The second year of the pandemic has left cinema (understood as a feature film from theaters or platforms) immersed in a double movement of contradictory speeds: industrially, the paradigm shift from theaters to platforms is rapidly consolidating; artistically, the forms stagnate.
The recent worldwide blockbuster of Spider-Man: No Way Home has at least restored the confidence that the blockbuster they will continue to have their place in theaters while the adult public indulges in home consumption. But whatever happens to the future of the industry, the question is whether cinema, as art, it will definitely launch itself into the pure narrative infected by the series and will discard its most poetic aspect. Some of the best movies of 2021 show these trends.
With the modest ambition to inaugurate a modern mythology, Julia Ducournau turned the Cannes Film Festival upside down and has connected with her time like no other film in 2021 through Alexa (Agathe Rousselle): a serial killer pregnant with a car who flees by changing her gender and finds love by posing as her missing son of a firefighter.
Discursive film in its accumulation of themes, shreds concepts such as masculine, feminine or family and addresses the fluidity of gender, transhumanism, and, essentially, love. The voluptuous style of the French filmmaker hits the retina and reminds, once again, that there is only originality within tradition: everything that is not gender is plagiarism.
The power of the dog
Platforms such as Netflix or AppleTV continue to be a budget haven for authors, although select and limited to already established filmmakers. An example from 2021 is the works of Paolo Sorrentino (It was the hand of God), Adam McKay (Don’t look up), or the Coen brothers (Macbeth’s tragedy), but in the American awards season the chosen one is The power of the dog, from the New Zealander Jane Campion.
Murky, pinpoint drama, set in the 1925 post-western Montana forge, is one of the most intelligent versions of a central theme in contemporary cinema: the demolition of toxic masculinity. Adaptation of the novel Thomas Savage, the film simmerly subverts the power relationship between two complex characters embroidered by Benedict Cumberbatch Y Kodi Smit-McPhee. All wrapped in a perfect balance between his dark lyrics and dramatic conciseness.
The big studios continue after their holy grail: the great production that brings together young and old audiences in theaters. The great hit of 2021, was Eternals, the foray of Oscar winner Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) in the Marvel universe that did not convince anyone.
On the opposite side, Denis Villeneuve succeeded in Dune the closest thing to that squaring the circle and confirming himself as a specialist in vampirizing and packaging modern classics.
West Side Story
The pandemic delayed Steven Spielberg’s version of the famous musical by a year. The film will be remembered, for now, for being one of the filmmaker’s few box office stumbles, but above all for being the quintessence of his virtues as a gifted narrated.
Filming West Side Story hIt has been almost a sentimental whim for Spielberg who has respected Robert Wise’s 1961 film as a diamond that hardly needs to be carved, but rather pampered.
Drive my car
In 2018 it was Hirokazu Kore-eda with A family affair and in 2019 Bong Joon Ho with Parasites. Every year, an Asian film stands out at major festivals and on the best of the year lists. In 2021, the leading role returns to Japan with Ryusuke Hamaguchi, awarded in Berlin with The roulette of fantasy and fortune and in Cannes with Drive my car, adaptando a Murakami.
As with the South Korean Hong-Sang Soo, Hamaguchi’s cinema is purely confessional and his cinema, which is based on Éric Rohmer, relies so much on words that it is not unreasonable to argue that his work is more about literature than cinema.
The Velvet Underground
Revisionist documentaries are one of today’s star audiovisual content, often twists and turns that chew the same bone and present in a renewed way what the viewer already knew, especially by reviewing events and cultural idols of the twentieth century.
For his formal bet, he unleashes The velvet undergorund, where Todd Haynes tackles the complexity of the fleeting line-up of Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Moe Tucker, and captures some of the band’s fertile atmosphere through its connection to the cinema of Andy Warhol and The Factory satellite filmmakers like Jonas Mekas. or Paul Morrissey.
Don’t look up
In the era of social media, humor has become one of the main features of communication and it is perhaps no coincidence that satires such as Parasites The The good boss find recognitions that previously seemed forbidden to comedy.
Humor always laughs at something and, therefore, has a moral position and the best example of all this is Adam Mckay, director of Don’t look up, where he joyfully reviews our blindness to climate change, fake news and public opinion, political populism and the pseudo-philosophy of Silicon Valley. With a broad brush at times, but with one of the best deals in years.
That, in addition to Titanium, The other film celebrated as ‘truly original’ in 2021 is the work of a 61-year-old filmmaker says a lot about a certain general stagnation of the film scene, and above all, that the few authors who have the budget to capture personal universes began their careers in another time.
Leos Carax achieves a musical milestone with his pop opera conceived by Sparks and starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. There is more cinema in Anette’s first minute chained game than in 99.9% of the films of the year.
Who prevents it
With permission from Parallel mothers, the Spanish film of the year is the intimate but monumental portrait of Jonás Trueba’s adolescence. It is difficult to think of another film other than this work that walks with total naturalness on the edge of documentary and fiction to record the passage of a group of young people to maturity for five years.
Its radical independence from any formal or industrial ties has cornered it to an unfair second plane even in the cinematographic awards that sum up the year, incapable of avoiding the labels that the film destroys.
The French Chronicle
No one exemplifies postmodernism better than Wes Anderson and his cannibalizing cinema that applies a chic filter to all styles of the past. In The French Chronicle, he nostalgically revisits the power of written narratives. Although Anderson may be repetitive and the variations of his Cartesian fantasies infinite, the film recalls in its plot that the search for originality never ends.