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Film Comment’s Essential Cinema: “12 Years a Slave”

As the year draws to a close, our friends at Film Comment magazine are celebrating the best movies of 2013 in a number of ways. Earlier today, they revealed their highly anticipated end-of-year list of the top 50 films released in 2013, along with their survey of the 20 best films without distribution. Over the next few weeks on FilmComment.com, the magazine will be making available 15 pieces included in their Essential Cinema insert, which subscribers received with the November/December issue.

First up is Graham Fuller's consideration of Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, which had its New York Premiere at the 51st New York Film Festival and is garnering lots of award buzz.

Through Solomon, then, McQueen forces the viewer to behold the slaves’ degradation, anguish, and physical suffering, just as he did with the Maze Prison’s miasmic squalor in Hunger and the pathological self-loathing of sex addiction in Shame, each film a prolonged howl of despair prompted by the horror of literal or spiritual imprisonment. But in terms of its mise en scène, 12 Years a Slave is more organic and less formally rigorous than Hunger, while eschewing the improvisatory quality that weakened Shame. Consequently, it is McQueen’s most accessible and naturalistic film yet.

Read the rest over at Film Comment and check back every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for other pieces like this one.

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