the 10 best films of 2015
We run down the films that defined 2015 for us, from Amy to Carol, Mad Max to Dior and I.
Bryan Adams and George Harvey
Cinemagoers went to see Amy with the heaviest of hearts but Asif Kapadia's documentary about the late, great star never collapses under the emotional weight. Instead, Amy makes the case for Amy Winehouse's extraordinary talent while holding us all to account for her very public demise (who honestly didn't see the Graham Norton gag at her expense and think they probably would have laughed?). Now the biggest documentary at the British box office ever, an Oscar nomination is within sight. But as Amy's former manager Nick Shymansky told i-D: 'Everyone around Amy is a loser, me included. We all fucking lost.' Amy is a powerfully measured reminder of just how much we lost.
Todd Haynes' sumptuous 1950s love story is a film you could fall for over and over again. Carol may be about a potential couple - deliciously played by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara - but it's a film about the lonely act of falling of love. In Carol stolen glances and brief conversations mean the world to the would be lovers as they conduct an illicit, dangerous dance towards consummation. It makes Carol burn with as queer a sensibility as any of Haynes' work. It is also by far his finest.
Go big or go home may well be Xavier Dolan's mantra. At year's end he's directed the biggest pop video of the year from the biggest pop artist of the era (Adele's Hello) and started work on his first Hollywood foray, the English language film The Life and Death of John F. Donovan, which will star Kit Harington and Jessica Chastain. Not bad for an auteur who turns 27 in 2016. But Dolan began 2015 with Mommy, another tour de force of poppy visuals and surprising emotional depths that takes your breath away.
Things go bat shit cray cray in Tangerine, Sean S. Baker's riotous tale of two trans hookers gone wild on Sunset Boulevard on Christmas Eve. Tangerine felt like the most 2015 of all this year's films: shot on iPhone 5c, shot through with an Instagram filter and played out by two trans actresses with no previous professional experience. The result: the most colourful, crude and unexpectedly emotional film of the year. All this plus an innovative blow-job-in-a-car-wash scene. Happy holidays!
5. Mad Max: Fury Road
It's taken just a quick 25 years for George Miller to reignite the franchise that made his name but Mad Max is anything but a slow burn. Tom Hardy goes full throttle in the lead, Charlize Theron takes charge of the film's surprising feminist agenda and the whole thing goes off in a shower of fire, sand, blood with a side order of death metal. The blockbuster of the summer, Mad Max is a properly bonkers ride.
The dancefloor rarely seems to live up to expectations when captured on celluloid but Eden bucks the trend, coolly capturing the essence of the early 1990s Parisian dance underground scene. Writer/director Mia Hansen-Løve plots the aimlessness of 20-something ambition in her leading man, French club DJ Paul Vallée [Félix de Givry] while presenting the bigger picture of an emerging club culture. The soundtrack's a treat with some amusing, helmet free cameos from those Daft Punk boys too.
7. The Tribe
You needed to be down with Ukrainian sign language to fully understand The Tribe, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's brilliant debut film where conventions of dialogue and subtitles count for nothing. Instead the audience must play detective as The Tribe's class of youths at a deaf school run riot with a prostitution racket. The whole thing unfolds like a contemporary dance, Slaboshpytskiy's camera moving from room to room as sex and violence are played out in silence. It's this unique cinematic language that made The Tribe 2015's most compelling watch.
8. The Lobster
The stuff of Tinder nightmares, Yorgos Lanthimos's English language debut saw Colin Farrell as a 40 something singleton who must pair off or be magicked into the animal of his choosing, a lobster. From an arch premise Lanthimos shapes a complex thought experiment that snarls couples and singletons alike, questioning our desire to be both together and alone.
9. Dior and I
Would Dior and I have made the top ten had it been for the news that its subject has since abandoned ship? Perhaps not, given that Frédéric Tcheng's documentary about Raf Simons' start as the creative director at Dior was a straight forward film where access came with stipulations. But in hindsight, Dior and I offers an enlightening glimpse into the day-to-day grind for the artist at the heart of the machine. It was also - by granting Tcheng access to the wonderful seamstresses in the Dior ateliers - a reminder of fashion's heart and soul.
10. Sunset Song
Terence Davies's painterly adaptation of the classic Scottish novel unfolds at a charmingly old fashioned pace quite unlike anything else in 2015. It's a meditative mood that pervades throughout Sunset Song, the effects of which are charming despite the film's brutal aspects. Agyness Deyn plays the young woman finding her voice in early 20th Century rural Scotland and she's masterfully understated much like the film itself. Davies has said he didn't know Deyn's supermodel past when he cast her; after Sunset Song the catwalk feels like a distant memory.
Text Colin Crummy
Photography Bryan Adams and George Harvey
The Role Model Issue, No. 321, Fall 2012