I did not see all of the films that played at the 49th New York Film Festival
, but I saw enough of them to be able to put together a top ten list. Here are the best films from this year's festival.
1. The Skin I Live In. Grand guignol horror and stylish melodrama from Pedro Almodóvar, with an outstanding debut by newcomer Elena Anaya and an amazing comeback performance by Antonio Banderas.
2. Shame. Director Steve McQueen's analysis of a 30 something's addiction to sex, with an unforgettably explosive performance by Michael Fassbender that goes from sexy beast to heartbreaking. In only his second film, McQueen has managed to capture the inner soul of sex.
3. Carnage. Roman Polanski's claustrophobic examination of four contemporary educated adults and how their seething anger rises to the surface when confronted with the problems caused by two of their children. Delicious performance by the quartet of stars: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and an amazing John C. Reilly.
4. Ben-Hur. An incredibly beautiful and pristine restoration of William Wyler's 1959 classic. The film has never looked so good, and the grander than life emotions of the story play beautifully on the big screen.
5. A Dangerous Method. The volatile relationship of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung via director David Cronenberg, who has left behind the world of horror in this film and decided to explore a truly scary terrain: the landscape of the mind. A memorable performance by Keira Knightly.
6. A Separation. The breakup of a married couple and the repercussions it has on the people surrounding their orbit. An acting and directorial gem from director Asghar Farhadi, and one of the best films to emerge from Iran in years. Despite our many cultural differences, the film shows the universality of a marriage on the rocks.
7. My Week With Marilyn. A sunny tale of showbiz legends Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier, via director Simon Curtis. Fluffy entertainment featuring great performances from Eddie Redmayne, Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh.
8. Melancholia. An examination of the mental breakdown of a recent bride as the world is threaten by total annihilation. An enigmatic story from Lars von Trier with tour-de-force cinematography, memorable Richard Wagner music, and a knockout performance by Kirsten Dunst.
9. Tahrir: Liberation Square. A cinéma vérité documentary about the recent revolution in Egypt. Stefano Savona's work puts you right in the middle of the action, his camera uncannily acts as a magnet that draws forth the events right to you, and you right to the middle of history.
10. The Artist. A loving Valentine to classic Hollywood movies. French director Michel Hazanavicius's silent film is a lot of fun to watch and an audience crowd-pleaser. It features many fine performances by a French and American cast, and one canine actor that almost steals the whole show.