It’s that time of the year again when it is time to list films from last year that should be avoided. There were many candidates for the 10 films with the highest DIsapproval factor in 2023, so I will begin with some dishonourable mentions that didn’t make the list. I have already written about some of them, including The Hypnosis, El Conde, Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything and Homecoming. Others include Angela Schanelec’s Music, Hong Sang-Soo’s In Water, and Marco Bellocchio’s Kidnapped. Let’s now dig into the real list of last year’s worst experiences in a cinema, for some reason or another.
10. Infinity Pool
I was never a fan of Brandon Cronenberg, but I was reeled in by some positive reviews (No, I never learn). I wrote in my review why the film should remain at the bottom of the pool.
9. Black Flies
Black Flies made its way into the Cannes competition, proving that there is some bizarre friendship between Cannes president Thierry Frémaux and Sean Penn, who played one of the leads in this formula film about two paramedics. The reviews were negative, and there were many jokes about the film during the festival, including the Twitter rumours that the director was called back for the awards night. I wouldn’t have been surprised if that had happened.
8. Perfect Days
One of several mysteries of last year’s Cannes competition was Wim Wenders’ Perfect Days. I wrote what I thought about this wafer-thin film in my disapproving review.
An unwritten rule at the Disapproval headquarters is that we try to avoid first features. Alas, sometimes it’s unavoidable. Ernst De Geer only made it to the dishonourable mention but Unmoored made it into the proper list. As I outlined in my review, the film is a hodgepodge of clichés (not least about Poland) and flat drama, supposedly bolstered by screaming dialogue in Swedish. Let this film be buried in the moor.
Watching the latest offering by Hirokazu Kore-Eda has been a chore for some time now. Monster didn’t change that pattern with its slight and sentimental story about two boys being friends. My review from Cannes explains that the only thing more annoying than the film was the critics who compared it with Rashomon.
5. May December
May December is the first Todd Haynes film I’ve seen in many years. The reason why may December surprise you, although it shouldn’t.
4. Dream Scenario
This is a particularly unfortunate case. Kristoffer Borgli, who made the excellently hard-hitting Sick of Myself1 Its success can be traced through all the people who rejected the film, decided to sell out to A24, and the outcome was boring and predictable, with some jokes thrown in, pretending to deal with cancel culture, while they actually poked fun at the usual targets. For some reason, I wrote about it here. I’m afraid this will not be the last A24 film on this list.
3. Beau is Afraid
When I attended the press screening for Beau is Afraid, an acquaintance looked at me and said, “Chris is afraid”. That had a grain of truth to it. At least I was afraid to waste three hours of my life on nonsense. Still, I was not prepared for what was waiting for me. Neither was he or his colleagues, who, after the film, pointed at each other to write the review. Seemingly, nobody wanted to touch it. I said then that I could write something just to trash it. I never did since I thought the consensus about the miserable and expensive failure was evident. Since then, I have seen people defending it and even loving it.
There are certain personal questions I would like to ask those men (sons), but it seems unproductive. In the big scheme of things, it’s disheartening that people like Ari Aster and Damien Chazelle get tons of money thrown at them, apparently without supervision. Beau is Afraid and Babylon are both examples of projects that should have been thwarted at an early stage. If not, both projects would have needed extensive rewrites and significant changes when it comes to the cinematography and editing, as well. When I saw it in April, I couldn’t imagine anything worse this year. It turned out I was the April’s Fool.
2. The Palace
If one is looking for a consensus, the reviews of Polanski’s latest effort (if any effort was involved) have been unanimous in their disapproval. As I wrote in my review, it’s easy to understand why. Triangle of Sadness is Citizen Kane, in comparison.
1. Poor Things
Surely, nobody would claim that Poor Things is a worse film than The Palace. The top spot is due to the fact that Lanthimos is the most overrated director working today (yes, even more so than Ari Aster) and that Poor Things is an expectedly obvious and ugly work. The Greek director is yet another example of someone seemingly getting carte blanche for undigested formal ideas. Where can you read about this, you ask? Unexpectedly, it’s all in my review of the film.