2. The Mitchells vs. the Machines
The most cathartic emotional release I’ve experienced watching a film this year was in front of Sony Animation’s The Mitchells vs the Machines, the most joyous celebration of family dysfunction on film since Little Miss Sunshine.
Aspiring filmmaker Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) is looking to her future at film school, leaving behind her caring but smothering family in the process. But wouldn’t you know it, her family taking her on a circuitous road trip to college coincides with a worldwide machine uprising forcing the Mitchell clan to put aside their differences and save their planet.
Much like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Mitchells looks like no other big screen animation. There is such a level of detail and numerous background gags crammed into every frame, characters and environments looking like they have been painted in rough watercolours and utilising layers of both 2D and 3D effects. The rate at which the laughs come, the energy and dynamism of the animated action, and the way in which Mike Rianda’s film can turn on a dime from a non-sequitur spewing laugh-fest to an honest and earnest deconstruction of family dynamics is truly impressive. It boasts one of the most tear-inducing near-silent montages since UP! and one of the funniest ways ever to kill evil robots on film (“Dog-pig-dog-pig-LOAF OF BREAD!”).
To describe 2021 Palme d’Or winner Titane in too much detail before everyone is able to see it is to do audiences a disservice. Julia Ducournau’s second feature film following the sublime teen cannibal drama Raw is unlike anything else you’ll see this year and makes every other auteur who doesn’t manage to successfully juggle about seven different genres, countless themes and at least two realities look like they aren’t even trying.
An exotic dancer (Agathe Rousselle) goes on the run following a violent series of events and forms a bond with a firefighter (Vincent Lindon) grieving for his lost son and terrified to be past his physical prime.
All the best films stay with you long after watching, extreme images provoke an initial reaction then linger on in your mind, and the characters and ideas of the best stories hold the power to change you. Titane is definitely a case of showing, not telling, and what a primal response this particular show provokes. It’s about many things beyond what actually happens in its plot, and most of that is up for debate. Humanity has a weird relationship with technology and many of us spend years trying to work out who we are and putting on a show for the benefit of others.
It’s a fascinatingly illusive, shocking but also weirdly emotional film, Ducournau confidently surfing waves on contradictory combinations of genre and tone – one moment we’re experiencing a weird, lurid lap dance at an underground automotive show, the next a room full of young people are being brutally offed just as would occur in a slasher movie, then shortly after you’re gifted a quiet and intimate moment of unconditional love between father and son. A lesser filmmaker couldn’t possibly pull this off, but Julia Ducournau has already proven to be a mischievous and provocative master of her craft.
Recommended for you: 10 Best Films 2020 – Sam Sewell-Peterson
Here’s hoping the next few months keep on serving up the kinds of films we love, keep our passion for cinema fed, and that the lights of our second homes stay on for the foreseeable future.