Top six films of 2013

A Touch of Sin There is a fury galvanising the newest movie by the great Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke: a rage at corruption, greed, and cultural destruction in the name of Chinese modernisation and globalisation. We are used to seeing a more contemplative, documentary-style of storytelling from Jia, whose previous films, including Platform and The World, are marvels of observation and accumulated small moments in the lives of ordinary people.


Inside Llewyn Davis Choosing the best movie of the year defies standards of analysis, or even logic. So, on a solid list of outstanding titles of equal merit, number one ought to be reserved for an expression of unquantifiable love. Hence, for this list-maker, it’s Inside Llewyn Davis. The setting is the early folk music scene in 1960s New York City, and the protagonist is an exasperating piece of work who makes messes in the lives of those around him.



American HustleRude, wily and bursting with brio, David O Russell’s portrait of a late 1970s American scam can pass, if you squint, as an inside-out version of Inside Llewyn Davis: While Joel and Ethan Coen find inspiration in the lives of men for whom being pretty good at what they do is no guarantee of success, Russell is jazzed by the lives of men – and one adventuress of a woman who barrel ahead on gusts of confidence in their own lies. 


The Great BeautyIn this gorgeous swoon of a movie about his homeland Italy, filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino salutes his countryman Federico Fellini’s masterpiece La Dolce Vita. But the director, who captured Italian rottenness of a particularly political kind in Il Divo, swans and meanders on a tender, rueful and bemused tour of beauty and damnation very much of his own distinctive making. 


Before MidnightIt has been 18 years since audiences first encountered Ethan Hawke as Jesse, a young American traveler abroad, and Julie Delpy as Céline, a young French woman who would change his fate on an all-night prowl through Vienna, in Before Sunrise. It has been nine years since we reunited with them in Before Sunset. (They are the fictional equivalent of the living souls we have watched grow up in Michael Apted’s seminal Up series of films.)


Her Man meets Operating System. Man loves OS. Man loses OS. Set in a brave new world just near enough to be recognisable and just beyond reach enough to be eerie, Spike Jonze’s singular, and singularly beautiful, futuristic romantic drama probes deep philosophical issues about connection, loneliness, sexual expression and the boundaries between human and artificial intelligence.


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