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  • Writer's pictureJack Salvadori

2022 BEST FILMS - Top 10

It goes without saying that the following list is solely based upon my personal taste, being my own individual evaluation. Perhaps the very concept of any “best of” lists is flawed at the core since it varies depending on what films one had the chance to watch. But having said that, and having seen about 500 films this year, I think 2022 has overall been very good for cinema, on par with its predecessor 2021, if not even brighter. True, some legends fell short of expectations (Park Chan-Wook I’m looking at you), but some others managed to deliver, and there were quite a few surprises on the international panorama. A curious consideration is that out of my top 10, 4 pictures came from the Venice Film Festival (first half), another 4 from Cannes, and 2 from Berlin. So let’s be kind and rewind the last 365 cinematic days.

10) Pacifiction – Albert Serra

I’ve been pondering quite a bit on the last spot of my top 10. Other worthy candidates were the acclaimed, well-crafted horror Barbarian (Zach Cregger), or the darkly humorous Funny Pages (Owen Kline). Shoutout to the quiet Showing Up (Kelly Reichardt) too. But after all, I chose to give the spot to the Spanish Pacifiction- it’s the one that stayed with me the most. Despite not having fully raptured me while watching it, Serra’s latest cinematic provocation certainly grew in me throughout the months. This is because it's a film about mood and atmosphere. Perhaps it’s the paradisiac ambience of Tahiti, its vibrant, loud shades of orange and pink contrasting with the brutal subject matter; the vacationer allure of the South Pacific island is just the backdrop of a slow geopolitical manoeuvre carried on by an hypnotic Benoit Magimel, the breath-taking sunsets a distraction for the everlasting colonial exploitation, and the flowery shirts a disguise for the ongoing impersonal genocide. Dense, bold and uncompromising. Like a cold pizza, you appreciate it more the following day.

9) Incredible But True (Incroyable Mais Vrai) – Quentin Dupieux

It is surely not incredible to find a Quentin Dupieux film on every “best films of the year” lists I can compile. I have been a huge fan of the surrealist French director for years, and in 2022, to my happiness, he crafted not one but two pictures. While both movies are extremely comical, the Berlinale entry was the most delightful for me. Short, entertaining, and nonsensical in its most enjoyable way, Incredible But True presents us with another captivating premise: time travelling (but for an uncomfortable 12 hours ahead only), everlasting youth, and electronic dicks. What else do you want in 74 minutes?

8) Corsage - Marie Kreutzer

I don’t like biopics. And the only genre I like even less, is costume drama. Thus, once vis-a-vis with the prospect of watching Corsage, I was rather skeptical and dismissive. I was wrong. Using the same formula that Larraìn adopted for last year’s Spencer, Kreutzer offers a radically irreverent take on the life of Empress Sissi. The rigorous court life, as strict as her chocking corsets, is a burden for Elizabeth, who craves for her freedom and independence. But the film is much better than it sounds, I promise, mostly thanks to Vicky Krieps’ playful performance, which gained her a Palm in Cannes. Sissi is not portrayed as a simple victim, but rather as a complex, stubborn character with whims and flaws, mostly vanity. In other words, not a hero, not a stereotype, but a real person.

7) Bardo, Flase Chronicle Of A Handful Of Truths (Bardo, Falsa Crónica De Unas Cuantas Verdades) – Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu

You know when you fill a taco too much, that you can’t fold it anymore? It still tastes great, but the more you try to bite it the more it crumbles in your hands. Flavoursome, rich, filling, but overstuffed. That’s how Iñárritu’s latest, and very personal, work felt like. This self-reflective/self-absorbed curse inevitably fell upon the Mexican auteur, as it happened to many, after his 50th birthday. A midlife crisis that most filmmakers deal with through a cathartic, autobiographical movie- rather than going to therapy. Yet Iñárritu’s take is surely very unique, and the most enjoyable one of the many in recent years, blending his life, remorse, and doubts with an array of mesmerising, dreamlike and surreal sequences. Solemn and masterful even at its most pretentious moments, the film is an ironic introspective analysis that questions reality and fiction, gratitude, and guilt. Featuring a dance scene for the books!

6) Aftersun – Charlotte Wells

First time director Charlotte Wells debuts with the emotionally strongest film of the year, presented in such a truthful, delicate, and subtle form. This film is about all we have lost: VHS camcorders, chunky TVs, innocence, colourful t-shirts chucked into trousers, childhood… And all we got left is a big bag of nostalgia. What we can witness is what seems to be a laid-back father-daughter holiday to a cheap resort in Turkey in the late ‘90s, with some natural friction, uneasiness but also affection. Yet if we actually read through the lines and pay close attention to the many details scattered around, we are faced with a grim scenario, with glimpses of the grown-up daughter trying to remember and piece together their long-gone holiday. Don’t expect theatrical plot twists, the most effective horror is the inevitable passing of time. Finally a movie that demands the audience to actively participate in order to properly understand its dynamics. A must watch- with the necessary supply of handkerchiefs.

5) The Whale - Darren Aronofsky

Darren Aronofsky does it again – he has taken a very sad story and offered a beloved actor the role of a lifetime in a glorious comeback. In The Whale, Brendan Fraser plays Charlie, goodhearted giant whose uncontrollable obesity confines him in his flat. Every time he rises from the sofa, he resembles a humpback whale leaping from the ocean. His cetacean appearance physically prevents him from moving much, and despite being profoundly ashamed of it, food is his only relief. Thus, Charlie is Captain Ahab and Moby Dick at the same time, being both his own tormentor and victim. But now he has reached the very bottom, and he’s getting beached, the shipwrecked body floating ashore. While Aronofsky’s camera revolves around his monumental shape, almost orbiting like a satellite around a planet, it’s almost impossible not to fall in love with him quickly, overcoming his disgusting appearance. The film, adapted by a play, doesn’t get rid of its theatrical staging, but it doesn’t suffer from it either- it just doesn’t need anything else, being a powerful cinematic piece that marvelously works on screen too.

4) TÁR – Todd Field

Try your best to go and watch Tár knowing as little as possible about it. Just know that Cate Blanchet is in it, bringing us her best performance to date, and appreciate the natural unfolding of its narrative. An intense and elegant character study on fictitious music genius and worldly praised orchestra conductor Lydia Tár, so convincing that many viewers genuinely assumed she must be a real person (spoiler: it’s a film, just a really good one). You listen to her prodigy, you are raptured by her ego, you fall in love with her persona, and eventually Todd Field allows you to draw your own conclusions. This is a very current film, about the art and the artist behind it, and its inevitable smearing with “tar” and feathers.

3) Rimini - Ulrich Seidl

To me, this was the greatest surprise of the year. If Tár is a character study on the most successful musical talent since Mozart, Rimini is its mirror, deformed image, the vivisection of a musical fiasco- enter Richie Bravo. Today, washed-out 80s German pop singer Richie Bravo makes a living regularly performing in the decrepit city of Rimini, amusing small crowds of old fans- and not necessarily with his songs only. It almost feels like a documentary for its accurate details. Deliriously funny and spectacularly shabby, Seidl meticulously frames the hidden, curious beauty of squalor.

2) The Banshees of Inisherin – Martin McDonagh

Here’s one film that did not disappoint whatsoever. After all, never change a winning team, and since the key ingredients from the cult In Bruges (2008) were in place, success was an easy assumption. Indeed, McDonagh delivers a masterclass in screenwriting, deftly portraying the abrupt end of a male friendship set on a desolate Irish island a hundred years ago. The plot is simple and neat, the comic timings are perfect, and the sublayers are so rich that by the end I did cry both of laughter and misery. It is surely not a coincidence that The Banshees of Inisherin received the longest standing ovation to date at its Venice premiere (I count almost 20 minutes of clapping).

1) Triangle of sadness – Ruben Östlund

Alright, I’m biased. Ruben Östlund is my favourite contemporary director, and this is the film I had been waiting for years. The expectations were really, really high, and he managed to exceed them, so he gets the first spot. The Swedish director audaciously continues his crusade to satirically confront modern taboos, wealth, power dynamics and masculinity. He explores and mercilessly exploits the awkward energy of the unconscious behaviours that surround us. Why is a man expected to pay for dinner in the age of equality? And just like in a horror movie, we can’t help but curiously stare at this unfolding dilemma, cringing in our seats, looking for answers that we don’t dare to find. And with a toast “to love and hand grenades”, excess begins to take over, and champagne merges with vomit and shit. Sublimely shot, the film finds its beauty and elegance even when showing things which are genuinely repulsive. With this titanic piece of cinema, Östlund proves he is unhinged and ready to show whatever he wants. The future is bright.

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