Cahiers du Cinéma names 'Holy Motors' the best film of 2012

Posted by · 12:37 pm · November 21st, 2012

Yep, folks, we’re in Top 10 season already, and the first major list to land is both one of the longest-running and the most reliably eccentric: that of leading French cinephile magazine Cahiers du Cinéma.

As the journal on which the likes of Godard, Truffaut and Chabrol cut their teeth as writers after its establishment in 1951, Cahiers retains a staunch auteurist sensibility, and that’s evident every year in their Top 10 — though they don’t always favor the same auteurs most other critics do.

Last year, they surprised everyone with an atypically softball choice — Nanni Moretti’s amiable ecclesiastical comedy “We Have a Pope” — as the year’s best. This year, paradoxical as this sounds, they’re back on more familiarly adventurous ground, as Léos Carax’s wild, weird, thrillingly bewildering shapeshifter study “Holy Motors” topped the list.

Carax has twice before featured on the Cahiers list, for 1986’s “Bad Blood” and, of course, 1991’s “Lovers on the Bridge,” though never in such a high position. It’s nice to see the long-absent director get a pat on the pack from an august French institution after “Holy Motors” left Cannes empty-handed earlier this year; as if in pointed rejoinder to that festival’s jury (headed, as it happens, by Moretti), Michael Haneke’s universally acclaimed Palme d’Or winner “Amour” is nowhere to be seen on the list. 

The Cahiers can be perverse like that. While “Holy Motors” is a relatively unsurpising #1 pick, the usual eyebrows will be raised over the inclusion of Francis Ford Coppola’s tepidly reviewed fantasy “Twixt” — still unreleased in the US, as far as I’m aware — at #3, or indeed the inclusion of two low-profile Abel Ferrara films with their share of detractors. I have yet to see “Go Go Tales,” which premiered at Cannes way back in 2007; meanwhile, I walked out of “4.44: Last Day on Earth” at Venice last year, and don’t yet regret doing so. Further down the list, you’ll find last year’s Venice Golden Lion winner, “Faust” — another film that didn’t do much for me.

One film from the Cahiers list, however, will certainly be featuring in my own year-end Top 10: Miguel Gomes’s glorious “Tabu,” which I reviewed out of Berlin.

The full list:

1. “Holy Motors” (Léos Carax)

2. “Cosmopolis” (David Cronenberg)

3. “Twixt” (Francis Ford Coppola)

4. “4.44: Last Day on Earth” (Abel Ferrara)

=4. “In Another Country” (Hong Sang-soo)

=4. “Take Shelter” (Jeff Nichols)

7. “Go Go Tales” (Abel Ferrara)

8. “Tabu” (Miguel Gomes)

9. “Faust” (Aleksandr Sokurov)

10. “Keep the Lights On” (Ira Sachs)

And, just to give you an idea of the unusual company “Holy Motors” joins, here are their top picks from each year of the 21st century. (There was no list in 2003.)

2000 “Esther Kahn” (Arnaud Desplechin)

2001 “Mulholland Drive” (David Lynch)

2002 “Secret Things” (Jean-Claude Brisseau) and “Ten” (Abbas Kiarostami)

2004 “Tropical Malady” (Apichapong Weerasethakul)

2005 “Last Days” (Gus van Sant)

2006 “Private Fears in Public Places” (Alain Resnais) and “The Sun” (Aleksandr Sokurov)

2007 “Paranoid Park” (Gus van Sant)

2008 “Redacted” (Brian De Palma)

2009 “Wild Grass” (Alain Resnais)

2010 “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

2011 “We Have a Pope” (Nanni Moretti)

2012 “Holy Motors” (Léos Carax)

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