8 – Dear Comrades!
Based on true events and shot in black and white using a largely non-professional cast, former Tarkovsky collaborator Andrei Konchalovsky focusses on two days in 1962 in a small town in the Soviet Union. Those 48 hours follow staunch party member Lyuda (Julia Vysotskaya), whose communist ideals are challenged to the core following events in Novocherkassk. Pointedly satirical yet cleverly understated.
Excellently scripted and wonderfully played by all four of the main actors, Mass is a powerful piece of cinema examining raw emotions and important themes in modern America. A thoughtful, emotional, and absorbing drama which is quite extraordinary in its sensitivity and insight, as a first piece of directing and writing from Fran Kranz, it’s impressive.
6 – Mads Mikkelsen
OK, hands up, this is a little bit of a cheat but it’s my list and I’ll do what I want.
Another Round won a raft of awards in 2021, including the Oscar for Best International Feature, and it’s easy to see why. The four men at the centre of the story decide to experiment with the theory that being ever so slightly tipsy is the way humans are supposed to live their lives, and of course, chaos ensues. But the comical premise is not really what the film is about, and the joy of drinking is merely a sticking plaster for other issues. From the start, the excellent writing means that the relationship between the four men is already established. Then there are two different but outstanding performances from Thomas Bo Larsen and Mads Mikkelsen (although that should be no surprise from either of them). Both convey inner demons and disappointments with a simple look or the taking of a breath. It’s a film with equal measures of joy and despair forming a delicious cocktail to be enjoyed responsibly.
But I also want to piggyback another Mads Mikkelsen vehicle here, which is Riders of Justice. Returning soldier Mikkelsen leads a raggedy collection of computer nerds and statisticians on a mission to exact justice for the death of his wife while neglecting the needs of his teenage daughter. Riders of Justice treads a remarkably thin line between emotional drama, action thriller, and dark comedy, and balances everything perfectly. The humour is absurd without being outlandish, and the whole thing is extremely satisfying to watch – recommended Mikkelsen double-bill.