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2011: Mysteries, Mayhem and Margaret | reviews, news & interviews

2011: Mysteries, Mayhem and Margaret

2011: Mysteries, Mayhem and Margaret

In a year of global high drama, what of the dramas?

'The world's a stage': José Afonso Pimentel in 'Mysteries of Lisbon'

Many have dismissed 2011 as cinematically something of a disappointment, but while close inspection may have identified more cubic zirconia than bona fide diamonds, the year glittered nevertheless. The showstopping Mysteries of Lisbon was undoubtedly the real deal - what a teasing, sumptuous and gorgeously strange film that was (even with a running time in excess of four hours). Iranian domestic drama, A Separation, was similarly sublime - if less grand - and French silent (yes, silent) comedy The Artist (pictured below right) had hard-faced movie scribes grinning idiotically at the year’s close.

I loved the brutal efficiency of Aussie crime ensemble Animal Kingdom, which dealt with a gang of armed robbers at the end of the line, as well as the insanely exciting, ultra-violent samurai flick 13 Assassins. Then there was the powerful and poignant Margaret, which provoked a righteous frenzy when its distributor gave it a desultory release, starting it on a single screen. Honourable mentions too for outstanding documentaries Pina and Cave of Forgotten Dreams (finally 3D to shout about!), dinky dazzlers Meek’s Cutoff, Love Like Poison and Las Acacias, the ambitious The Tree of Life, Bedlamite ballet Black Swan and the hysterical Bridesmaids.

British cinema has had an astonishing year. For me the stand-outs were Archipelago, Weekend, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and We Need to Talk About Kevin. However, the list could really go on to include: Jane Eyre, NEDS, Kill List, Submarine, Attack the Block and Tyrannosaur, as well as the perhaps over-praised The King’s Speech. There was plenty of the usual quality kitchen sink and period dramas but this year they were joined by films featuring out-there horror, middle-class strife, gay love, idiosyncratic comedy, sci-fi and spies. The London Film Festival once again threw up some exciting international and home-grown prospects for next year’s calendar, not least Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Shame, The Kid with a Bike and Martha Marcy May Marlene.

What a year it was for TV too. European crime drama is now a beloved staple of our screens with Danish knitwear thriller The Killing and French police corruption fest Spiral entering their triumphant second and third series respectively and the Italians getting in on the act with “killer” serial Romanzo Criminale (pictured above), which also featured this year's finest selection of perms and moustaches. Furthermore, the bravura second series of Luther proved the British haven’t forgotten that crime drama is often what we do best. 

Towards the tail of the year Fresh Meat tickled as it brought those inebriated student days cascading back, and Misfits survived the much decried exit of Nathan (Robert Sheehan) by cannily casting This Is England’s Joseph Gilgun as his replacement. It soon became a case of Nathan who? And speaking of This Is England, it came back with a crash and a sob in This Is England 88. US drama was reliably radiant too: the wonderful Friday Night Lights came to an end in its fifth season, Boardwalk Empire strutted onto our screens and, as True Blood continued its reign of terror, Larry David kept up his idiosyncratic assault on common decency in Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Finally, fleeting mentions for terrific novels The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt and Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch, PJ Harvey’s humdinger of an album Let England Shake and the much-anticipated release of The Complete Smiths.

If the future is this blinding then roll on 2012.

2011 Highlight: Mysteries of Lisbon – enthralling.

2011 Letdown:  The Deep Blue Sea – annoying.

2012 Recommendation: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia / Shame – well, you’ll have to wait and see…

Watch the trailer for Mysteries of Lisbon

The powerful and poignant Margaret provoked a righteous frenzy when its distributor gave it a desultory release

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