Editors’ Note
Welcome to the annual Senses of Cinema World Poll. Readers should find it a fascinating overview of cinema from a multitude of countries and cultures.

As some readers will seek and search entries, rather than read from beginning to end, full titles, director credits and years of release have been included with each reference. Several authors have added details about countries of origin, but these have not been standardized.

Grateful thanks to all those who sent in lists, and the thoughtful and provocative comments.

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Antony I. Ginnane

Stephen Goddard

Chiranjit Goswami

Paul Grant

Engin Gulez

Lindsay Anne Hallam

Lee Hill

Peter Hourigan

Brian Hu

Christoph Huber

Kent Jones

Robert Keser

Rainer Knepperges

Kevyn Knox

Jay Kuehner

Marc Lauria

Max Le Cain

Kevin B. Lee

Babette Mangolte

Miguel Marías

Paul Martin

Jim May

Lucas McNelly

David Melville

Olaf Möller

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Ryan Professor of Film Studies, Department of English University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Editor, Quarterly Review of Film and Video.

Here’s my best of 2006 list, in no particular order:

The Queen

The Queen (Stephan Frears, 2006)
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006)
L’Enfant (The Child, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2005)
Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck, 2006)
Volver (Pedro Almodóvar, 2006)
This Film is Not Yet Rated (Kirby Dick, 2006)
The Aura (Fabián Bielinsky)
13 (Tzameti) (Géla Babluani, 2005)
A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005)

In 2006, more and more works were being created digitally, and film itself seemed to be vanishing between the cracks. But, then again, there isn’t anything really wrong with this; it’s simply another step in the evolution of the moving image.

The greatest loss to cinema in 2006 was the death of Fabián Bielinsky, director of The Aura. After working for 20 years as an AD, he finally scored his first feature with the mediocre caper thriller, Nueuve reinas (Nine Queens, 2000), but then broke through into really new and interesting territory with his final film, before his untimely death from a heart attack.

More than anything else, violence seemed to rule the cinema in 2006, in everything from Saw III (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2006) to Apocalypto (Mel Gibson, 2006). America, exhausted after four years of war, seems to be turning to violence, interspersed with romantic and/or escapist comedy, as a way to ignore the state of affairs in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Darfur … the list goes on.

to list of contributors

 

Antony I. Ginnane

A producer, distributor and commentator based in Los Angeles, USA, and Melbourne, Australia. He is also president of IFM World Releasing Inc.

Eligibility: theatrical or premiere DVD release or festivals in U.S., Canada, Australia or New Zealand in the calendar year 2006. The list is alphabetical by title.

Caché (Hidden, Michael Haneke, 2005)
If Claude Chabrol had been German, not French, and was twenty years younger, this paranoid cynical worldview is just what he would have concocted.

The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
Hard-edged big-scale reworking of the Hong Kong classic Mou gaan dou (Infernal Affairs, Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, 2002) with an onion-layered plot and adrenaline-hyped pace.

Fay Grim (Hal Hartley, 2006)
Weird updating of Alphaville: une étrange aventure de Lenny Caution (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965) and Bande à Part (Godard, 1964). Conspiracy, paranoia and joie de vivre. Parker Posey channels Anna Karina and does everything but dance.

Flags of Our Fathers (Clint Eastwood, 2006)
Another Fordian meditation on war and death and fame and glory by the U.S.’s greatest living working director.

Happy Feet (George Miller, 2006)
Cinema’s primitive sense of wonder mixed with state of the art fx and a political subtext that doesn’t beat you over the head with a brick in the manner of Blood Diamond (Ed Zwick, 2006) or the like. Great song and dance as well.

The Hills Have Eyes (Alexandre Aja, 2006)
Lifts the original Manson/Cannibal Apocalypse USA-style story from Vietnam to Iraq with bleach-bathed power. The real question for cinéphiles is not Tony Scott versus Ridley Scott, but Hills Have Eyes versus Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Miami Vice (Michael Mann, 2006)
Brittle brutal colour-drenched tone poem about hell in Miami.

Shadowboxer (Lee Daniels, 2005)
Stylish revenge thriller with a similar nihilism to Get Carter (Mike Hodges, 1971) with luminous performances by Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr.

Chinjeolhan Geumjassi (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Park Chan Wook, 2005)
Visceral finale to a trilogy that recalled early Roman Polanski and Jean-Pierre Melville, with the same mix of black humour and stoicism.

Volver (Pedro Almodóvar 2006)
Sentimental blend of Douglas Sirk and Vincente Minnelli, with a little Alfred Hitchcock thrown in for good measure.

I certainly would have included in a further more expansive list:

United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006), The Black Dahlia (Brian De Palma, 2006), Manderlay (Lars Von Trier, 2005), The Road to Guantanamo (Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross, 2006), Water (Deepa Mehta, 2006), The Descent (Neil Marshall, 2006), Paradise Now (Hany Abu-Assad, 2005), V for Vendetta (James McTeigue, 2006), Waist Deep (Vondie Curtis-Hall, 2006), The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2006), The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006) and Hostel (Eli Roth, 2006).

to list of contributors

Stephen Goddard

Lecturer at Deakin University, School of Communication and Creative Arts, Melbourne.

In Les Carabiniers (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963), Michel-Ange (Albert Juross) enters a cinema as if for the first time. These were the films I saw for the first time in 2006 that reminded me of the Cinema.

Moments choisis des histoire(s) du cinéma (Jean-Luc Godard, 2004)
Les Amants réguliers (Everyday Lovers, Philippe Garrel, 2005)
Douches Froides (Cold Showers, Anthony Cordier, 2005)
L’Annulaire (The Ring Finger, Diane Bertrand, 2005)
Le Temps qui reste (Time To Leave, François Ozon, 2005)
Le Domaine perdu (The Lost Domain, Raúl Ruiz, 2005)
Sílení (Lunacy, Jan Svankmajer, 2005)
The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (Sophie Fiennes, 2006)
A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006)
Just an Ordinary Jew (Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2006)
Nina’s Journey (Lena Einhorn, 2005)
Family Law (Daniel Burman, 2006)
Sixty Six (Paul Weland, 2006)
De Particulier à particulier (Hotel Harabati, Brice Cauvin, 2006)
49 Up (Michael Apted, 2006)
The Archive Project (John Hughes, 2006)
La Signora senza camelie (The Lady without Camelias, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1953)

to list of contributors

Chiranjit Goswami

A contributing editor for Not Coming to a Theatre Near You who lives in Winnipeg, Canada.

Still Life

1. Sanxia haoren (Still Life, Jia Zhangke, 2006).
Though serene on the surface, the simplicity of Jia’s latest film conceals a certain despondent urgency and radiates an incredibly delicate intimacy whenever Jia allows a close-up. Aided considerably by the appropriately unpolished nature of digital video, Jia patiently observes the struggles and sacrifices of the subdued serfs who toil within the derelict urban debris of China’s economic boom, calmly contrasting their supposedly obsolete barter-economy commodities with the theoretical influx of Western wealth allegedly intended to improve their lives. Jia’s candid filmmaking challenges whatever purported prosperity is to be achieved by the continued construction of the Three Gorges Dam, instead demonstrating any promised affluence remains unattainable to those who rummage through its rubble, conveying the project’s destructive economic and emotional effect upon families, and continuing Jia’s critique of the disconnection created by technology. With authorities determined to flood entire communities in an effort to flood their own pockets with corporate capital, an unsettling tranquillity permeates the film with characters seemingly resigned to their wearisome conditions. Yet, though their stature is significantly diminished by their massive surroundings and their safety is threatened by constantly crumbling structures, Jia’s characters traverse the daunting landscapes and obstructive wreckage while searching for forgotten family members, thereby exhibiting some minute measure of influence over their environment, no matter how dreadful their circumstances appear. Using striking tracking-shots, hilarious humour, amusing absurdity and charitable long-takes, Jia has simultaneously created a terrifying testament to the futile fight against “eminent domain”, as well as a tribute to the continued resilience of these neglected “mountain people”.

2. The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
A strange sort of express train back into Scorsese’s vision of the urban underworld, The Departed is so ferociously fast paced that it often feels like Scorsese is attempting to break some cinematic sound barrier, especially given the playful audio tactics within his adrenaline-laced gangland saga. No longer are we permitted a pensive pause to fixate on a fizzy glass of water, or stare at the filthy flesh of a fish, or focus on finely sliced fragments of garlic. Instead, Marty embraces the kinetic qualities of the cinema he has been cultivating to create a gruff, vibrant, abrasive, bloody portrait of covert cops, cunning crooks and faulty father figures, all attempting to camouflage their true intentions. Not allowed a moment of hesitation as their criminal kingdom begins to crumble, these young men sprint towards an elusive finish-line hoping to avoid the body-count their world demands for desertion, while Scorsese illustrates the harmful consequences of juvenile ambition and endless warfare.

3. Brick (Rian Johnson, 2005)
A surreal high-school homage to Dashiell Hammett, Johnson’s classroom lecture on neo-noir is littered with femme fatales, vulnerable tough-guys, and broken-down wise-guys, but focuses upon a brooding, battered and bloody protagonist named Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) seeking passage into high-school high-society in a vain attempt to protect a departed sweetheart. Situated within the most sparsely populated school in California, amidst aptly shifting weather patterns, Brendan pretends to be indifferent to everyone, acts tough while his body is breaking down and performs the duties of a faithful advisor, all the while only serving his own interests. Unfortunately, while acting adult, Brendan remains unaware that his immaturity has set these unfortunate events in motion. Proudly exhibiting its ruthless artifice, Johnson’s film radiates the adolescent intensity required to navigate through high-school’s murky waters and remains an adeptly crafted mystery, a vivid depiction of the heightened emotional terrain of high-school life, an authentically sculpted description of isolation and a deeply affectionate tribute towards all the baroque qualities that routinely saturate the very best noir, appropriately concluding with our protagonist’s bitter introduction to adulthood.

4. Brand Upon the Brain! (Guy Maddin, 2006)
Maddin’s latest silent Freudian fever dream of a film treads in some previously charted waters, but remains as idiosyncratic as anything the auteur has crafted within his career. Maddin relishes the opportunity to emulate an elapsed era, requiring his latest amnesiac to return to a childhood home to restore his repressed memories of tyrannical parents, inappropriate scientific experiments, awkward sexual tensions and androgynous objects of desire. Stuffed full of bizarre obsessions, childhood trauma and murky montage, Brand Upon the Brain! continues to display Maddin’s mastery of visually expressive filmmaking, somehow combining strikingly suspenseful sequences, lovingly lustrous imagery and hideously hysterical humour with a light-hearted delineation of the eternal battle between savagery and science.

5. Miami Vice (Michael Mann, 2006)
While he served his supporters a Mann-sized mojito, I wasn’t surprised when most viewers winced while tasting Mann’s latest cocktail. Considering the film is flavoured with 200-proof filmmaking fortitude, I savoured Mann’s style slowly and patiently, without expecting the same ol’ police procedural. In updating Miami Vice, Mann permits his male protagonists to swagger with confidence while performing their stealthily duties. Nonetheless, no matter how convincing their professional commitment appears, Mann’s undercover brothers find their stealthily operation exposed once they become vulnerable to emotional vices. In fact, in this instance, it is Mann’s females who display superior emotional and tactical potency by adopting the masculine codes of conduct that Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) seem to have forgotten. Once the smoke clears, the residue conveys a distressing reminder that the rigid rules of masculinity often leave their practitioners isolated within their modern metropolitan habitats, envisioning an exotic lifestyle that remains beyond their reach, and only receiving sanctuary in the notion of brotherhood.

6. La Science des rêves (The Science of Sleep, Michel Gondry, 2006)
Unrestrained by traditional narrative conventions, Gondry’s trippy concoction exhibits the director’s unencumbered vision and uninhibited imagination. Focusing on the wonderfully hectic mind of a sensitive soul thankfully unable to perceive the world in any ordinary way, Gondry launches into his own creative stratosphere, presenting his audience with dreamy scenarios filled with a mess of eccentric images, all clamouring for our attention. As Stéphane (Gael Garcia Bernal) pursues the affections of Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), Gondry seduces our mind’s eye, creating blissfully ethereal results for everyone.

7. A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater, 2006)
An alarming sketch of an American society suffering through Patriot-Act-inspired paranoia, motivating its citizens to betray one another for a position of security and sacrifice their colleagues for a never-ending war. Linklater’s Rotoscoped vision adapts perfectly to Philip K. Dick’s tale of drugs, surveillance, bureaucracy and altering identity, brilliantly capturing the shifting face of addiction within its scramble suit – perhaps the only creative conception capable of illustrating the horrifically impartial quality of chemical-dependence within its miasma of fatigued expressions.

8. Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006)
I’m still mystified by Sofia Coppola’s movie-making, but I’m confident that her style doesn’t require us to entirely empathize with her hollow heroines or completely commit to their perspectives. In constructing her portrait of France’s most infamous queen, Coppola draws heavily upon her own experience as Hollywood royalty to warn against the dangers of isolation, rebel against the rituals of conformity and delight in the liberty of escape. At times compassionate, quite often critical, but always deeply personal, Coppola’s film is appropriately superficial, not because it treats its subject matter superficially, but because Coppola comprehends that Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) addresses her materiality in a superficial manner. Incorrectly accused of depicting Antoinette as akin to Paris Hilton, Coppola’s rich-girl isn’t wilfully ignorant and never celebrates her idiocy. In Coppola’s conception, Antoinette has some grasp of her hollow lifestyle, but simply remains ignorant of the magnitude of her responsibility, while struggling to elude a constrictive culture determined to break her spirit.

9. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006)
Stepping aside the staged segments, Sacha Baron Cohen’s riotous romp across America works best when he stays silent and allows his interview subjects to display their intolerant attitudes without encouragement. Though Cohen isn’t a vanguard in this brand of comedy, his results in revealing America’s cultural isolation, as well as the ensuing outrage his antics caused afterwards, effortlessly speak volumes.

10. Inside Man (Spike Lee, 2006).
After years of being dismissed as inconsequential, Lee managed to infuse his heist film with the cultural tensions that continue to simmer beneath the surface of his New York stomping grounds. I would have included his efforts in When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006) within my list had I been able to view the documentary in its entirety.

to list of contributors

Paul Grant

A PhD candidate in cinema studies at NYU. He is a filmmaker and translated Serge Daney’s Persévérance into English, to be published under the title Postcards from the Cinema (Berg Publishers, 2007).

The last third of 2006 I saw exactly one film at a movie theatre due to a new edition to the family (the real number 1 on my 2006 best of list …). Thus, my list is composed of a number of cinema-related events, publications, DVDs, etc.

Best of …

The New York Film Forum’s B Noir Retrospective. Special mention goes to: Phil Karlson’s Phenix City Story (1955), Sam Fuller’s House of Bamboo (1955), Ted Tetzlaff’s The Window (1949), Jules Dassin’s Thieves’ Highway (1949) and Robert Siodmak’s The Suspect (1944).

L’Amour fou (Jacques Rivette, 1969) at The Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria Queens.

Éditions Montparnasse’s Les Groupes Medvedkines DVD release.

The publication of Jean Narboni’s Mikio Naruse: Les temps incertains (Cahiers du Cinéma, 2006).

Publication of Glauber Rocha’s O Século do Cinema in French (Le Siècle du cinéma, Yellow Now, 2006).

Publication of Nicole Brenez’s Les Cinémas d’avant-garde (Cahiers du Cinéma, 2006).

The Alexander Kluge retrospective at Anthology Film Archives.

Rumour about a Jean-Daniel Pollet retrospective to happen in New York in 2007.

The screening of Adolfo Aristarain’s Tiempo de Revancha (Time for Revenge, 1981) in David Oubina’s seminar on Argentine Cinema at Tisch School of the Arts.

David Oubina’s lecture on Jean-Luc Godard’s influence on Argentine Cinema at New York University, during which he showed clips from Alberto Fischerman’s Players vs. ángeles caídos (1969) and Edgardo Cozarinsky’s Puntos suspensivos o Esperando a los bárbaros (1971).

Finding the books that Robert Stam threw out when cleaning his office. Special mention goes to the special edition of Screen on Bertolt Brecht and Ismail Xavier’s D. W. Griffith, o nascimento de um cinema (Ed. Brasileiense, 1984).

The announcement of a DVD release of Yoshishige Yoshida’s Erosu purasu gyakusatsu (Eros + Massacre, 1970) with English subtitles.

The appearance of a subtitled DVD copy of Rogério Sganzerla’s O Bandido da Luz Vermelha (Red Light Bandit, 1968).

Receiving a DVD in the mail from a certain patron saint of avant-garde cinema with: René Vautier’s Afrique 50 (1950), Collectif cinélutte’s Soyons Tout! (1972) and Le Groupe cinéthique’s Quand on aime la vie on va au cinéma (1975).

Finding two Lav Diaz movies in a used bin at a Filipino video store in Jackson Heights, Queens.

The release of Serge Daney’s Microfilms on CD.

Worst of …

The passing of Danièle Huillet.

Jean-François Pigoullié’s strangely over-critical Serge Daney ou la morale d’un ciné-fils (Aleas, 2006).

Prof. Bill Simon’s book on Lino Brocka … that still belongs to Bill Simon.

to list of contributors

Engin Gülez

An all-around wanderer.

As always I haven’t seen many films. I was a cinéphile once, but now I only occasionally go to the cinema. Simple, I don’t care much for seeing the newest, the most recent films. Also, the ones I have seen were most of the time either awful or disappointing features. So, my list is far from a heavenly evaluation of the year.

I recently watched Robert Bresson’s L’Argent (1983) again and Bresson made me realize that I cannot stand filmed theatre and its manipulations. Although my ’Best’ list features filmed theatre, they are at least as honest as they can be and they don’t try to manipulate much. The first three titles on my ’Worst’ list are simply awful features. They are among the most manipulative films I have ever seen. The other ones have disappointed me because I know that I can see much better titles from such accomplished directors. It is also quite obvious that there is a second-feature film syndrome when you consider gifted new filmmakers like Dagur Kári or Christoffer Boe. They either ended up doing ordinary Hollywood films or found no satisfying, striking stories to tell and gave mediocre performances.

Best

Volver (Pedro Almodóvar, 2006)
The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
Nine Lives (Rodrigo García, 2005)

Worst

Crash (Paul Haggis, 2004)
Iklimler (Climates, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2006)
Derailed (Mikael Håfström, 2005)
Caché (Hidden, Michael Haneke, 2005)
Inside Man (Spike Lee, 2006)
Voksne mennesker (Dark Horse, Dagur Kári, 2005)
Allegro (Christoffer Boe, 2005)
Laitakaupungin valot (Lights in the Dusk, Aki Kaurismäki, 2006)
Hwal (The Bow, Kim ki-duk, 2005)
Æon Flux (Karyn Kusama, 2005)

to list of contributors

Lindsay Anne Hallam

PhD student and Horror film addict.

Top Ten Films released in Australia in 2006

1. A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005)

2. The Descent (Neil Marshall, 2005)
My pick for the best Horror film of the past decade. A film that can make even the most hardened Horror fans shake in their boots.

3. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
4. Caché (Hidden, Michael Haneke, 2005)

5. Calvaire (The Ordeal, Fabrice du Welz, 2004)
I was able to see this film at a screening as part of the European Nightmares conference in Manchester. What a pity it has been relegated to straight-to-DVD hell in Australia.

6. The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
7. A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006)
8. Brick (Rian Johnson, 2005)
9. A Cock and Bull Story (Michael Winterbottom, 2005)
10. Slither (James Gunn, 2006)

Special mention must also be made of the re-release of Professione: reporter (The Passenger, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975).

to list of contributors

Lee Hill

Author of a biography of Terry Southern and a BFI Modern Classic on Easy Rider.

Tops

Match Point (Woody Allen, 2005)
Munich (Stephen Spielberg, 2005)
Paradise Now (Hany-Abu Assad, 2005)
Syriana (Stephen Gaghan, 2005)
Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005)
The Devil and Daniel Johnston (Jeff Feuerzeig, 2005)
Friends With Money (Nicole Holofcener, 2006)
Tell Them Who You Are (Mark Wexler, 2005)
United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006)
The New World (Terrence Malick, 2006)
Jestem (I Am, Dorota Kedzierzawska, 2005)
Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film (Ric Burns, 2006)
Babel (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2006)

Bubbling Under (in somewhat preferential order)

Little Fish (Rowan Woods, 2005)
Inside Man (Spike Lee, 2006)
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Tommy Lee Jones, 2005)
The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2006)
They Chose China (Shuibo Wang, 2005)
La Science des rêves (The Science of Sleep, Michel Gondry, 2006)
A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006)
Venus (Roger Michell, 2006)
The Road to Guantanamo (Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross, 2006)
Lemming (Dominik Moll, 2005)
Film As A Subversive Art: Amos Vogel and Cinema 16 (Paul Cronin, 2006)
Glastonbury (Julien Temple, 2006)
Factotum (Bert Hamer, 2005)

Oldies But Goodies (television/DVD)

Our Mother’s House (Jack Clayton, 1967), The Loved One (Tony Richardson, 1965), Petulia (Richard Lester, 1968), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Mike Nichols, 1966), Pandora’s Box (G. W. Pabst, 1929), Il Conformista (The Conformist, Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970) and Reds (Warren Beatty, 1981)

Still Getting Contact Highs from
Professione: reporter (The Passenger, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975)

Underrated

Jarhead (Sam Mendes, 2005), Inside Deep Throat: DVD edition (Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, 2005), Miami Vice (Michael Mann, 2006), This Film Is Not Yet Rated (Kirby Dick, 2006), Art School Confidential (Terry Zwigoff, 2006), Imaginary Heroes (Dan Harris, 2004), Infamous (Doug McGrath, 2006) and Looking For Comedy in the Muslim World (Albert Brooks, 2006)

Overrated
Brick (Rian Johnson, 2005), except for the use of “Sister Ray” over the end credits.

Worsts
The Black Dahlia (Brian De Palma, 2006), Atomised (Oskar Roehler, 2006), The Wicker Man (Neil LaBute, 2006)

Biggest Regret

Waiting too long to see Revolution Blues, Robert Altman’s last foray on stage, at The Old Vic. Followed by missing Out 1: Noli me tangere (Jacques Rivette, 1971) at London’s National Film Theatre.

Endnote

So many films I missed, but I had few regrets about the films I did get to see. Not a landmark year in my filmgoing life like 1979 – Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola), Manhattan (Woody Allen), Rainer Werner Fassbinder – or 1985 – To Live and Die in L.A. (William Friedkin), Ran (Akira Kurosawa), Peter Greenaway, etc. – but hardly a wasted one either.

to list of contributors

Peter Hourigan

Has taught media in Secondary Schools and is an Assessor for VCE Media.

Commercial Cinema Releases

Brokeback Mountain

1. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)
2. Caché (Hidden Michael Haneke, 2005)
3. V For Vendetta (James McTeigue, 2005)
4. Macbeth (Geoffrey Wright, 2006)
5. A Cock and Bull Story (Michael Winterbottom, 2005)
6. A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006)
7. The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)

Listed in the order in which I saw them during the year, they are not all certified masterpieces, or politically correct arthouse fare, but they all gave me pleasure.

I enjoyed the ideas swirling through V For Vendetta. Macbeth had its problems, but it also was an intelligent and insightful re-imagining of Shakespeare. I have actually read Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy twice and Winterbottom (a respectable director whose films don’t always live for me) found a way to transfer the wit and ideas to the screen, in a work that is fun in its own right. A Prairie Home Companion has turned out to be a very appropriate final film. And Scorsese’s operatic, over-the-top dramatics had me punching the air in delight as I left the cinema.

Lowlights usually had a Sundance connection: from The Squid and the Whale (Noah Baumbach, 2005), which even made the art direction into bleedingly obvious emotional manipulation, to the equally overrated Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathon Davis, Valerie Faris, 2006), a simplistic compendium of clichés pretending to be insightful.

DVD experiences

It is harder to keep up with new DVDs of interest than it is with new cinema releases. Frequently, it is the opportunity to revisit films that I have previously admired. During the year there were several standout titles that were new to me.

1. Gakusei romance: Wakaki hi (Days of Youth, Ozu Yasujiro, 1929)
This can represent other rare Ozu films, now becoming available. Even where the restorations are limited, it is exciting to have titles such as this now easily accessible.

2. El Chacal de Nahueltoro (The Jackal of Nahueltoro, Miguel Littin, 1969)
This DVD was picked up as a souvenir during a holiday in South America. An early “mass killer” film, it is a model of restraint and insight.

Another DVD collected in the same way was also impressive, a new film from an interesting Argentinean director:
3. El Abrazo Partido (A Lost Embrace, Daniel Burman 2004)

4. Idi i Smotri (Come and See, Elem Klimov, 1985)
This was almost unbearable in its intensity on DVD. I easily understood its reputation as one of the most powerful statements on war.

5. Shi gan (Time, Kim Ki-Duk, 2006)
A new film, perhaps not Kim’s best, but still an enjoyable, wry “amour fou”.

Film Festival Favourites

From this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival, my favourites were:
1. Gabrielle (Patrice Chéreau, 2006)
2. 4:30 (Royston Tan, 2006)
3. Iklimler (Climates, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2006)
4. Große Stille, Die (Into Great Silence, Philip Gröning, 2005)
5. Solntse (The Sun, Alexander Sokurov, 2005)

For this list, I went with just those films that were released in the U.S. during the calendar year. Films I saw at festivals and such that may not get released here until 2007 shall have to wait until next year’s end-of-the-year roundup.

to list of contributors

Brian Hu

Reviews Editor of Mediascape and co-managing editor of Asia Pacific Arts. He’s currently a critical studies student at the UCLA School of Theater, Film & Television.

Stuck in California all year, but found really terrific:

1-2. Be with Me (Eric Khoo, 2005) and Hei yan quan (I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, Tsai Ming-liang, 2006): the longing of their echoing titles, wordlessly told through desaturated long takes and cold caresses.

3-4. La Science des rêves (The Science of Sleep, Michel Gondry, 2006) and Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006): awesome, compassionate portraits of global cities of lost children.

5-6. Hak se wui: yi wo wai kwai (Election 2 aka Triad Election, Johnnie To, 2006) and Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia (Curse of the Golden Flower, Zhang Yimou, 2006): China’s national hegemony, won and maintained through wealth, betrayal, incest, secrets, collusion, slaughter and torture.

7-8. L’Enfant (The Child, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2005) and Gajokeui tansaeng (Family Ties, Kim Tae-Yong, 2006): alternative family configurations painfully (in the former) and playfully (in the latter) coming at odds with traditional ones.

9. Yeojaneun namjaui miraeda (Woman is the Future of Man, Hong Sang-soo, 2004): old friends drinking to lowered expectations.

10-11. Eve and the Fire Horse (Julia Kwan, 2005) and Colma: The Musical (Richard Wong, 2006): Asian-American youth, loudly announcing their presence.

Also very much liked: the first half of Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006), the family reunion scenes in Americanese (Eric Byler, 2006), “Beat” Takeshi in Chi to hone (Blood and Bones, Sai Yoichi, 2004), the payoff of Inside Man (Spike Lee, 2006) and Justin Lin’s behind-the-scenes manœuvering for The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (Justin Lin, 2006)

to list of contributors

Christoph Huber

Main film critic for Die Presse.

2006: 3 notes, 2 lists, 1 omission

1. Television

2006 was a strange year, not least in that various annoying illnesses forced my to spend much of my time from the end of August onward at home, watching a lot more things on television than in the cinema. I missed some cherished festivals, most painfully Torino with its long-awaited Robert Aldrich tribute, but also Venice, which is why I haven’t seen Paul Verhoeven’s Zwartboek (Black Book, 2006). From where I’m coming from, a Best of 2006 seems ridiculous without it, even factoring in that lists are always full of undisclosed omissions – I’m sure I’d also have liked the new Alain Resnais, etc., but c’mon this is King Paul we’re talking about.

So this year I’m offering 22 timeless treasures, but only 21 new ones. Feel free to Verhoevenize the empty space. For health reasons, I’m also less ciné-Stalinist about the big screen as criterion with new films, even if I still made the distinction.

The classics list is hardcore, however, as it would be pointless to list those hundreds of happy DVD and video encounters – from, say, Mujin Retto (Katsu Kanai, 1969) and Fußball wie noch nie (Hellmuth Costard, 1971) to King of the Ants (Stuart Gordon, 2003) and Art School Sluts (Eon McKai, 2004) – the historical happiness is still very much about the joy of projection and communal experience, as exemplified by the heavenly Hollywood classic that ends it and made not just me, but many friends intensely happy. Not least because it confirmed the eternal truth that if John Ford weren’t god already, Raoul Walsh would be. (The other First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Ferroni Brigade nods in approval.)

This year I also finally began to watch television series seriously and extensively, and I had to concede that the best have long surpassed mainstream filmmaking, especially when it comes to dealing with politics. At the beginning of the year, I hardly would have believed you if you told me I would love something co-conceived by Michael Rymer. But yes, the new Battlestar Galactica is just excellent – much more thought-provoking than many of the films I now see near the top of many year-end list. At the end of 2006, I find it hard to believe that the BBC teleplay has finally won: if Paul Greengrass’ United 93 (which is at least thrillingly executed; I mean, how can you not like a film with so many shots of people staring cluelessly at small monitors?) and The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2006) are what it comes down to, my television set will probably do.

Still, I have a lot more understanding for the popular vote: it doesn’t matter whether the shoddy videography of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America to Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006) is really adding up to a movie, or if the relentless reframing of the one-joke-principle of its television sketch antecedent does. It is all about the performance, much more exciting than Helen Mirren’s stag attenuation: Sacha Baron Cohen’s creation, naïve and cruel and faux, is a truly contemporary version of Charlie Chaplin’s tramp, in both the best and worst sense. And how this guy keeps a straight face doing his shtick – really, he’s second only to Manfred Zapatka – I don’t know, but I sure hope one day they give him a part like an existentialist French racer in a Will Ferrell comedy where he gets to say stuff like, “I will be your predator, Ricky Böbby.” That would be so hilarious.

2. Pairs

A Scanner Darkly

I happily await the double effort of Clint Eastwood, and who would have predicted Spike Lee would deliver an entertainingly crafted mainstream thriller and an epic HBO doc, with both of them especially distinguished by their restraint? Although, to put things into perspective, to Johnnie To or Miike Takashi two films a year seems still mere shabbiness, and each did at least one great feature with Hak se wui yi wo wai kwai (Election 2, 2006) and 46-okunen no koi (Big Bang Love, Juvenile A, 2006), respectively. Then we have the case of Richard Linklater, who proffered not only a full-fledged masterpiece in the first truly congenial Philip K. Dick adaptation, but also a misunderstood and forgivably flawed, idealist US film that actually deals with reality. Still, thanks to Austrian cinema release dates, my list is framed by two masterpieces from a guy whom people still simply refuse to take seriously, it seems (and most are even taking Mel Gibson seriously by now, so no excuses). The first is the closest Hollywood cinema has ever come to Pat O’Neill, the second contains the greatest car chase ever. It was the year of the good Scott.

3. Der Klassenkampf brennt

(The other First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Ferroni Brigade nods ecstatically.) The best, most quotable, most important film sentence of 2006 – and yes, in German – came from Vsevolod Pudovkin’s mind-blowing Dezertir (The Deserter, 1933), and evidence that the struggle continues was everywhere, although film culture again did its best trying not to notice. A simple example: the Competition of the Berlin Festival – whose woeful winners Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams (Jasmila Zbanic, 2006) and The Road to Guantanamo (Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross) may be counted as further proof that television is taking over – presented a late masterwork in which the concerns of a career were provocatively galvanized into brilliant, reflexive farce. But not even a grand star turn for Vin Diesel and hair got Sidney Lumet’s astonishing and provocative Find Me Guilty (2006) notices, whereas even Meryl Streep’s inexplicably praised, lousy replica of Glenn Close’s horrible diva mannerisms in Cookie’s Fortune (Robert Altman, 1999) could not stop the wave of love for Robert Altman’s neat and cosy and unthreatening farewell. Now I’m sure glad Altman didn’t have to go out on that boring ballet abomination, but for sublime parting shots – in the meantime here’s hoping Lumet has another dozen Brechtian surprises up is sleeve – nothing could beat the magisterial, multi-layered ending of Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub’s last celluloid communicado. As Straub said, every inch of the screen must be on fire, and among the many that have gone this year and will be sadly missed, few have been as committed to the cause as Danièle Huillet and Jissoji Akio. Take comfort: they may have left us, but, as we know, La Resistance lives on.

Films on all lists in the order I saw them:

13 Grand Nights Out

Domino (Tony Scott, 2005)
Windows, Dogs and Horses (Michael Pilz, 2005)
The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
Requiem (Hans-Christian Schmid, 2006)
Les Anges exterminateurs (Jean-Claude Brisseau, 2006)
Signes (Eugène Greene, 2006)
A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater, 2006)
El Laberinto del fauno (Guillermo Del Toro, 2006)
Click (Frank Coraci, 2006)
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America to Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006)
Hamburger Lektionen (Hamburg Lessons, Romuald Karmakar, 2006)
Quei loro incontri (These Encounters of Theirs, Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, 2006)
Deja Vu (Tony Scott, 2006)

Plus 8 Choice Evenings Home

Ultraman Max: The Butterfly’s Dream (Jissoji Akio, 2005)
Opera Jawa (Garin Nugroho, 2006)
Find Me Guilty (Sidney Lumet, 2006)
Cantico das criaturas (Canticle of All Creatures, Miguel Gomes, 2006)
Chun tian hua hua tong xue hui (Mc Dull, The Alumni, Samson Chiu, 2006)
Tertium Non Datur (Lucien Pintilie, 2005)
Tachiguishi retsuden (The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters, Oshii Mamuro, 2006)

22 Times Historical Happiness

Jean-Marie Straub und Danièle Huillet bei der Arbeit an einen Film nach Franz Kafkas Romanfragment “Amerika” (Harun Farocki, 1983)
Denkwürdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken (Memoirs of My Nervous Illness, Ernst Schmidt Jr., posthumously finished by Mara Mattuschka, Susanne Praglowski and Peter Tscherkassky, 1987-93)
Pangarap ng puso (Demons, Mario O’Hara, 2000)
The Boatman (Tikoy Aguiluz, 1984)
Hatsukuni shirasumera mikoto (The First Emperor, Hara Masato, 1993)
Les Voleurs de la nuit (Thieves After Dark, Sam Fuller, 1984)
Oblomok imperii (Fragment of an Empire, Fridrikh Ermler, 1929)
Kreislauf des Wassers (Viktor Albrecht Blum, 1929)
Baroque Statues (Maria Lassnig, 1970-4)
Langsamer Sommer (John Cook, 1974)
MPD Psycho (Miike Takashi, 2000)
Confessions of a Black Mother Succuba (Robert Nelson, 1965)
Mirt Sost Shi Amit (Harvest: 3000 Years, Haile Gerima, 1975)
Dezertir (The Deserter, Vsevolod Pudovkin, 1933)
Privideniye, kotoroye ne vozvrashchayersya (The Ghost That Never Returns, Abram Room, 1929)
Black Movie II (Marc Adrian, with Kurt Kren, 1957-9)
The People vs. Paul Crump (William Friedkin, 1962)
Gui da gui (Encounters of the Spooky Kind, Sammo Hung, 1980)
Mo deng bao biao (Security Unlimited, Michael Hui, 1981)
The Hanging Tree (Delmer Daves, 1959)
From This Day Forward (John Berry, 1946)
The Strawberry Blonde (Raoul Walsh, 1941)

to list of contributors

Kent Jones

Editor-at-Large, Film Comment.

L’Armée des ombres

1. L’Armée des ombres (Army of Shadows, Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969)
A deeply personal film, made in the suspense idiom. To see this on a big screen in coolly vivid colour in 2006 was a shock, æsthetically and morally. Army has a bracing sense of urgency and purpose that I don’t believe I’ve felt in any other movie, by Melville or anyone else, and it puts most of the current attempts to deal with murderous realpolitik in unflattering perspective. The New York Film Critics’ Circle just voted it the Best Foreign Film of the year. I would drop “Foreign”.

2. The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
Jean-Pierre Gorin got it right: forget Hong Kong and think of Eugene O’Neill and the William Faulkner of Pylon. A giddily terrifying experience.

3. Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood, 2006)
I liked the first film when I saw it in October, but it seemed excessively restrained to me. A couple of months later, after seeing and being shaken by its companion piece (filmed entirely in Japanese), I went back to see Flags and it was a different movie. The restraint felt entirely appropriate, the inevitable response of traumatized men without the benefit of an emotional outlet. Seen in tandem, these two exquisitely refined films make for a fairly magnificent achievement. Along with The Departed’s ensemble and Laura Dern’s all-stops-out multiple-personality performance in Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006), Ken Watanabe does the best acting of the year as General Kuribayashi.

4. A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater, 2006)
Rick Linklater translates one of Phillip K. Dick’s more personal novels to the movies, with the help of digital animation software, Keanu Reeves, Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder and Robert Downey, Jr. Another very sad movie, made without a single concession to popular taste. If you’re one of those virtuous types who’s trying to forget that the drug culture ever existed, this is not the movie for you. I would recommend Little Children (Todd Field, 2006) or Miami Vice (Michael Mann, 2006) – and you have to see Babel (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2006).

5. A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006)
Some last films feel more like testaments than others. Altman may have had other projects in the works, but this serene rapture suggests an intuition of his own end.

6. When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (Spike Lee, 2006)
A pretty good year for Spike Lee. Inside Man was a nice, modest heist movie, with a terrific feel for contemporary Manhattan. Then there was this, a full-force blast at the American government for drowning its greatest city (as the film makes so clear, it wasn’t the hurricane that killed New Orleans but the poorly-built levees), a choral lament and a collective cry of righteous anger.

7. Haebyonui yoin (Woman on the Beach, Hong Sang-soo, 2006)
At first, Woman seems like yet another elegant Hong Sang-soo variation on triangulated male desires and frustrations, which is good enough. Then, at about the midway point, it starts to fill out and doesn’t stop until it’s attained a magical amplitude previously unseen in this director’s work (it even takes time to diagram and dismantle triangular obsessions). Another welcome singularity: it shifts to a woman’s point of view.

8. Wu qingyuan (The Go Master, Tian Zhuangzhuang, 2006)
A work of incomparable elegance and contemplative force, made by one of the world’s most elegant and forcefully contemplative filmmakers.

9. Fast Food Nation (Richard Linklater, 2006)
It’s easy to imagine any number of films inspired by Eric Schlosser’s fast food exposé, but it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone coming up with something like this, a multi-character drama that does it right for a change. Nicely low-key where a Crash (Paul Haggis, 2004) and a Babel are borderline hysterical, observant where Little Children (Todd Field, 2006) and Selon Charlie (Nicole Garcia, 2006) are strictly theoretical, this is one of the most trenchantly observed American films in quite some time. If you want to know what the country is like right now, watch Greg Kinnear’s entirely believable corporate capitulation, or the endearing confusion among a group of young political activists as they try to figure out how to make a difference. Score another one for America’s best independent filmmaker.

10. Neil Young: Heart of Gold (Jonathan Demme, 2006)
The year’s biggest surprise. Demme is a terrific filmmaker but he hasn’t exactly been on a roll during the past 20 years. On top of which, Young has had no shortage of concert films, from his own Rust Never Sleeps (1979) through Jim Jarmusch’s very fine Year of the Horse: Neill Young and Crazy Horse Live (1997). Here, Demme is freed from the impossible task of making expensive movies meant to please everyone at the same time, to make what is, in the end, not really a “concert movie” but, like the Altman, a meditation on mortality and comradeship among artists. If you have even a nodding acquaintance with Young’s music and his career, it’s a very moving experience, and the final, lonely solo rendering of “The Old Laughing Lady” is a killer.

At the top of the Runner-up List are: Peter Bogdanovich’s reworked version of his 1971 Directed by John Ford; Alain Resnais’ Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places, 2006; Inland Empire, David Lynch’s very Lynchian tour through the Lynchian universe; Cars (John Lasseter, 2006), Happy Feet (George Miller, 2006), William Friedkin’s Bug (2006), Pedro Costa’s Juventude em marcha (Colossal Youth, 2006), El Laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro, 2006), Sang sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006), 49 Up (Michael Apted, 2005); and Richard Kelly’s impossible and exhausting (if not infuriating) but undeniably moving anti-capitalist manga, Southland Tales (2006).

Best of 2007 (so far): My American Dream (Michael Camerini and Shari Robertson), State Legislature (Frederick Wiseman), The Walker (Paul Schrader) and Rialto’s re-release of Alberto Lattuada’s Mafioso (1962).

to list of contributors

Robert Keser

Teaches Film at National-Louis University (Chicago) and is Associate Editor of Bright Lights Film Journal.

It must have been a good year as the Top Ten films actually number twenty this time (though almost half remain unreleased).

The Ten Best (or so) Newer Films

L’Intrus (The Intruder, Claire Denis, 2004)
Sang sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)
Moments Choisis des Histoire(s) du Cinéma (Jean-Luc Godard, 2004)
L’Enfant (The Child, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2005)
Zui hao de shi guang (Three Times, Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2005)
W dól kolorowym wzgórzem (Down the Colourful Hill, Przemyslaw Wojcieszek, 2004)
Invisible Waves (Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, 2006)
United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2005)
Chaharshanbe-soori (Fireworks Wednesday, Asghar Farhadi, 2006)
Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck, 2006)
Chats perchés (The Case of the Grinning Cat, Chris Marker, 2004)
Sa-kwa (Yi-kwan Kang, 2005)
La Nuit de la vérité (Fanta Régina Nacro, 2004)
Yeojaneun namjaui miraeda (Woman Is the Future of Man, Hong Sang-soo, 2004)
C.R.A.Z.Y. (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2005)
Persona non grata (Krzysztof Zanussi, 2005)
When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (Spike Lee, 2006)
Asr e-Jomeh (Friday Afternoon, Mona Zandi Haghighi, 2006)
Down in the Valley (David Jacobson, 2005)
49 Up (Michael Apted, 2006)

Essential revivals

L’Armée des ombres (Army of Shadows, Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969), Fanfan la Tulipe (Christian-Jaque, 1952), Warsaw Bridge (Pont de Varsòvia, Pere Portabella, 1990)

Welcome surprises

A Fost sau n-a fost? (12:08 East of Bucharest, Corneliu Porumboiu, 2006), Accepted (Steve Pink, 2006), Barrio Cuba (Humberto Solás, 2005), Brick (Rian Johnson, 2005), Cautiva (Gaston Biraben, 2003), Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006), The Dead Girl (Karen Moncrieff, 2006), The Ister (David Barister and Daniel Ross, 2004), Unser täglich Brot (Our Daily Bread, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, 2005), A Scanner Darkly (Richard LInklater, 2006), Shortbus (John Cameron Mitchell, 2006), The Shutka Book of Records (Aleksandar Manic, 2005), This Film Is Not Yet Rated (Kirby Dick, 2006), Water (Deepa Mehta, 2005)

Unwelcome surprises

Dreamgirls (Bill Condon, 2006), World Trade Center (Oliver Stone, 2006)

I will not soon forget

Werner Herzog in Julien Donkey-Boy (Harmony Korine, 1999), clad in his shorts and sipping cough syrup, repeating, “Am I hypersensitive? Am I hypersensitive? Am I hypersensitive?”

to list of contributors

Rainer Knepperges

Writes for Sigi Götz Entertainment and has made Die Quereinsteigerinnen (2005).

My favourite films in 2006

(screened in movie theatres in Berlin, Brussels, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Munich and Vienna)

Home Before Dark (Mervyn LeRoy, 1958)
Grosse Freiheit Nr.7 (Helmut Käutner, 1944)
Fantomas (André Hunebelle, 1964)
Wonders of Manhattan (Harry Foster, 1956)
Grey Gardens (Albert and David Maysles, 1976)
L’Ivresse du pouvoir (The Comedy of Power, Claude Chabrol, 2006)
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1943)
L’Uccello dalle piume di cristallo (The Bird with Crystal Plumage, Dario Argento, 1969)
Broken Blossoms (David Wark Griffith, 1919)
To Each His Own (Mitchell Leisen, 1948)
Light in the Piazza (Guy Green, 1962)
La Leçon de Guitare (Martin Rit, 2005)
The Strawberry Blonde (Raoul Walsh, 1941)
El Cid (Anthony Mann, 1961)
Talladega Knights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (Adam McCay, 2006)
K40 Adé (Marcel Belledin and Dejan Rakas, 2006)
Going Shopping (Henry Jaglom, 2005)
It’s Alive! (Larry Cohen, 1974)
Misto (Zbynek Brynych, 1964)
Pampa Salvaje (Hugo Fregonese, 1965)
Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
Eins (Ulrich Schamoni, 1971)
The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
Fallen Angel (Otto Preminger, 1945)

to list of contributors

Kevyn Knox

Film Scholar + Critic: www.thecinematheque.com and www.filmspeak.com.

Inland Empire

1. Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
2. Gabrielle (Patrice Chéreau, 2005)
3. Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006)
4. Zui hou de shi guang (Three Times, Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2005)
5. Room (Kyle Henry, 2005)
6. Moartea domnului Lazarescu (The Death of Mister Lazarescu, Cristi Puiu, 2005)
7. L’Enfant (The Child, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2005)
8. Brick (Rian Johnson, 2005)
9. Batalla en el cielo (Battle in Heaven, Carlos Reygadas, 2005)
10. Miami Vice (Michael Mann, 2006)

One special note: a look at the best films of 2006 cannot be complete without including The Complete Jacques Rivette retrospective that played its course at The Museum of the Moving Image in New York in late 2006, and which involved not only Céline et Julie vont en bateau (Celine and Julie Go Boating, 1974) – one of my all-time favourite films – but also the nearly-never-before-seen endurance-testing Out 1: Noli me tangere (1971).

to list of contributors

Jay Kuehner

A writer in Seattle who contributes to Cinema Scope magazine, Green Cine Daily and Senses of Cinema.

A list of 21 favourites

(not in any preferential order, comprised of films that premièred (more or less) in 2006)

Iklimler (Climates, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2006)
Iraq in Fragments (James Longley, 2006)
Haebyonui yoin (Woman on the Beach, Hong Sang-soo, 2006)
Day Night Day Night (Julia Loktev, 2006)
Sang Sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)
Juventude em marcha (Colossal Youth, Pedro Costa, 2005)
Historia adolescente en medio de la nada (Glue, Alexis Dos Santos, 2005)
Hei yan quan (I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, Tsai Ming-liang, 2006)
Opera Jawa (Garin Nugroho, 2006)
Sanxia haoren (Still Life, Jia Zhangke, 2006)
A Fost sau n-a fost (12:08 East of Bucharest, Corneliu Porumboiu, 2006)
Fantasma (Lisandro Alonso, 2006)
Les Signes (Signs, Eugene Green, 2006)
Montag Kommen die Fenster (Windows on Monday, Ulrich Köhler, 2006)
Sehnsucht (Longing, Valeska Grisebach, 2005)
Old Joy (Kelly Reichardt, 2006)
Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck, 2006)
Gwoemul (The Host, Bong Joon-ho, 2006)
En el hoyo (In the Pit, Juan Carlos Rulfo, 2006)
L’Intouchable (The Untouchable, Benoît Jacquot, 2006)

to list of contributors

Marc Lauria

A freelance cinéphile.

1. Moartea domnului Lazarescu (The Death of Mister Lazarescu, Cristi Puiu, 2005)
As obsessed with sustained time as Béla Tarr, Puiu’s film is a remarkable cross between Frederick Wiseman and ER, positing an old man who is essentially transported towards death. This one lives entirely in the moment.

2. Caché (Hidden, Michael Haneke, 2005)
Another of Michael Haneke’s time-bombs into the heart of the nuclear family, which, by this time, is beyond repair.

3. A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater, 2006)
Eliminating all distinctions between hallucination and reality, how else does one get into Philip K. Dick’s brain other than by using Rotoscopic animation?

4. A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005)
Funny in a dry way, Cronenberg’s impersonation of a 1950s B-flick is, like the Haneke, a critique of the family unit.

5. Takeshis’ (Kitano Takeshi, 2005)
An enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a Chinese box (or several).

6. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006)
Michael Moore meets Jackass (Jeff Tremaine, 2002)!

7. Sílení (Lunacy, Jan Svankmajer, 2005)
Svankmajer’s take on the Marquis de Sade and Edgar Allen Poe seems right up his alley. As Puiu also knows, we are all living in institutions.

8. L’Enfant (The Child, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2005)
The Dardennes’ homage to Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket (1959) races towards redemption in a world of material transactions.

9. United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006)
Yet another film that eschews the big Hollywood pay-off, this faux docu-drama is the only way to make a disaster film.

10. Klimt (Raúl Ruiz)
Like Le Temps retrouvé (Time Regained, 1999), Ruiz’s biography of Gustav Klimt enters its subject æsthetically, then surrealistically.

Runners-up, alphabetically: Batalla en el cielo (Battle in Heaven, Carlos Reygadas, 2005), The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006), Mutual Appreciation (Andrew Bujanski), The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005), The Squid and the Whale (Noah Baumbach, 2005).

to list of contributors

Max Le Cain

A filmmaker and cinéphile living in Cork City, Ireland.

A smattering of new works to have washed up in my vicinity over the past year. The lists are in order of preference.

Films of the year

The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
Un couple parfait (A Perfect Couple, Suwa Nobuhirô, 2005)

Other great films

Trinity (James Fotopoulos)
The Black Dahlia (Brian De Palma, 2006)
I’ll Be Your Eyes, You’ll Be Mine (Keja Kramer and Stephen Dwoskin, 2006)
L’Intrus (The Intruder, Claire Denis, 2005)
The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
Manderlay (Lars von Trier, 2006)

Good films of exceptional interest

Zui hou de shi guang (Three Times, Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2005)
Match Point (Woody Allen, 2006)
Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006)
Solntse (The Sun, Alexander Sokurov, 2005)
Forst (Ursula Hansbauer, Ascan Breur, Wolfgang Conrad, 2006)
Caché (Hidden, Michael Haneke, 2005)

Most disappointing film of the year

L’Enfant (The Child, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2005)

to list of contributors

Kevin B. Lee

A filmmaker and writer in New York City.

Will 2006 be remembered as the first year in which people did more watching online than they did in theatres?

The passing-of-the-baton moment: a Saturday Night Live skit called “Lazy Sunday”, which, once uploaded to YouTube, became the first blockbuster online video of the year. This two-minute clip fascinated and enthralled me as much as any feature, and not just because Hollywood reject Adam Samberg exuded more charisma and chutzpah than all of Hollywood’s actors combined, or that it was more creative and entertaining than the Disney movie it professed to celebrate. The unavoidable irony was that this short celebrated the act of moviegoing with more joy than anything I have seen in years, while its very existence and promulgation – as well as that of countless other online clips – may signify the end of cinema as we know it. It quickly became a how-to primer for a legion of amateurs to make their own videos, to play creatively with the arsenal of consumer-level production and editing tools at their disposal, and to get it seen by anyone at anytime.

Borat

A handful of prescient directors have embraced the new technology and explored its innate properties. Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006) is getting accolades for its digitised envelope-pushing, but I much prefer what Michael Mann was able to achieve in Miami Vice (2006), using HD cameras to give a shimmering, hard-edged immediacy to his updated cops-and-robbers procedural, cut to an assured yet restless rhythm that was a full length ahead of the more ballyhooed The Departed (2006), Martin Scorsese’s microwaved leftovers of Hong Kong cinema. Lynch’s pixilated oversaturation was acceptable only because it was Lynch holding the camcorder; Miami Vice gave the digital cinema æsthetic credibility, the first digital movie that made celluloid look like a 20th-century antiquity.

But the ultimate movie in the year of YouTube had to be Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006). People hailed it, people hated it, but no one could wrap their arms around the totality of what this brilliant stink bomb of a film meant for filmmaking and watching in our time. An audience-inciting dissolution of fiction and reality, all rendered with the immediacy and candidness of digital: this film achieves everything Abbas Kiarostami has been working towards before he took a left turn into obscurantism. A million Borat imitators are presently brandishing their camcorders. The floodgates are open. Lord help us all.

Who has time for features? Ripe for uploading, 4 x 2 moments choisis:

– Alien invasions: The first appearance of the monster in Gwoemul (The Host, Bong Joon-ho, 2006) and the naked hotel rampage in Borat.

– Time out of time: the Ramones’ appearance in Linda Linda Linda (Nobuhiro Yamashita, 2005) and the hospital-basement exorcism in Sang sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006).

– The geometry of sex: the diagram monologue in Haebyonui yoin (Woman on the Beach, Hong Sang-soo, 2006) coupled with the 360° panning shot around and beyond bedroom intercourse in Battala en el cielo (Battle in Heaven, Carlos Reygadas, 2005).

– Heartbreaking witnesses: a Malian man’s singing testimony in Bamako (Abderrahmane Sissako, 2006) and Herbert Freeman Jr.’s account of his mother’s death outside the New Orleans Convention Center in When the Levees Broke: A Tragedy in Four Acts (Spike Lee, 2006 – technically a television documentary, but, like YouTube, too important to be overlooked).

to list of contributors

Babette Mangolte

French filmmaker and writer, currently based in the U.S.

Ten Best Films in 2006

Seen in New York or the U.S.

Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood, USA, 2006)
Wu Qingyuan (The Go Master, Tian Zhauangzhuang, China-Japan, 2006)
The Departed (Martin Scorsese, USA, 2006)
Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Spaces, Alain Resnais, France, 2006)
Bamako (Abderrahmane Sissoko, Mali-France, 2006)
Paprika (Satoshi Kon, Japan, 2006)

Seen in Paris, France

Quei loro incontri (Ces rencontres avec eux, Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, Italy, 2006)
Flandres (Bruno Dumont, France, 2005)
Là Bas (Chantal Akerman, France-Belgique, 2006)
Notre pain quotidian (Our Daily Bread, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Austria, 2006)

Repertory Opening in New York for the first time in 2006
L’Armée des ombres (Army of Shadows, Jean-Pierre Melville, France, 1969)

to list of contributors

Miguel Marías

Born 1947, Madrid (Spain). Writing about film since 1966. Former director of the Spanish Film Archive. Author of books on Manuel Mur Oti and Leo McCarey.

As the breach increases between films that circulate/are seen everywhere and those that are almost exclusively shown at festivals or isolated projections, I believe less and less in the use of “best movies of the year lists”, which, as much as festival reviewers or Academy awards boost competition, as a principle of life which I consider particularly alien to art and to art amateurs. I think we don’t want to have seen the most-voted as “best” (by which criteria?) films of 2006, nor the highest grossing ones, but rather the truly interesting, moving or troubling films recently or not-so-freshly-made, but which have recovered in the past months their ability to be seen and have thus become visible, much as you may have to seek or to travel in order to see them. This covers also very old movies and depends a lot on chance or our own preferences, interests or even whims, which I consider far more interesting reasons (for each of us) than the whims or commercial prospects of exhibitors.

1. Greatest films I have seen for the first time during 2006

a) Recently-made (in the 21st Century)

Colossal Youth

Babae sa Breakwater (Girl on the Breakwater, Mario O’Hara, 2003), Kagami no onnatachi (Women in the Mirror, Yoshisige Yoshida, 2002), Juventude em marcha (Colossal Youth, Pedro Costa, 2005-6), Le Petit lieutenant (The Little Lieutenant, Xavier Beauvois, 2005), Le Moindre geste (The Slightest Gesture, Jean-Pierre Daniel, Fernand Deligny and Josée Manenti; cl. Jean-Pierre Simon, 1971 and 2004), Quei loro incontri (Ces rencontres avec eux, Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, 2005-6), Liberté et patrie (Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville, 2002), Le Chignon d’Olga (Jérôme Bonnell, 2001), Spanglish (James L. Brooks, 2004)*, Le Promeneur du Champ de Mars (Robert Guédiguian, 2004)*, Solntse (The Sun, Aleksandr Sokurov, 2004), Les Yeux clairs (Jérôme Bonnell, 2005), Un Couple parfait (A Perfect Couple, Nobuhirô Suwa, 2005), Zui hou de shi guang (Three Times, Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2005)*, Tarachime (Naomi Kawase, 2006), Haebyon-ui yoin (Woman on the Beach, Hong Sang-soo, 2006), Tickets (Ermanno Olmi, Abbas Kiarostami, Ken Loach, 2005), Mary (Abel Ferrara, 2005)*, The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)*, Dong (Jia Zhangke, 2006), La Morte rouge (Soliloquio, Víctor Erice, 2006), Working Man’s Death (Michael Glawogger, 2005)*, Volver (Pedro Almodóvar, 2005)*, Al Primo soffio di vento (Franco Piavoli, 2002).

Notice: I have not been able to see as yet the most recent features directed by Clint Eastwood, Jia Zhangke, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Tsai Ming-liang, David Lynch, Alain Resnais, Benoît Jacquot, Jean-Claude Brisseau and probably some others. On the other hand, only those recent films marked * have been commercially released in Madrid.

b) Made before 2001

Hachi no su no komodotachi (Children of the Beehive, Hiroshi Shimizu, 1948), Anma to onna (The Masseurs and A Woman, Hiroshi Shimizu, 1938), Un Jeu brutal (A Brutal Game, Jean-Claude Brisseau, 1982), Klovnen (The Golden Clown, Anders Wilhelm Sandberg, 1926), Waga seishun hi kui nashi (I Don’t Regret My Youth, Akira Kurosawa, 1946), My Girlfriend’s Wedding (Jim McBride, 1969), Manila By Night (City After Dark, Ishmael Bernal, 1980), Setouchi Munraito Serenade (Moonlight Serenade, Shinoda Masahirô, 1997), Chiyari Fuji (Blood Spear, Mt. Fuji, Tomu Uchida, 1955), Yôtô Monogatari: Hana no Yoshiwara Hyakunin giri (Killing at Yoshiwara, Tomu Uchida, 1960), Vesna na Zarechnoí ulitse (Spring on Zarechnoí Street, Marlen Huciev, Jutsiev, Khutsiev, Feliks Mironer, 1956), Grass (Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack; cl. Marguerite E. Harrison, 1925), Petits frères (Jacques Doillon, 1998), L’Atlantide (Jacques Feyder, 1921), Les Amours de la pieuvre (Jean Painlevé and Geneviève Hamon, 1965), Cristaux liquides/Transition de phase dans les cristaux liquides (1. Transition smectique à cholesterique liquide; 2. Batonnets Smectiques; 3. Surfusion d’un corps cholesterique (Jean Painlevé, 1978), Hyas et Sténorinques, crustacés marins (Jean Painlevé, 1929), L’Hippocampe ou “Cheval Marin” (Jean Painlevé, 1934), Kohi mo wasurete (Forget Love for Now, Hiroshi Shimizu, 1937), Showa zankyo-den: Karajishi jingi (The Man With the Dragon Tattoo, Masahiro Makino, 1969), Inside/Out (Rob Tregenza, 1997), Love Tapes (Wendy Clarke, 1978), Kiga-Kaikyo (Straits of Hunger/A Fugitive from the Past, Tomu Uchida, 1965), Quelques remarques sur la réalisation et la production du film “Sauve qui peut (la vie)” (Jean-Luc Godard, 1979), Kagero (Heat Wave, Hideo Gosha, 1991), Comment naissent des méduses (Jean Painlevé and Geneviève Hamon, 1960), Oursins (Jean Painlevé, 1954), Chang (Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1927), L’Ecrivain Public (Jean-François Amiguet, 1993), La Méridienne (Jean-François Amiguet, 1988), Tange Sazen Yowa: Hyakuman ryo No Tsubo (Sazen Tange and the Pot Worth A Million Ryo, Sadao Yamanaka, 1935), Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1991), Yami no karyudo (Hunter in the Dark/Hunter in the Darkness, Hideo Gosha, 1979), Night of the Big Heat (Terence Fisher, 1967), Juha (Nyrki Tapiovaara, 1937), Sellaisena kuin sinä minut halusit (As You Wanted Me, Teuvo Tulio, 1944), Le Temps perdu (Notes d’une fin de vacances) (The Lost Time, Michel Brault, Werner Nold and Alex Pelletier, 1964), Les Enfants du silence (The Children of Silence, Michel Brault, 1962), Nayak (Satyajit Ray, 1966), Entre la mer et l’eau douce (Drifting Upstream, Michel Brault, 1965), Fräulein Else (Miss Else, Paul Czinner, 1928), Privideniíe kotoroie ne vozvrachtchaietsa (The Ghost That Doesn’t Come Back, Abram Room, 1929), Je vous salue, Sarajevo (Hail Sarajevo, Jean-Luc Godard, 1993).

2. Films really worthy of searching that I have seen for the first time in 2006

a) Recent (made in the 21st Century)

Más allá del espejo (Beyond the Mirror, Joaquín Jordà, 2006), Belle toujours (Manoel de Oliveira, 2006), Espelho Mágico (Magic Mirror, Manoel de Oliveira, 2005), Kakushi-ken: Oni no tsume (The Hidden Blade, Yôji Yamada, 2004)*, Oliver Twist (Roman Polanski, 2005)*, Changhen Ge (Everlasting Regret, Stanley Kwan, 2005), Fantômes (Contes d’amour pour aujourd’hui, Jean Paul Civeyrac, 2001), Histoire d’un secret (Mariana Otero, 2003), Honor de cavallería (Honor of the Knights, Albert Serra, 2006)*, Laitakaupungin valot (Lights in the Dusk, Aki Kaurismäki, 2006)*, Offside (Jafar Panahi, 2006), Europa 2005 27 octobre (Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, 2005-6), Les Veuves de Noirmoutier (Agnès Varda, 2006), Caché (Hidden, Michael Haneke, 2004)*, Les Revenants (Robin Campillo, 2004)*, Serenity (Joss Whedon, 2005)*, Route 181, Fragments d’un voyage en Palestine-Israël (Michel Khleifi and Eyal Sivan, 2003), Wesh Wesh (Qu’est-ce qui se passe?) (Rabah Ameur Zaïmeche, 2002), La Petite Chartreuse (Jean-Pierre Denis, 2005), Elizabethtown (Cameron Crowe, 2005)*, Ash Wednesday (Edward Burns, 2001)*, Le Pont des Arts (Eugène Green, 2004), Day Night Day Night (Julia Loktev, 2006), La Trahison (The Treason, Philippe Faucon, 2005), À Tout de suite (Benoît Jacquot, 2004), Don’t Come Knocking (Wim Wenders, 2005)*, Ça brûle (It Burns, Claire Simon, 2006), L’Ivresse du pouvoir (The Comedy of Power, Claude Chabrol, 2005), Le Monde vivant (Eugène Green, 2003), Les Naufragés de la D 17 (Luc Moullet, 2002), Sulanga Enu Pinisa (The Forsaken Land, Vimukthi Jayasundara, 2005), Bonnard (Alain Cavalier, 2005), Jiang cheng xia ri (Luxury Car, Wang Chao, 2006), Land of the Dead/George Romero’s “Land of the Dead” (George A. Romero, 2005)*, Control (Tim Hunter, 2005)*, La Leyenda del tiempo (The Legend of Time, Isaki Lacuesta, 2005)*, Heartbeat (Nan Goldin, 2001), Un silenzio particolare (A Peculiar Silence, Stefano Rulli, 2004), When the Deal Goes Down (Bennett Miller, 2006), Vrai faux passeport (Jean-Luc Godard, 2006), Birth (Jonathan Glazer, 2004)*.

b) Older (made before 2001)

Radetzkymarsch (Axel Corti, television, 1994), Hahamakin Lahat (All Be Damned/Despise Everything, Lino Brocka, 1990), Ina, Kapatid, Anak (Mother, Sister, Daughter, Lino Brocka, 1979), Cain at Abel/Kain at Abel (Cain & Abel, Lino Brocka, 1982), Romola (Henry King, 1924), George Washington (David Gordon Green, 2000), Toutes les nuits (Eugène Green, 2000), Arigato-san (Mr. Thank You, Hiroshi Shimizu, 1936), La Drôlesse (Jacques Doillon, 1979), Aien kyo (Straits of Love and Hate, Kenji Mizoguchi, 1937), Amdaeng Muen kab Nai Rid (Muen and Rid, Cherd Songsri, 1994), Ruen Mayura (Ruen Ma Yu Ya) (House of the Peacock, Cherd Songsri, 1995), Drancy Avenir (Arnaud Des Pallières, 1996), Le Coupable (André Antoine, 1917), Les Soleils de l’Île de Pâques (Pierre Kast, 1972), Rosa la Rose/Fille publique (Paul Vecchiali, 1985), Ajantrik (Ritwik Kumar Ghatak, 1957), Showa zankyo-den: Chizome no karajishi (Dragon Tattoo: Full of Blood, Masahiro Makino, 1967), Bhuvan Shome (Mrinal Sen, 1969), Aakaler Shandane (Akaler Shandhaney) (Mrinal Sen, 1980), Highway (Sergei Dvortsevoí, 1999), Der Fall Jägerstätter (Verweigerung) (Axel Corti, 1971), Kaze no naka no kodomo (Children in the Wind, Shimizu Hiroshi, 1937), Bojo (A Mother’s Love, Hiroshi Shimizu, 1950), Shiinomi gakuen (The Shinomi School, Hiroshi Shimizu, 1955), 226/Ni Ni Roku (Four Days of Snow and Blood, Hideo Gosha, 1989), Ansatsu (Assassination/The Assassin, Masahiro Shinoda, 1964), Usugesho (Tracked, Hideo Gosha, 1985), Telets (Taurus) (Aleksandr Sokurov, 2000), Komal Gandhar (The Gandhar Sublime/E-Flat/The Pathetic Fallacy, Ritwik Kumar Ghatak, 1961), La Vie est immense et pleine de dangers (Denis Gheerbrant, 1994), Stolen Face (Terence Fisher, 1952), Fatima Buen Story (Mario O’Hara, 1994), Geneviève, 17 ans, canadienne (from La Fleur de l’âge) (Michel Brault, 1965), Entuziazm (Simfoniia Donbassa) (Enthusiasm/Donbass Symphony, Dziga Vertov and Elisaveta Svilova, 1930), Bodyguard (Richard Fleischer, 1948), Le Dossier 51 (Michel Deville, 1978), Mega Cities:12 Geschichten vom Überleben (Michael Glawogger, 1998), The Brighton Strangler (Max Nosseck, 1945), La Corne d’or (Maurice Pialat, 1964), Bosphore (Maurice Pialat, 1964), Maître Galip (Maurice Pialat, 1964), The Clay Pigeon (Richard Fleischer, 1949), Schástie (Paradise, Sergeí Dvortsevoí, 1995), Follow Me Quietly (Richard Fleischer, 1949), Showa zankyo-den: Shinde morai masu (Hell Is a Man’s Destiny, Masahiro Makino, 1970), Paesaggi e figure (Franco Piavoli, 1999), Una Visión documental de la ruta de Don Quijote (Ramon Biadiu, 1934), Le Train en marche (Chris Marker, 1971), Ohara Shosuke-san (Mr. Shosuke Ohara, Hiroshi Shimizu, 1949), Bal Romantique à Montmartre/Bal romantique à L’Elysée Montmartre (Michelle Nadal, 1993), Ma’loul fête sa destruction (Michel Khleifi, 1985), Mathusalem (Jean Painlevé, 1927), Afgrunden (The Abyss, Urban Gad, 1910), Verdun, visions d’histoire (Léon Poirier, 1928), Portrait of Jason (Shirley Clarke, 1967), Jeux d’enfants (1. Tambour et trompette; 2. La Poupée; 3. La Toupie; 4. Petit Mari et Petite Femme; 5. Le Bal) (Jean Painlevé, 1948), Armored Car Robbery (Richard Fleischer, 1950), Nitrate d’Argent (Nitrato d’argento, Marco Ferreri, 1996), Synanon (Richard Quine, 1965), La Cabale des oursins (Luc Moullet, 1991), Le Fantôme de Longstaff (Luc Moullet, 1996).

3. Films I had already seen but rediscovered, confirmed as great or even greater than I had thought before

Histoire(s) du Cinéma (Jean-Luc Godard, 1986-98), The Exile (Max Ophüls, 1947), Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967), Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach (The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, 1967), Kanzashi (Ornamental Hairpin, Hiroshi Shimizu, 1941), The River’s Edge (Allan Dwan, 1957), Les Trois font la Paire (Three Make a Pair, Sacha Guitry; cl. Clément Duhour, 1957), Route One/USA (Robert Kramer, 1989), Quatre Nuits d’un rêveur (Four Nights of a Dreamer, Robert Bresson, 1971), Tôkyô no yoda (An Inn in Tokyo, Yasujirô Ozu, 1935), Angel (Ernst Lubitsch, 1937), Mandingo (Richard Fleischer, 1975), These Thousand Hills (Richard Fleischer, 1958), L’Hirondelle et la mésange (The Swallow and the Titmouse, André Antoine, 1920; ed. Henri Colpi, 1984), Assassins et Voleurs (Murderers and Thieves, Sacha Guitry; cl. Clément Duhour, 1956), Umberto D. (Vittorio De Sica, 1951), It’s Always Fair Weather (Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, 1955), Corps à cœur (Bodies at Heart, Paul Vecchiali, 1978), The Last Sunset (Robert Aldrich, 1961), Nazarín (Luis Buñuel, 1958), L’Armée des ombres (Army of Shadows, Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969), Dvorianskoie gniezdo (Nest of the Gentry, Andreí Mikhalkov Konchalovskií, 1969), The Old Place (Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville, 1998), Hélas pour moi (Jean-Luc Godard, 1992), The Road to Glory (Howard Hawks, 1936), Werther (Max Ophüls, 1938), Identificazione di una donna (Identification of a Woman, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1982), Il Mistero di Oberwald (The Mystery of Oberwald, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1980), The Addiction (Abel Ferrara, 1994), Gishiki (The Ceremony, Nagisa Oshima, 1971), Hanagata senshu (A Prime Athlete, Hiroshi Shimizu, 1937), Céline et Julie vont en bateau (Jacques Rivette, 1974), Noce en Galilée (Wedding in Galilee, Michel Khleifi, 1987), Die verkaufte Braut (The Bartered Bride, Max Ophüls, 1932), Waterloo Bridge (Mervyn LeRoy, 1940), Bobby Deerfield (Sydney Pollack, 1977), Merrill’s Marauders (Samuel Fuller, 1962), Ponette (Jacques Doillon, 1996), They All Laughed (Peter Bogdanovich, 1981), L’Hypothèse du tableau vole (The Hypothesis of the Stolen Picture, Raúl Ruiz, 1978), Le Journal de Lady M. (The Diary of Lady M., Alain Tanner, 1992), Eat (Andy Warhol, 1963), Bunny Lake Is Missing (Otto Preminger, 1965), Compulsion (Richard Fleischer, 1959), Captains Courageous (Victor Fleming, 1937), W. Somerset Maugham’s “Christmas Holiday”/Christmas Holiday (Robert Siodmak, 1944), La Fille de 15 ans (Girl of 15, Jacques Doillon, 1988), La Femme qui pleure (The Woman Who Cries, Jacques Doillon, 1978), The Sun Also Rises (Henry King, 1957), De l’origine du XXIe siècle (About the Origin of the 21st Century, Jean-Luc Godard, 2000), Dark Waters (Andre de Toth, 1944), The Last Wagon (Delmer Daves, 1956), Gakusei romance: Wakaki hi (Days of Youth, Yasijuro Ozu, 1929), Häxan (The Witch/Witchcraft Through the Ages, Benjamin Christensen, 1921), La Mémoire fertile (The Fertile Memory, Michel Khleifi, 1980), Barocco (André Téchiné, 1976), Rowing with the Wind/Remando al viento (Gonzalo Suárez, 1988), Native Land (Leo T. Hurwitz and Paul Strand, 1942), The Proud Ones (Robert D. Webb, 1956), The Champ (King Vidor, 1931), Das Weib des Pharao (The Pharaon’s Wife, Ernst Lubitsch, 1921), Wenn vier dasselbe tun (Ernst Lubitsch, 1917), Das fidele Gefängnis/Ein fidels Gefängnis (Ernst Lubitsch, 1917), Asino schastie/Istoriía Asi Kliachinoí, kotoraia liubila, da nie vlíshla zamuzh (The Happiness of Assia, Andreí Mikhalkov Konchalovskií, 1967), Rendez-vous à Bray (André Delvaux, 1971), The Big Carnival/Ace In The Hole (Billy Wilder, 1951), Dive Bomber (Michael Curtiz, 1941), Der Kongress tantz (The Congress Dance, Erik Charell, 1931), Treasure Island/Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” (Victor Fleming, 1934), Napoléon (Sacha Guitry, 1954), Si Paris nous était conté …! (If Paris Was Told To Us …, Sacha Guitry, 1955), Une Femme mariée (A Married Woman, Jean-Luc Godard, 1964), The Tunnel/El Túnel (Antonio Drove, 1987), Jardines colgantes (Hanging Gardens, Pablo Llorca, 1993), Farewell To The King (John Milius, 1988), River’s Edge (Tim Hunter, 1986).

These are very good films I have enjoyed and would warmly recommend to anyone. The many bad ones, some of them highly praised and/or very successful, only deserve to be forgotten. I have already wiped them from my memory.

P.S.: I realise now this is too long. Therefore, I will not comment on exhibitions, books or reviews.

to list of contributors

Paul Martin

A Melbourne IT contractor, a passionate cinéphile. and a committee member of Melbourne Cinémathèque.

Em 4 Jay (Alkinos Tsilimidos, 2006)
The King (James Marsh)
Ten Canoes (Rolf de Heer, 2006)
L’Enfant (The Child, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2005)
Factotum (Bent Hamer, 2005)
Iklimler (Climates, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2006)
A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005)
Le Temps Qui Reste (Time to Leave, François Ozon, 2006)
Qian li zou dan qi (Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, Zhang Yimou)
Gabrielle (Patrice Chéreau, 2006)

Honourable mentions: Caché (Hidden, Michael Haneke), Odgrobadogroba (Jan Cvitkovic), Backstage (Emmanuelle Bercot), Be With Me (Eric Khoo), Krisana (Fred Kelemen)

The films that tend to impress me most are those that explore the human condition, social realism, black humour and/or take risks.

to list of contributors

Jim May

Lives in and does his movie-watching in New York City.

The New World

1. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
As great as any film made in this decade, the curious masterpiece known as The New World presently exists in three distinct versions. The one I saw, released in late January 2006, is the one that has the shortest running time and the seriously reduced narration. It also has dazzling camera work, fluid editing, beautiful performances, and such an integrated sense of composition and rhythm that it was baffling to think of it in another form. That said, if there is a movie that can justify the self-importance of so many variations (each of which I’m sure has its partisans), this is it.

2. Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
Using DV cameras to shed any remaining notions of formal restraint he might be holding onto, David Lynch indulges his weirdest weird and emerges with his most aggressively experimental film to date. Juggling a host of Lynch obsessions (mutable identity, Hollywood’s dark underbelly, Laura Dern), Empire plunges deeper and deeper into its own hermetically sealed fever dream as any hope of emerging themes or narrative threads completely melt away. Finally, time all but stands still as the last third of the film hits one long, sustained note of transcendent dread. Amazingly, and I can’t be entirely sure of this, I think this thing has a happy ending.

3. The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
Scorsese’s immaculate potboiler generates as much light as heat and has even more to say about the slippery nature of identity than Lynch’s mind melt. Practically all the characters are in danger of losing themselves and none more so than Leonardo DiCaprio’s terrified undercover cop, whose relentlessly threatened sense of self (and self-preservation) becomes a way of life. In a film much noted for its strong performances, DiCaprio’s fatalistic turn brings the poignancy and tragedy.

4. Miami Vice (Michael Mann, 2006)
Gorgeous 21st-century pulp. Also, the only television remake ever to have reviewers invoking Stan Brakhage.

5. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006) and El Laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
Having only seen these together because my Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006)-Pan’s Labyrinth double feature didn’t work out scheduling-wise, I was astounded by the way these two films played off, and subverted, one another. Butting up against each other, the soft spots and hard edges of the respective filmmakers are exposed as themes as various as trust, resistance and having babies are mashed up and interwoven in these mirror-image fables.

6. The Devil and Daniel Johnston (Jeff Feuerzeig, 2006)
7. Marie Antoinette (Sophia Coppola, 2006)

8. Mutual Appreciation (Andrew Bujalski, 2005)
Mutual Appreciation and Inland Empire probably should not exist in the same universe, let alone on the same list, but whatever. I love what Andrew Bujalski does. He gets absolutely no credit for daring despite walking a constant tightrope for his art. If he’s off, even a little bit, his scenes come out all forced and affected like Kevin Smith with hipsters. But when he’s on, as he is in most of this film, the verisimilitude is sublime and scary.

9. Old Joy (Reichardt, 2006)
10. A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater, 2006)

Performances: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed), Laura Dern (Inland Empire), Nick Nolte (Clean, Olivier Assayas, 2004), Clive Owen (Children of Men), Q’Orianka Kilcher (The New World), Aaron Eckhart (The Black Dahlia, Brian De Palma, 2006), young Daniel Johnston (The Devil and Daniel Johnston)

to list of contributors

Lucas McNelly

Runs the film collective d press Productions. His various writings can be found at http://lmcnelly15.blogspot.com.

1. United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006)
2. A Cock and Bull Story (Michael Winterbottom, 2005)
3. Moartea domnului Lazarescu (The Death of Mister Lazarescu, Cristi Puiu, 2005)
4. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006)
5. 13 (Tzameti) (Géla Babluani, 2005)
6. Babel (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2006)
7. An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim, 2006)
8. Water (Deepa Mehta, 2005)
9. The Illusionist (Neil Burger, 2006)
10. A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006)

to list of contributors

David Melville

A writer and film critic based in Edinburgh.

My top 5 UK releases in 2006

Tideland (Terry Gilliam, 2005)
A visionary filmmaker working without compromise; a definitive film about the nightmares of childhood.

El Laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
A dark faiytale of chilling beauty; a fascinating companion piece to the above.

The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
Dismissed by cynics as Elvira Madigan (Bo Widerberg, 1967) with wigwams, this in fact shows the death of one culture, the birth of another and one individual’s power to survive both.

Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006)
A frock flick with attitude, this makes the tragic French queen a creature of our own time as much as her own; edible fashions by Milena Canonero.

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (The Brothers Quay, 2005)
In the magic realist tradition of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, a tale worthy of E. T. A. Hoffmann himself.

And one great rediscovery

Beyond the Rocks (Sam Wood, 1922)
Long presumed lost, a flamboyant romance by Elinor Glyn (the Jackie Collins of the Jazz Age), starring Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson. Can the screen hold this much glamour and not explode?

to list of contributors

Olaf Möller

A writer, translator and curator based in Cologne.

THAT WAS THE 2006 THAT WAS

Somehow I don’t really feel like lists this year: too much splendour for such a simple and simplifying form, for I had a great year at the movies, with new films as well as older ones, essentially due to the fact that I was on the road for more than half of the year, eleven festivals – all coming up with works to love and to cherish, to be truly deeply madly crazy about, in some places plenty of them (Venice, Trieste: I’m still wondering how I survived the September, how I managed to not end up brain-fried), in some places only a rarefied few.

Plus all those trips mainly to Vienna to see films – yes, I was there for the films, and Lisi and Anna and Nina and Martina and Tina were there as well – with the better parts of May and June spent at the Austrian Film Museum watching Soviet masterpieces from the 1920s and ’30s, re-discovering my love for this cinema, film culture (a love deepened by all those wonderful DVDs from lurchifurchproductions), especially Dziga Vertov, whose works I’d missed for too long, and Vsevolod Pudovkin, whose genius of the ecstatic I only now started to appreciate. One of those questions to ponder: Can a film twice (or even thrice …) be a discovery? At least that’s how those Pudovkins felt, and maybe even more so Arne Sucksdorff’s En Djungelsaga (The Flute and the Arrow, 1957), whose radical syntax – few elements, rigorously used – and unbelievable visual beauty were something of a shock when I saw it again, after at least two decades, at the Viennale. Soviet classics, too and again, in Venice and in Trieste (at the I mille occhi, maybe the best-programmed festival of the year: thank you, Mila!, thank you, Sergio!) … musicals from the East in Udine (East and Southeast Asia) and Venice (USSR) … early DEFA productions in Vienna at the Austrian Film Archive, around the same time the Film Museum did the Soviets which led to an enlightening accident: at the Film Museum one could (re-)see Nikolaj Ekk’s excellent Putyovka v zhizn (Road to Life, 1931) and, at the Film Archive, Wolfgang Schleif’s SBZ-take on it, Und wenn’s nur einer wär’ (1949), very nice, very nice, even if the greatest revelation of that early-DEFA season was Milo Harbich’s Freies Land (1946): didactic neo-realism at its edgiestly productive.

The program with films and fragments by Albrecht Viktor Blum at the Diagonale (Der Kreislauf des wassers aka Wasser und wogen – ein querschnittsfilm, 1929) was a monographic teaser for the huge season of Austrian proletarian cinema that will certainly be the highlight of the Viennale ’07. Let’s also mention that the Blum-program was productively close to, again, the Film Museum’s Soviet, therein Vertov, program, so that one had the opportunity to about-compare the Soviet master’s Odinnadcatyj (The Eleventh Year, 1928) with Blum and Leo Lania’s Im schatten der maschine (1928), which critically reworked parts of Vertov’s work.

Also: the films of Robert Nelson and of Boris Schafgans in Oberhausen; the complete Marc Adrian in Vienna at a series of private screenings in preparation of a massive essay on the master; classics of the New German Cinema at the Viennale – above all, Ferdinand Khittl’s mind-boggling Die Paralellelstrasse (1961) – and a forgotten master of that period, Ulrich Schamoni, at the Filmclub 813 back home. At the same time, at the Japanisches Kulturinstitut, a re-kindling of my love for Naruse Mikio; Pere Portabella in Pesaro and Joaquín Jordá in Torino: total Escola de Barcelona, and let’s hope that this is only the beginning of a (re)discovery of this unbelievably rich context (Carles Duran as well as Jose Maria Nunes, and, yes, certainly Gonzalo Suarez as well as Jordi Grau); and then, finally, in Torino: Robert Aldrich, Aldrich Aldrich Aldrich… and Joe Sarno.

And now, the essence: titles and names galore.

PART I: NEW FILMS

Films of the Year

Black Book

Hamburger Lektionen (The Hamburg Lectures, Romuald Karmakar, 2006)
Quei loro incontri (Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, 2006)
Zwartboek (Black Book, Paul Verhoeven, 2006) and The New World (Terrence Malick, 2006)
The Journals of Knud Rasmussen (Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn, 2006) and Serras da desordem (Andrea Tonacci, 2006)

Dazzling Débuts

Conversations on a Sunday Afternoon (Khalo Matabane, 2005)
Eyforiya (Euphoria, Ivan Vyrypaev, 2006)
Kinetta (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2005)
A maicling pelicula nang ysang indio nacional (O ang mahabang kalungkutan katagalugan/A Short Film About the Indio Nacional [or The Prolonged Sorrow of the Filipinos], Raya Martin, 2005)
Notes on film 02 (Norbert Pfaffenbichler, 2006)
Quelques jours en septembre (A Few Days in September, Santiago Amigorena, 2006)
Reanglao jak meangnue (Stories From the North, Uruphong Raksasad, 2005)
Sa North Diversion Road (Dennis Marasigan, 2005)
Sehnsucht (Longing, Valeska Grisebach, 2006); it’s open to discussion whether this, in fact, is a début … it’s her first film of standard feature-length.

All-New Advice from Axiomatic Auteurs

Du hast gesagt, dass Du micht liebst (You Told Me That You Love Me, Rudolf Thome, 2006)
Evropa preko plota (Europe Next Door, Zelimir Zilnik, 2005)
Lettere dal Sahara (Letters from the Sahara, Vittorio De Seta, 2006)
Más allá del espejo (Joaquín Jorda, 2006)
Tertium non datur (Lucian Pintilie, 2005)

Reliable Genius

El Cobrador: In God We Trust (Paul Leduc, 2006)
Cœurs (Private Fears in Public Places, Alain Resnais, 2006)
Dies d’agost (Marc Recha, 2006)
Flags of our Fathers (Clint Eastwood, 2006)
Heremias (Unang aklat: ang alamat ng prinsesang bayawak) (Lav Diaz, 2006)
Hyungsa (Duelist, Lee Myong-se, 2005)
Opera Jawa (Garin Nugroho, 2006)
Poeti veradardze (Harutjun Hacaturjan, 2006)
46-okunen no koi (Big Bang Love: Juvenile A, Miike Takashi, 2006)
Sibudo 2: Kyeonjeok (Lee Ji-sang, 2006)
Slumming (Michael Glawogger, 2006)
Tachiguishi retsuden (Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters, Oshii Mamoru, 2006)
Täydellisen pimennyksen vyöhyke (The Zone of Total Eclipse, Mika Taanila, 2006)
Tearoom (William E. Jones, 1962 and 2006)
Unser tägliches brot (Our Daily Bread, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, 2005)
Yamiutsu shinzo (Heart, Beating in the Dark, Nagasaki Shunichi, 2005)
Yawarakai seikatsu (It’s Only Talk, Hiroki Ryuichi, 2005)

Something Building, Something Becoming

Bobby (Emilio Estevez, 2006)
Cantico das criaturas (Canticle of All Creatures, Miguel Gomes, 2006)
Daratt (Dry Season, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, 2006)
Gie (Riri Riza, 2005)
Immergrün und die Moderne – The Audience (Forever Green and Modern – The Audience, Edgar Honetschläger)
Kaleldo (Summer Heat, 2006) and Manoro (The Teacher, 2006) (Brillante Mendoza)
El Laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
Lelaki komunis terakhir (The Last Communist, Amir Muhammad, 2006)
Neu Wave Hookers (Eon McKai, 2006)
Paprika (Satoshi Kon, 2006)
Requiem (Hans-Christian Schmid, 2006)
Sanxia haoren (Still Life, Jia Zhang-ke, 2006)
Schuss! (Nicolas Rey, 2005)

A Discovery and a Surprise

Bes vakit (Times and Winds, Reha Erdem, 2006)
Der freie wille (Matthias Glasner, 2006)

For the record: the films I saw most often were Longing (4x) and Slumming (2x in a theatre plus 5x on DVD).

PART 2: OLD FILMS

Films of the Year

Abigail Leslie is Back in Town (Joe Sarno, 1975)
Ashima (Liu Qiong, 1964)
The Devil Rides Out (Terence Fisher, 1968)
Dezertir (The Deserter, Vsevolod Pudovkin, 1933)
Hatsukuni shirasumera mikoto–Refrain (The First Emperor–Refrain, Hara Masato, 1975)
Kolybelnaja (Lullaby, Dziga Vertov [and Elizaveta Svilova], 1937)
Die Parallelstrasse (Ferdinand Khittl, 1962)

Genius Galore

Anayurt oteli (Motherland Hotel, Ömer Kavur, 1987)
Anima nera (Roberto Rossellini, 1962)
Anna und Elisabeth (Anna and Elizabeth, Frank Wysbar, 1933)
Black Movie II (Marc Adrian [and Kurt Kren], 1957–9)
Blue Movie (1969–77) + Der Regen (1957–83) + Schriftfilm (1959) + Text I (1962–64) + Text III (1962–) (Marc Adrian)
Ceremuski (Song Over Moscow, Gerbert Rappaport, 1965)
Change pas de main (Don’t Change Hands, Paul Vecchiali, 1975)
2. Chapeau claque (Top Hat, 1974) + Eins (One, 1971) (Ulrich Schamoni)
Cover Girls (José Bénazéraf, 1964)
Cycles #3 (Guy Sherwin, 1972/2003)
Edogawa Rampo monogatari: yaneura no sanposha (Stroller in the Attic, Jissoji Akio, 1994)
Ein Mangel an Erscheinungen (Boris Schafgans, 1989/92)
Fräulein Else (Miss Else, Paul Czinner, 1929)
Freies Land (Milo Harbich, 1946)
From This Day Forward (John Berry, 1946)
Garmon (Igor Savcenko, 1934)
Ginza gesho (Ginza Cosmetics, 1951) + Tabi yakusha (Travelling Actors, 1941) (Naruse Mikio)
The Greatest Mother of ’em All (Robert Aldrich, 1968)
Der Henker von London (The Mad Executioners, Edwin Zbonek, 1963)
Die Herrin von Atlantis (Queen of Atlantis, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1932)
Honghu chiwei dui (The Red Guards of Hong Lake, Xie Tian, Chen Fangqian and Xu Feng, 1961)
Informe general sobre algunas cuestiones de interés para una proyección pública (General Report on Some Points of Interest Concerning a Public Screening, 1976) + Umbracle (1970) (Pere Portabella)
Joshu Sasori: Kemonobeya (Female Convict Scorpion: Beast Stable, Ito Shunya, 1973)
Jungens in den flegeljahren (Rudolf W. Kipp, 1956)
Krylya (Wings, 1966) + Ty i ja (You and Me, 1971) (Larisa Shepitko) and Nacalo nevedomogo veka (Beginning of an Unknnown Era, Andrei Smirnov and Larisa Shepitko, 1967)
Kubanskie kazaki (Kossaks of the Kuban, 1949) + V sest casov vecera posle vojny (Six O’Clock in the Evening After the War, 1944) (Ivan Pyryev) and Lenin + Vivo (Joaquín Jordá and Gianni Toti, 1970)
Liu sanjie (Third Sister Liu, Su Li, 1960)
Ljubov i nenavist (Love and Hate, Albert Gendelstejn, 1935)
La main (Edouard-Emile Violet, 1920)
Morgen (Doris Kuhn)
Notes on film 01 else (Norbert Pfaffenbichler, 2002)
Odna (Alone, Grigorij Kozincev and Leonid Trauberg, 1931)
Oshidori utagassen (Singing Lovebirds, Makino Masahiro, 1939)
Parizskij sapoznik (The Parisian Cobbler, Fridrich Ermler, 1928) and Vstrecnyj (Counterplan, Friedrich Ermler and Sergej Jutkevic [and Lev Arnstam], 1932)
The People Versus Paul Crump (William Friedkin, 1962)
Prazdnik svjatogo jorgena (Holiday of St. Jorgen, Jakov Protazanov, 1930)
Spasite utopajscego (Save the Drowning Man, Pavel Arsenov, 1967)
Sport Sport Sport (Elem Klimov, 1970)
The Strawberry Blonde (Raoul Walsh, 1941)
Strogij junosa (A Severe Young Man, Abram Room, 1934)
Suite California Stops and Passes: Part 1 (Robert Nelson, 1976/2003)
Tod und teufel (Death and Devil, Stephen Dwoskin, 1973)
Und wenn’s nur einer wär’ (Wolfgang Schleif, 1949)
Wasser und wogen – ein querschnittsfilm (Albrecht Viktor Blum, 1929)
Work Done (Robert Beavers, 1984)
Ye meigui zhi lian (The Wild, Wild Rose, Wang Tianlin, 1960)

to list of contributors

To Part 1

To Part 3

About The Author