Expecting the Unexpected: 2013



Say what you want about this masterpiece of trashy filmmaking, it was the only one of its kind this year with a surprising twist. Having watched a whole lot of movies, I am pretty good at guessing things like who is going to die next and how, but I did not see this bit coming: [SPOILER] a girl eaten by a shark in the middle of a tornado is then found again in its gut and freed alive. Bravo!


‘Venus in Fur,’ Roman Polanski’s latest, brought him to a film festival in Poland, where he risked arrest.

Venus in Fur
She manages to dress him in the servant’s uniform and to secure the collar around his neck. Slow, sensual and the perfect moment to expose sexism’s core: even when the story is ostensibly about a strong woman, in the end it’s really about the man. An unmasking of the male gaze. And at the same time deeply disturbing that it’s Polanski of all people that made this film.


‘Only God Forgives’

Only God Forgives
The mother sits in a room, her son enters. A conversation. She is a harsh woman, something is different about the way she interacts with him. Her brutal words melt into what seems to be a loving embrace but then her hands slip down to his butt and grope it. A moment later it is over. A subtle cue, a short gesture one would miss if one only did so much as blink but it tells a whole story of abuse and to me explains everything about Winding Refn’s film in one tiny instant.


Sketchbooks opened for ‘Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune’

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune
In this documentary about a movie that was never made, filmmaking legend Jodorowsky opens his sketch book/story board for his version of Dune to the public. His ideas were so mind-blowing and grand that one sits there in awe wishing somebody could travel back in time and reverse this massive injustice of film history (and thus also spare us all the horrible Lynch version).


‘La vie d’Adele’

La vie d’Adele
Adele dances. She dances with herself. The party around her is drowned out by the sounds of the song. “I follow you, deep sea, baby,” the voice sings and Adele follows. She looks at the audience and yet at the same time, she is looking deep inside herself, knowing that indeed she will follow her love no matter how deep. She and the audience members are the only ones who know and who can–for this fleeting instant–intuit the depth of this love. No other scene this year managed such a deep connection between audience and character.


‘Broken Circle Breakdown’

Broken Circle Breakdown
Not the film itself but the moment it ended was ultimately inspiring. Turning around to the other audience members, I saw a sea of humans united in feeling the despair of loss and crying openly (not a common sight in German cinemas).


‘La maison de la radio’

La maison de la radio
Philibert’s observational documentaries are always special. The camera floats as if unseen through the vast offices and recording booths of Radio France. Many noises here and there but then—and it takes quite a while for this to happen–someone finally speaks. “Patrick” is the word uttered and its emergence reveals the genius of a film about radio which renounces talk.



I was also reminded about the power of sound in Gravity. Not by the somewhat pushy, over-present score but by the moment Sandra Bullock’s character sits in her tiny capsule in utter loneliness and despair and hears a radio transmission from a stranger on Earth. What a strong image to reflect our universal need to connect to others.



How exciting to finally see an older woman on screen (where have they disappeared to?)! Better yet if she is such a character as fierce as Gloria, a divorcee fervently looking for a life of joy and fulfillment. When her neighbor loses his stash of marijuana on her front door, she resists at first. Yet later in one of the most cathartic scenes of the year, she grants herself the luxury of smoking all his weed, happily smiling and not giving a damn.


‘Tore Tanzt’

Tore Tanzt
This German film caused a heated debate at this year’s Cannes festival. Tore, a young and slightly retarded young man believes God chose him to protect a girl from her sadistic father. He literally sacrifices himself for her by being the father’s victim–a strategy that does not end well. One of the hardest films to watch this year, the mixture of Tore’s unrenounced (and unquestioned) faith and the ever-raising level of sadistic measures inflicted on him caused audiences to boo and give standing ovations simultaneously.

For the complete list of year-end lists on Keyframe, go to The Year in Film: 2013.

For the complete index of the films on these lists, go to 2013 Year in Review: Indexed.

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