The end of the year is already there and 2015 surely was a fantastic one for the international film industry. We witnessed the release of many blockbusters like Mad Max: Fury Road, Jurassic World, the long awaited 50 Shades of Grey, Fast & Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Martian, Spectre and many many more. Only recently Star Wars Episode VII was released and by now already shattered all box office records with over 106 million dollars in only 12 days. I expect nothing different from The Revenant or Tarantino’s The H8teful Eight, that premiered last week.
Tradition implies us filmcritics to come up with our own top 10 of every year’s films, but I will provide you with my very own Hitchcock is my Homeboy-awards.
Youth by Paolo Sorrentino
Sorrentino’s Youth is a well-balanced feel good film about an ageing composer who retreats in a hotel in the sunny Swiss Alps. Here he finds out what it is to actually grow older and get confronted with the concept of modern-day ‘youth’. With splendid performances by Sir Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Jane Fonda and Rachel Weisz as Caine’s daughter. Youth was my personal favourite at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
Best foreign language film
Las Elegidas (The Chosen Ones) by David Pablos
Pablos’ film tells the very dramatic story of Sofia and Ulysses, a young couple living in Tijuana near the Mexican-American border. Although he loves her, he tricks her into child prostitution. Pablos uses asynchronic sound and images as a means of suggestiveness and to confront the audience with reality of Mexican sex trafficing. All close-ups are focused on the eyes, as they are the mirror of the soul. Las Elegidas is a confronting love story, which apparently is not so far from reality as one might think.
Best Belgian film
D’Ardennen by Robin Pront
D’Ardennen is a dramatic thriller set in the 90’s Belgian ‘Johny & Marina’ scene -think bomber jackets, loads of hair gel and house-/hardstyle music. The soundtrack of D’Ardennen therefore is one full of 90’s beats that almost make you jump up from your chair, like the end credits theme. The title of the film refers to the Walloon part of Belgium, but is a dialectal use of the original word ‘Les Ardennes’
Pront could count on the participation of a good cast and crew, full of professionals. Veerle Baetens, who plays the female lead, is internationally renowned since her part in Felix van Groeningen’s The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012). But she is not the one who steals the show in this gem, but the male leads Jeroen Perceval and Kevin Janssens, who go into deep to become the violent -almost marginal-, but humane brothers Kenneth and Dave.
Keep an eye on Robin Pront, because his productions may seem somewhat on the ‘dark side’, but are set out very carefully to assure perfection.
Life by Anton Corbijn
In the last few years, the Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn focussed more on filmmaking, but nonetheless, you can still find traces of his main profession in his productions. Life is his 4th feature film and a biopic about the famous 50’s actor James Dean (Dane DeHaan) and his friendship with Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson), a photographer for magazines. All of Corbijn’s shots are beautifully stylised, so the film more or less becomes one consecutive series of photographs. But his mise-en-scène does not necesarilly overshadow the narrative or the character’s development. The latter are complex human beings, who one might identify with.
The Little Prince by Mark Osborne
Based on the books by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, director Mark Osborne tells the story of a Little Girl who is getting prepared for the adult world, but loses herself in a fantasy world when she meets her elderly neighbour, the Pilot. The main plot gets intertwined with pieces of the little girl’s fantasy world, in which Little Prince and his planet are creatively constructed out of papier-maché. Provided with a beautiful soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and the focus on respect, friendship and childhood fantasy The Little Prince definitely becomes the perfect film for quality time with the entire family.
Best Performance International Male
He already played a lot of remarkable parts, like Mr Orange in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992). But in 2015, I loved him the most in Chronic as well as in Tarantino’s The H8teful Eight. Roth easily switches from modest roles in the character-driven Chronic to up-tempo and cynical ones in The H8teful Eight. At the age of 54 he already has an impressive record of achievements due to his talent.
Best Performance International Female
Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn is a romantic drama by John Crowley, that stars Saoirse Ronans in its leading part, who is only 21 years old, but already played in big Hollywood productions like Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). Brooklyn gives her the opportunity to act in her mother tongue, namely Irish, which adds up to the credibility of the story. Moreover, her natural way of acting makes the love story between an Irish immigrant (Ronan) and Italian boy (Emory Cohen) in Brooklyn to be one of the most heartwarming since Cassavetes’ The Notebook (2004).
Best Belgian Performance Male
Jeroen Perceval/ Matteo Simoni
Jeroen Perceval proved himself a talented actor in the abovementioned D’Ardennen by Robin Pront as the criminal, but sensitive Dave. Who knows Perceval, would know that this is not his first stand-out performance.
Matteo Simoni is famous for his parts in commercial productions, but he should be admired for being a multitalent. Whatever role he is given, he plays it with dedication and never gets typecasted . In 2015, he played the clumsy and caricatural poser and party animal ‘Smos’ in Safety First, the filmversion of the similar television series about a securityteam at events. I can’t imagine anyone not laughing or symphatising with his well-meant stupidities.
Next television season, he will be playing a strappy callboy in a television series.
Best Belgian Performance Female
Before the summer of 2014 Martha Canga D’Antonio would never have imagined herself becoming an actress, let alone becoming an award-winning actress. Her part as Mavela in the Shakespearean love story Black by Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi (see below) got rewarded with plenty of selections at international film festivals and already won her one award for Best Actress at this year’s Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. The actress was only 19 years old when she played a gang member in Brussels, who falls in love with a Moroccan boy from a rival gang. She received standing ovations for her highly credible and modest performance, which are well-deserved.
Special mention also goes out to the rest of the young cast, who all proved themselves to be born actors, some of them surely are equally talented as Canga D’Antonio.
Eden by Mia Hansen Løve
Eden is a coming-of-age film about the Paris underground music scene in the 90’s and early 00’s. It tells the story of Paul (Félix De Givry)’s youth as a DJ and the uncertainties he comes across. Eden has a rather slow narrative, but is yet very vibrant because of the references to the rise of Daft Punk, the world famous French house pioneers (One More Time,…) Their pulsating beats pull us back to those early days of underground clubbing and fill us with melancholy.
Most Promising/ Upcoming Talent
Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi
Black is their 2nd feature and might be a bit a-typical for Belgian cinema with its epic Hollywoodian style of narrative and shooting. But the least you could say, is that this director duo Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi comes up with a ground-breaking production for the Belgian media by making a film with non-professional actors from different cultural backgrounds. A lot of fresh faces on the screen and a signed Hollywood contract as a remarkable result.
The H8teful Eight by Quentin Tarantino
The H8teful Eight is Tarantino’s 8th feature film, and one of the most awaited films in years since the overwhelming succes of Django Unchained in 2012. The film could count on a bunch of big names such as Tarantino’s sweethearts Samuel L. Jackson and Tim Roth, but also an impressive performance by Kurt Russell. What to expect: witty and cynical dialogues, violent and up-tempo action scenes and a musical score by the one and only Ennio Morricone (Bugsy, Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds,…) This is a Tarantino as we like it!