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CINEUROPA

Cineuropa's Best of 2023

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- The results are in for the poll of Cineuropa’s journalists. Which are the best European works of the year?

Cineuropa's Best of 2023

One year after our previous Best of (read Cineuropa's Best of 2022 here), a new festival cycle has left us with some real gems that will be difficult to get out of our minds. They comprise new works from long-standing masters (including one who hadn't offered up a feature film for a whopping 30 years) alongside movies from new voices, which have brought new points of view to the landscape, as well as new meeting points where different narratives, formats and reflections converge ― all led by European festival winners that are sweeping awards around the world, with some even becoming box-office hits. In a climate in which cinemas are seeing their audiences return and are finding a way to hold their own against platform content, what more could we ask for?

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The results are in for the poll of Cineuropa’s journalists. Which European (co-)produced works world-premiered this year are the best, according to our team?

25 The Teachers' Lounge [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: İlker Çatak
interview: Leonie Benesch
film profile
]
, Ilker Çatak (Germany)

"The set-up of this story is simple, and a “snowball effect” narrative mechanism will manage to keep viewers hooked. And, in contrast with this, Çatak touches in a very well-balanced fashion upon other complex issues that one can find in many school environments all around the world, such as respect for privacy, the discrimination of minorities, bullying, the role of overbearing parents and, more broadly, the boundaries of the teachers’ efforts." (Davide Abbatescianni)

(Read full review)
(Read interview with Ilker Çatak)

24 Here [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Bas Devos
film profile
]
, Bas Devos (Belgium)

"Can a lucky encounter change our fate? In Here, Bas Devos sketches out his poetic, highly pictorial, urban tableaux as if suspended outside of time, and tinged with a contagious humanism which might push us to see the things (and the people) we didn’t previously see, differently." (Aurore Engelen)

(Read full review)
(Read interview with Bas Devos)

23 Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, Thien An Pham (Vietnam/Singapore/France/Spain)

"Thien’s work evokes (or happily borrows from) recent East Asian greats like Bi Gan, as it follows protagonist Thien on epic-duration moped shots, and Hong Sang-soo, for a climactic sequence that tilts into fantasy wish fulfilment. Its command of technique risks an imbalance with the simple A-to-B progression of the story, imparting a hypnotic sense of drift, but evoking the analogy of a small knob of butter spread thinly on a large piece of toast." (David Katz)

(Read full review)

22 On the Adamant [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Nicolas Philibert
film profile
]
, Nicolas Philibert (France/Japan)

"Without ever masking the wandering and delirious thoughts these patients experience, the film paints a highly respectful and, at times, poignant portrait, which also makes us smile. Philibert’s is a supple and natural approach, both methodical and poetic, which demonstrates great human and cinematographic understanding and which smoothly and modestly establishes contact in an environment where you have to find the right keys to connect." (Fabien Lemercier)

(Read full review)
(Read interview with Nicolas Philibert)

21 1489 [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
, Shoghakat Vardanyan (Armenia)

"A shockingly raw and intimate film about the pain of uncertainty the director's family was going through after her brother disappeared in the third Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) war. Produced with almost no budget, without taking part in any international development workshops or co-production markets, the film shot up to win the top prize at IDFA." (Vladan Petkovic)

19 Daaaaaali! [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
, Quentin Dupieux (France)

"As the film comes to an end, you are grateful for the madness. As with every one of Dupieux’s films, it has to be seen to be believed. Don’t try to explain the joke." (Marta Bałaga)

(Read full review)

= Music [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, Angela Schanelec (Germany/France/Serbia)

"What this reviewer found most appealing about the movie was its meditation on fate. Unlike in the Sophocles version of the myth, here, a tragedy is not revealed to its key figure; he is a victim of malevolent forces and doesn’t understand why. In today’s culture, where control and influence – whether real or illusionary – are fetishised, Schanelec’s vision is refreshing, even though it is always clouded one way or another." (Ola Salwa)

(Read full review)

18 Smoke Sauna Sisterhood [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Anna Hints
film profile
]
, Anna Hints (Estonia/France/Iceland)

"The candour of the protagonists is often moving, and their stories are heart-rending. Indeed, as much as it is an examination of the smoke-sauna experience, it is also a staunchly feminist document. With many of the stories of female subjugation, the underlying subtext concerns a society that still has much to learn about gender equality. But there is also a togetherness, a bond that offers hope for a brighter tomorrow for a new generation." (Laurence Boyce)

(Read full review)
(Read interview with Anna Hints)

17 How to Have Sex [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Molly Manning Walker
film profile
]
, Molly Manning Walker (UK/Greece/Belgium)

"It’s so easy to forget how hard it really is, being a girl. Luckily, festival films keep on reminding us, bringing back long-buried memories of drinking way too many cheap shots and – shudder – White Parties. Especially if one happened to grow up during the 1990s. Molly Manning Walker’s assured feature debut really feels like a blast from the past." (Marta Bałaga)

(Read full review)
(Read interview with Molly Manning Walker)

15 The Rye Horn [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jaione Camborda
film profile
]
, Jaione Camborda (Spain/Portugal/Belgium)

"A keen eye for detail sets the tone of The Rye Horn, a powerful and intimate drama that revolves around motherhood and women’s right to decide on matters regarding their body and their destiny. This gives clear signs of how respectfully the film deals with the lives and the spaces it portrays, lives and spaces that have not been shown on the big screen very often, and which get their sweet revenge for this thanks to the film's splendour." (Cristóbal Soage)

(Read full review)
(Read interview with Jaione Camborda)

= La Mesías [+see also:
series review
trailer
series profile
]
, Javier Ambrossi and Javier Calvo (Spain) (series)

"So much can be said about La Mesías, and it’s all good. The work of the entire cast is spectacular, and there are more than enough elements to justify us slapping an “excellent” label on this production. In short, the series represents the consecration of two filmmakers who had nothing at all to prove but who - just in case they did - have now silenced those who put them down on account of their predilection for the less highly regarded side of pop culture." (Cristóbal Soage)

(Read full review)

14 The Promised Land [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, Nikolaj Arcel (Denmark/Germany/Sweden)

"It may all sound very “classical”, but it’s far from unoriginal or uninspired. They say that the devil is in the details, and here, the solid writing and performances are full of nuances and elements that imbue it with great emotional and psychological depth." (Davide Abbatescianni)

(Read full review)

13 About Dry Grasses [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
film profile
]
, Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Turkey/France/Germany/Sweden)

"Nuri Bilge Ceylan is an expert in the art of keeping us at a distance while drip-feeding us tiny nuggets of information that allow us to make sense of the environment and the characters in a realistic and utterly genuine tone, before abruptly plunging right to the source, into those grey areas where people’s real motivations and the most ordinary of acts take on the proportions of controversial debates. Here, he helms a sprawling work that is enthralling in its capacity to capture and reflect on life." (Fabien Lemercier)

(Read full review)
(Read interview with Nuri Bilge Ceylan)

12 Close Your Eyes [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, Víctor Erice (Spain/Argentina)

"Víctor Erice's absolute love of cinema is present in more or less every frame of the probably trimmable 169-minute playing time, for which Mr E is wholly pardoned. After all this time, he certainly deserves the chance to spread out a bit." (Jan Lumholdt)

(Read full review)

11 Passages [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, Ira Sachs (France)

"The film is irresistible on a moment-to-moment basis, but Sachs also builds up with breathtaking grace a real and believable arc for these three people at a crossroads. Mismatched desires and expectations can be funny, but they can also be heartbreaking, and what could have been a reassuringly mundane comedy of manners about people experimenting with different lifestyles turns out to be a bittersweet tale of great hopes, great sex, painful disappointments and difficult decisions." (Elena Lazic)

(Read full review)

10 Afire [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Christian Petzold
film profile
]
, Christian Petzold (Germany)

"This one feels fresh and vital, owing a large part of its novelty to the throbbing quartet of actors who fuel and contrast with one another, as well as melding into each other. However, the most prominent feature is Petzold’s command of tone and emotional flow. His characters live and breathe, but they truly come alive in their relationships: a sense of community to counteract isolation, togetherness to overcome the despair of writer’s block. Inspiration comes flooding in, water ebbs and flows, and flames flicker when one becomes two, three and four." (Savina Petkova)

(Read full review)
(Read interview with Christian Petzold)

9 Orlando, My Political Biography [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Paul B Preciado
film profile
]
, Paul B Preciado (France)

"Between initial impressions of his character and social complications, an obligatory visit to a psychiatrist and a quest for testosterone, a descent into darkness, sexual transition, and the transphobic nature of institutions and identity papers, Paul B Preciado extrapolates Virginia Woolf’s tale with intellectual agility and cinematographic creativity. He throws himself into his endeavour wholeheartedly, hitting the target and ultimately offering up an artisanal, philosophical, modern, and highly appealing vehicle for his activism." (Fabien Lemercier)

(Read full review)
(Read interview with Paul B Preciado)

8 The Beast [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Bertrand Bonello
film profile
]
, Bertrand Bonello (France)

"At once perfectly direct in its adventures (a portrait of a woman dancing between the unique and the multiple), deeply metaphysical in its suggestions and a mirror of the organised chaos threatening humanity, The Beast is a cinematic voyage, a first-rate hypnotic immersion where float the spirits in particular of Lynch, Ophüls and Kubrick. And to fully appreciate this extraordinary jewel, “simply close your eyes and open them again.”" (Fabien Lemercier)

(Read full review)
(Read interview with Bertrand Bonello)

7 Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Radu Jude
film profile
]
, Radu Jude (Romania/Luxembourg/France/Croatia)

"Having created an inspiring and reflective film from a mosaic of archival cinema, amateur footage, an endless stream of current affairs and daring opinions on the speculative media environment we are surrounded by, Jude once again proves himself to be one of the most original auteurs of our times. Moreover, his lack of fear at being controversial – or simply wrong – allows him to create cinema on an extraordinary scale that does not necessarily aim to please, but rather attempts to make sense of today's increasingly pointless way of life in the so-called Western world, which Romania, just like other Eastern Bloc countries, desperately craves to belong to." (Mariana Hristova)

(Read full review)
(Read interview with Radu Jude)

6 Samsara [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Lois Patiño
film profile
]
, Lois Patiño (Spain)

"The filmmaker invites the audience to take this geographical and spiritual journey, to confront the different perceptions offered by the film, both in the framework of reality and in the oneiric. It is this terrain, somewhere between the visible and the invisible, art and cinematography, the real and what is beyond death, is where Patiño has once again experimented, without fear of risk, with his new film." (Alfonso Rivera)

(Read full review)
(Read interview with Lois Patiño)

5 La Chimera [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, Alice Rohrwacher (Italy/Switzerland/France)

"Rohrwacher pursues her trademark documentary-derived cinema where the landscape reflects an evolving culture with its mutations and contradictions. With ultra-modern, anthropological instinct, the director depicts the relationship binding her characters to their environment, which they move in and with which they clash. Rohrwacher offers up historical and social memories, and defends the otherness of her marginalised characters." (Camillo De Marco)

(Read full review)

4 Fallen Leaves [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, Aki Kaurismäki (Finland/Germany)

"The Finnish director doesn’t change who he is here, making sure everyone gets what they came for: those one-liners (“Tough guys don’t sing”), people who “are depressed because they drink and who drink because they are depressed”, and references to cinema, stacked up on top of each other. Judging by the reactions at the screenings, this is exactly what everyone was looking for. Something simple, something smart. Something so easy to love." (Marta Bałaga)

(Read full review)

3 The Zone of Interest [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, Jonathan Glazer (UK/Poland/USA)

"Glazer has a habit of redefining the (sub-)genres of film, and he has done so once again with this Holocaust drama. The evil is far from horrific and inhuman, as we have been conditioned to seeing it. Viewed through the protagonists, it is not just banal; it is completely unaware of its own nature, making it (and them) appear almost innocent. However, the filmmaker himself is absolutely aware of who and what they were. Executed meticulously on every level, to the point of perfection, The Zone of Interest functions not just as a philosophical piece, but also as a genuinely scary horror movie, despite the almost total absence of anything unnatural and violent on screen. The evil itself does not appear horrific; the most horrendous thing is the normalisation of it." (Marko Stojiljković)

2 Poor Things [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Suzy Bemba
Q&A: Yorgos Lanthimos
film profile
]
, Yorgos Lanthimos (Ireland/UK/USA)

"The film may not be easy to describe, but the hybrid label of “gothic coming-of-age sex comedy” offers a gratifying approximation to what it tastes like. Lanthimos couldn’t have chosen a more suitable movie to strip of its political allegories: the corporeal challenges at the heart of Poor Things are not only overcome, but are overcome with gusto, empathy and a lot of caustic humour. Decisively bettering the source material by opting for a more fitting ending, the Greek director has made what seems his most hopeful film yet." (Savina Petkova)

(Read full review)
(Read Q&A with Yorgos Lanthimos)

1 Anatomy of a Fall [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Justine Triet
film profile
]
, Justine Triet (France)

"Wonderfully adept at judging atmospheres, Justine Triet paints a highly accurate picture depicting the blurred line between theories of manipulation and the sincerely complex nature of the case. Ensuring the credibility, accessibility and lifelike nature of her sophisticated and unique approach, the director delivers a very high-calibre work, also exploring, in echo, the fine line separating the real from the imaginary (the heroine is a writer), as well as the gaze of others, the influence of images and our protective instincts. These themes, alongside many others, are examined and intertwined in an enchanting film of prodigious richness, which is as subtle as it is powerful." (Fabien Lemercier)

(Read full review)
(Read interview with Justine Triet)

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