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Annual Top Films Lists

Nicholas Bell’s Top Ten Unreleased Films of 2012: Picks 5 to 1 include Challenging Films from Seidl, Franco & Reygadas

#5. Beyond the Hills – Dir. Cristian Mungiu (Romania)
Romanian auteur Cristian Mungiu returns with this doozy of a film concerning two friends who grew up in an orphanage together. One has become a nun at a convent in Romania while the other lives as a barmaid Germany in less than satisfactory conditions. When the barmaid comes to fetch the nun because she cannot live without the other (their relationship was more than platonic), conflict ensues, as well as the damaging ignorance of religious fervor.

#4. Berberian Sound Studio – Dir. Peter Strickland (UK)
Berberian Sound Studio Peter StricklandPeter Strickland has fast become one of the most interesting filmmakers out there. After his excellent 2009 debut, Katalin Varga, he returns with this ode to giallo filmmaking. Toby Jones plays a sound engineer working for an Italian studio. Working on a new film in Italy, he may start to lose his grip on sanity, or is life simply imitating art?


#3. Post Tenebras Lux – Dir. Carlos Reygadas (Mexico)
Winning Best Director at this year’s Cannes film festival, the latest film from Carlos Reygadas is experimental cinema, to say the least. The title means “Light After Darkness,” but there wasn’t a film that had me saying WTF this year more than this one. Basically, there’s two families in Mexico, and between some breathtaking cinematography, overtly surreal flourishes, the exact meaning of everything may be impenetrable. But on the way through all your questions, you’ll experience a gorgeous display of image and sound.

#2. After Lucia – Dir. Michel Franco (Mexico)
I was already a fan of Franco’s highly uncomfortable 2009 debut, Daniel & Ana, where a brother and sister are abducted at gun point, forced to have sex with each other on film, and then released on their own recognizance without a soul to reach out to for help. His latest film concerning a recently widowed chef and his adolescent daughter as they relocate sees him trying to get out of his funk while his daughter attempts to make new friends at her new school. But something triggers a social reaction that involves a stunning cycle of abuse, causing an incident that causes the need for a terrible reckoning.

#1. Paradise: Faith – Dir. Ulrich Seidl (Austria)
Paradise: FaithAnd once again, there’s Ulrich Seidl, of whom John Waters stated this year that “Rainer Werner Fassbinder died and God gave us Ulrich Seidl.” No one could have said it better. The first two parts of his Paradise trilogy played the festival circuit this year to mixed reception, and both of them make my list here. To be fair, the first film, Paradise: Love is the more difficult to sit through, as it’s distasteful, even grotesque, and extremely off-putting. But if you’re at all familiar with this drolly observant Austrian filmmaker, you shouldn’t be surprised. That said, his Paradise: Faith tops my list, for it features a brilliant performance from Maria Hofstatter, and it exudes a sensibility that had me laughing harder than any other release this year.

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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