A Burning Hot Summer: Roughly 700 films open in New York City annually. Philadelphia gets about a fourth of those. So, we miss some gems, although some—including four of these—briefly played festivals. In no way, shape or form did Philly get the latest from French minimalist legend Philippe Garrel (Regular Lovers). An uncharacteristically almost-accessible portrait of a young man (the director’s forever-floppy-haired son, Louis) and his eroding relationship with an older lover (Monica Bellucci), it, like the even better J’entends Plus La Guitare (1991), may or may not be loosely based on the elder Garrel’s on-again-off-again fling with Nico.
It’s Such a Beautiful Day: The best film of last year is actually three shorts by Don Hertzfeldt, the stick figure animator who refuses to use computers and whose work has been getting darker and more serious—but also greater—since his more overtly comic early works (Billy’s Balloon, Rejected). An Everyman is diagnosed with a fatal disease that eats away at his brain, and Hertzfeldt gets inside his decaying mind and expresses the wonders of existence with little more than line squiggles, 70-year-old special effects and spot-on observational writing.
Neighboring Sounds: Antonioni with a deadpan sense of humor and the occasional batshit sequence, the narrative feature debut of Kleber Mendonça Filho observes the uneasy evolution of a middle-class Brazilian city, where classism remains an issue.
Planet of Snail: The world according to a South Korean couple, one deaf and blind, the other pint-sized due to a spinal condition.
Tchoupitoulas: 2012 was a good year for documentaries that managed to worm themselves into the comfort zones of young subjects. Only the Young hangs with teens in a Southern California desert town, while filmmakers Bill and Turner Ross (45365) give us a tour of New Orleans nightlife through the eyes of African-American kids too young to patronize and enjoy many of the sights they come across. Like the film’s viewers, they can (mostly) only watch.
Whores’ Glory: Philly narrowly missed the latest from Michael Glawogger, who travels the world with a camera, filming its craziest sights. 2005’s Workingman’s Death zeroed in on five of the planet’s shittiest jobs. Whores’ Glory finds a sixth in Thailand, Bangladesh and Mexico, observing unblinkingly the tedium of the world’s oldest profession.