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10 Best European Movies – 2012 Roundup Three

26 December 2012 | Features, Film Lists | by David Zou

Things are getting tough today, I have to choose 10 from the 70 plus European films I’ve seen this year. Ask me tomorrow, it would be a different list.

10. Naked    dir. Mike Leigh


A one-word title will suffice to describe this bleak and brutal London underbelly tale. I instantly fell in love with the David Thewlis character, Johnny, and felt great sympathy for him at the same time, though most of the time I didn’t know what he’s talking about.


9. A Room with a View    dir. James Ivory

a room with a view

For any Remain of the Day fans here,this is another James Ivory film you need to check out,also if you have seen other films adapted from an E.M.Foster novel like A Passage to India or Howard Ends,or you like reading his books,you shouldn’t miss this one.Simply put,if you are familiar with the name of James Ivory or E.M.Foster,this is the film you MUST watch.

For anyone who doesn’t know these names at all,I can still convince you to watch this film. How about some legendary British actresses like Judy Dench and Maggie Smith,or how about Daniel Day Lewis‘ role as an English gentleman,or how about the beautifully shot Florence?


8. Last Year at Marienbad    dir. Alain Resnais


One of the greatest mystery in cinema history along with 2001 and Muholland Dr.. I was lost in the gorgeous and haunting palace when I watched the film, I constantly asked myself:” When and where did this scene take place?”. It fascinates me because anything may or may not have happened, there could be thousands of interpretations of the film, and I wrote down the three most possible ones from my POV.


7. Battle of Algiers    dir. Gillo Pontecorvo


The reason I watched this film was that I had seen it in the Criterion top 10 lists too many times. Everything I read encouraged me to watch it as soon as possible. So I did it, and I finally understood why it has such strong influence on so many contemporary filmmakers: its documentary-style filmmaking  and its subject about terrorism still work today.


6. Seduced and Abandoned   dir. Pietro Germi

Seduced And Abandoned

Pietro Germi never failed to surprise me with his Italian style comedies.His Divorce Italian Style remains as one of  my favorite comedies of all time,and then this Seduced and Abandoned fascinated me more with its more hilarious characters and wilder cinematic style.


5. Don’t Look Now    dir. Nicholas Roeg

dont look now drowning

Don’t Look Now was once ranked as the No.1 in the BFI top 100 British films, now the ranking dropped but the quality of the film proves that this horror classic can stand the test of time. As a matter of fact, it is one of the best horror films British cinema has ever brought to us along with The Wicker Man and The Innocents. (Read my full reviews)


4. Belle de jour    dir. Luis Bunuel

belle de jour

Luis Bunuel’s surrealistic daydream film is about a middle-class housewife’s adventure on lust and sex, a French version of Eyes Wide Shut. Cold and beautiful Catherine Deneuve  gave another brilliant performance under her most-known vulnerable persona after Repulsion.


3. The Mirror    dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

the mirror

The mirror is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. Things go slow enough in Tarkovsky’s films so you can fully appreciate each frame(sometimes each sentence of the poem) without playing backward. Nobody can display one’s memory in the dream-like form like him, and I do think his films are the ones closest to the art form of poems. You won’t miss the beauty if you watch them as poems, which means feeling it through without trying to figure out what some of the specific images are about.


2. My Night at Maud’s    dir. Eric Rohmer

my night at mauds

Eric Rohmer’s cinema  is one of my most exciting discoveries  of the year. Watching his Six Moral Tales was like reading six philosophy book on a sunny afternoon.  My Night at Maud’s stands out for me, because I’m always a Jean-Louis Trintignant fan, and his moral struggle looks fascinating to me.


1. The Phantom Carriage    dir. Victor Sjöström


This film inspired Bergman to make movies. The director is no other person than the leading man in his Wild Strawberries, the father of Swedish film – Victor Sjöström. The title sounds very much like a horror film, instead, it’s a extraordinary drama  about a man’s sins and redemption, a film that could easily related to Murnau’s Sunrise in its themes and Dreyer’s Vampyr in its visuals. The movie surely stands out as a strong candidate for the best film I’ve seen in the entire year.


It’s Your Turn

What good European films have you watched in year 2012?





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  • Of the films in that list, I own Naked and Last Year at Marienbad while I’ve also seen Belle de Jour and The Battle of Algiers. The rest I hope to see in the coming few years.

    • Nice. I’m going to check out your Django Unchained reviews.

  • Don’t Look Now and The Battle of Algiers are the only films on the list I haven’t seen. I love all the others except for A Room with a View (which I admire with reservations). Glad to see you still pimping The Phantom Carriage. That’s such an unjustly overlooked masterpiece.

    I’d say my most important European film discovery was Die Nibelungen. I blind-bought the Kino Blu-ray and was blown away by both the film and the image quality of the restoration. It’s one of Lang’s best (and hence one of the best films of the entire silent era).

    • Get the Optimum Blu-ray of Don’t Look Now and the Criterion Blu-ray of The Battle of Algiers ASAP, Mike. I’m not a fan of Roeg, but this horror classic is a piece of ART. The Battle of Algiers is one of the best Criterion packages, the supplements are unbelievably good and nutritious, I hope you can show it on your classes since it’s such an influential war film.

      I own the Kino DVD of Die Nibelungen, but haven’t seen it yet, if you say it’s one of his best, I will urge myself to see it soon.

  • Nice to see a few of my favorites here, Mirror & Last Year at Marienbad. Have you seen Kieslowski’s Double Life of Veronique, that’s another of cinemas greatest mysteries 🙂

    Naked has great dialogue, but strangely I had a different reaction, and found it difficult to like David Thewlis’ character. Naked has a unique atmosphere, but I prefer other Mike Leigh films. Maybe need to give it 2nd chance!
    There are a couple of films here I don’t know much about, and will look into. Thanks for another great list!

    Best European films I watched in 2012? : Last Year at Marienbad, Black Sunday, Repulsion, The Blood of a Poet (1932) , Le Fils (2002), Mouchette (1967), Songs from the second floor (2000)

    • Yes, Chris. I have seen Kieslowski’s Double Life of Veronique and loved it, maybe I will compose a list about all the cinema’s mysteries someday. Lots of people found them unable to “like” Johnny in Naked, I didn’t like him either, but found him a very interesting and pathetic character.I need to watch some Roy Anderson films, I have one at home but not Songs.