THR Critics' 12 Best International Movies of 2012: THR Year in Review
Kim Nguyen's 'War Witch' Sweeps Quebec Film Awards
The world is too wide and the movie industry too enormous to allow anyone to follow all the international films as they come out during the year. What THR critics finally saw and judged in 2012 are several thousand art films filtered through the winnowing baskets of festivals. The dozen titles that made our list of favorites stir deep emotions and venture far into the dark lands of the heart.
Two of our choices, for example, talk about selfless love pushed to intense human extremes: Michael Haneke’s ode to an elderly couple in Amour and Kim Ki-duk’s hymn to the poetry and pain of a mother and son in Pietà. War Witch, the story of child soldiers in Africa, and The Impossible, a chilling re-creation of a natural disaster in East Asia, are worlds apart in terms of budget and box office, yet both are unforgettably compelling in their storytelling.
Fortunately there were also more joyful landmark films this year, like Leos Carax’s mesmerizingly original Holy Motors and Anurag Kashyap’s wildly inventive Bollywood gangster dramedy, The Gangs of Wasseypur. In a more classical European vein, Nicolaj Arcel’s beautiful costume drama A Royal Affair describes how the Queen of Denmark and her physician connived to pass social reforms.
We found space to include two first films by remarkable women directors from Saudi Arabia (Wadjda) and Israel (Fill the Void), both warm, affectionate, closely observed portraits of a very particular time and place. Both stories revolve around girls at odds with their society, and both films delight audiences wherever they’re shown.
So many more fine Euro titles beg for a mention: the Taviani brothers’ Shakespeare-in-prison tale Caesar Must Die; Christian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills, Ursula Meyer’s Swiss drama Sister, Miguel Gomes’ cineaste’s delight Tabu and the Belgian animation film Ernest and Celestine. And let’s remember that 2012 showed the creative blast coming out of Asia has reached critical mass, along with worldwide audiences ready to catch the wave.
1. Amour, Michael Haneke
Nothing in Michel Haneke’s admittedly electrifying oeuvre prepares one for the stark, raw emotions of an elderly couple dealing with their imminent sea change. It’s a film that cannot be admired from a distance; it demands full emotional participation, and will remain in the memory long after the prize ceremonies are over. Read THR's review here.
2. War Witch, Kim Nguyen
What could have been a morbidly imagined exploitation film about the “problem” of child soldiers is completely turned around and reinvented by Canadian director Kim Nguyen. There is no looking away from the almost unimaginable real-life horrors experienced by a 12-year-old girl played by Rachel Mwanza, who won best actress awards at Berlin and Tribeca. Read THR's review here.
3. No, Pablo Larrain
Inescapable election coverage in the U.S. generated chronic political fatigue in 2012. But Pablo Larrain's film provided a tonic, bringing a subtly subversive sense of humor and fascinating detail to his account of the 1988 referendum that overthrew the brutal Pinochet regime. As the skateboarding Chilean Don Draper who orchestrated the campaign, Gael García Bernal scored his best role in years. Read THR's review here.
4. A Royal Affair, Nicolaj Arcel