Top Five Films of 2009 - Special Report

By Moira Sullivan

I've traveled the earth to bring you the very best top five films of 2009: no they are not the films that mainstream critics trot out with the usual list of suspects. They may not be nominated for Oscars or Golden Globes, or People's Choice awards. They don't get promoted and promoted over and over again in the same venues. They are my favourite films from festivals in France, Italy and San Francisco and although they may not be coming to a theater near us, they did, they will, they are out on DVD and they are positively and absolutely accessible. Here goes:

First up is Rick Jacobson's Bitch Slap and it will be coming to San Francisco next month. Why? Because how often do you get to see three women beating the crap out of each other AND the bad guys, including the guy that tries to rescue one of them. How cool is it to see Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor as stunned nuns in a convent while one of the heroines gets its on with a novice. The stunts by Zoe Bell are too good to be true, which is why Bitch Slap 2 is in the works. This B movie female exploitation has reinvented the wheel.

From Udine, Italy, I absolutely fell in love with this one at the Far East Film Festival. In this gem of a venue many of the films from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia go straight to Udine Italy, and by pass North America. Chocolate was screened at the Far East Film Festival in April where Thai directors Panna Rittikrai and Praycha Pinkaew were guests. They have created a female action film about Zen, a young autistic girl played by JeeJa Yanin, takes on the underground world of her mother and pounces them to smithereens with Thai kick boxing. You have never seen a young woman fight like this, and there is no romance or male lead to share the limelight. To demonstrate that he and Panna are on the same wavelength in the burgeoning interest of martial arts by young women today Praycha says he is currently working on a new martial arts film with seven women. Now out on DVD and Blueray.

Made in U.S.A. is an elliptical fantasy film of intrigue set in an imaginary town called "Atlantic Cité" with a very young Marianne Faithful singing As Tears Go By. The film made in 1966 is an adaptation of a story by the American crime writer Donald Westlake and because Jean Luc Godard never paid him it has never been shown in the USA: so the Castro Theater screening this year in San Francisco was a must see!

Anna Karina plays Paula Nelson who is out to avenge the murder of Richard …. We don’t know what is last name is because whenever it is mentioned , phone plane or care noise drowns it out. Godard makes an inventive use of the camera and music, with colorful backgrounds and interesting shots, but the heavy hitter in the film is the trench-coated gun toting Paula Nelson. Every line spoken by Anna Karina is delivered with cool determination, "like a Walt Disney movie only with blood”, as it was billed.

Anna Karina will be the special guest of a tribute to her by the Mill Valley Film Festival in the spring.

From the Cannes Film Festival last year comes a film released this year made by the Belgian Dardenne Brothers who won the Best Screenplay award for Lorna’s Silence, the story of an Albanian woman who acquires Belgian citizenship by marrying a Russian Mafioso. If you have seen Jean Pierre and Luc's work you will love them for a hyperrealism in story, and the close intense relationship of the camera to the actors, and in this case, the extremely engaging story of a woman who is used by local thugs and manages to stay on top of the situation.

To top off my five choices, I want to single out the performance of Heath Ledger this year in The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, a new film by Terry Gilliam. It is not until Ledger comes on screen that the film actually gets off the ground. Ledger plays a young man who is hung for stealing from children, and although he died in the middle of the production, and his scenes were finished by Johnny Depp, Colin Farrel and Jude Law, Heath Ledger outshines them all.

© 2009 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 12/30/09
Movie Magazine International