10 Films I saw in 2019

Overall, it’s probably quite fair to say that 2019 was only an okay year for new films, for myself anyway (I haven’t seen “Parasite” yet!). But, here – in a self-absorbed manner of expecting that people actually care about my opinions – are the stronger new(ish) films that I watched this year in some sort of order of preference*.

Much of what follows are delayed releases of films from yesteryear that I only got round to watching this year due to the inactivity of my life. As such, there are actually a couple of bangers among their number.

*Of course, I’m not a film encyclopedia, so I haven’t actually watched every single film ever released ever, actually. But, please do feel free to criticise.

1: One Cut of the Dead (2017)

Director: Shinichiro Ueda / Japan (カメラを止めるな! / Kamera o Tomeru na!)

A “Blair Witch Project” (in that it was made on a small budget and made millions) for a new generation, Ueda’s breakthrough film was the most fun I’ve had in a cinema in a long while (since the egg scene in “In the Realm of the Senses”). The signs of the small budget are littered throughout, but the creativity of the film-within-a-film, single cut and including its own making-of mean that novelty factors took over for me. How I love a gimmick?!

2: Burning (2018)

Director: Lee Chang-dong / South Korea (버닝 / Beoning)

He may not make films too often, but the “Peppermint Candy” director has returned with another strong effort in a sparse career of constant highs. Based on Haruki Murakami’s short this is an exploration of my two most favourite things: obsessive bahaviour and barn burning.

3: Tower of the Sun (2018)

Director: Kosai Sekine / Japan (太陽の塔 / Taiyo no to)

A documentary that shines a new light on that strange monument you’ve seen when you last went to a Gamba Osaka match. Taro Okamoto’s contribution to the Osaka Expo ’70 is a multilayered work, critiquing the modern, in search of what “true” Japanese and human culture really is. It might feel like sitting through a lecture, but it’s one you’ll actually pay attention to.

4: Diego Maradona (2019)

Director: Asif Kapadia / UK

Kapadia’s archive footage account of the footballing genius’ rollercoaster of goals, girls and grams over a six year spell at Napoli in Italy. Much we already know, but Kapadia does try to create a sense of sympathy for the man many in the game loathe, which he does with some good editing. There is far more of a story to tell here, but we haven’t got all day and it’s the Christmas period and there’s so much football to watch.

5: Uncle and House (2018)

Director: Hanxing Luo / China (合群路 / He qun lu)

A quirky debut of quirky characters highlighting the changing nature of money and how this impacts on interactions among a small community. The 100 Yuan note of the title passes from hand-to-hand throughout the cast, but for Luo, “contactless” isn’t just a method of payment, but maybe a sign of things to come.

6: On-gaku (Our Sound) (2019)

Director: Kenji Iwaisawa / Japan (音楽 / Ongaku)

If music is a form of expression, there’s certainly a lot of that going on in Iwaisawa’s feature debut. Low on plot, dialogue and character expressions, this is a whirlwind anime of noise and rhythm to get your head sucked into for an hour or so, removing all thought.

7: The House of Us (2019)

Director: Ga-eun Yoo / South Korea (우리집 / Woorijb)

A coming-of-age film with a not-so-happy ending, but that’s how they all should be. The tale of three friends over the course of one summer as they struggle with their relationships with their families, creating their own little home. There is much that can be found in films that have come before it, but “The House of Us” combines them all well to a satisfying whole.

8: Ash is the Purest White (2018)

Director: Jia Zhang-ke / China (江湖儿女 / Jianghu ernu)

The Chinese master is at it again, again telling a story which stretches across and extended period of time. This time, a couple’s turbulent relationship over the years is looked at, showing that as time changes, somethings will always stay the same.

9: Mirai (2018)

Director: Mamoro Hosoda /Japan (未来のミライ / Mirai no mirai)

Parenting is difficult, but so is being a child. In fact, adapting to anything new is. A young boy struggles to accept the idea of his new little sister joining the family, but eventually learns that he isn’t the only one having a difficult time of it. Looking from everyone’s perspective creates a somewhat disjointed view in parts, but Hosoda sympathises with all in a realistic portrayal of the struggles with life, the universe and everything.

10: First Love (2019)

Director: Takashi Miike / Japan (初恋 / Hatsukoi)

A bit like Takeshi Kitano, the infamous director has seen much of his best work completed well over a decade ago. But, while not a complete return to form, “First Love” is the first time I’ve enjoyed a Miike film in roughly a decade. It has some of the madness and creativity of his late-Nineties work and is far from perfect, but then he never was.

Well, that’s it for now. Until next year. Oh, that’s tomorrow…

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