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Monday, December 11, 2017


(Sandra Huller & Peter Simonischek in “Toni Erdmann”)

Report by Patrick Compton

Losing the exclusive Cinema Nouveau site at Gateway was the biggest disappointment of the year, something that unfortunately outweighed the pleasure gained by the relatively few good films that reached Durban in 2017.

Marketing “art” films is a particularly important function when the increasingly dominant majority of movies produced wouldn’t test the intellectual acumen of a silkworm. Throwing in a few “Nouveau” screens in a haphazard manner that get lost in the mix of commercial screens is not the way to go to encourage Durban’s already thin art movie crowd.

Some grey hairs will remember that, years ago, the Labia cinema in Cape Town twice attempted to set up a branch in Durban (in Durban North and opposite Robert Mauvis’s St Geran restaurant in the city). Those worthy experiments each lasted for about a year before folding for lack of patronage, so I suppose we deserve what little we have now. I still fantasise about what I would love to do to fill the gap by establishing a repertory independent cinema, though I would have to win the European Lotto to make it happen.

Ok, whinge over. Here are my top 20 movies of the year, although you have to bear in mind that I missed a fair number of films, for one reason or another, along the way. In general, I was able to go to the movies once a week, which occasionally meant sacrificing a movie I would otherwise have wanted to see. Two of those were Baby Driver and Logan Lucky, and there were also some that only paid a fleeting one-week visit to the city because Ster-Kinekor didn’t persevere with them.

So here goes.

20. Stronger. Jake Gyllenhaal and Miranda Richardson give strong performances as the victim and his wayward mother in this movie about the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing.

19. Hacksaw Ridge. Mel Gibson’s powerful, extremely bloody World War 2 drama about a religious pacifist who served as an unarmed medic in the Pacific.

18. Battle of the Sexes. Bobby Riggs v Billie Jean King. Excellent performances by Steve Carell as Riggs, Emma Stone as King and Andrea Riseborough as her lover.

17. War for the Planet of the Apes. Impressive third instalment of the Apes reboot series.

16. The Sense of an Ending. Sensitive adaptation of the award-winning Julian Barnes novel.

15. Wind River. The writer-director of the marvellous Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan, returns with this taut neo-Western murder mystery set in a wintry Indian reservation. Good central performances from Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen.

14. My Cousin Rachel. Fine adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier novel with Rachel Weisz in great form.

13. Jackie. Natalie Portman gives a brilliant performance as the widow of president John F Kennedy in the immediate aftermath of his assassination.

12. Alien Covenant. Ridley Scott back to form with this latest rousing edition of the Alien series.

11. Dunkirk. Christopher Nolan’s stunning rendition of the 1940 “miracle”. Best seen at IMAX.

10. Their Finest. Delightful comedy-drama about making propaganda movies in World War 2. Directed by Lone Scherfig and featuring fine performances from Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin and Bill Nighy.

9. I Daniel Blake. Ken Loach’s moving, angry drama about the English social benefits jungle, with Dave Johns giving a strong central performance.

8. The Salesman. Intriguing film about marital discord in Iran directed by Asghar Farhadi. Influenced by the famous Arthur Miller play.

7. Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman. A saucy story about the origin of the comic book heroine featuring a riveting performance from Rebecca Hall.

6. The Big Sick. A fresh, witty slice of romcom featuring the tangled relations of a Muslim standup comic and his secret, mainly comatose girlfriend.

5. T2 Trainspotting. Danny Boyle’s male midlife crisis follow-up to the famous heroin movie.

4. Detroit. Kathryn Bigelow’s intense 50th anniversary rendition of the Algiers Motel incident during the 1967 Detroit riots.

3. Manchester By The Sea. Kenneth Lonergan’s searing drama featuring a standout performance from Casey Affleck.

2. Blade Runner 2049. Like Dunkirk, Denis Villeneuve’s visually extravagant sequel to Ridley Scott’s original truly fills the (IMAX) screen.

Toni Erdmann. Maren Ade’s wonderful, bittersweet German comedy featuring outstanding performances from Sandra Huller and Peter Simonischek as a fraught daughter-father pairing.

Mother! I simply didn’t “get” Darren Aronofsky’s hysterical psychological horror movie. Absolutely ’orrible! – Patrick Compton