Cairo: It s always daunting to compile an end-of-year best films list because most of the noteworthy productions we watch each year are not shown commercially to the general public.
Some of my favorite films of the year such as Pedro Almodóvar s new fervent artwork Volver, Romanian director Cristi Puiu s alarming The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and, Hsiao-hsien Hou s sweeping masterpiece Three Times, are yet to be shown in festivals in here.
The number of Egyptian films increased this year, particularly during the summer season to limit, in effect, the number of international films shown in theatres.
Most of the American films, which constitute the major bulk of foreign movies shown in Egypt, were quite weak when weighted against past years.
The usual selection of big Hollywood blockbusters didn t stir any substantial excitement for the stuffed season of 2006 and none of these films didn t possess the imagination, ambition or full realization of concept of the wide variety of independent and international films screened this year around the world.
Egyptian films, better as they are than previous years, still paled when compared to the best of this year.
The following ten movies represent the finest selection of films shown commercially this year in film theaters through general commercial release or via different festivals that screened some of their films multiple times in public theatres.
So, without further ado . the top ten best films of the year:
10) Casino Royale. Director Martin Campbell ( Goldeneye ) removes the entire gloss and pop-culture bonanza that almost brought one of the longest-running film franchises to its end and produces a film packed with gritty violence and enthralling action sequences.
But it s Daniel Craig s performance as the young, amoral spy that renders the film to be one of the very best Bonds.
9) Inside Man. Spike Lee s first major studio film is, hands down, his most entertaining and smartest film to date. The film, which features Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster, is crammed with a very clever, witty dialogue and one-liners, a plot that s devilishly flawless and Lee s usual commentary on modern America.
Man ranks up there with Dog Day Afternoon as one of the best heist films of all time.
8) Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas). Who could ve thought that a war film would be so uplifting and life-affirming? France s Oscar nominated film tells the true story of the temporary ceasefire established by the French, Scottish and German troops in 1914 in order to celebrate Christmas.
The film is an incredibly touching celebration of humanity found in the most atrocious conditions.
7) Pride and Prejudice. Joe Wright s empyreal adaptation of Jane Austen s beloved novel has managed to overcome the bad hype surrounding its good looking cast to easily become the best romantic film of the year.
Keira Knightley, in a career-defining performance, is a joy to watch and both her inner and outer beauty lingers with the audience long after the film ends.
6) El Banat Dol (These Girls). Egypt s sole entry in this year s best films is, in reality, a documentary. Forget about the other Egyptian films that falsely allege to represent the current reality of Egypt; Tahani Rached s unflinching, jolting look at the street girl of Cairo is compassionate, tragic and fearless.
Ms. Rached s unforgettable little gem is destined for classic status.
5) The Departed. Martin Scorsese s back to his mean streets having fun and inviting us to join his oddball, eerie party. The remake of the Asian hit Infernal Affairs doesn t carry any social, political or moral statements; it s a brilliant, highly entertaining game of cat and mouse played to an epic scale.
The film strays far away from political correctness and emotional blabbering; it s, like Marty s best films, offensive, cool and enormously violent. Leonardo DiCaprio offers his best performance to date; Matt Damon is deliciously slime and Jack Nicholson s the devil incarnate with a one giant prosthetic, ehem, member that Egyptian audiences missed to the censors.
4) La Velocidad funda el olvido (Speed Begets Oblivion). The best film screened at the Cairo International Film Festival, and winner of the best actor award, is the most heartwarming, original and crowd-pleasing movie of the year.
Argentinean director Marcelo Schapces little-seen coming-of-age film is a fanciful tale about memories, youth and love. Imagine Garden State meeting Amélie with a hint of Chunking Express and you ll get the picture. Schapces creates magic out of simple moments and his Buenos Aires has never looked more stunning.
By the end of the film, you d be overwhelmed by a strong urgency to fall in love, explore the world and embrace life to the fullest.
3) L Enfant (The Child). The Belgian Dardenne Brothers 2005 Palm D or winner is a minimalistic masterwork about reckless 20-year-old hustler who sells his new born baby in the black market. The film is a morality tale reminiscent of French filmmaker Robert Bresson s Pickpocket.
The Dardenne don t inflict any judgment upon their characters; they act as a God who doesn t interfere with human actions but attempts to justify and understand the core of their nature. The experience of watching Bruno (the hustler) behaving in the most iniquitous of manners till he find his ultimate salvation at the end is poignant and heartbreaking.
2) The New World. Terrance Malick s 4th film in more than 30 years about the legend of Indian princess Pocahontas and the discovery of America is a sublime piece of filmmaking at its best. Malick s a poet, a delicate painter whose meditation on the conflicting themes of creation Vs destruction, liberty Vs restriction and cruelty Vs kindness is weaved through heart-achingly beautiful images that no words can entirely describe.
It s very easy to get lost in Malick s melancholic dreams and with multiple viewings, it becomes increasingly difficult to let go off his world.
1) Hidden (Caché). So you go to work everyday, lead a well-to-do life, read some books and watch films about lives of the unfortunates, pretend you care, reinforce your good self-image and continue to indulge in your selfish self-existence. Strange? Repulsive? Disturbing perhaps?
Well that s precisely what you ll experience upon watching this French puzzle that has troubled, entertained and left all filmgoers unhinged since its commercial debut earlier this year around the world.
Hidden finds an intellectual, French bourgeois couple (Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche) bombarded by videotapes containing some footage of obtrusive accounts of their daily life sent by an unknown that eventually hint at a certain incident in Auteuil s past that involves the infamous Paris massacre of 1961 and the French s guilt towards the Arabs.
On one level, the film s an ideal thriller; on another, an indictment of the role of the ordinary French citizens towards Arabs.
However, the film unravels to become a one big onslaught against the middle-class of any country that discuss important topics with their friends, defend their baseless view-points and watch films like Hidden in order to conceal their complacency that is essentially one of the chief reasons for the continuing agony of others.
Hidden is the most confrontational, audacious film of recent years. Viewers still argue about the open-end of the film till this very day, developing more theories as time goes by.
The film s Austrian director Michael Haneke takes the term entertainment and infuses it with depth, intellectualism and visual techniques that will force you to redefine the entire concept of cinema.
This is, without a doubt, the best film of the year.