In our Yearbook series, Double Exposure contributors share lists and essays that attempt to define their year in film. In this entry, Joseph Pomp looks back on the festivals he attended in 2012.
2012 was my festival year. I went to three (well, four if you count a screening at the West Side clusterfuck that was Tribeca) film festivals, sometimes saw five movies a day, and, for better or worse, emerged a changed cinephile. Racing to cram in as many films as possible at SXSW and NYFF left me with little time to write about them, let alone think them through thoroughly. If this, and my failing to see 366 films this year, were big failures, then at least the filmgoing experiences themselves were great successes.
Three films at SXSW–-Eden, Starlet, and God Bless America—told dark tales (of a Korean teen’s abduction by human traffickers in New Mexico; the unlikely friendship between a lonesome octogenarian and a young porn star in the San Fernando Valley; and a suicidal average Joe and a psychotic high-school girl who embark on a killing spree from coast-to-coast) and, in their profoundly different ways, brought me to tears.
In the case of GBA, of course, these were tears from laughing too hard.
Toronto and NYFF offered two similarly euphoric moments. The first four minutes of Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers—which presented impossibly attractive college students on the beach, drenching each other in beer and swaying in slow-motion to Skrillex—alone justified the 24 hours I spent on a MegaBus to see the thing. It could just as easily be titled Holy Rollers, at the risk of being confused with Holy Motors, whose accordion interlude was easily the greatest scene of the year.
Of course, the energy of the festival can exaggerate one’s response to a film, but even without all of the memorable screenings, the festival gave shape to my year. Two films from the last two Cannes festivals—Oslo, August 31st and Cosmopolis—made the summer for me, and Moonrise Kingdom ain’t half bad either. The “50 Years of NYFF” series that the Film Society of Lincoln Center ran in anticipation of the festival provided many repertory high points. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and The Flowers of Shanghai in particular were revelations. Their Bela Tarr retrospective was a pretty big deal too.
Other auteurs whose work I got to see big were David Cronenberg, Leos Carax and Hong Sang-Soo, all of whom were at Cannes and NYFF this year or last. Their latest films rank among their best, but the special pleasure of seeing older titles on 35mm—especially The Brood, the faded print of which made the movie all the more ‘unheimlich’, casting a blood-red haze over the action—proved to be unbeatable. Another revelatory experience was 92Y Tribeca’s screening of POLA X, which defies explanation and demands to be experienced in a theater, with the sound turned up to maximize the effect of Scott Walker’s cacophony and with a full audience to make the sex scenes as uncomfortable as they should be.
And then there were Bressons.
I tend to rebuff master narratives like the “death of cinema,” one that has inevitably resurfaced this year, but needless to say 2012 saw film alive and kicking, and we didn’t need 70mm to prove it. Film festivals continue to proliferate around the world, and stateside institutions like SXSW and NYFF maintain their guiding principles even as they face pressure to commercialize further. Most importantly, festivals celebrate films that, without their support, would stand little chance of getting the distribution they deserve.
Top 5 2012 Festival Films Coming to Theaters in 2013
1. Spring Breakers
2. Like Someone in Love
4. Paradise: Love
5. Beyond the Hills
Top 10 Films of 2012 Available Now (in Theaters, on DVD or VOD)
1. Holy Motors
3. Oslo, August 31
5. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
6. The Turin Horse
7. Killer Joe
8. Your Sister’s Sister
9. God Bless America
10. Moonrise Kingdom