Jarv goes to the EU and comes back with a searing hatred of red tape, rampant xenophobia but also the 10 best European movies of the decade
As part of my moronic round the world in films quest, I’m moving on to the continent, and I’m genuinly surprised by this list. Not because any of the films are left field, but because several of them make my overall best of the decade. Also, looking at the European films, I know that I’m forgetting loads, and haven’t seen some, but I was stunned to see that 5 of my potential 10 were British.
Not that I’m patriotic or anything, because I’m not, but this forces me to do a British “best of” as I was going to do a “rest of the world (outside of America) ” list for the third part of this. I haven’t decided.This list, I do own up is very, very heavy with Western European Cinema, notably France, Germany and Spain.
Anyhoo- you know I’m not averse to editing this list, so if I have made any glaring omissions please let me know.
All these lists are live action, so therefore I’ve had to exclude some belting films (Spirited Away fell off the Asian one), but given that this is a strong contender for my full stop best of the decade, I’m doing it first.
Very Honourable Mention:
Persepolis (2008- France)
Fuck the Oscars. Again.
This is typical of the prime stupidity of the Academy, their innate snobbishness and their outright pigheaded choices. How in the name of all that is good and holy did fucking Ratatouille beat this? Is it because the Pixar film was technically brilliant? because that’s bullshit, any animated film that makes it this far has to be.
Personally, I think that it was because this is actual animation for adults rather than aimed at families. No, it isn’t porn, but it is however, a great story charting the narrator’s life that never once drops into boredom (and for me to say that about the troubles of an Iranian woman is really surprising). Unfairly robbed and grossly overlooked Persepolis is a touching story of a troubled time and I bet you that in 10 years time Pixar’s effort will be forgotten, but this will still be talked about.
10 ) Brotherhood of The Wolf (2001 France)
Yes, alright, I know this is a moronic, plot hole ridden, ridiculous film. However, I just don’t fucking care. For a long time, this was on regular spin at Casa del Jarv, and to be honest, I never got bored of it. Who could possibly get bored of Mark Dacascos as a martial arts American Indian? Not to mention the completely unhinged performance by Vincent Cassel (been a big fan of his since La Haine- even if he did marginally blot his copybook with Ocean’s 12), Monica Bellucci as a Vatican spy/ hooker, a giant beast of some description and the fucking bonesword (one of the most gloriously stupid things ever to grace the screen).
I love this film so much and in such a deluded fashion that I even stand up for Gans’ Silent Hill. In fact, I’m going to watch it again when I get home tonight.
9 ) Talk to her (2002 Spain)
The first of 2 Almodovar films to make this list. Mrs. Jarv loves Almodovar. She even likes Live Flesh.
As a rule, I don’t like Almodovar films. Really. I mean, I admire his dedication to making attractive women gratuitously shed clothes, but really I kind of think he’s just a pervert. I mean, I sat through Matador, Tie me Up Tie Me Down and All About My Mother with varying degrees of confusion, boredom, nausea and, in the case of Matador, outright disgust but these films were all pre-2000. He seems to be getting better- and he still hasn’t abandoned his artistic integrity by allowing Penelope Cruz to keep her clothes on.
Anyhow, back to the point. This film is arguably the Spanish filth merchant’s finest hour. It shouldn’t be, because it’s basically about 2 weirdos bonding over a vegetable garden (I know that’s offensive, but I don’t care), but it is. It’s poignant, well acted and surprisingly good.
One of only 2 Almodovar films I actually like, but they’re both simply superb.
8 ) Baader-Meinhof Complex (2008 Germany)
Fuck me. What a film.
Given that the Red Army Faction are now a mostly embarrasing footnote in Germany’s history and almost completely forgotten now, this is a strange story to decide to make. However, it’s one that I think needs to be told- and I don’t mean the rise and fall of the RAF. Personally, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that Germany sweeps it under the carpet because there’s no doubt that Meinhoff et al were inhumanely treated when in custody, and it is kind of embarrasing that all of them killed themselves while in gaol.
This is, essentially, the tragic story of Ulrike Meinhof, a foolishly idealistic journalist, that falls in with the sociopathic Andreas Baader, his fanatical girlfriend Gudren Ensslin and rises to become one of the leaders of their idiotic revolutionary cell.
To be honest, Terrorists need to have proper goals. Seriously, “overthrow capitalism by robbing banks” is fucking nebulous, hypocritical and generally piss poor.
A strong story with some superb performances (notably Martina Gedeck as Meinhof and the spookily accurate looking Johanna Wokalek as Ensslin) there’s some superb comedy, good action and a tear-jerking tragic ending. Not to mention fucking loads of casual nudity.
If this is so good, why isn’t it higher? Well, because it’s fucking preachy. On several occasions this cuts away to the German security forces discussing the RAF and they always spout annoying crap about understanding the terrorists. This annoys me intensely. It’s a ham fisted attempt to be topical and typically left wing hand wringing crap. Let me give you a clue, writer dudes, you can’t reason with fanatics- especially fanatics with a nebulous and indefinable goal.
This is a superb film, and if it had cut that garbage, it could have been top 3.
7) Bad Education (2004 Spain)
This is Almodovar back on more familiar territory- sexual identity, snide digs at catholicism, abuse and melodramatic tawdriness. However, this is my favourite of his films.
Bad Education skillfully weaves a difficult fractured narrative and is underpinned by a frankly magnificent performance from Gael Garcia Bernal as Angel. This is Almodovar at his finest and if everything he made was like this, then I could probably not wince every time Mrs. Jarv mentions him.
Unfortunately he isn’t able to keep it up, so I’ve got a lifetime of watching Telemundo level drivel about heroin addled drag queens in a forlorn search for the priest that molested them/ mother that abandoned them/ redemption/ giant cock/ dead body nonsense (Starring Antonio Banderas as a sexually confused lunatic with a prostheic limb fetish) to look forward to.
Still, at least there will be some nudity in it.
6) Rec (2007 Spain)
This is my list, and if I want a small zombie movie to rank higher than the Critical Juggernaut Almodovar then I can have it. So there.
However, in all seriousness, this is a fucking good film. It’s exciting, scary and the first time I jumped in absolutely ages. The monster at the end is well designed, but the real reason it makes the list at this level is this:
This is the only film ever made that has a rational reason for continuing to film in the face of disaster. Blair Witch Project didn’t have it, Romero drew attention to the camera so many times in Diary of the Dead that I grew to despise every character, and Cloverfield didn’t have any reason for it at all, but here although they do have to hold it up, it’s for a reason- it’s the only way they can see.
If you must insist upon using this device, and I really would rather that they did not, then this is how you do it. Watching her fumble around in the dark on the camera’s night vision is a frightening experience.
Watch this one not the Hollywood remake which smells faintly of wee.
5) Downfall (2004- Germany)
The story of Hitler’s final days is not, I thought, one that particularly needed to be told. Sure, he’d gone completely loopy and was holed up in his bunker contemplating suicide as the Allied troops closed in.
However, having said that, there’s one reason to watch this film- Bruno Ganz, who gives the most mesmerising performance as The Fuhrer and I personally would nominate this as performance of the decade- in any language. It’s that fucking good.
The critic’s quotes on the cover of DVD’s are usually bullshit but this one is spot on- this is a masterful achievement.
4) Pan’s Labrynth (Spain 2006)
Practically nothing more needs to be said about this film- apart from one thing that I will note- I found the “real world” sections far more interesting than the fantasy of it. A great film.
And although it was Mexico’s entry into the Oscar’s this is a Spanish fucking film- I know it was a 3 way production (including the US) and the director is Mexican, but it’s set in Spain, has a Spanish cast and deals with a very specific bit of Spanish history. So it’s Spanish.
3) Banlieue 13 (2004 France)
Huzzah! Crazy Parisiens bounce off buildings and kick some ass!
I only saw this for the first time a few months ago, and I have to say, it was great. A kinetic blend of crazy stunts and brutal action, I loved this film so much that I’ve bought it.
Cyril Raffaelli’s as slippery as an eel and seems to have no respect for the laws of gravity.
It’s a clever action movie married to an all too plausible dystopian future and well worth a couple of hours of anyone’s time. To say I loved it is an understatement. I may watch the sequel later. Hope it’s as good.
2) Let The Right One In (2009-Sweden)
A fucking depressing film, this one.
Alright, so it’s a thinly veiled metaphor for paedo grooming, and yes, so much of it is frankly a bit icky, but there’s no denying it’s power. Just for Christ’s sake watch it in a happy mood.
It’s not the most frightening film ever made, but the central performances of the children and the tragedy that’s unfolding in front of you is undeniably gripping from start to finish. It’s an all round sterling effort and one of the most heart-rending films of the last 10 years. It’s relentlessly bleak and completely soul destroying.
How dare Hollywood remake it. How fucking dare they.
1) The Lives of Others (2006 Germany)
Having been rude about Hollywood earlier, I’m going to have to say that sometimes they do indeed get it right. This is a case in point.
When I first heard that this film from nowhere had beaten Pan’s for the Oscar I was stunned. However, once I saw it, there was no question about it. This heartbreaking film absolutely clobbers Del Toro’s effort.
Featuring another superb performance from Gedeck (even better than her BMC turn), this is a depressing yet ultimately uplifting film, and another one that made Mrs. Jarv cry. If I can recommend one film from this list, then this one is it- and it’s another that features in my definitive film of the decade.
And now- the film that can frankly stay in Europe and a plague on everyone involved:
Amelie (2001- France)
Just fuck off you nauseating saccharine bitch.
Right, see you next time for Britain and the Commonwealth (re- Australia).