PRINT December 2012

Film: Best of 2012

J. Hoberman

Paul Fejos, Lonesome, 1928, 35 mm, black-and-white and color, sound, 69 minutes.

Werner Schroeter, Der Bomberpilot, 1970, 16 mm, color, sound, 65 minutes. Werner Schroeter and Carla Aulaulu.

1 “Werner Schroeter” (Museum of Modern Art, New York) The late underground genius of the Neue Kino got a massive, massively deserved retrospective, complete with his early work in Super 8. Schroeter’s great period may have fallen between 1969 and 1973, but the radically pragmatic, wonderfully obsessive films he made in those few years more than suffice to put him in the pantheon. Reseeing his 1972 masterpiece, The Death of Maria Malibran, in a beautiful new 16-mm print was for me the year’s peak cinematic event.

2 Almayer’s Folly (Chantal Akerman) and Tabu (Miguel Gomes) The year’s best imaginary double bill—two reflections on the lunacy of European colonialism, both inspired by the 1931 Murnau-Flaherty faux doc Tabu: A Story of the South Seas.

3 Il Cinema Ritrovato XXVI (June 29–July 6) Bologna’s annual festival of rediscoveries and restorations is a delight from beginning to end. This year’s revelation among revelations: Raoul Walsh’s Wild Girl of 1932 and eight films, including a tumultuous late-career adaptation of The Idiot (1958) by the master of the Stalinist operetta, Ivan Pyriev.

4 “Oskar Fischinger: Space Light Art—A Film Environment” (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; curated by Chrissie Iles) Fischinger’s supremely enjoyable triple-screen film installation, Raumlichtkunst, 1926/2012, stands in for two other installations that might have made my list: Peter Kubelka’s 2012 Monument Film (which I was unable to see at this year’s New York Film Festival) and Phil Solomon’s American Falls (2000–12; shown as part of the “Film After Film” show I cocurated at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens.)

5 Lonesome (Paul Fejos) Finally this glorious 1928 partial talkie—perhaps the greatest Coney Island film ever—gets the full Criterion Collection treatment.

6 Beyond the Hills (Cristian Mungiu) Or, the world’s most dialectical national cinema sums itself up and pushes on.

7 Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel) It’s as if Stan Brakhage set out to adapt Moby-Dick on a New Bedford, Massachusetts, fishing boat.

8 The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson) So strange, so ambitiously wacky, so amazingly acted, so rigorously composed, this colossal whatzit triumphs over its limitations.

9 Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson) and Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin) The year’s second-best imaginary double bill—two American fairy tales for adults, cast with kids.

10 Clint Eastwood on YouTube More Americana: Without seeming to be aware just WTF he was doing, our last living cowboy gave Obama a reelection strategy during halftime at the Super Bowl and then went on to give Mitt Romney his talking points at the Republican Convention. By the time you read this you’ll know, even if Clint doesn’t, which one worked.

J. Hoberman’s new book, Film After Film: Or, What Became of 21st Century Cinema?, was published by Verso in August.