you are like me and find Jeff Goldblum an instant draw then you will be moderately intrigued to hear he is in this film playing “Chef Goldblum”. If you are like me and called Tim then you will simply be amused to see your name on a film poster. You simpleton.
In 1994 a thirteen year old boy in Texas went missing. Four years later his family receive a phone call reporting that the boy has been found in Spain. A family member flies to Spain to pick up the boy and takes him home to rejoin his family. Nicholas Barclay has been found. Nicholas Barclay now has an accent, different coloured hair and eyes, and no real memory of his time before his disappearance. Nicholas Barclay is actually French con man Frédéric Bourdin and this is all horribly real.
The documentary is structured around a single interview with Frédéric Bourdin as he takes us through the events of the deception from his point of view. We are always told up front that Bourdin is impersonating Nicholas. Where the intrigue lies is in how he gets away with his ruse and why Nicholas’ family would buy into what becomes an increasingly ludicrous claim.
As the macabre story unfolds Bourdin’s testimony is backed up and undermined by interviews with Nicholas’ family, an FBI agent, and a local private investigator. As certain incidents are told from various angles intriguing contradictions arise. Seemingly unimportant details cannot be agreed on and this becomes a fascination all on its own. Are people simply misremembering the most dramatic events in their life or are some people lying? I found myself believe wholly in whoever was being interviewed at any one time but would then be forced to doubt their testimony the moment someone else starts talking.
The Imposter is not the straightforward story of a master impersonator but a twisty tale about deception. The deception of one man to a family and the deception of a mother/sister to themselves. Every time you think you have a grip on what is happening the film will pull the rug from under you only to reveal another, equally pullable, rug underneath. Bourdin is given the floor for much of the film and it is in watching him talk that you start to understand how such a deception might work. He is a charismatic and convincing man. As much as I abhorred his actions I found myself gradually sympathising and even worrying about the French trickster. The moment you scoff at a family for believing that he is their son Bourdin will draw you in himself.
Aside from the interviews the documentary is made up of cinematic dramatisations of the story as it is told by Bourdin and the victims of his deception. The dramatisation was done very well; it never takes sides instead just showing the story as it is being described at the time. The test with any theatrically released documentary is whether it has the visuals to justify the big screen and this truly did. The dramatisations had a real filmic quality; more Hollywood than Crimewatch. Adam O’Brian gives a fantastic performance in what will be an overlooked role as the fictional version of Bourdin. The fact that he was almost indistinguishable from the real McCoy is a true credit and was at times quite creepy considering I was watching the film whilst sat next to O’Brian himself.
The Imposter is fantastic. It has been a long time since I have seen such a gripping and tragic documentary. Director Bart Layton has something of a masterpiece on his hands.
Last week I went to a slightly surreal screening of The Imposter; I managed to mingle with lead actor Adam O’Brian, sit in front of Jeremy Clarkson, and listen to Jon Ronson plug his own book during the director’s Q&A. The film itself is an incredibly cinematic documentary about a missing child from Texas who turns up in Spain three years after his disappearance but all is not what it seems.
The film is a true thriller; gripping, surprising, and both emotionally and visually stunning. Have a look at the trailer below, this is one documentary worth making the trip to the cinema for.
The Imposter is in cinemas on August 24th 2012 and will be reviewed next week.