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top 10 most perfect moments of cinema 2013

Channelling the sainted spirit of Martine McCutcheon, i-D chooses the ten most perfect moments of 2013’s cinema.

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Text Tom Seymour 

  • 10. Blue is the Warmest Colour - Abdellatif Kechiche

    Is adulthood only ever achievable after first love ends? In one of Kechiche’s earliest scenes, a teacher tells his teenage students: “Tragedy is unavoidable. It’s what we cannot escape, no matter what.” Tragedy, in this context, is knowing a relationship is fated to end; its importance no longer matters because it’s stopping the future. The hurt is not the breaking, but the knowing, and Blue is the Warmest Colour demonstrates that beautifully; not least that first, 11-minute long sex scene, a private act that’s life-changingly significant for two people.

  • 9. The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza) - Paolo Sorrentino

    In Sorrentino’s hands, The Great Beauty is most obviously Rome, the city where Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a writer of a single book best known for his ability to party, has lived for decades. As Jep revisits the past after an ex-girlfriend dies, we’re taken through a whole spectrum of human, tangible emotions. Yet Sorrentino never dwells, never sensationalises, focusing instead on Jep’s animated smile as he parties. 

  • 8. Upstream Colour – Shane Carruth

    I saw this at Sundance London in April, and I’m still working out whether it’s one of the best films of the year, or a willfully, exclusively opaque piece of art trivia. Shane Carruth did everything on this film, but its heart lies with his co-star Amy Seimetz, who’s heading very rapidly to acting’s top-league. “I’m going to go anywhere you go, you know that,” he tells her in gloaming dusk, a flock of starlings flying like tiny shadows overhead. “Is there a direction you feel you might be drawn to?” she asks. It’s a spellbinding moment.

  • 7. Behind the Candelabra – Steven Soderbergh

    Soderbergh’s retirement soiree felt slight, incomplete, even a little half-arsed to me; a TV-movie rather than a great movie, given the quality of acting on show. But Behind the Candelabra had some audaciously brilliant moments, not least Matt Damon, who gave Liberace his face, jilted and paranoid, stuffing coke up his nose and speed-talking, the camera manically swinging over his head. Special mention for Rob Lowe as the plastic surgeon: “Will I be able to close my eyes?” “Not entirely…”


  • 6. Side Effects – Steven Soderbergh

    One of the year’s most underrated films, and proof Rooney Mara is a star of supernova wattage. In Soderbergh’s noir psychological thriller, she plays a fragile girl fresh on meds, battling with a heightened world and a lust for self-harm, where the brief touch of two hands can contain a terrifying, almost sensual intensity. At one point, at a cocktail party, she catches a distorted reflection of herself in a mirror – she looks, momentarily, as if she has been disfigured, and she starts to cry. She’s both haunted and haunting, and it’s mesmerizing.

  • 5. Captain Phillips – Paul Greengrass

    As Hanks tries to calm a handful of Somali pirates as they hijack and hold to ransom an American container ship in 2009, Captain Phillips is compelling. As Hanks is taken hostage and the Navy launches a full-scale rescue mission, the movie has an operatic tension. But a moment alone turned a good film into a great one. When Hanks is finally brought to safety and assessed by a Doctor, he goes into shock, realising he is in fact alive and will see his family again. There’s no distinct or audible dialogue in the scene, and it’s completed in a single, unbroken take. It’s a perfect scene for Greengrass; revealing the weight and meaning of violence and conflict. It’s the crowning single scene of Hanks career.

  • 4. The Act of Killing – Joshua Oppenheimer

    Joshua Oppenheimer asked the elderly perpetrators of Indonesia's communist purges to recreate their murder rituals – through the tropes of their favourite movies. At first Anwar, former leader of a death squad and the film’s principal ‘character,’ performs his bloody past with relish. And then, when he’s asked to really perform, the loss he has inflicted begins to take hold for the first time. Realisation dawns, and he starts to retch. Oppenheimer’s camera is pitiless and true and total.

  • 3. Post Tenebras Lux – Carlos Reygadas

    Shot in a strange 4:3 academy ratio, Mexican director Carlos Reygadas opened his abstract opus of a film with a toddler (played by Rut Reygadas, his daughter) playing alone in a vast, marsh-like field. She runs smiling back and forth, surrounded by loping, curious dogs much larger than she. The sunlight suddenly starts to collapse into night, and the child’s playtime noises become the first cries of anxiety. Why is she alone with these animals? What’s happened to the world? For me, the film never recovered from the power of its opening.

  • 2. Zero Dark Thirty – Kathryn Bigelow

    The CIA donated the helicopters to Bigelow, article A in the charge that Zero Dark Thirty was an elaborate PR-exercise for the shadowy corridors of American power. Maybe so, but by God/Allah – what cinema it makes. After two hours of Rubrics’ cube build-up to locate Osama Bin Laden, ‘Prince 51’ and ‘Prince 52’ take off in curlicues of dust and crouch low and swirling through the Af-Pak mountains, toward the bonfire-spark city lights of Abbottabad. The documentary-style storming of the compound is still the best action sequence this year. OSB traded in terror – I bet he was terrified when they knocked on his door. A lovely cameo from James Gandolfini as well, before anyone knew it would be his last year.

  • 1. Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón

    A blockbuster, yes, but it would be pretentious to leave out the opening scene of Gravity. A 13-minute sequence that, in one stroke, asked us what cinema is, and what it can become. Gravity is not a narrative, dramatic, actor-led film. Its story is its experience; a, radical existential vision, a non-science-fiction that still made you marvel at how, exactly, this pale blue dot can give us so much life.