Cinema, like most arts, exists beyond time and space. They are a medium of transportation, and for most of us, our only opportunity to fulfil our deepest desires and confront our darkest fears. That’s why it seems unfair to look back on a year in film and focus only on new releases. Our year end obsession with best of lists extends far beyond our desire to compartmentalize cinema into qualitative categories, but reflects an innate desire to understand and communicate with the world. We look at the list of our favourite critics to better understand who they are, and make our own lists in the hopes of finding hidden meaning in our own lives. We use these lists as emblems of who we are and what we are thinking. These desires may not lie quite on the surface, but there is no denying they fuel – at least in part – our compulsion for list making.
I have always seen my interaction with cinema as a means of having a conversation with myself. Each film I see adding to the rich tapestry of my own personal narrative. It goes without saying that watching great film rarely lives up to actually going out there and experiencing the world, but there is no denying the possibilities art offers in fostering a powerful internal life. Watching and creating art offers new ways of seeing and brings us closer together in its ability to bring us into the mind of the marginalized and the strange. Through the history of cinema, and all arts, the patterns that emerge similarly suggest a powerful internal connection and an obsession for community.
The narrative of cinema, the good the bad and the ugly, reflects us our own personal stories and traditional narrative forms, like the Hero’s Journey (as outlined by Joseph Campbell or Dan Harmon) emerge as powerful attempts to understand our own paths through life. The familiarity of these structures makes them all them as being more perplexing, enchanting and magical, as they suggest an interconnectedness in the human consciousness. This is the source of mythological structures, the foundations of symbolism and the cyclical nature of life and death. It is our path into the subconscious, in its bare simplicity; it is one of the most beautiful things man has ever stumbled upon… if it is not part of our wiring. The power of these structures and the symbolic elements that come with it, cannot truly emerge by looking only at our contemporary world, but understood from a vantage point that takes into account a much larger chunk of time.
All this to say, to look back on 2012 and focus only on the new releases would be something of a betrayal of my film experience. It would be the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Even in choosing twenty films I saw in 2012 that had a huge impact on me fails to include all the books, articles, conversations, TV programs and experiences that helped shaped my year in cinema. Art is beautiful because it is tied so closely to all aspects of life and we sometimes forget that allowing ourselves to be completely enveloped by its warm cushy womb can ultimately be a disservice to our experience with art. I am not actually releasing my top 20 of 2012 in this post, that is for another day. I apologize for lack of commentary, when possible (unfortunately, I haven’t written as much this year as I usually do… so it won’t happen much) I am linking a review… but it won’t happen much. And yes — I am WELL aware of the irony of talking about film as a personal experience and then not actually discussing the films I mention, my hypocritical nature is very much a part of my charm.
Brother’s Keeper (Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky, 1992)
The Burmese Harp (Kon Ichikawa, 1956)
Chocolat (Claire Denis, 1988)
Crash (David Cronenberg, 1996)
Dirty Dancing (Emile Ardolino, 1987)
Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969)
Happy Feet 2 (George Miller & Gary Eck, 2011)
I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (Mervyn LeRoy, 1932)
Into the Abyss (Werner Herzog, 2011)
Last Days (Gus Van Sant, 2005)
Martyrs (Pascal Laugier, 2008)
The Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1975)
Point Break (Kathryn Bigelow, 1991)
Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu, 2009)
Rumble Fish (Francis Ford Coppola, 1983)
The Devil’s Rejects (Rob Zombie, 2005)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher, 2011)
The Outsiders (Francis Ford Coppola, 1983)
– Justine Smith