2012 in film was a year defined by ambiguity and ambivalence. I don’t mean that to sound disparaging – on the contrary, some of the most engaging films of the year are defined by their elusiveness, their unwillingness to define the statements they are trying to make. Thusly many of the year’s biggest films have been met with considerable divisiveness amongst critics, and have left me perplexed. Whereas last year there were four or five films that blew off my head, more often than not this year I’ve left the cinema scratching it. It’ll take me a couple more viewings of Holy Motors and The Master and The Turin Horse before I can really feel that I can say definitively if they are the masterpieces that so many people see in them, but that’s a good thing – film should challenge and defy expectations, it should encourage dialogue and discussion.
It has also been one of the finest years for documentaries I can remember, taking on subjects as diverse as the economic crisis, Iran’s censorship laws, Chile’s painful history, and filmmaking itself, whilst still finding time to tell gripping real-life yarns like that of The Imposter with flair. It was a great year for genre film too, with The Cabin in the Woods, Premium Rush, The Raid, Sleepless Night and especially Dredd 3D all deserving honorable mentions. And while I thus far missed many of the films that have made other people’s lists – I am particularly sad about having missed Tabu, Barbara, Laurence Anyways, Sightseers and The Hunt – the films that do make it are all of them bold and daring efforts, many of them from first-time directors. Film may be dying, but cinema isn’t.