6. The Novelist’s Film
Prolific master Hong Sang-soo found a sublime expression to his musings in his umpteenth character study starring the inimitable Kim Min-hee, in which a lapsed novelist and a young starlet become reacquainted and promptly decide to make a film together.
Perhaps most impressive than the breakneck pace at which the South Korean auteur works—this is only the first of two masterpieces he churned out in 2022—is the fact every new film feels just as textured, layered, and refreshing as the preceding one. Though perhaps not as popular overseas as Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook, Hong deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as his fellow countrymen, not least for an extended body of work that’s become thoroughly sui generis. First-time viewers could hardly ask for a better introduction to the Korean than “The Novelist’s Film”, the rare movie that feels deliberately modest but never lacking in ambition.
7. Both Sides of the Blade
Last year shaped up to be quite an eventful one for Claire Denis, with the veteran filmmaker showing no signs of slowing down at 76. In addition to “Stars at Noon”, a ravishing romantic mystery starring the ultra-talented Margaret Qualley, the French icon proceeded to shatter our hearts into a million pieces once again with “Both Sides of the Blade”.
The film, which marks her third (and easily finest) collaboration with Juliette Binoche to date, reveals the intense joys and pains of a middle-aged, upper-class couple—at first a seemingly stable marriage that soon implodes from within in devastating fashion. For an ostensibly uneventful domestic drama, Claire Denis manages to pack a punch with its thorny love crucible, weaving a painfully honest portrait of breakup that grabs you by the throat right up to its emotionally bruising finale. It’s one thing to age like fine wine, and another to somehow keep reinventing yourself more than 50 years into your career like the French master has done.
8. One Fine Morning
The domestic frictions and everyday trials of a struggling single mother living in Paris are candidly observed in the latest film by Mia Hansen-Løve, a certified master when it comes to stirring up deeper truths and revealing the deeper emotions driving her characters forward.
On the heels of her quietly reserved but remarkably assured 2021 “Bergman Island”, the French director struck gold once again with “One Fine Morning”, a bittersweet character study that evokes old-school authors like Rohmer and Ozu in its minimalist story and candid observations. Léa Seydoux, who had quite a busy schedule last year shooting Cronenberg’s “Crimes of the Future” and the upcoming “Dune” follow-up, uncorks a career-best performance as Sandra, a woman who barely manages to scrape by while taking care of her eight-year-old daughter and finding a nurse for her father. As conveyed in the title, this is the kind of breezy, small-scale film with not much of a narrative, though its brief runtime belies its weight.
Tradition and modernity collide in Carla Simón’s breezy rural drama, in which a Catalonian family suddenly faces eviction from the only home they’ve ever known, a privately-owned peach farm that will soon be replaced by a cutting-edge solar energy plant.
Winner of the Golden Bear at last year’s Berlinale, “Alcarràs” hews closer to bittersweet family parables like “Minari” or “Shoplifters”, but its lineage stretches further back to the humanist work of Abbas Kiarostami. In the same vein as the legendary Iranian director, sophomore filmmaker Carla Simón deftly captures the poetic and lyrical elements of everyday life in quasi-documentary style; delivering a gentle human drama steeped in the folkways of Catalonian village life. Sensitive and profound, “Alcarràs” is filled with indelible moments that will buoy your spirits and make you recall simpler times.
10. Mad God
Though we had our fair share of stop-motion animation in 2022, with “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” and “Marcel the Shell” deservingly making headlines for their visual style and technical audacity. But nothing else has ever looked or felt quite like “Mad God”, a hand-drawn marvel more than 30 years in the making that quickly became an improbable word-of-mouth hit with a rip-roaring blend of dizzying visuals and Phil Tippet’s darkly warped mindscape.
Originally conceived during the early ’90s by the renowned VFX artist behind pop culture tentpoles like “Star Wars”, “Jurassic Park” and “RoboCop”, this quixotic undertaking plunges viewers head-on into a sensory overload of arresting imagery. Though driven less by plot than vibes, the film follows a lone warrior called “The Assassin”, as he traverses a post-apocalyptic hellscape full of grotesque creatures and nightmarish horrors. At once shocking in its macabre brutality and blankly inscrutable with its endless abstractions, “Mad God” must be seen to be believed.