Compiled by Fiona A. Villella

All About My Mother Beau Travail Ghost Dog

One thing these various lists suggest is that cinema in 2000 means different things for people living in different parts of the globe. There are some films mentioned that are yet to reach all of us, if at all. Yet despite time lapses and release delays, the joy of discovery and the evident intrigue and at times profound curiosity that lies embedded in these various lists and reflections of cinema in the year 2000 attests to the fact that the cinema – in its contemporary guise – is far from dead. I hope you enjoy this celebration of film in the year 2000.

The Entries

Parts of this article are now hosted on the PANDORA archive of the National Library of Australia and Partners.

Nicole Brenez

Fergus Daly

Geoff Gardner

Christoph Huber

Gabe Klinger

Bill Mousoulis

Ray Privett

Mark Spratt

Richard Brody

Adrian Danks

Rhys Graham

Kent Jones

Bill Krohn

George Papadopoulos

Constantine Santas

Brad Stevens

Michael Campi

Marcos Ribas de Faria

Benjamin Halligan

Dmetri Kakmi

Adrian Martin

Mark Peranson

Jack Sargeant

Fiona A. Villella

Rose Capp

Anne Demy-Geroe

James Hewison

Anahid Kassabian

Bree McKilligan

Alberto Pezzotta

Megan Spencer

Jake Wilson

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by Richard Brody

I saw four important, new films this year:

Le Vent de la nuit

Le Vent De La Nuit (Night Wind, Philippe Garrel, France, 1999)
The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami, Iran/France, 1999)
La Captive (Chantal Akerman, France/Belgium, 2000)
Origin of the 21st Century (Jean-Luc Godard, France, 2000, 13m)

Each of the three features is a great advance for their makers, and in a similar sense; they give the impression of seeing life with a newfound synoptic clarity, as when chess players see the whole board at once. Godard’s short film has the aphoristic brilliance of a philosopher’s notebook: great notions, swiftly posited, which demand to be pondered at leisure.

Richard Brody is a filmmaker in New York.

© Richard Brody, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favourite Films 2000

by Michael Campi

Reflecting on events and screenings I’ve managed to get to over the year, I’m surprised that it hasn’t been such a bad year at the movies after all.

The films that have given the most stimulation and lasting resonance are, in no special order:

L’Humanite (Bruno Dumont, 1999)

La Lettre (Manoel de Oliveira, 1999)

Sicilia! (Jean-Marie Straub, Daniele Huillet, 1999)

Ghost Dog: the Way of the Samurai (Jim Jarmusch, 1999)

Bringing Out The Dead (Martin Scorsese, 2000)

Devils On The Doorstep (Jiang Wen, 2000)

A La Verticale De L’ete (Tran Ahn Hung, 2000)

Widow Of St. Pierre (Patrice Leconte, 1999)

Peppermint Candy (Lee Chang-Dong, 1999)

Lies (Jang Sun-Woo, 1999)

Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors (Hong Sang-Soo, 2000)

In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000)

The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami, 1999)

Audition (Takashi Miike, 1999)

Gohatto (Nagisha Oshima, 2000)

All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, 1999)

Ride With The Devil (Ang Lee, 1999)

Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)

One Day In September (Kevin Macdonald, 2000)

Suzhou River (Ye Lou, 2000)

Seventeen Years (Zhang Yuan, 1999)

Kikujiro (Takeshi Kitano, 1999)

The Emperor And The Assassin (Chen Kaige, 2000)

Durian, Durian (Fruit Chan, 2000)

M/Other (Suwa Nobuhiro, 1999)

Darkness And Light (Chang Tso-Chi, 1999)

Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (Errol Morris, 1999)

Robert Bresson: Radiant Light Special program of Bresson films curated by the Melbourne Cinémathèque.

The Insider (Michael Mann, 1999)

Magnolia (Paul T. Anderson, 2000)

The War Zone (Tim Roth, 2000)

And, in a retrospective sense, I was thrilled to rediscover Dreyer’s Vampyr in a restoration and Miike’s Fudoh.

Michael Campi has been in the spell of the cinema for half a century. He was involved with the film society movement, assisted with the former National Film Theatre of Australia and was a committee member of the Melbourne Film Festival in the 1970s. He feels as passionate about Beethoven and Mozart as Bresson and Mizoguchi.

© Michael Campi, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Best Five Films of 2000

by Rose Capp

In no particular order:

Topsy Turvy

Topsy Turvy (Mike Leigh, 1999)

Not a fan of Mike Leigh, I was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly won over by this film. A wonderfully exuberant and moving take on a significant moment in the Gilbert and Sullivan story. Quite apart from the specifics of the G &S narrative, the film works equally well as a fascinating analysis of the nature of performance and directorial control, and thus as a thoroughgoing metaphor for exigencies of cinema itself. Great ensemble cast made this a must see for me.

Wonderland (Michael Winterbottom, 2000)

Michael Winterbottom pulled off another triumph this year with his utterly compelling tale of three temperamentally different sisters and the vicissitudes of their respective lives. London has never been so bleakly but lovingly rendered. Winterbottom manages to reinvigorate the cliché of gritty urban street life depicted via hand held camera to give his film a resolutely authentic feel. Great performances from the three leads, including Shirley Henderson, who coincidentally, is equally and compulsively watchable in Topsy Turvy.

Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)

Sublime, lyrical melange of sound and image. Denis’ increasingly provocative brand of filmmaking made just about everything else at the 49th Melbourne International Film Festival pale in comsparison. This minimalist narrative based on Melville’s Billy Budd expands inexorably into a visually stunning, ambitious and complex exploration of masculinity. Impossible to even begin to do justice to…

McCabe and Mrs Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)

First time viewing on the big screen, courtesy of The Melbourne Cinémathèque program, made this a retrospective highlight of the year for me. Beatty a revelation as the bumbling, two-bit entrepreneur utterly out of his league with Julie Christie’s worldly whorehouse madam. Altman’s grimly realistic depiction of frontier, small town life comprehensively undermines the heroic mythologising endemic to the Western genre.

Mansfield Park (Patricia Rozema, 1999)

I loved the stripped-down aesthetic and unashamedly feminist interpretation Patricia Rozema gave to this classic Austen text. Based on the least popular of Austen’s novels, Rozema gives the notoriously unlikeable heroine Fanny Price a thoroughly contemporary and arguably more sympathetic sensibility. While outraging the Austen purists, the film makes an intelligent and welcome contribution to the burgeoning oeuvre that is the Austen cinematic canon.

Rose Capp is a Lecturer in Cinema Studies and freelance writer on film, currently completing a Ph.D in the Dept. of Visual Culture at Monash University.

© Rose Capp, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favourites 2000

by Fergus Daly

In no particular order:

Rosetta (Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne 1998)
The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami, 1999)
The Captive (Chantal Akerman, 2000)
Le Vent De La Nuit (Philippe Garrel, 1998)
In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000)
Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)
Nightfall (Keleman) (1999)
Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr, 2000)

Favourite piece of criticism:

“Philippe Garrel” by Tony McKibbin in Film West, no.40 Summer 2000, pp.38-41

Fergus Daly is a Doctoral student and teacher at the Centre for Film Studies in University College Dublin, Ireland.

© Fergus Daly, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favourites 2000

by Adrian Danks

Top 10 of the Year (in preferential order):

Berlin Alexanderplatz

1. Berlin Alexanderplatz (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1981)
2. Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)
3. An Autumn Tale (Eric Rohmer, 1998)
4. All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, 1999)
5. The Insider (Michael Mann, 1999)
6. Time Regained (Raul Ruiz, 1999)
7. Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (Errol Morris, 1999)
8. Topsy-Turvy (Mike Leigh, 1999)
9. Joy (Cate Shortland, 2000)
10. High Fidelity (Stephen Frears, 2000)

Honourable mentions: Magnolia; Iron Giant; Ghost Dog: the Way of the Samurai; Three Kings; Ratcatcher; Nowhere to Hide; The Wind Will Carry Us; Spectres of the Spectrum; Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon; Peep Show programs at the 49th Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF).

This list is a bit of a cheat, but Berlin Alexanderplatz has never been screened in a cinema in Melbourne before this year, as far as I know. Both intimate and panoramic, Fassbinder’s film was certainly the most monumental film screened in Melbourne this year (at around 16 hours, not including the projector breakdown). My list is predominantly auteur based, but is dominated by figures – such as Fassbinder, Almodóvar and Leigh – I haven’t necessarily had much time for before now (which is a good thing, I guess). Fassbinder, Denis, Rohmer, Almodóvar, Ruiz and Leigh are all represented by films in this list that are amongst their best work. A special mention should also go to the Korean film, Nowhere to Hide (Myung-Se Lee, 1999), which contained several set pieces that are greater than just about everything else on this list (the opening assassination scored to the Bee Gees’ Holiday, in particular). Pity the film itself was so generic.

The worst of the year: Scary Movie (amongst the worst experiences I’ve ever had in a cinema. There is nothing droll or ‘subversive’ on display here, just a collection of lame pastiches of things that were mostly pastiche in the first place. Worse than I’m Gonna get You Sucka, the last Wayans film I walked out of); Innocence (Clumsy, melodramatically clichéd, cringe-worthy script with a performance to match by Bud Tingwell. Definitely a case of laudable subject matter blinding critical reason); Cut!; The End of the Affair (Neil Jordan); Grass (Ron Mann); Bread & Roses (Ken Loach); Gerry Humphrys: The Loved One (Nigel Buesst); Shower (How phoney was this film?); Sud (Chantal Akerman – worst and most ill-advised film by a great filmmaker; then again I didn’t see Million Dollar Hotel, made by a once pretty great filmmaker). The two most overrated films were American Beauty (of course) and The Buena Vista Social Club (when people tell me this is a great movie they talk about nothing other than the music – a CD of which most people bought about three or so years ago and which lives without this slap-dash, monotonous and sometimes condescending film).

Retrospectives & re-releases: Get Carter (one of the great British films, but also with a lot to answer for – Guy Ritchie, et. al); the Bresson season at the Cinémathèque; the Suzuki retrospective at MIFF (though by no means representative enough); the Dietrich season at the Cinémathèque (Wilder’s A Foreign Affair in particular); Rear Window (though the restoration, I think, was a disappointment); the Dietmar Brehm program at MIFF.

Television: The Sopranos; The West Wing; The Games; The Dream; Australia by Numbers (particularly Ivanhoe, 3079); & the endless Ken Burns festival running on the ABC (though I understand criticism of the uniformity of Burns’ style – by now a cliché – it is only when one sees his many imitators that you realise the quality of his work).

Adrian Danks is President of the Melbourne CinÈmathËque and lectures in cinema and cultural studies at RMIT University, Department of Communication Studies.

© Adrian Danks, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favourite Films 2000

by Marcos Ribas de Faria

The 10 best that were shown commercially in Rio:

Sleepy Hollow (Tim Burton, 1999)
Close-Up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1989)
Kadosh (Amos Gitai, 1999)
Space Cowboys (Clint Eastwood, 2000)
The Hole (Tsai Ming-Liang, 1998)
Velvet Goldmine (Todd Haynes, 1998)
La Lettre (Manoel de Oliveira, 1999)
The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola, 2000)
L’Ennui (Cédric Kahn, 1999)
Buena Vista Social Club (Wim Wenders, 1999)

The best Brazilian film was Amelia (Ana Carolina, 1999)

Marcos Ribas de Faria is a Brazilian critic who writes for the website web4fun and was the film critic for the magazines Opinião, Jornal do Brasil, O Jornal, and Última Hora.

© Marcos Ribas de Faria, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favourite Films 2000

by Anne Demy-Geroe

Yi Yi (Edward Yang, 2000)
Ghost dog: the Way of the Samurai (Jim Jarmusch, 1999)
Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors (Hong Sang-soo, 2000)
Audition and DOA (Miike Takashi, 1999 for both)
L’Humanite (Bruno Dumont, 1999)
Monday (Sabu, 1999)
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000)
The Platform (Jia Zhangke, 2000)
The Captive (Chantal Akerman, 2000)

Restoration – Seven Men from Now (Bud Boetticher, 1956)

Guilty pleasure – Sweet and Lowdown (Woody Allen, 1999)

Anne Demy-Geroe is Director of the Brisbane International Film Festival.

© Anne Demy-Geroe, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favourite Films 2000

by Geoff Gardner

This is a snapshot which is the result of decisions of my own and many more decisions by others like distributors or festival directors or travel agents or employers who conspire, in my case at least, to ensure I can’t see absolutely everything that I wish to. In 2000, I would have especially loved to have seen Edward Yang’s Yi Yi and the fistful of Miike Takashi films that are relentlessly passing me by.

In alphabetical order

Audition

Audition (Takashi Miike, 1999)
Boys Don’t Cry (Kimberly Peirce, 1999)
Bringing Out The Dead (Martin Scorsese, 2000)
Kikujiro (Takeshi Kitano, 1999)
Lies (Jang Sun-Woo, 1999)
Man on the Moon (Milos Forman, 2000)
The Straight Story (David Lynch, 1999)
Three Kings (David O. Russell, 1999)
Topsy Turvy (Mike Leigh, 2000)
The Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors
(Hong Sang-soo, 2000)

Worst Film: Eureka (Shinji Aoyama, 2000)

Geoff Gardner was once a founder of the company that evolved into Ronin Films and was once the director of the Melbourne Film Festival (retired hurt, 1982). These days he offers some program suggestions to the Brisbane International Film Festival.

© Geoff Gardner, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Top 5 Cinema Events of 2000

by Rhys Graham

Ratcatcher

1. Viewing David Gordon Green’s George Washington and Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher within days of each other at the 49th Melbourne International Film Festival 2000. Although, sadly, neither of the films will grace the screens here, it was a glimpse of two beautifully flawed, individually distinctive, staggering and inspiring films from two new filmmakers.

2. Stumbling across Peter Tscherkassky’s brilliant, equally joyful and melancholic film Happy-End. This short film, a reworking of found footage of a couple’s celebratory Christmas toasts through the years, is a seductive jaunt through memory, domestic theatre and drunkenness.

3. Seeing the hardcover book “Jonas Mekas: Just Like a Shadow” on the bookshelves of several bookstores. Each page reproduces several consecutive frames from Mekas’ personal works filmed on his 16mm Bolex. Lush, warm, intimate images with the heavy textures of aged film stock.

4. Catching Tsai Ming-Liang’s The Hole and The River during late night screenings on SBS Television (Australia) throughout the year. SBS is without compare (Bollywood favourite Raja Hindustani is the midday movie as I write this) and ventures into territory that the cinemas, to their disgrace, have given up on all-together.

5. Listening to the following dialogue in Cassavetes’ Love Streams:

– Do you sell?

– What?

– Anything. Love, drugs, poetry.

Rhys Graham is a filmmaker and writer based in Melbourne.

© Rhys Graham, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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2000 Film Experience List

by Benjamin Halligan

In no particular order. These are all films that have done the rounds 1999-2000:

Sunshine (Istvan Szabo, 1999)

Sunshine

A populist and didactic film in the very best senses of these words. Rather than express disappointment for a Szabo film (as many critics did), it’s better to express gratitude that an Old Master sought to speak directly to today’s audiences. It’s a fantastic, engaged and engaging piece of work.

Jam and Jaaaaaaaaam (all episodes, Chris Morris, Channel 4, UK)

Morris warps his digital reality into new areas of televisual expression and expressionism; anarchic comedy drained of humour and, like BrassEye before it, wildly prophetic. (Most complaints were upheld by the British Independent Television Commission).

Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)

Extraordinarily powerful meditation on the male form; burning images, startling soundtrack, fragments of a near-epic vision.

Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier, 2000)

Another of the many recent movies that demand – and get – an awful lot from the audience. and return the favour accordingly (unsurprising that the US release was tampered with). It even got Jonathan Rosenbaum (of all people) dissing it as “boilerplate anti-Americanism”! If it is a “pornography of the emotions” then it’s defiantly hardcore. Von Trier has the ability of Dreyer to tap into psychological ambience and rhythms for his narrative trajectory.

All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, 1999)

Dedicated to Romy Schneider and with homage to The Third Man! Almodóvar continues to read my mind. Immensely rich and deeply felt.

My Best Fiend (Werner Herzog, 1999)

Hard to tell who is the madder, Herzog or Kinski, but it’s compelling work throughout. A semi-refutal of Kinski’s autobiography by his nemesis, Herzog. Makes you wonder why all the apocalyptic Fitzcarraldo footage wasn’t in Les Blank’s documentary Burden of Dreams. Kinski’s operatic rantings will live on: “This isn’t how Brecht directed. This isn’t how Lean directed.”

The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami, 1999)

A film bursting with life, humour, exile, mystery and the late twentieth century. It reminds me of Sokurov’s Days of the Eclipse but in conception and execution it’s almost Joycean.

Donald Cammell’s Wild Side (1995)

Thanks to the great Frank Mazzola – at last a proper release of this restored posthumous masterpiece (with excellent additional work from Jarvis Cocker and Ryuichi Sakamoto). Cammell’s themes are intact. He is as (at times) disconcertingly theatrical and as stunningly stylised as ever. Neo-capitalism, sexual experimentation, the melding of personalities. Borgesian-Godardian. Farewell, Donald.

Gangster #1 (Paul McGuigan, 2000)

So good it’s almost beyond description (and an inevitable marketing disaster too). Cinematic is a word that barely does justice here.

L’Humanite (Bruno Dumont, 1999)

As with Dancer in the Dark – both immensely demanding and rewarding. Someone else’s description – “a Catholic horror film” – best sums it up. And it is horrifying. Franju via Bresson, made in the spirit of Dreyer.

Hollow Man (Paul Verhoeven, 2000)

No American film tells us more about the situation in which Bush could, and did, come to power. Every ethical boundary is transgressed, every lowest common denominator is played to, every Rightist expression is used. Sirk had it easy.

Asylum (Channel 4, UK)

More avant-garde video experimentation from Iain Sinclair and Chris Petit. Alien, as directed by Foucault.

Space Cowboys (Clint Eastwood, 2000)

Eastwood’s gracious and elegiac exorcism of the ghosts of the twentieth century. There’s something almost Learish about it. and it is Eastwood’s most felt piece since White Hunter, Black Heart.

Pola X (Leos Carax, 1999)

A near-impossible proposition of a film. Like Fassbinder, it flits through genres, moods, politics. Achieved with panache and verve to gobsmacking effect. A nightmare in a damaged brain.

Time Regained (Raul Ruiz, 1999)

The late arrival of Ruiz onto the world cinema scene; the pieces of a brilliant shattering of the Proust-mirror, sharply avant-garde at the edges.

Moloch (Aleksandr Sokurov, 1999) (still mostly unreleased)

A bronchial treatise on the aesthetics of fascism from Sokurov: the tragedy of a ridiculous man.

Holy Smoke (Jane Campion, 1998)

Massively misunderstood it seems – Campion’s funky comedy sheds the gravitas of some of her previous work and really touches on non-American patterns and concerns of living in the late 1990s. Where it’s at.

Favourite Film Criticism 2000:

Mainly About Lindsay Anderson by Gavin Lambert (Faber, London 2000)

This is more than just a study of a fascinating director’s work and life. It’s a close friend’s biography, a kind of sexual history and the story of the British cinema and the British Left since the 1950s.

Benjamin Halligan’s La Luna will be published in February by Flicks Books. He is currently preparing a book on Michael Reeves.

© Benjamin Halligan, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favourite Films 2000

by James Hewison

My list of 10 favourite films for 2000 follows in alphabetical order:

Asi Es La Vida (Such Is Life) (Arturo Ripstein, Mexico/France, 2000)
La Captive (Chantal Akerman, France/Belgium, 2000)
Chopper (Andrew Dominik, Australia, 2000)
Dead Or Alive (Takashi Miike, Japan, 1999)
Fuckland (Jose Luis Marques, Argentina, 2000)
Gojoe (Sogo Ishii, Japan, 2000)
The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, US, 1999)
Nationale 7 (Aka Uneasy Riders) (Jean-Pierre Sinapi, France, 2000)
Les Glaneurs Et La Glaneuse (Agnes Varda, France, 2000)
Yi Yi (Edward Yang, Taiwan/Japan, 2000)

James Hewison is Executive Director of the Melbourne International Film Festival 2001.

© James Hewison, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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2000 reconsidered from Vienna

by Christoph Huber

As usual, you had to keep on your toes in Vienna to catch the most interesting films around. Consequently, I’m listing ten double features this year – each containing one film that opened commercially and one you could see only once (in most cases) at alternative venues, the Vienna Film Festival, the videostore or even on television.

1. Histoire(s) du cinema (Jean-Luc Godard, 1988-98)/Space Cowboys (Clint Eastwood, 2000)

Godard’s magnum opus, actually a video not a film, which mesmerized me on its first screening despite being shown in French (which I don’t speak), is a treasure to behold. Thankfully it has played on TV since (although dubbed, partially destroying perhaps the most beautiful soundtrack ever crafted) and taped, it proves an invaluable source and challenge to be returned to periodically. A highly imaginative and, despite (or rather: because of) its pessimism, deeply passionate work, it is dialectical in the best Godard tradition: a revision of film history from a personal vantage point, constantly shifting perspective, and another proof that its director is in many ways a popular filmmaker marginalized by his reputation – the Histoire(s) may be his most accessible work for quite some time.

Another kind of essay by a truly popular master – Clint Eastwood’s new feature, could be best described as Histoire(s) du Eastwood. Beyond its amiable surface, it is a self-reflexion and expansion in the style of old-school auteurs like Hawks or Ford. As Rivette once remarked, “Eastwood’s films only resemble themselves”. Here’s another proof that this is not necessarily a restriction. As cozy and amusing as it may look, its inherent melancholy and respect go way beyond what most of this year’s combined entertainments had to offer.

2. A vendre (Laetitia Maesson, 1998)/Sátántangó (Béla Tarr, 1994)

Two magnificent attempts at reworking literary forms in film. Laetitia Maesson’s second film, once again superbly aided by the terrific Sandrine Kiberlain in the lead (who had a chance to show her comic gifts as well in Pascal Bonitzer’s cute Rien sur Robert) has my vote as one of the most underrated works of the ’90s. Often shrugged off as simple noir variation this brave step outside the respected French tradition of social commentary is a labyrinth of possibilities: a story trapped in the mystery of one or more unreliable narrators worthy of Nabokov.

Even braver is Béla Tarr’s 8-hour epic of Proustian proportions – a black comedy about the condition humaine after the breakdown of communism that develops a singular narrative pull once you’ve adjusted to its slowly building rhythm. Then even the inadequate screening conditions – it was shown at a retrospective accompanying an exhibition centered on Eastern European countries, and since the museum only had one projector, there was an intermission every hour to change reels – couldn’t break its force.

3. George Washington (David Gordon Green, 2000)/Aufzeichnungen aus dem Tiefparterre (Rainer Frimmel/Peter Haindl, 2000)

Two films that tap into morose veins: David Gordon Green’s stunning debut counters the lack of fresh ideas in American independent filmmaking with an elliptical tale about lost youth and lack of perspective that’s kept together by a visually remarkable symbolism within an expertly handled scope frame and sharp aural connections.

Rainer Frimmel has edited hours of home video material shot by Peter Haindl about himself to feature length (surprisingly, this is the work that could be seen commercially here) and the result is the best Austrian piece of the year: Haindl’s nagging monologues are an involuntary deconstruction of the petit bourgeois’ soul that’s as funny as it’s frightening. “I hope you’ll live forever”, says the girl on the dump to the film’s hero shortly before the end of George Washington: I wish the same to both these works which exist on the fringe of distribution.

4. The Mission (Johnny To, 1999)/In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000)

Johny To’s masterfully abstract figures in space, his rigid stylization that’s almost worthy of Melville are a fresh breath in post-takeover Hong Kong cinema (at least the slice that made it here; his Running Out Of Time which opened mid-December is almost as good, and there’s hope its distributor may also pick up the better of the two). The Mission is a triumph of form over content, it’s HK-Carpenter-Bontempi-score the funkiest music of the year.

Even more accomplished in many ways is In The Mood For Love, Wong Kar-Wai’s best since Ashes Of Time, another film that is foremost visual music, but also haunting evocation of a time (the ’60s), place (the Shanghai community) and love past. The director’s most precise film to date, it also boasts two superb lead performances, although next to the violin staccato the goddess, Maggie Cheung, is playing, Tony Leung inhibits the place of a typewriter.

5. Topsy-Turvy (Mike Leigh, 1999)/Les destinees sentimentales (Olivier Assayas, 2000)

Two daring, richly rewarding reconfigurations of historical film: Topsy-Turvy, a superb ensemble piece filled with modulations of detail, is even more dazzling as a self-reflective study of the creative process while never having to compromise for being such a popular film and to me is Leigh’s best work alongside Naked and Meantime.

Probably less accessible (its screening at the Vienna Film Festival was accompanied by the constant sound of people leaving), but no less original is Olivier Assayas’ painful family chronicle that starts out with the extravaganza of sending Il gattopardo’s legendary finale through the handcamera only to lose momentum and come to a grinding halt half an hour before its end to watch the protagonist die. Love evaporates and materialism kicks in: the conventions really go topsy-turvy here.

6. Hollow Man (Paul Verhoeven, 2000)/Ma 6-T va crack-er (François Richet, 1997)

Two opposites: Paul Verhoeven, Hollywood’s leading misanthrope, scores with another cynical deconstruction of the blockbuster genre. Hollow Man, aptly named, substitutes an absence for the most rotten desires of the audience and crafts a parable that points back at the viewer in infinity. Along with Dancer In The Dark the best postmodern comedy of the year, but I prefer Verhoeven’s distinct denial of any spiritualism.

François Richet’s powerful piece of Marxist propaganda which aired on TV once and is otherwise unavailable here is just as exciting visually yet never smells of corporate filmmaking. To put things into perspective: compared to this, Kassovitz’ acclaimed La Haine which covered similar territory looks like a feature for the Disney channel.

7. The Insider (Michael Mann, 1999)/Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 2000)

Two triumphs of mise en scène: Michael Mann’s most balanced film in his career molds paranoia in a world behind glass while maintaining a keen eye for characterization and political connections – a rarity in Hollywood cinema. Russell Crowe’s performance as a disgruntled whistleblower deserves extra mention.

Beau Travail would certainly be placed higher on my list if I’d had a chance to see it on the big screen instead of my tiny TV set, but its frail compositions and Denis’ unerring sense for rhythmical montage and the use of music came through nevertheless. Its final scene is perfect.

8. Le petit voleur (Eric Zonca, 1999)/Die innere Sicherheit (Christian Petzold, 2000)

A big step up after the state-of-the art The Dreamlife Of Angels, Eric Zonca’s riveting, hour-long The Little Thief combines the director’s gift for the use of actors with a seemingly floating, but actually meticulously built, breathless tale of despair. Less the political movie about a teenager in suffocating social conditions, more an arrangement of movements in space: not one of them is wasted.

Another young talent, Christian Petzold, impresses with what is probably the best German feature since Achternbusch’s Hades. A German Entwicklungsroman against the backdrop of The State I Am In (its English festival title) this quiet, immensely moving portrait of another teenager in repressed conditions within astutely drawn social surroundings (her parents are aging terrorists on the run), shows a voice of its own emerging: Petzold’s film, as the untranslatable pun of its title suggests, has what most of German cinema lacks – assurance within. That may also be the reason why it still awaits commercial distribution.

9. Pola X (Leos Carax, 1999)/Yentown (Shunji Iwai, 1997)

Even when Carax is over the top, he’s more interesting than most others around. Nobody can accuse Pola X of lacking megalomania, but actually I’m not one of the few that think it’s less pretentious than his acclaimed Lovers On The Bridge, but also a more personal work: the failure of the artist as the failure of an artist, littered with moments of greatness (e.g. Golubeva’s journey through the woods) that more than compensate its moments of over-indulgence. A film that’s worthy of its Scott Walker soundtrack.

Only screened once here, Shunji Iwai’s Yentown is an equally exuberant exercise, conflating popular culture and the social situation in an energetic ride – a few recent Asian films seem to have the lesson of Nashville in them while playing originally with generic conventions but foremost are very personal, engaging puzzles. Yentown continues the welcome notion to be seen previously in The Longest Summer and Kamikaze Taxi.

10. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (Trey Parker, 1999)/Animal Factory (Steve Buscemi, 2000)

Two pleasant surprises: I didn’t expect much from the expansion of the South Park universe, but Trey Parker not only managed the transition to feature length without having to insert a lot of dead time, but also made the funniest and politically most important US feature in many years. South Park is the continuation of the Warner Brothers animation in the spirit of the ’90s. That means it’s as subversive as it’s childish.

My expectations for Steve Buscemi’s new feature weren’t really much higher: the predecessor Trees Lounge was too cute a Cassavetes emulation for my taste, and it was mainly for its impressive cast that I decided to squeeze it into my cramped festival schedule. But with Animal Factory he managed to recapture some qualities of the New-Hollywood-era that seem mainly lost in current productions. A sharply observed genre entry it provides first-rate ensemble acting throughout as well as a sense for the “real” – while cleverly integrated into an entertaining story, many of its moments obviously bear the mark of personal experience (the author’s, not Buscemi’s, of course). And much like South Park, one of its main issues is social control, which in one form or another also decided what films could be seen here (and thus was an unavoidable factor for what’s on this list).

There were more films this year I would have liked to include in this list. Most notably, there are six films that opened here that I didn’t include because I had them in previous top tens. They are Takeshi Kitano’s Sonatine, Kikujiro and Violent Cop, Kiarostami’s The Wind Will Carry Us, Assayas’ Late August, Early September and Dumont’s The Life Of Jesus. Five more I omitted because they’re already scheduled for next year: Agnes Varda’s The Gleaners And I, John Waters’ Cecil B. Demented, Jafir Panahi’s The Circle and two films by Ang Lee: Crounching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Ride With The Devil.

Others worth mentioning (in rough order of preference): Stan Brakhage’s succinct The God Of Day Had Gone Down Upon Us and Persian Series #9, Brian De Palma’s gloriously pulpy Mission To Mars, Claire Devers’ provocative La voleuse du Saint Lubin, Scorsese’s Bringing Out The Dead, Shinji Aoyama’s Shady Grove, the Farrelly’s relaxed Me, Myself And Irene, Johnny To’s Running Out Of Time, Goran Rebic’s The Punishment, Jonathan Mostow’s claustrophobic U-571, Julian Temple’s The Filth And The Fury, Arnaud Desplechin’s deliberately irritating Esther Kahn, Richard Linklater’s The Newton Boys, Agnès Jaoui’s The Taste Of Others, Catherine Breillat’s Romance, Von Trier’s Dancer In The Dark, Andrew Fleming’s Dick, David O. Russell’s Three Kings (mainly for the first half), James Benning’s El Valley Centro, Serge Le Péron’s The Marcorello Affair, Alexander Payne’s Election, Wolfgang Murnberger’s Komm, süßer Tod and – for the magical chemistry between Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson – Shanghai Noon.

More important than any of these (or even any of my top ten entries) were the retrospectives that gave me a chance to catch up on past masters. The most resonating experience was encountering roughly twenty films by Kenji Mizoguchi I’d never seen, though to meet most of Murnau for the first time wasn’t any less in my book. Both programs were scheduled in Austria’s Cinémathèque which also provided the possibility to catch up with almost all of Rohmer and to revisit the films of Sergio Leone on the big screen (unfortunately not his greatest work, Once Upon A Time In America, which was blocked by the distributor). Additionally, the “Blacklisted” series, screened in cooperation with the Vienna Film Festival, provided a chance to unearth many unfairly forgotten efforts of the leftist Hollywood B-league along with a few obscurities and classics (you could see films as diverse as Terror In A Texas Town, Salt Of The Earth and Road House on one evening). That series also enhanced the festival itself – even lesser films like The Opportunists or Summer Of Sam gained weight by this backdrop: strategies of an era past resurfacing in today’s output, which this year also shined with its tributes. Richard Lester may have made only one masterpiece – Petulia – but an incomplete, if well-chosen sample of his work showed him as a director that maintained a personal vision throughout his career. The same applied to the other two filmmakers honored: Shinji Aoyama is an exciting talent in the midst of Japan’s alive and multi-faceted scene, and Hartmut Bitomsky’s essay films still haven’t lost their wit and refreshing perspective. The addition of two programs devoted to Cuban propaganda master Santiago Alvarez and the Iranian director Parviz Kimiavi respectively also cast a new light on the current production – which is the most important aspect of keeping the tradition of cinema alive by making its history accessible. Not to stare in awe at certified masterpieces but to recombine a history of cinema constantly in flux, constantly demanding rewriting. As much as I love any film I’ve listed above, none of them shook my perception of filmic space like Mizoguchi’s The Loyal 47 Ronin (although my understanding of some may have been improved by that) – so in many ways it might have deserved the top spot more than any of the newer films (or at least I might feel less guilty if it had been represented in the Godard).

Christoph Huber was thrilled at an early age by Roger Corman´s House Of Usher. His biggest fear since is that his writings on film (mainly for Videofreak and cycamp) are nothing but self-therapy. His other biggest fear is interviewing Aki Kaurismäki.

© Christoph Huber, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favourite Film of 2000: The House of Mirth (Terence Davies, 2000)

by Kent Jones

The House of Mirth

Right after I saw The House of Mirth, I met its director, Terence Davies. I’ve never felt so gripped by the urge to hug a filmmaker. I stood there, opened my mouth and what came out was something on the order of: “Wow! Whatta movie!!”

Here in New York, we’d all been hearing good things about The House of Mirth for months, from people who could be counted on: Jonathan Romney in Film Comment, Jim Hoberman in his Toronto dispatch for The Village Voice, various and sundry folks who saw it in the market in Cannes. To hear a film praised to the skies and then find that it lives up to everything that’s been said can be a revivifying experience, particularly when it’s this good – the joyous convergence of expectation and reality.

Lubitsch had a fairly autocratic way with actors, modeling gestures for them, to get the precise timing and physical articulation of emotions. It’s an interesting way of approaching cinema, almost singular, and it’s certain that it grew from his experience as a theatrically trained actor (it’s a quality that I associate almost exclusively with vaudeville-based “actor/auteurs” from the early sound era, who either took over the movie, like Fields, or mesmerized their directors through sheer magnetism, like Cagney or Grant). Most great filmmakers articulate emotions differently: through rhythm, as in Ozu or Bresson, or through the unfolding of time, as in Tarkovsky or Mizoguchi, or through the dynamic possibilities of cutting from one image to another, as in Hitchcock, Powell, Scorsese. In rare cases, the filmmaker relishes the spontaneity of the actor and through sheer force of will harnesses it to a grand conception. Call this the “Shakespearean” approach to cinema, in which the finished product is a giddily fantastic array of gorgeous behaviors that feel varied enough to fill a whole universe, but that still manage to operate within a singular conception. Cassavetes is the obvious example. I would also add Arnaud Desplechin to this lofty category.

To me, Davies’ approach in The House of Mirth feels quite close to Lubitsch. Not in the sense of “influence” – in all other ways, these two artists seem worlds apart. Perhaps it’s more a matter of temperament than anything else: a compulsion to control, but also a passion to be one with the characters on screen, to be absolutely proximate with their emotions as they unfold across their faces and as they’re betrayed by their bodies. With Davies, the passion is all-consuming – none of Lubitsch’s urbane mastery here. Lubitsch concentrated on physical articulation, but he was never as attentive to vocal articulation as Davies – precisely calibrated line readings, timbres and inflections, that give his Wharton adaptation a bracingly rarefied air, like the strains of a long-forgotten instrument played in perfect tune.

And when this “absolute proximity,” to borrow a phrase from Calvino, crosses paths with authorial perspective, when Davies cuts or re-frames to get a moral perspective on his characters, it’s stunning, often scalding. Davies also has something else that Lubitsch never had, which is painterly precision. This is not just a matter of knowing Singer-Sargent, whose work is evoked consistently throughout the movie (in fact, Gillian Anderson was cast in the lead because of her Singer-Sargent-like face: unbelievably, Davies had never seen The X-Files). It’s a matter of grounding every visual choice not just within the visual style of the period but also within its monstrous etiquette. When Davies frames Mrs. Peniston (Eleanor Bron), Lily Bart’s aunt, in a bluish darkness, her face lit from below, or later places Lily’s cousin Grace (Jodhi May) in a similar light, rigidly pinned to the background, the effect is to quadruple the sense of decorous claustrophobia, in which every word or move is nervously measured against 10 possible words or counter-moves, with the threat of social paralysis (either through the loss of leverage or an excess of it) present at all times.

Visual precision I had expected from Davies, but mobility I hadn’t. I’ve found his previous films impressive but uncomfortably adherent to the tableau form. Perhaps he’s still less comfortable with movement than he is with stillness, passing from one enclosed space to the next. But if that’s so, then he’s found his ideal subject with this film about the vicious, hypocritical world of New York high society at the turn of the last century. And when he gets into intimate situations, the movement is mesmerizing. There’s a passage in which Gillian Anderson’s Lily and Eric Stoltz’s Selden lie down on the grass and smoke a cigarette before slowly moving into a kiss. If my memory is correct, most of it is done in one shot, the actors kept perfectly framed as their faces unite, their bodies craning to maintain a measure of propriety. Throughout the film, the overall union of voice, bodily movement and visual design is devastating: every note of humiliation, degradation and self-deception is struck perfectly but without romantic emphasis, in a horrifying sonata of redemption denied.

What does Davies bring to Wharton’s novel? I grew up in Wharton country, and drove every day down the very hill where the real Ethan Frome tried to sled into oblivion with his beloved. I’ve read most of her major novels save for this one, which many reliable sources tell me is her greatest. While it’s obviously the most Dreiserian of Wharton’s books, I’m sure that Davies favored the themes of redemption and suffering. It’s interesting that both The Age of Innocence (which Davies greatly admires) and The House of Mirth were made by Catholic artists consumed with the theme of spiritual suffering in a world that fails to recognize its viability. In both stories, the protagonists, both intelligent (maybe not enough, maybe a little too much), are trapped in prison houses built from words, customs, prohibitions, the currency of a tortuous society they’re trying to manipulate, subvert or transcend, but with which they’re finally complicit. Both filmmakers employ horror film tactics at crucial moments (the darkened framing around Bron, the Godzill-ish-ly edited extension of Winona Ryder’s dress train as she gets up from her chair to deliver the final blow to Daniel Day-Lewis). And whereas Davies builds the horror right up to the final scene, Scorsese employs it sparingly, ending The Age of Innocence in a state of bitter resignation.

Of course, there’s a crucial difference. Scorsese’s film is based on a book about a weak-willed man who finally won’t defy the world of which he’s a part, once he sees how high the odds are stacked against him. Whereas Davies’ film is based on a book about a woman who never has a chance, who tries to beat her hair-raising society at its own game: that is, to morally take it at its word and offer herself as a beacon, by accepting neither help nor love when it’s offered, and never understanding that it’s all a sham until it’s too late. And Davies hits every note with terrible clarity: the flow of polite smiles, cunning sentences and gorgeous gestures, and the coded recognitions of nervous breaks in the rhythm (the pouring of tea is fraught with significance and danger); the humiliation that slowly spreads over and throughout Lily, like darkness falling over a city (registered in sharp, vivid, precise inflections – Davies and Anderson make quite an actor-director team); the strong sense of Lily as the magnetic center by which everyone is attracted and repelled, heaping her with scorn and indifference as they go.

Jim Hoberman got it right in his Village Voice review: this is a movie that merits comparison with The Magnificent Ambersons or The Life of Oharu (it put me more in mind of Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne). But as someone who understands Lily’s particular form of self-delusion all too well, I can also attest to the film’s spiritual validity.

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I rang out the old year/decade/millennium and rang in the new one with King Vidor. I ended 1999 with a film of his I’d never seen, called H.M. Pulham, Esq., which thrilled me: the (more happily) deluded paragon of virtue in this case is Robert Young as a Boston lawyer whose vitality has all but drained away, and who looks back on his life. Vidor’s “life force,” as Durgnat calls it, and brio, as well as his visual splendor, cuts through the potential MGM glassiness and makes for a very funny, moving film. I began 2000 with Our Daily Bread, which moves from implausibility to implausibility, which features one of the most miserable lead performances I’ve ever seen, and which sends shivers down my spine every time I see it.

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2000 Film Favourites

by Kent Jones

The House of Mirth – see above

De L’origine du XXIème siècle – Godard’s lament for the last century. As beautiful as all of Histoire(s) du cinéma, only concentrated into a mournful, heartwrenching 20 minutes.

Arbor Vitae – Nick Dosrky’s latest venture into the world-as-form: more musical than his last two films, and, if it’s possible, even more delicate.

Time and Tide – Peter Hutton continues his journey down the Hudson, his Monument Valley: if there’s such a thing as earthboung grandeur, then this film has it in spades.

Fah Talai Jone – Wisit Sasantieng’s unclassifiable mix of various lost Thai genres gives pastiche a good name: an exercise in controlled delirium, as coherent as it is insanely extravagant, as formally precise as it is giddily beautiful, as moving as it is hilarious and exhilarating. You could call this guy the Thai Guy Maddin, but I think he’s better.

Mysterious Object at Noon – Apichatpong Weersetakhul’s journey into contemporary Thai reality through the medium of fiction, a crazy story about an object that falls from a woman’s dress conceived by a child and picked up along the way by a variety of people in the city and the countryside. You could call this guy the Thai Straub, but I think he’s better.

Esther Kahn – What first struck me as a magnificent failure seemed like a genuinely great, tough film on second viewing. Many people I know have big problems with Summer Phoenix in the title role, a Jewish girl in turn-of-the-century London who makes it big as an actress. To my eyes, she gets right to the metaphysical heart of the act, as opposed to the spectacle, of acting: the sheer terror of self-revelation, of finding one’s home on the stage. By far the gutsiest movie of the year.

In the Mood for Love – It gets high on its own perfume well before the end, but this is one of the greatest films of a great director, with a wonderful performance by Maggie Cheung.

Gohatto – Oshima’s return is often enigmatic to the point of collapse, but always teeters back on balance. Less a gay film than an exploration of the terror of beauty, male and otherwise, and the impatient urge to destroy. As sharp as a razor, and perfectly acted by the entire cast. And it sure is great to see that slowly arcing camera again.

Werckmeister Harmonies – The whole of Béla Tarr’s movie may not quite add up to more than the sum of its parts, but each one of those parts is visionary, spellbinding.

Not Forgotten – Shinozaki’s wide-ranging vision of modern Japan is sentimental in the best sense of the word. As a movie about “life,” I think it beats the perfectly crafted but soapy Yi Yi.

Les Destinées sentimentales – “What do you do when you no longer recognize the person you used to be?” asks Charles Berling’s porcelain magnate late in the film – I know of no other movie that conveys the sense of dislocation in time better. There are passages here that are among the finest Assayas has ever filmed.

Platform – Jia Zhangke’s look at contemporary China through the life of a theater troupe is an intimate, low-rent epic, as fresh and acutely observant as the director’s previous Xiao Wu.

You Can Count On Me – Kenny Lonergan’s debut is perfectly written and acted, especially by Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo. You can call it “small,” but why apply measurements to a film that’s this sharp on character and locale?

George Washington – The most hopeful American movie of the year, flaws and all: that a 25-year old from North Carolina would even think of making this, as opposed to yet another Tarantino caper or another Myth of Fingerprints-type confessional, is mighty heartening. Tony Rayns called it Gummo rethought by Malick, and while it doesn’t do justice to the film’s considerable subtleties, it does help to give of a broad idea of its overall feel.

Almost Famous – Another pretty hopeful American movie – as mainstream as it gets, but bursting with vitality and the poignant distance of memory. My older friends sneered. I loved every minute of it.

Ratcatcher – An actress I know told me that the minute the lights came up, she ran home and wrote the director (Lynne Ramsay) a fan letter. Ramsay fulfills the promise of her earlier shorts, with a movie that manages a good, tough poetic vision of childhood.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Another one to sneer at for many of my friends, particularly the Hong Kong “purists” who like to remind people that they know who King Hu and Tsui Hark are. All I can say is that both directors would have given their eye teeth to work with actors this good. A lovely, exhilarating film.

Space Cowboys – I’d heard that he’d basically given up the ghost, which seemed to have been the case with Absolute Power, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and True Crime. This one looked like it was going to be on a par with the orangutuang movies. So, big surprise: from a basically ordinary script, Eastwood made a beautiful, unpretentious film about old age, with one of his finest last shots ever. Never count this guy out.

Brother – The plot stops making sense about half way through, and he’s basically just riffing, but I haven’t enjoyed a Kitano film so much since Boiling Point.

Runner-ups: Yi Yi, Mission:Impossible 2, Alice et Martin, Keeping the Faith, Best in Show.

Toxic: Pay It Forward, Shaft, The Patriot.

Vastly overrated: Dancer in the Dark.

Best dialogue exchange of the year: The Patriot

Mel Gibson: Mind if I sit here?

Joely Richardson: Go ahead, it’s a free country.or it will be soon.

Favorite film criticism

At the beginning of the year, I met Manny Farber and Patricia Patterson for the first time. I wrote a piece for Film Comment, which included some of their remarks on Kiarostami and Pialat’s Van Gogh. In a brief conversation, Manny said more illuminating things about Kiarostami than most people have managed in 8000 words.

I really enjoyed many of Armond White’s pieces for the New York Press, particularly his demolition jobs on Shaft and Unbreakable and his House Of Mirth rave. I don’t always agree with Armond, but he’s one of the most passionate voices in film criticism.

I also came to enjoy the writing of David Walsh, the critic for the World Socialist Website, who wrote the following knockout line about Requiem For A Dream: “America has a lot of problems, but lack of appreciation for the writing of Hubert Selby is not one of them.”

Durgnat’s BFI Modern Classics book on WR was the main event of the year for me. Durgnat uses ideas the way Manny used adjectives. He opens up every horizon around and beyond this film, and by the time I got to the end of the book, I felt like I was experiencing one of those rare days after a storm, when the wind has swept the sky clean and the clouds are racing.

Kent Jones is a programmer at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center in New York. He is the author of the BFI monograph L’Argent (1999) and a forthcoming book on Hou Hsaio-hsen. He is also the co-writer of Il Dolce Cinema, a documentary on Italian cinema directed by Martin Scorsese.

© Kent Jones, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favourite Films 2000

by Dmetri Kakmi

Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)
Bringing Out the Dead (Martin Scorsese, 2000)
The Colour of Paradise (Majid Majidi, 1999)
Pitch Black (David N. Twohy, 2000)
Ring (Hideo Nakata, 1998)
Ring 2 (Hideo Nakata, 1999)
X-Men (Brian Singer, 2000)
The Straight Story (David Lynch 2000)
Sisters (Brian De Palma [re-released on DVD, 2000])
Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954, [remastered version, 2000])

Best film criticism for 2000:

‘The Scent of Pacino’ by Philip Brophy, in “Carlito’s Way – A symposium”, Senses of Cinema, May 2000.

Dmetri Kakmi is an essayist and a critic. He works for Penguin Books Australia as an editor.

© Dmetri Kakmi, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favorite 2000 Film: Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier, 2000)

by Anahid Kassabian

Dancer in the Dark

My favorite film of the year is Dancer in the Dark, though the choice surprised me. I’m usually much more pedestrian in my taste. I suppose Dancer in the Dark is my favorite because I have a number of affective connections with the material: I love all kinds of musicals; and I have acquired a strong Danish sensibility over the years, for biographical reasons, which draws me to this film.

More than that, though, I like being challenged and surprised, and Bjork’s music did just that. As did the visual textures of the film, especially its use of color and digital video, and the quotations, which I think are creative, verging on brilliant. Narratively, part of what I think of as Dancer in the Dark‘s “Danish” sensibility is von Trier’s ability to be bleak without being hopeless. I found the ending of the film quite nearly optimistic, even if shocking and sad. And that very combination drew me back into thinking about it again and again.

Dancer in the Dark is not an attractive or appealing film. It isn’t fun. It isn’t heroic. But it is smart and surprising in every aspect of filmmaking, and for me that makes it the standout film of 2000.

Anahid Kassabian teaches film and popular music at Fordham University in New York. Her book, Hearing Film: Tracking Identifications in Contemporary Hollywood Film Music, is newly available from Routledge.

© Anahid Kassabian, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favourite Films 2000

by Gabe Klinger

Eureka (Shinji Aoyama, 2000)
In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000)
Yi Yi (Edward Yang, 2000)
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000)
Merci pour le chocolat (Claude Chabrol, 2000)
Branca de Neve (João Cesar Monteiro, 2000)
The Circle (Jafar Panahi, 2000)
The Gleaners and I (Agnés Varda, 2000)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2000)
Songs from the Second Floor (Roy Andersson, 1999)

Gabe Klinger is a film writer living in Chicago.

© Gabe Klinger, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favourite US Films 2000

by Bill Krohn

The best American films I saw this year were Unbreakable and Requiem For A Dream, which confirmed the promise of The Sixth Sense and PI. (M. Night Shyamalan doesn’t talk much about his first feature, I understand.) Two new auteurs, both practitioners of the ‘fantastic’, have joined the ranks of American filmmakers already in place whose work is identified with that genre-which-is-not-a-genre: Dante, Carpenter, Burton and Romero – to whom I could easily add five or six solid lesser talents with the same bent.

I don’t think this marked propensity of our national cinema has to do with technology: A minor Wes Craven film like Shocker was using crude versions of all the techniques of digital cinema before they were invented because Craven needed them to make the film that he had in his head in 1989. Shyamalan and Darren Aronowsky are making films in that tradition because it has become the central tradition of American film in the last 25 years, and like their predecessors they don’t mind using it to tackle the most important subjects around (drugs in the case of Requiem – a huge subject that lends itself better to horror movie treatment than it does to preaching or sociology).

Already the maker of one of the top-grossing films of all time, one that seems to have found its audience without a great deal of hype, Shyamalan arrives from Philadelphia with the paradoxical project, announced in Unbreakable, of reviving Hollywood film by literally mortifying all of its elements (acting, lighting, rhythm, themes), Aronowsky, emerging from impecunious nether reaches of the indie world, proposes a new version of Deleuze’s “cinema of the brain” perfectly adapted to survival in the audiovisual landscape of MTV and the Internet. We’ll see what becomes of these gifted newcomers if and when Shyamalan writes the next Indiana Jones film for Spielberg and Aronowsky accepts Warner Bros.’ invitation to revive the Batman series. For some reason, nobody thought of hiring the guy who made The Cider House Rules….

P.S. The most promising indies I saw this year were Cleopatra’s Second Husband by Jon Reiss and La Cucaracha by Jack Perez. Joe Dante, a tough audience, recommends Attack Of The Bat Monsters.

P.P.S. How could I have left out The Virgin Suicides? She’s better than her old man!

Bill Krohn is the author of Hitchcock au travail (1999), available in English as Hitchcock at Work (Phaidon Press, 2000). He has also been the Hollywood correspondent for Cahiers du Cinéma since 1978.

© Bill Krohn, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Film Favourites 2000

by Bree McKilligan

My list includes 2000 releases as well as discoveries and re-viewings on video. I haven’t been able to watch any new releases since August so it is likely this list will reflect that.

In no order of preference:

Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)
In the Mood for Love (Wong Kai-Wai, 2000)
Detour (Edgar Ulmer, 1945)
On the Wings of a Dove (Iain Softley, 1997)
All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, 1999)
Un Chien Andalou (Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali, 1929)
Ninotchka (Ernst Lubitsch, 1939)
The Lead Dress (Virginia Murray, 1985) (Australian experimental short)
Beautiful People (Jasmin Dizdar, 1999)

Bree McKilligan is a Melbourne writer/director and scriptwriting teacher currently residing in Germany. Her short films have screened internationally.

© Bree McKilligan, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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by Bill Mousoulis

10 Best Films Of 2000:

Viewing films in Australia, this is necessarily an impoverished list, films such as La Captive, Yi Yi, Vengo, La Ville est tranquile, The Circle, etc. not having made it to this fair land. Still, all ten films I list here are endlessly fascinating and/or resonant, and I am glad they exist. Cinema is alive and well.

(in preferential order)

Wonderland

1. The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami)
2. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai)
3. Wonderland (Michael Winterbottom)
4. Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson)
5. Throne of Death (Murali Nair)
6. Xiao Wu (Jia Zhangke)
7. Beau Travail (Claire Denis)
8. Blackboards (Samira Makhmalbaf)
9. Dancer in the Dark (Lars Von Trier)
10. Janice Beard: 45 WPM (Clare Kilner)

10 Worst Films Of 2000:

Maybe I’m getting old and crotchety, but I found quite a few films to dislike this year. In fact, the first seven on this list I found particulary objectionable, on moral and/or emotional and/or cinematic grounds.

(in order from the horrible to the slightly bearable)

1. City Loop (Belinda Chayko)
2. The Photographers (Nikos Koundouros)
3. A Pornographic Affair (Frederic Fonteyne)
4. American Beauty (Sam Mendes)
5. The Girl on the Bridge (Patrice Leconte)
6. The Colour of Paradise (Majid Majidi)
7. Three Kings (David O. Russell)
8. The Road Home (Zhang Yimou)
9. Beautiful People (Jasmin Dizdar)
10. Angst (Daniel Nettheim)

10 (Re)Discoveries In 2000:

Just as important as watching new films, each year has its pleasures in discovering or rediscovering gems from the past. The cinema is inexhaustible.

(in preferential order)

1. L’Age d’or (Luis Buñuel)
2. Alan Clarke films, especially Christine and Elephant
3. Seeing Bresson films on 35mm. at the Melbourne Cinémathèque
4. Claire Denis films, especially I Can’t Sleep and No Fear, No Die
5. Mondo and Latcho Drom (Tony Gatlif)
6. Lucky Star (Frank Borzage)
7. Berlin Alexanderplatz (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
8. Close-Up (Abbas Kiarostami)
9. L’Amoureuse (Jacques Doillon)
10. Marius and Jeannette (Robert Guediguian)

Bill Mousoulis is an independent filmmaker and founding editor of Senses of Cinema.

© Bill Mousoulis, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favourite Moments from the Best Films of 2000

by George Papadopoulos

1. The House of Mirth (Terence Davies, 2000) – the beautiful dissolve from the rooms of a New York mansion to the rain-drenched streets outside and then to the ocean water of the Mediterranean where we see a yacht in the horizon.

2. Yi Yi (Edward Yang, 2000) – a young daughter’s discovery of her father’s suicidal attempt as she frantically tries to revive him and then runs across the apartment in search of help, and this all happens off-screen as we hear her screams of terror and helplessness.

3. In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000) – Maggie Cheung’s slow-motion swaying of her hips as she slowly walks up a circular staircase in the confines of her crammed apartment.

4. Brother (Takeshi Kitano, 2000) – the brilliantly understated climactic shoot-out depicting a door being riddled with bullets as the sun rays beam through the bullet holes.

5. The Insider (Michael Mann, 1999) – Al Pacino slow-motion walk out of his office building for the last time and onto the streets of New York pulling up the collar of his trench-coat.

6. Dancer In The Dark (Lars Von Trier, 2000) – With arms stretched out wide, standing on a moving train and with the clear blue sky above her Bjork singing “I Can See” although knowing she is going blind.

7. The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami, 1999) – a journalist’s constant frustration at having to drive twenty minutes outside of a village in order to answer calls on his mobile phone.

8. George Washington (David Gordon Green, 1999) – the final image of a young black kid from the poverty-stricken American south aspiring one day to become President of the United States.

9. Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999) – the final scene of a soldier dancing enthusiastically in a nightclub building from a steady pace to a complete physical contortion connecting body and soul in death.

10. Croupier (Mike Hodges, 1998) – Clive Owen’s wonderful understated reaction when discovering the culprit behind the ingenious heist plan of the casino where he moonlights as a croupier.

11. A Time For Drunken Horses (Bahman Ghobadi, 2000) – a young Kurdish boy’s terror screams as he helplessly tries to move his horse stuck in the heavy snow as gun-toting soldiers loom in the near distance.

George Papadopoulos is the Manager of Finance and Acquisitions for Newvision Film Distributors.

© George Papadopoulos, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Top ten films of 2000

by Mark Peranson

In alphabetical order:

In the Mood for Love

Blackboards (Samira Makhmalbaf, 2000)
Erin Brockovich (Steven Soderbergh, 2000)
The Gleaners and I (Agnes Varda, 2000)
The Heart of the World (Guy Maddin, 2000)
The House of Mirth (Terence Davies, 2000)
In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)
Platform (Jia Zhangke, 2000)
Werckmeister Harmonies (Bela Tarr, 2000)
Yi Yi (Edward Yang, 2000)

Runners up:

Fa Talai Jone (Wisit Sasanatieng, 2000)
George Washington (David Gordon Green, 2000)
Hollow Man (Paul Verhoeven, 2000)
Kippur (Amos Gitai, 2000)
Not Forgotten (Shinozaki Makoto, 2000)
Songs From the Second Floor (Roy Andersson, 2000)

Some thoughts on the year in film:

If I were stranded on a desert island, would there be ten films made AND released in 2000 where I live (Canada) that I’d actually want with me? In a year where it’s terribly tempting to vote for a beach volleyball as best supporting actor (at the very least, its accent is perfect), that audible sound is the over-inflated balloon of Hollywood’s 1999 irregular, quality-filled slate of film production slowly deflating. Party over, oops, out of time.

Entirely pathetic with regards to Hollywood or independent American film – there are always exceptions that prove the rule. 2000 might go down as the Year of Convergence. That aesthetic dinosaur is not the celluloid strip of film, but the concept of a narrative feature film as something truly distinct from music videos, video games or television shows. What is Erin Brockovich if not a well-made movie of the week? (Albeit, one that plays with its conventions.) Charlie’s Angels resembles less a movie version of the TV show than something designed for a Sony Playstation. What’s next? Filmed versions of planetarium laser-light shows?

No criticizing or bemoaning, though: it’s just history at work. Still, it’s come home that for about twenty years or so, people have gone to the movies to watch television, to be entertained and amused in a small-screen kind of way with big-screen kinds of visuals. Witness Elvis Mitchell’s review of…oh, hell, pick one at random. There is a point there, even if it’s one Mitchell et al wouldn’t dissect: who among the culturally savvy will be ensconced mid the two-hour-plus long One Hour Traffic, watch the sight of Eric Foreman snorting up in a more affluent basement, and not, on some level, be jarred out of their filmgoing experience to think they’re watching a very special episode of That ’70s Show? (Cannibis is okay for Rupert Murdoch; crack is for cable.)

Banning television actors from appearing in feature films, and vice versa, is unfortunately impractical. For a critic, it all comes down to familiarity. We value “originality”. What I’ve seen before, what I haven’t heard before. Thanks, perhaps, to music videos, primarily image-driven cinema may prove to be a twentieth-century phenomenon, and it should be, because anyone with a lot of money can buy a Rembrandt. Take O Brother, (please), an eminently forgettable – by the end, somewhat detestable – film.but how about those songs? And it’s not just an American phenomena: Aoyama Shinji’s Eureka was composed while the director was listening to the Jim O’Rourke album, and I will only note in passing that Hou hsiao-hsien really wants to be a pop star, and appears on Taiwanese television in some (pretty piss-poor, I’m told) music videos. In the Mood for Love shows that WKW can thrive in a Doyle-less state, but what would the film be without Michael Galasso’s score?

In this respect, these are a few of my least favourite things: Lars von Trier’s Breakdancing the Waves; the bullet-less exotic ballet of that Crouching Dragon video game (which unnecessarily matches Quality with kung fu); Cameron’s rotten crowing; Gwynnie’s crappy singing (like I even have to mention that). If music is, indeed, the doctor, then Bjorken Blossoms is painful proof that the healthcare system is in dire need of reform. Forget the anti-musical, look to the anti-music video: in Guy Maddin’s The Heart of the World, rapidly edited images matched to music (not, as the rule, the reverse), anything but smoothly; if only all of Maddin’s films were six minutes long.

Why I hate postmodern dance. Even if Hollow Man falls short of my top ten, there’s more awareness of what it means to be making films today – in an environment of inveterate hollowness – in Paul Verhoeven’s member than Ang Lee’s entire body. Verhoeven, along with Bruno Dumont, may be the only filmmakers to work concomitantly in both arenas of purity and revulsion, and capture the current inconsistency. They know what they are doing, as does von Trier, but his is a film for Dubya times, at the same time intellectually vapid and intellectually defensible. I could creatively insult Dancer in the Dark for another five hundred words, and I’m tempted, but the chords are not all minor. To counteract this one-two punch of perfidy, purveyors of easy pain (via aesthetic cruddinesss in Dancer) and pleasure (via fluidity in Crouching Tiger), there are two films that are their polar opposites, existing on a higher plane where engagement replaces entertainment.

Platform and Beau Travail, song and dance. Like most critics, I feel like I’m grasping on to some nostalgic notion of what it means to be cinema, what it means to be ART, but the music-video sequence of the year comes in what history will prove to be the film of the year is the introductory appearance of the pathetically nowhere near famous All Star Rock N’ Breakdance Band in Jia Zhangke’s epic Platform. This unsubtle intrusion of American cultural imperialism destroys all of our notions of what such a scene should look like, but not because it’s filmed with 100 DV cameras, only one lowly sucker perched, for all I know, on a tripod; close on its heels are all of Platform‘s other musical numbers, the one that I took most pleasure from was an earlier scene that has diffident lead Wang Hongwei (Jia’s Jean-Pierre Leaud, his downtrodden De Niro) leading the commie cultural troupe in a boogying-on-down to George Lam’s all-too-chic “Genghis Kahn”. Even so, at over three hours, Platform is unlikely to gain distribution in its current form – American audiences can only tolerate historical epics when they’re directed by David Lean, or, I say with a glimmer of hope, three-hour Asian films when directed by Edward Yang. If it’s a soap opera. And maybe Platform shouldn’t be released, especially if it has to be cut – editing any more out of this masterpiece is like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. And though there’s nothing comfortably gorgeous about it, you’ve got to like the look of Wang’s face.

And the music doesn’t stop there. To quote wee Billy Elliot, just because I like ballet doesn’t mean I’m a poof. Follow the bouncing volleyball to Denis Lavant’s actual spasmodic release, getting down over (or is it under?) the closing credits to 1999’s Beau Travail – a film released this year in Canada, for one week in one city – a fluid musical dream of a film that begs a special citation for choreography. Being able to overwhelm a jaded film critic, now THAT’S got to be entertainment. I have nothing to add on the film, and I defy anyone to leave Beau Travail in a state other than excited agitation; far more often this year I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.

Addendum:

From the December Sight and Sound:

“Meanwhile, next up if Lee and Schamus’s current plans pan out is a musical, no less – an American musical with a modern setting”.

Mark Peranson is the editor of Cinema Scope. He is interested in making contact with writers.

© Mark Peranson, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Film Favourites 2000

by Alberto Pezzotta

Listed in no particular order:

Juliet in Love (Wilson Yip Wai-sun)
Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors (Hong Sang-soo, 2000)
Kippur (Amos Gitai)
La Vierge des tueurs (Barbet Schroeder)
Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)
In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)

So few? I didn’t see the last works, among others, of Béla Tarr and George A. Romero. Many essential American movies (The Insider, Bringing Out the Dead, The Thin Red Line, The Straight Story) were released in 1999. Italian cinema is so little…

Alberto Pezzotta writes for Corriere della sera and (too) many Italian film magazines. Has written books on Hong Kong Cinema, Mario Bava, Taxi Driver, Abel Ferrara.

© Alberto Pezzotta, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favourite Films 2000

by Ray Privett

Kippur

Kippur
Kadosh
Garage Olimpo
The Day I Became A Woman
Ghost Dog: the Way of the Samurai
X-Men
Ene Bene
His Wife’s Diary
Wojaczek
Milk Punch

Runners up:

69
Cherokee
The Cloud
The Marcorelle Affair
Oona’s Veil
A Trip to the Country

Favorite film criticism:

Conversations with –

Fred Camper
Petra Gumplova
Erik Gunneson
Jim Kreul
Serge Le Peron
Glenn Myrent

Ray Privett works with Facets Multimedia in Chicago.

© Ray Privett, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favourite 2000 Film: Bringing Out the Dead (Martin Scorsese, 2000)

by Constantine Santas

Bringing Out the Dead

In many ways, Bringing Out the Dead is a throwback to Taxi Driver. Here again is the “underground man”, as Pauline Kael wrote, a person alienated, on the margins of society. The hero of the story, Frank Pierce (Nicholas Cage), drives an ambulance, mostly at night. He is a paramedic called to save near-death patients, nearly all of whom are from the ‘bottom of the barrel’. But his work as a savior is failing and he, himself, is near death from exhaustion, fatigue, despair, disgust.

Here’s New York again, 30 years after Taxi, and you ‘d think it had changed under the reign of Mayor Rudi Guliani. Instead, it is hell on earth: prostitutes (some in advanced state of pregnancy), drug addicts, street punks, grunts, drug dealers, a naked man, homeless persons, crackheads, more prostitutes, men just shot and dying of bullet wounds. For the most part, the calls that come in are for cardiac arrests (“What happened to chest pains?” grumbles Pierce), but they end up being anything, including a woman giving birth to twins.

Pierce is an angel, though, and wants to save the nearly dead. A compassionate man, he feels everything he does, he grieves every time he loses a patient-which is almost always. To save a dying person is his life’s work, his obsession. Scorsese captures the New York streets from the point of view of the hallucinating mind of Pierce. Most is done through lighting, the majority of the action transpiring at night, the viewer sees a phantasmagoria of changing blimps, spots of glimmer, dark street corners, split images. This captures a mind disintegrating under stress. At one moment, street pavements burst open, and bodies spring out, forming, growing, becoming human again-a scene reminiscent of the tomb openings and the raising of Lazarus in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). In fact, Pierce becomes a sort of second Jesus. His compassion is intense, and every saving of a life is to be celebrated as a victory against death. As with all major Scorsese characters, Pierce is in conflict with himself. He needs the victory to sustain him.

This is a movie without glamour whatsoever, a movie that does not belong in the entertainment business. It’s a struggle for the viewer to just finish it, get it over with. Ugliness, despair, defeat of the human spirit. But of course, honesty. It’s Scorsese’s trademark. To give you characters on the brink of collapse, on the very margin of humanity. He is a master of the dark sides of human existence.

Constantine Santas is a Professor of Literature and Film at Flagler College, St. Augustine, Florida, and the author of Responding to Film (Burnham, Inc., 2001)

© Constantine Santas, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Jack Sargeant’s Best film experiences of 2000

Cinematically both George Washington (David Gordon Green, 2000) and Chopper (Andrew Dominik, 2000) were great debut features (both of which I saw at the wonderful 9th Brisbane International Film Festival).

But rediscovering Serge Gainsbourg’s movie Je Taime… (1975) with Joe Dellesandro and Jane Birkin was also a pleasure.

But perhaps the greatest fun was watching Jack Stevenson’s screenings at the Brighton Cinémathèque (UK) – a collection of strange and neglected sex education and porno films from 1900-1975.

Jack Sargeant is the author of Naked Lens: Beat Cinema (1997), Deathtripping:The Cinema of Transgression (1995) and sUTURE (1998) (all published by Creation Books ). He is also a regular contributor to many journals and magazines; a collection of his writings Cinema Contra Cinema is available (Fringecore via Amazon).

© Jack Sargeant, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favourite Films 2000

by Megan Spencer

Dancer In The Dark (Lars Von Trier, 2000)
The Colour of Paradise (Majid Majidi, 1999)
American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 2000)
American Movie (Chris Smith & Sarah Price, 1999)
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Jim Jarmusch, 1999)
Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2000)
Boys Don’t Cry (Kim Peirce, 1999)
Benjamin Smoke (Jem Cohen, 1999)
Cunnamulla (Dennis O’Rourke, 2000)
The Limey (Steve Soderburgh, 1999)

Megan Spencer is the resident film critic at Australian national broadcaster Triple J Radio and is an independent video documentary maker. She is based in Melbourne.

© Megan Spencer, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favourite Films 2000

by Mark Spratt

If it’s not restricted to films released let me nominate the following, most of which were unreleased and which reinforce an interest and joy in 21st century cinema:

Three Kings (David O. Russell, 1999)
Erin Brokovich (Steven Soderbergh, 2000)
Laetitia Masson’s A Vendre (1998) and Love Me (2000)
Rosetta (Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne 1998)
Sensitive New Age Killer (Mark Savage, 2000)
Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)
American Psycho (Mary Harron, 1999)
In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000)
The Straight Story (David Lynch, 1999)
Shadow Of The Vampire (E. Elias Merhige, 2000)

Best Australian films:

Me Myself I (Pip Karmel, 2000)
Chopper (Andrew Dominik, 2000)

Best rediscoveries:

One, Two, Three (Billy Wilder, 1961)
Meet Me In St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944)

(I declare a commercial interest in the re-issue of the above two as well as the next two):

Ring (Hideo Nakata, 1998)
Ring 2 (Hideo Nakata, 1999)

An astonishing diptych to be released by Potential Films in 2001. These two Japanese horror adaptations go way beyond any American ‘urban legend’ theme. I can honestly say that I have never felt my flesh crawl, hair stand on end, genuinely get the creeps along with a large audience since seeing Mrs. Bates rush out to stab Martin Balsam in Psycho (when I was probably too young to watch it) or maybe the nun pop out of the trapdoor at the end of Vertigo (when I actually was old enough) than when I saw these two films back to back at the Melbourne International Film Festival 2000. Mise en scène rules! Fuck digital bullshit!

Finally, thanks also to the Melbourne International Film Festival for the Seijun Suzuki retrospective. What an amazing variety of films all demonstrating a wonderful cinematic talent.

I could go on with an overrated/disappointments list but let’s not get depressing – I already know what the most overrated film of the next 12 months will be….

Mark Spratt has a long working background in exhibition, cinema management, programming and freelance reviewing. The director of Potential Films, he has now been a distributor for over 10 years.

© Mark Spratt, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favourite Films 2000

by Brad Stevens

The prospect of compiling my annual ten best list usually inspires a feeling of profound embarrassment: there are always so many possibly important films I have not yet seen, and will spend the next few years catching up with. But perhaps this is the wrong attitude. Although few would wish to dispute the central claim of Jonathan Rosenbaum’s new book Movie Wars – that the corporate mentality is progressively narrowing the variety of films made available to us – one might just as convincingly argue the complete opposite: that we now have access to a far wider range of cinematic experiences than anyone would have dreamed possible twenty or even ten years ago. I recently purchased a DVD player, and was astonished by the selection of world cinema (including rare works by Bava, Kurosawa and Feuillade) already available in this relatively new format. What follows, then, is a list of the ten best films seen by me for the first time during the last twelve months:

Chikamatsu Monogatari (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1955)
The Criminal Life Of Archibaldo De La Cruz (Luis Buñuel, 1955)
Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)
Georgia (Ulu Grosbard, 1995)
Late Spring (Yasujiro Ozu, 1949)
The Rising Of The Moon (John Ford, 1957)
Seminole (Budd Boetticher, 1953)
Shame, Shame, Shame (Zalman King, 1997)
Tire Au Flanc (Jean Renoir, 1928)
Wild Side (Donald Cammell, 1995)

To which I feel compelled to add the three short films by Andre Almuro that I saw in the director’s Paris apartment.

Brad Stevens recently completed a book, Abel Ferrara: The Moral Vision, which will be published soon in the UK by FAB Press. He has written for numerous film magazines worldwide.

© Brad Stevens, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Film Favourites 2000

by Fiona A. Villella

In no particular order:

All About my Mother

All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, 1999)
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Jim Jarmusch, 1999)
The Straight Story (David Lynch, 1999)
The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami, 1999)
Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)
Romance (Catherine Breillat, 1999)
An Autumn Tale (Eric Rohmer, 1998)
Bringing Out The Dead (Martin Scorsese, 1999)
The Insider (Michael Mann, 1999)
Space Cowboys (Clint Eastwood, 2000)
American Movie (Chris Smith & Sarah Price, 1999)
Erin Brockovich (Steve Soderburgh, 2000)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000)
Le Vent De La Nuit (Philippe Garrel, 1998)
Sud (Chantal Akerman, 1999)
In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000)
Kikujiro (Takeshi Kitano, 1999)

Commentary: I love all these films for different reasons. And I still have a lot to catch up on!

Retrospectively speaking:

Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (Robert Bresson, 1945)
Lucky Star
(Frank Borzage, 1929)
In the Realm of the Senses (Nagisa Oshima, 1976)
Histoire(s) du cinéma, chapters 1A & 1B (Jean-Luc Godard, 1988)
The Denis retrospective held at the 49th Melbourne International Film Festival especially U.S. Go Home (1994)

Best performance:

Al Pacino in The Insider

Best image-sound combination:

The Wind Will Carry Us
Ghost Dog: the Way of the Samurai
Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier, 2000)

Video highlights:

Me Myself and Irene (the Farrelly Brothers, 2000)
The Blackout (Abel Ferrara, 1997)

Favourite Film Criticism/Reviews:

Kent Jones, “The Dance of the Unknown Soldier”, Film Comment, vol. 36, no.3, May-June 2000, pp.26-27

Jonathan Rosenbaum, “International Sampler”, (review of Ghost Dog: the Way of the Samurai), Chicago Reader, uploaded 17 March 2000,

Adrian Martin, “Affair of the Soul”, (review of Romance), The Age, February 2000

(These last two especially for exemplary achievements in film reviewing).

Luc Moullet, “Better to Burn Out Than to Fade Away: Blue Collar Dandy”, Film Comment, vol. 36, no.5, Sept-Oct 2000

Entries by Adrian Martin and Nicole Brenez in “Carlito’s Way – A symposium”, Senses of Cinema, May 2000.

Fiona A. Villella is editor of Senses of Cinema.

© Fiona A. Villella, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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Favourite Films 2000

by Jake Wilson

Here’s my favourite film list for 2000. I’ve made the arbitrary decision of restricting it to recently made feature films (including a couple screened at the 49th Melbourne International Film Festival).

In rough order of preference:

The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami, 1999)
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Jim Jarmusch, 1999)
An Autumn Tale (Eric Rohmer, 1998)
Topsy-Turvy (Mike Leigh, 2000)
The Straight Story (David Lynch, 1999)
Sleepy Hollow (Tim Burton, 1999)
Time Regained (Raul Ruiz, 1999)
The Insider (Michael Mann, 1999)
Show Me Love (Lukas Moodysson, 1998)
Kikujiro (Takeshi Kitano, 1999)
Romance (Catherine Breillat, 1999)
All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, 1999)
Mission To Mars (Brian De Palma, 2000)
The Ninth Gate (Roman Polanski, 2000)

Jake Wilson is a Melbourne writer, cinema student and filmmaker.

© Jake Wilson, December 2000 back to list of contributors

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