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.

Jorge Mourinha

Bill Mousoulis

Peter Nagels

Leonie Naughton

James L. Neibaur

Darragh O’Donoghue

John Orr

Jit Phokaew

Bérénice Reynaud

Marcos Ribas de Faria

Peter Rist

James Rose

Dan Sallitt

Howard Schumann

David Sorfa

Mark Spratt

Alan Stanbrook

Brad Stevens

Richard Suchenski

Alexis A. Tioseco

Rüdiger Tomczak

Peter Tonguette

Andy Townsend

Robert von Dassanowsky

David Walsh

Virginia Wright Wexman

Nicola White

Jorge Mourinha

A film critic at Portuguese daily Público.

The lists are based on the films I saw from 1 January through 27 December 2006. All of them are Portuguese theatrical releases except where noted.

The five best

The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
Le Temps qui reste (Time to Leave, François Ozon, 2005)
Cars (John Lasseter, 2006)
Inside Man (Spike Lee, 2006)
Miami Vice (Michael Mann, 2006)

Five auteurs at their best

Match Point

Match Point (Woody Allen, 2005)
Mary (Abel Ferrara, 2005)
The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005)
A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006)

Five great Asian films

Inosensu: Kôkaku kidôtai (Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Mamoru Oshii, 2004)
Sennen joyû (Millennium Actress, Satoshi Kon, 2001; Portuguese straight-to-DVD release in 2006)
Qing hong (Shanghai Dreams, Wang Xiaoshuai, 2005)
Saam gaang yi (Three … Extremes, Fruit Chan, Park Chan-wook, Miike Takashi, 2004)
Dalkomhan insaeng (A Bittersweet Life, Kim Ji-woon, 2005)

Five great American indies

Good Night, and Good Luck (George Clooney, 2005)
The Matador (Richard Shepherd, 2004)
Primer (Shane Carruth, 2004)
Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, 2006)
Bubble (Steven Soderbergh, 2005; Portuguese straight-to-DVD release in 2006)

Five surprising American mainstream movies

16 Blocks (Richard Donner, 2006)
Talladega Nights (Adam McKay, 2006)
The Guardian (Andrew Davis, 2006)
The Producers (Susan Stroman, 2005)
V For Vendetta (James McTeigue, 2006)

Five films to understand the zeitgeist

United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006)
Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2005)
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006)
Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)
A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater, 2006; not released in Portugal, seen on theatrical release in the U.S.)

Five great films from Europe

20, 13 (Joaqum Leitão, 2006)
Moartea domnului Lazarescu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Cristi Puiu, 2005; not released in Portugal, seen on the IndieLisboa Festival selection)
Caché (Hidden, Michael Haneke, 2005)
Paradise, Now (Hany Abu-Assad, 2005)
Le Petit lieutenant (Xavier Beauvois, 2005; Portuguese straight-to-DVD release in 2006)

to list of contributors

Bill Mousoulis

Melbourne-based film director and founding editor of Senses of Cinema.

Oh Australian cinema, what are we to do with you? Still producing the worst films, there were the stunning artistic surprises of Ten Canoes (Rolf de Heer, 2006) and Em 4 Jay (Alkinos Tsilimidos, 2006), and the joy of Kenny (Clayton Jacobson, 2006). The best Australian film, however, was the punky short, Sick to the Vitals (Kim Miles, 2005), and I must admit that the worst Australian film listed, Wobbegong (Owen Trevor, 2006), another short, is actually a representative of the numerous student and other shorts that get made in this country that are polished, pretentious and utterly soulless.

Regarding international cinema, I’m finding at the moment that I can’t watch as much as I’d like, due to concentrating on my own work, but I was delighted by the new works of faves Philippe Garrel and Bruno Dumont, and blown away by the Carlos Reygadas and Andrew Bujalski films. Great cinema is being produced always, there is never any cause to be negative about this great art of ours.

Best Films of the Year

Batalla en el cielo (Battle in Heaven, Carlos Reygadas, 2005)
Mutual Appreciation (Andrew Bujalski, 2005)
Sick to the Vitals (Kim Miles, 2005, Australian short)
Les Amants réguliers (Regular Lovers, Philippe Garrel, 2005)
Flandres (Flanders, Bruno Dumont, 2006)
Ten Canoes (Rolf de Heer, 2006)
Zui hao de shi guang (Three Times, Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2005)
Em 4 Jay (Alkinos Tsilimidos, 2006)
Kenny (Clayton Jacobson, 2006)
The Desealer (James Clayden, 2006)

Worst Films of the Year

Beed-e majnoon (The Willow Tree, Majid Majidi, 2005)
Wobbegong (Owen Trevor, 2006, Australian short)
Suburban Mayhem (Paul Goldman, 2006)
2:37 (Murali K. Thalluri, 2006)
Jindabyne (Ray Lawrence, 2006)
Ra Choi (M. Frank, 2005)
Broken Flowers (Jim Jarmusch, 2005)

(Re)Discoveries of the Year

Léon Morin, prêtre (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1961)
Maurice Pialat, especially Le Garçu (1995)
Modern vampires: The Addiction (Abel Ferrara, 1995) and Nadja (Michael Almereyda, 1994)
Australian indies: Genevieve Bailey and Jarrah Gurrie, Matthew Clayfield, Ben Hackworth, Kim Miles
Michelangelo Antonioni shorts, especially N.U. (1948) and Sicilia (1997)
Jafar Panahi, especially Crimson Gold (2003)
Pusher trilogy (Nicolas Winding Refn, 1996, 2004, 2005)

to list of contributors

Peter Nagels

A Melbourne-based cinéphile.

My favourite films of the year

Melbourne International Film Festival and cinema releases

Caché (Hidden, Michael Haneke, 2005)
Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006)
Krisana (Fallen, Fred Kelemen, 2005)
Mary (Abel Ferrara, 2005)
Mutual Appreciation (Andrew Bujalski, 2005)

New on DVD

Céline et Julie vont en bateau (Celine And Julie Go Boating, Jacques Rivette 1974)
Paris Nous Appartient (Paris Belongs To Us, Jacques Rivette, 1961)

to list of contributors

Leonie Naughton

A Fellow in Cinema Studies at University of Melbourne and author of That Was the Wild East: Unification, Film and the ‘New’ Germany (2002).

In no particular order:

Capote (Bennett Miller, 2005)
Virtuoso performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, superlative script by Dan Futterman, adapted from Gerald Clark’s book.

Der Freie wille (The Free Will, Matthias Glasner, 2006)
An unrelentingly gritty and harrowing film. Jürgen Vogel presents a chilling performance as Theo, a brutal rapist released from prison after serving a nine-year sentence. Vogel presents a haunting portrait of the torment Theo suffers and inflicts on others as he struggles to curb his compulsion and come to terms with his fear of, and violence towards, women. The actor received a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for his outstanding and uncompromising acting, as well as other prestigious awards for co-writing and co-producing the feature. Director Matthias Glasner refrains from making any simplistic moral judgement about Theo’s dilemma and actions throughout the film, suggesting that there is no easy solution or psychological rationale for the alarming psychopathology that afflicts his protagonist.

Sommer vorm Balkon (Berlin Summer, Andreas Dresen, 2005)
Exquisitely tender and authentic portrait of the foibles and fancies of two Berlin women. Superlative chick flick, lovingly scripted by Wolfgang Kohlasse, with Dresen capturing nuances of character, ambience and locale with utter élan.

Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006)
The first stunt sequence alone makes the latest Bond extravaganza worthwhile. Allusions to film history throughout this vertiginous action flick cannot help but delight. Eva Green, who plays Bond’s love interest, Vesper Lynd, has teeth that would have seen her well cast next to Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire (Neil Jordan, 1994).

Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee 2005)
The definitive guide on how to pitch a tent.

Jindabyne (Ray Lawrence, 2006)
Curious casting, yet a suitably menacing depiction of psychosis generated in the Australian outback.

Barfuss (Barefoot, Til Schweiger, 2005)
Til Schweiger stars in, directs and is co-writer of this delightful romantic comedy in which he joins Johanna Wokolek on a whimsical and beguiling journey of self discovery.

A Good Year (Ridley Scott 2006)
It is worth seeing Russell Crowe play a very convincing, totally ruthless, corporate arsehole, who transforms into a human being, learning telephone manners and how to grovel to please a woman. He also manages to wait tables, use the right cutlery and don an apron. Reasonably accomplished treatment of romantic comedy formula saved by a sumptuous locale.

Kenny (Clayton Jacobson, 2006)
Endearing mockumentary with a generous measure of goodwill and buoyant Australian humour.

Overrated films:

Little Fish (Rowan Woods, 2006)
Hugo Weaving plays a convincing corpse, dumped on the beach while Cate Blanchett goes swimming.

Syriana (Stephen Gaghan, 2005)
Put George Clooney Out of Sight back in the boot of a car with J Lo, and let them discuss lines from their favourite films.

to list of contributors

James L. Neibaur

American film historian and educator whose latest book is Arbuckle and Keaton: Their 14 Film Collaborations (McFarland). Neibaur has contributed more than 40 film essays to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, and written hundreds of articles for such magazines as Film Quarterly, Cineaste and Films in Review.

Top Films of 2006

The Death of Mister Lazarescu

(each list is alphabetical by title)

Theatrical releases

American Hardcore (Paul Rachman, 2006)
For Your Consideration (Christopher Guest, 2006)
Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck, 2006)
Moartea domnului Lazarescu (The Death of Mister Lazarescu, Cristi Puiu, 2005)
Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood, 2006)
Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, 2006)
Metal – A Headbanger’s Journey (Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen and Jessica Joy Wise, 2005)
Thank You For Not Smoking (Jason Reitman, 2006)

What is frustrating is that 2006 was such a comparatively weak year for theatrical films. Some of the titles on my Best Of list are merely good movies, not great ones. The two music documentaries are probably the most interesting selections.

DVD releases

The Buster Keaton Collection – The Great Stone Face (Columbia)
Chaplin Mutual Comedies – 90th Anniversary Edition (Image)
The Clay Bird (Milestone)
Essential Art House – 50 Years of Janus Films (Criterion)
The Frank Capra Collection (Columbia Classics)
The Martin and Lewis Collection (Paramount)
Preston Sturges – The Filmmaker Collection (Universal)
The Searchers – Unlimited Collectors Edition (Warner)
Winter Soldier (Milestone)

Because of collections and special editions, DVD is often the better place to list top film releases of a given year. The list above speaks for itself, perhaps the most offbeat choice being the Keaton collection as it concentrates on his later talking shorts for Columbia (concurrently home for the Three Stooges), made when his career was at low ebb. As an oft-neglected portion of Keaton’s filmography, their restoration and release is essential viewing. And while the Martin and Lewis films are conventional Hollywood comedies with a myriad of studio directors at the helm, and nowhere near as complex as Lewis’ best solo work, they are perfectly enjoyable examples of what was popular comedy entertainment in American movies during the pre-rock’n’roll 1950s. The Chaplin collection offers the best prints of the best films from the best comedian in movie history. The Janus arthouse collection gathers 50 features including M (Fritz Lang, 1931) and La Règle du jeu (Jean Renoir, 1939) and other textbook staples. The other collections gather the best of a particular director’s work, and the individual titles on my DVD list are presumably well known enough to not require explanation.

to list of contributors

Darragh O’Donoghue

Failed to complete his Ph.D. in French films and crime fiction. He is training to be an archivist.

Lows

The screening by the Irish Film Archive of In the Days of Saint Patrick (Norman Whitten, 1920) in ’extracts’, on the assumption that modern audiences would find the whole film a bit slow! (18 March)

Highs

The return of film seasons to British television. The most notable were Film 4’s Studio Ghibli retrospective in January-February (in particular Omohide poro poro (Only Yesterday, Isao Takahata, 1991), Kurenai no buta (Porco Rosso, Hayao Miyazaki, 1992) and Mimi wo sumaseba (Whisper of the Heart, Yoshifumi Kondo, 1995)); BBC4’s Silent Britain strand in May-June (highlight: A Cottage on Dartmoor (Anthony Asquith, 1929)); and Channel 4’s linked seasons of Indian and new Bangladeshi cinema (featuring Ritwik Ghatak, Yash Raj Films and Bimal Roy) in August-December.

Favourite film book:

Alexander Nemerov, Icons of Grief: Val Lewton’s HomeFront Pictures (Berkeley: University of California, 2005).

Favourite DVD:

Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville, De l’origine du XXIe siècle; The Old Place; Liberté et patrie; Je vous salue, Sarajevo, ECM, 2006.

Favourite CD:

Pet Shop Boys soundtrack to Bronenosets Potyomkin (Battleship Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein, 1925), Parlaphone, 2005.

Favourite moment:

Meeting Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar at a screening of Deewaar (I’ll Die For Mama, Yash Chopra, 1975), Irish Film Institute, 20 May.

Films of the year

New (I don’t get out much, so this list isn’t very glamorous)

Les Amants réguliers (Regular Lovers, Philippe Garrel, 2005)
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006)
Caché (Hidden, Michael Haneke, 2005)
Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005)
Happy Endings (Don Roos, 2005)

Kabhi alvida naa kehna (Never Say Goodbye Karan Johar, 2006)
Naman Ramachandran sarcastically compared this to Douglas Sirk, but she’s spot on. Okay, there is a Kojol-sized hole at its centre, but what superstars! (Count ’em, at least SIX!!) What heartache! What swoonsome Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy songs! Other Bollywood highlights: Aamir Khan’s morph from tour-guide to terrorist in Fanaa (Kunal Kohli, 2006), a political movie that would make a delightful double-bill with The Wind That Shakes the Barley (see below); Bipasha Basu and Kareena Kapoor’s cameo dances in Omkara (Vishal Bharadwaj, 2006) and Don (Farhan Akhtar, 2006) respectively; a bleached Hrithik Roshan disguised as a statue stealing diamonds by remote-control in Dhoom 2 (aka D: 2 Back in Action, Sanjay Gadhvi, 2006)

Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006);
The Pervert’s Guide to the Cinema (Sophie Fiennes, 2006)
The Squid and the Whale (Noah Baumbach, 2005)
The Wind That Shakes the Barley (Ken Loach, 2006)

Honourable mentions

Inside Man (Spike Lee, 2006), El Laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro, 2006), Moartea domnului Lazarescu (The Death of Mister Lazarescu, Cristi Puiu, 2005), Ricky Gervais meets … Garry Shandling (Niall Downing, 2006), the first half of Suchîmubôi (Steamboy, Katsuhiro Ôtomo, 2004), United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006); Unknown White Male (Rupert Murray, 2006), Unrequited Love (Christopher Petit, 2006) and When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (Spike Lee, 2006).

Old, but new to me

Det hemmelighedsfulde X (The Mysterious X, Benjamin Christensen, 1914)
Millions Like Us (Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, 1943)
Leave Her to Heaven (John M. Stahl, 1945)
Stromboli (Roberto Rossellini, 1950)
The Raid (Hugo Fregonese, 1954)
The Bellboy (Jerry Lewis, 1960)
Amar Akbar Anthony (Manmohan Desai, 1977)
Rita, Sue & Bob Too (Alan Clarke, 1986)
Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki, 2004)
Rois et reine (Kings and Queen, Arnaud Desplechin, 2004)

I also loved

Pan-American Exposition By Night (Edwin S. Porter, 1901), Die Nibelungen: Kriemhilds rache (Kriemhild’s Revenge, Fritz Lang, 1924), The Kid Brother (Ted Wilde and J. A. Howe, 1927), The Mysterious Lady (Fred Niblo, 1928), Menschen am Sonntag (People on Sunday, Robert Siodmak and Edgar G. Ulmer, 1930), Tarzan the Ape man (W. S. Van Dyke, 1932), The Devil is a Woman (Josef von Sternberg, 1935), The Silver Fleet (Vernon Sewell and Gordon Wellesley, 1943), Lady in the Dark (Mitchell Leisen, 1944), Awaara (The Tramp, Raj Kapoor, 1951), The Bigamist (Ida Lupino, 1953), Magnificent Obsession (Douglas Sirk, 1954), Tea and Sympathy (Vincente Minnelli, 1956), Men in War (Anthony Mann, 1957), Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (Frank Tashlin, 1957), Chalti ka naam gaadi (That Which Runs is a Car, Satyen Bose, 1958), Junglee (Subodh Mukherji, 1961), Csillagosok, katonák (The Red and the White, Miklós Jancsó, 1967), The Crazies (George A. Romero, 1973), Professione: reporter (The Passenger, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975), Le Roi et l’oiseau (The King and the Mockingbird, Paul Grimault, 1980), Maine pyar kiya (I Fell in Love, Sooraj R. Barjatya, 1989), The Joy Luck Club (Wayne Wang, 1993), Dil chahta hai (Do Your Thing, Farhan Akhtar, 2001), Lilja 4-ever (Lukas Moodysson, 2002), Choses secrètes (Secret Things, Jean-Claude Brisseau, 2002), Bright Leaves (Ross McElwee, 2003), Kôhî jikô (Café Lumière, Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2003), A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005), Last Days (Gus van Sant, 2005) and Me, You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July, 2005).

to list of contributors

John Orr

Professor Emeritus in the School of Social and Political Studies at the University of Edinburgh. His books include Cinema and Modernity (1993), Contemporary Cinema (1998) and The Art and Politics of Film (2000).

My Top Ten Films for 2006

Zui hao de shi guang (Three Times, Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2005)
Hou reaching new heights, if that is possible.

Sang sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)
From Thailand, the most compelling memory film since Zerkalo (Mirror, Andrei Tarkovsky, 1975)

Caché (Hidden, Michael Haneke, 2005)
Makes Haneke the 21st-century successor to Alfred Hitchcock.

Iklimler (Climates, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2006)
Each shot is unexpected yet perfect when it comes.

Opera Jawa

Les Amants réguliers (Regular Lovers, Philippe Garrel, 2005)
The bravest film of the year.

Opera Jawa (Garin Negroho, 2006)
Indonesian film, myth, installation art, opera, music, dance, theatre …

Miami Vice (Michael Mann, 2006)
Mann’s best film by far and totally unexpected.

L’Enfant (The Child, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2005)
Dogme95, you lost!

Zemastan (It’s Winter, Rafi Pitts, 2006)
Iranian snow, austerity as art – 100 percent pure.

Professione: reporter (The Passenger, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975)
Prime restoration – the new cut clinches it.

Overrated Film of the Year

The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
Line after line, frame after frame lifted from the fabulous Mou gaan dou (Infernal Affairs, Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, 2002).

to list of contributors

Jit Phokaew

A Bangkok-based cinéphile.

Favourite films

1. Anat(t)a (Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr and Koichi Shimizu, 2006)
Anat(t)a is a video-and-audio installation conceived by Akritchalerm and Shimizu. The video lasts about 50 minutes and shows many serenely beautiful scenes in Bangkok. The video has no story and is extremely slow. However, the more important part of this installation is the audio, because each viewer can choose randomly which sound effects he or she would like to add to the soundtrack. Inside the gallery showing this video, there are about 50 buttons hung from the roof in front of the giant screen. Each button represents a kind of sound effects, such as the sound of dog barking, of motorcycle screeching, of firecracker exploding, etc. When a viewer pushes a button, the sound effect of that button will be mixed into the soundtrack immediately by a special computer program. Thus, the soundtrack of this video installation keeps changing every time any button is pushed, and the soundtrack, together with the atmospheric video, really inspires you to create a story in your mind. Thus, I guess that’s the meaning of the title of this installation. It comes from two words: “anatta”, which means “no-self”, and “anata”, a Japanese word which means “you”. It’s “you”, each viewer, who can provide the story to the plotless video. Before making this transcendental video installation, Akritchalerm worked in the sound department for Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s films, while Shimizu worked as a producer for many Thai indie bands. You can listen to his music in his blog, and you will get an idea how inspiring and entrancing his music is.

2. Obaba (Montxo Armendariz, 2005)
3. Wolf Creek (Greg McLean, 2005)
4. Capote (Bennett Miller, 2005)
5. Sophie Scholl: Die letzten Tage (Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, Marc Rothemund, 2005)
6. Solntse (The Sun, Aleksandr Sokurov, 2004)
7. Something More Than Night (Daniel Eisenberg, 2003)
8. Des épaules solides (Strong Shoulders, Ursula Meier, 2003)
9. 1/3 des yeux (1/3 of the Eyes, Olivier Zabat, 2004)
10. Blue Moon (Andrea Maria Dusl, 2002)
11. Papa (Maurice Barthélémy, 2005)
12. Bashing (Masahiro Kobayashi, 2005)
13. Bye Bye Blackbird (Robinson Savary, 2005)
14. Umoregi (The Buried Forest, Kôhei Oguri, 2005)
15. Piscine (Jean-Baptiste Bruant and Maria Spangaro, 2002)
16. Kombi Nation (Grant Lahood, 2003)
17. Umezu Kazuo: Kyôfu gekijô – Zesshoku (Kazuo Umezu’s Horror Theater: Ambrosia, Tadafumi Ito, 2005)
18. Kochankowie z Marony (The Lovers of Marona, Izabella Cywinska, 2005)
19. Peindre ou faire l’amour (To Paint or Make Love, Arnaud Larrieu and Jean-Marie Larrieu, 2005)
20. Ae Fond Kiss … (Ken Loach, 2004)

Favourite short films

1. The Boy from Mars (Philippe Parreno, 2003)
2. What Happened to Magdalena Jung? (Christoph Schlingensief, 1983)
3. Nirvana (Szuper Gallery, 2002)
4. Jane (Tania Sng, 2006)
5. Matthäus Passion: New Generation Remix (Gerald Van Der Kaap, 2003)
6. Say Hello to Peace and Tranquility (Dagmar Keller and Martin Wittwer, 2001)
7. La Peur, petit chasseur (Fear, Little Hunter, Laurent Achard, 2004)
8. After All (Volker Eichelmann and Roland Rust, 2002)
9. Pugilist Series 449 (Alex Davies, 2006)
10. No Day Off (Eric Khoo, 2006)

Favourite Thai films

1. Kiad (Silence Will Speak, Punlop Horharin, 2006)
2. Gang chanee kap ee-aep (Metrosexual, Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, 2006)
3. The Insane (Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, 2006)
4. Patterns of Transcendence (Jakrawal Nilthamrong, 2006)
5. Sleeping Beauty (Chulyanon Siriphol, 2006)
6. Hero (Thaweesak Srithongdee, 2006)
7. Invisible Waves (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, 2006)
8. Lokparach (Weirdrosopher World, Nontawat Numbenchapol and Rthit Phannikul, 2005-2006)
9. Colic: dek hen pee (Patchanon Thammajira, 2006)
10. Phii khon pen (The Victim, Monthon Arayangkoon, 2006)

Favourite Thai short films

1. Life Is Short 2 (Tossapol Boonsinsukh, 2006)
2. Nang “Phii”: 16 Pee Hang Kwam Lung (The Spectre: 16 Years Later, Prap Boonpan, 2006)
3. Ghosts (Anocha Suwichakornpong, 2005)
4. Og Tawan Tog Tawan (Rise Son, Visra Vichit-Vadakan, 2006)
5. Fun Riem (Laddawan Subpeng, 2006)
6. Lung Tee Song (Other Home, Anchalee Thaingamsin and Puntaree Boonrat, 2006)
7. Galapawasarn (The Long Silence, Suchart Sawasdsri, 2006)
8. Desire (Chanognun Tiraganchana, 2006)
9. Muang Ake 1579 (Seri Lachonabot, 2006)
10. Samunchon (The Portrait of a Young Man, Manussa Vorasingha, 2006)

Favourite documentaries

1. Fussball wie noch nie (Soccer As Never Before, Hellmuth Costard, 1971)
2. Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y (Johan Grimonprez, 1998)
3. Koenig’s Sphere (Percy Adlon, 2003)
4. L’Accord (The Accord, Béatrice Guelpa and Nicolas Wadimoff, 2005)
5. Minamata: Kanja-san to sono sekai (Minamata: The Victims and Their World, Noriaki Tsuchimoto, 1972)
6. Die Champions (The Champions, Christoph Huebner, 2003)
7. Men of Gold (Vincent Moloi, 2006)
8. Yan mo (Before the Flood, Li Yifan and Yan Yu, 2005)
9. Out of Place: Memories of Edward Said (Makoto Sato, 2005)
10. The Last Rice Farmer (Yen Lan-chuan and Juang Yi-tseng, 2005)

Favourite animations

1. Untitled (A Different Time) (Helen Fletcher, 2004)
2. Cherchez la femme (Daniel Hopfner, 2002)
3. The History of the World – Episode 16: The Invention of Writing and its Destruction (Phil Mulloy, 1994)
4. After (Kim Noce, 2005)
5. Tales of Mere Existence (Lev, 1999)
6. Continue (Chawit Waewsawangwong, 2006)
7. Hoodwinked! (Cory Edwards, 2005)
8. Obras (Hendrick Dusollier, 2004)
9. Nuad (Massage, Thawatpong Tangsajjapoj, 2005)
10. Mother Tongue (Susan Kim, 2002)

Two interesting cinematic trends in 2006

1. It’s the year of Thai video art.

Thai video art and video installations flourished in 2006, and they are as sublime and challenging as the best of Thai films. Apart from Anat(t)a, The Insane, Hero, Desire and Continue in the lists above, very impressive Thai video art in 2006 include Fantasmagorie (Surachai Pattanakijpaibool, 2004), Tee Wang (Space, Sathit Sattarasart, 2005), Nang Kwak: Equal Opportunity? (Sakarin Krue-on and Michael Shaowanasai, 2006), Dotscape (Sutthirat Supaparinya, 2005) and Rice/Life Ever-Presence (Montri Toemsombat, 2006).

2. It’s the year of ’Cinema of No Mercy’.

Flandres

Kent Jones said in his Film Comment article that torture was a big item in 2006’s Cannes crop. I think he is very right, though I haven’t seen many films from Cannes yet. Cinema I saw in 2006 is full of unforgettable images or stories of extreme suffering or merciless people. As for physical cruelty, the most unforgettable scenes include scenes of torture in Flandres (Bruno Dumont, 2006), The Wind That Shakes the Barley (Ken Loach, 2006), Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006) and “Masters of Horror”: Imprint (Miike Takashi, 2006). The painful scenes or stories also include: the hilarious collective vengeance in Chinjeolhan Geumjassi (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Park Chan-wook, 2005), the collective murder in The Wicker Man (Neil LaBute, 2006) and La Monja (The Nun, Luis De La Madrid, 2005), the ’invisible’ beating in Karov La Bayit (Close to Home, Vidi Bilu and Dalia Hagar, 2005), the near-lynching in Crónicas (Sebastián Cordero, 2003), the spousal abuse in Yeonae (Love is a Crazy Thing, Oh Seok-geun, 2005), the sexual abuse man did to woman in Ammahit Pissawas (The Passion, Saranyu Wongkrajang, 2006), woman did to man in Go West (Ahmed Imamovic, 2005), and man did to man in Omiros (Hostage, Constantine Giannaris, 2005), the organ chopping in The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006), the extreme punishment in Wang-ui namja (The King and the Clown, Lee Jun-ik, 2005), the dog killing in Is It Easy to Kill/Pray? (Sherman Ong, 2005), the excrement eating in 13 game sayawng (13 Beloved, Chookiat Sakvirakul, 2006), the tar-and-feathers attack in the television series “Carnivàle” (2005), and the abuse of children in Running Scared (Wayne Kramer, 2006), Voces inocentes (Innocent Voices, Luis Mandoki, 2004), Golemata voda (The Great Water, Ivo Trajkov, 2004), Water (Deepa Mehta, 2005), and Quando sei nato non puoi più nasconderti (Once You’re Born You Can No Longer Hide, Marco Tullio Giordana, 2005). As for emotional cruelty, the most unforgettable parts include the zoo scene in Happy Feet (George Miller, 2006), the saxophone prohibition in The Lost City (Andy Garcia, 2005), a middle-aged woman applying for a job in Violence des échanges en milieu tempéré (Work Hard, Play Hard, Jean-Marc Moutout, 2003), the people’s indifference to someone in danger in Viva Laldjérie (Viva Algeria, Nadir Moknèche, 2004), and the ostracism of AIDS patients shown directly in My Brother…Nikhil (Onir, 2005) and told verbally in Heaven’s Meadow (Detlev F. Neufert, 2005). Watching all these scenes gives me the same feeling that I have when I read the newspaper. It’s the feeling that the world might be turning into hell.

Guilty Pleasures

Pilbara Pearl (Christopher Watson, 1998), Kogitsune Helen (Helen the Baby Fox, Keita Kono, 2005), Hexagon (Kyi Soe Tun, 2006), Manô (George Felner, 2005), “Masters of Horror”: Pick Me Up (Larry Cohen, 2006).

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Bérénice Reynaud

Author of New Chinas/New Cinemas (1999), Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A City of Sadness (2002) and Flying Women, Flying Monks and Other Wonders of the Chinese Martial Arts Film (forthcoming). She teaches at the California Institute of the Arts, and is one of the curators of “Film at REDCAT”.

By alphabetical order (unranked):

Bamako (Abderrahmane Sissoko, France-Mali-USA, 2006)
Batalia en el cielo (Battle in Heaven, Carlos Reygada, Mexico-France-Germany-Belgium, 2005)
Bei ya zi de nan hai (Taking Father Home, Ying Liang, China, 2005)
Belle Toujours (Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal-France, 2006)
Bled Number One (Back Home, Rabah Ameur-Zaimeche, Algeria-France, 2006)
Blokada (Blockade, Sergei Loznitsa, Russia, 2006)
Brand on the Brain (Guy Maddin, Canada-USA, 2006)
Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, USA, 2006)
Cinnamon (Jerome Kevin Everson, USA, 2006)
Chuan Bing (Ice Games, Zhang Hui Lin, China, 2006)
L’Enfant (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium, 2005)
Flags of Our Father and Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood, USA, 2006)
Fu Sheng (Bliss, Sheng Zhimin, China, 2006)
Goimool (The Host, Bong Joon-ho, South Korea, 2006)
Die Grosse Stille (Into Great Silence, Philip Groening, Germany-Switzerland, 2005)
Historia adolescente en medio de la nada (Glue, Alexis dos Santos, Argentine, 2005)
Iklimler (Climates, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey-France, 2006)
In-between Days (So Yung Kim, USA-Canada-South Korea, 2006)
Inland Empire (David Lynch, USA, 2006)
Iraq in Fragments (James Longley, USA, 2006)
L’Ivresse du pouvoir (The Comedy of Power, Claude Chabrol, France, 2006)
Jiang Cheng Xia Ri (Luxury Car, Wang Chao, France-China, 2006)
Juventude em marcha (Colossal Youth, Pedro Costa, Portugal, 2005)
Là Bas (Down There, Chantal Akerman, France-Belgium, 2006)
Laitakaupungin Valot (Lights In The Dusk, Aki Kaurismäki, Finland, 2006)
Lai Xiaozi (Walking on the Wild Side, Han Jie, China-France, 2006)
Moartea Domnului Lazarescu (The Death of Mister Lazarescu, Cristi Puiu, Romania, 2005)
Omaret Yacoubian (The Yacoubian Building, Marawan Hamed, Egypt, 2006)
Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, Auraeus Solito, The Philippines, 2006)
Pine Flat (Sharon Lockhart, USA, 2006)
Sang Sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand-Austria-France, 2006)

San Xian Hao Ren (Still Life, Jia Zhangke, China-Hong Kong, 2006) + Dong (Jia Zhangke, 2006)
(As is in the case of the Eastwood films, we have here the two volets of a diptych. Still Life and Dong are shot at the same time in the same location, with scenes and people from one film reappearing in the other, and Jia has always insisted for the two films to be shown together, at least in a festival context.)

Shaoniann Hua Cao Huang (Withered in a Blooming Season, Cui Zi’en, China, 2006)
Volver (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain, 2006)
V.O. (William E. Jones, USA, 2006)
Wild Tigers I Have Known (Cam Archer, USA, 2006)
Wu Qingyuan (The Go Master, Tian Zhuangzhuang, The Netherlands-China, 2006)
Yima de Houxiandai Shenghuo (The Post-Modern Life of my Aunt, Ann Hui, China-Hong Kong, 2006)
Zidane, un portrait du 21e siècle (Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno, 2006)
Zui hao de shi guang (Three Times, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan, 2005)

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Marcos Ribas de Faria

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.

1. Les Amants réguliers (Regular Lovers, Philippe Garrel, 2005)
2. Zui hao de shi guang (Three Times, Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2005)
3. Match Point (Woody Allen, 2006)
4. Rois et reine (Kings and Queen, Arnaud Despleschin, 2004)
5. We Don’t Live Here Anymore (John Curran, 2004)
6. Bu san (Good Bye, Dragon Inn, Tsai Ming-liang, 2003)
7. The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
8. The Proposition (John Hillcoat, 2005)
9. Volver (Pedro Almodóvar, 2006)
10. V for Vendetta (James McTeigue, 2006)

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Peter Rist

Teaches film studies at Concordia University in Montréal and regularly contributes to the online journal, Offscreen.

I am sure I am not alone in thinking that 2006 has not been a banner year for new films. I hesitate a little in declaring this because, for various reasons – a general decline in Montréal’s film festivals; my refusal to pay $150 just to be able to join the ticket lottery for the Toronto Festival; the severe lack of films not in English or French (or Hindi) being distributed in Québec – I haven’t been able to see as many films this year as I would like. These days, if one doesn’t see a particular non-commercial film at a film festival, the only hope of seeing it is on DVD! This even holds for some “commercial” films: I have had DVD copies of Johnnie To’s Hak se wui (Election, 2005) and Hak se wui yi wo wai kwai (Election 2, 2006) sitting on my shelves for quite some time, waiting for them to show up on a Montréal screen. (Their local distributor, Alliance-Atlanti-Vivafilm, seems determined to emulate the old Miramax in buying the rights to hot Asian films, not bothering to strike prints and spend money on advertising, and then at some undetermined time in the future releasing them on DVD.) Many highly acclaimed (or Oscar-worthy) films don’t get released in Montréal until early in the new year. This was the case in 2006 for Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s L’Enfant (The Child, 2005) and the first two films on my list below. As usual, I was grateful for the opportunity to visit the Hong Kong International Film Festival, where I was able to see a number of films I’d missed, and some, including Moartea domnului Lazarescu (The Death of Mister Lazarescu, Cristi Puiu, 2005), which have never been screened in Montréal!

It is ever more difficult to determine where a film is from these days. Is Children of Men (2006) a British film, or could we even consider it to be Mexican, after the nationality of its director, Alfonso Cuarón? With Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 2006) and Guillermo del Toro El Laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006) also having prominent films this year and with Carlos Reygadas getting his 2005 film, Batalla en el cielo (Battle in Heaven) released in North America, Mexico would certainly seem to be a cinema hot spot. And yet, only Reygadas’ film is, strictly speaking, Mexican.

One of the reasons for 2006 seeming to have been a disappointing year is that the Cannes Competition appeared to be weak. Cannes certainly fell below Venice in terms of Asian films on view and, with the Toronto festival slavishly following Cannes and becoming increasingly oriented towards Hollywood, one has to try and find films elsewhere. I was happy to see two films directed by Yang Yazhou and starring Ni Ping at the Montréal World Film Festival, including the world premiere of Snow in the Wind (2006), and there were a number of strong films from Latin America and Asia at this festival. But the big stories of 2006 were in other areas …

… Archival and retrospective screenings, for instance. The Ontario Cinémathèque continued its Mikio Naruse series in Toronto, and the Cinémathèque Québécoise found the money from somewhere to mount complete retrospectives of Chantal Akerman and Hou Hsiao-hsien at the end of 2006. I was especially pleased to be able to see Hou’s first film as a director, Jiushi liuliu de ta (Cute Girl, 1980), and to see some of his others on the “big screen” for the first time. The Hong Kong International Film Festival began a Nakagawa Nobuo series and my other favourite festival, the Giornate, a silent film festival in Sacile, Italy, dedicated a program to Nordisk on the Danish company’s centenary. What a joy it was to see how sophisticated and international Danish films were in the years 1910–3, before Nordisk lost its overseas markets during World War I. Surely there was no finer cinematography, art direction, acting and directing in 1911 than that on view in Ekspeditricen (The Shop Girl, August Blom, 1911).

Surprisingly, with the introduction of Blu-Ray and HD discs, the tried-and-true DVD still flourishes. In North America, Warner Brothers continues to provide inexpensive archival restorations, but I am very impressed with what is becoming available in Europe and East Asia. Of special note are Masters of Cinema/Eureka in the UK which has just produced a box of three films directed by Naruse in the 1950s (optimistically marked “volume 1”) and is promising to release ten or more Kenji Mizoguchi films on DVD in 2007. I should also mention the much-maligned Panorama company in Hong Kong which is following-up on its promise to put every surviving Yasujiro Ozu film on DVD (with English sub-titles). Most recently, I received a copy of Ozu’s Hijosen no onna (Dragnet Girl) from YesAsia, which is surely one of the most original films made anywhere in the world in 1933.

Finally, I should note that, with more-and-more useful cinema information becoming available online, and with far too many useless film books being published, a major breakthrough has occurred in film scholarship with David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson generously sharing their (almost daily) insights, “Observations on film art and Film Art”, with us at www.davidbordwell.net.

A Ten (actually Twelve) Best Films list

(in roughly the order in which I saw them in 2006 (with retrospectives at the end))

Caché (Hidden, Michael Haneke, 2005)
The New World (Terence Malick, 2005)
Moartea domnului Lazarescu (The Death of Mister Lazarescu, Cristi Puiu, 2005)
Sorstalanság (Fateless, Lajos Koltai, 2005)
Niqiu ye shi you (Loach is Fish Too, Yang Yazhou, 2005) and Hong yan (Dam Street, Yu Li, 2005)
Geuk jang jeon (Tale of Cinema, Hong Sang-Soo, 2005)
Offside (Jafar Panahi, 2006)
Hei yan quan (I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, Tsai Ming-Liang, 2006)
Hideko no shasho-san (Hideko the Bus Conductress, Naruse Mikio, 1941) and Tokaido Yotsuya kaiden (The Ghost Story of Yotsuya, Nakagawa Nobuo, 1959)
Ekspeditricen (The Shop Girl, aka In the Prime of Life, August Blom, 1911)

Since you probably wouldn’t notice this anywhere else, I thought I would share with you the Québec Film Critics Association’s choice of the five top “International Films” of 2006, voted on by members (including myself). Any film which is shown publicly for the first time in the province of Québec this year is eligible: Babel (28 votes), Volver (Pedro Almodóvar, 25 votes), Pas sur la bouche (Not on the Lips, Alain Resnais, 2003, 20 votes), I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone (16 votes), The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2006) and Flandres (Bruno Dumont, 2006), both 14 votes.

No doubt, as usual, the “most popular” choice will win (one of the first two), but it is good to see a list which only includes one Hollywood film (if that) …

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James Rose

A freelance writer who specialises in horror, fantasy and science-fiction cinema. Previously published works can be read at www.theblacklodge.co.uk/jamesrose.

Phantastical Film 2006

In recent years, the cinema of the Phantastic has revelled in the potential of CGI. Such a technique has allowed writers and directors the freedom to create fictional but believable environments, and the inhabitants that populate them. Although visually spectacular (and perhaps that is what this genre is really about: the physical representation of the Phantastic), it would seem that the genre’s potential for generating understandable and accessible meanings and metaphors have somehow been forgotten.

Pan’s Labyrinth

As this cinema of spectacle continues, it has manifested itself during 2006 in the colossal King Kong (Peter Jackson, 2006), continued the X-Men’s fight for equality and oppression (X-Men: Last Stand, Brad Anderson, 2006) and for Superman to fly once more (Superman Returns, Bryan Singer, 2006). Although all are superior moments of high fantasy, all seem empty of meaningful potential. It would seem fitting then that the few films of the year that have deftly combined spectacle with metaphor would come (partially) from outside of Hollywood: Guillermo del Toro’s El Laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006) contains the spectacle of fantastical creatures yet imbue those monstrous creations with powerful meanings. These mythical creatures cannot offer the assumed safe escape from the horrors of civil war into a fairytale realm but instead trade only one horror for another. Given the potential this credible and critically admired piece of cinema indicates, it is hoped that Phantastical Cinema can begin to rise out of the mire of prequels, sequels, remakes, reimaginings and adaptations next year, and begin to re-establish itself as an independent, original and creative voice.

It is worth noting that amongst the year’s glut of remakes one stands out as it attempts to both update and extend the meaningful value of the original’s narrative: Alexandre Aja’s remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (1977) is a brutal assault on middle-class America, with the film chronicling the singular descent of one man into a primitive state, along the way giving full vent to his repressed anxieties in moments of stark and graphic violence. Given this film follows Aja’s immense début, Switchblade Romance (2003), the genre may have found itself another writer-director capable of successfully providing nerve shredding terror alongside imagery that has the possibility of meaningful significance.

In alphabetical order, a suggested best of 2006:

The Dark (John Fawcett, 2005)
The Hills Have Eyes (Alexandre Aja, 2006)
El Laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
Silent Hill (Christophe Gans, 2006)

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Dan Sallitt

A filmmaker and film writer living in New York.

1. Tai yang yue (Rain Dogs, Ho Yuhang, 2006)
2. Haebyonui yoin (Woman on the Beach, Hong Sang-Soo, 2006)
3. Vanaja (Rajnesh Domalpalli, 2006)
4. Slumming (Michael Glawogger, 2006)
5. Flandres (Bruno Dumont, 2006)
6. Gajokeui tansaeng (Family Ties, Kim Tae-Yong, 2006)
7. Stephanie Daley (Hilary Brougher, 2006)
8. Come l’ombra (As the Shadow, Marina Spada, 2006)
9. Sommer 04 an der Schlei (Summer ’04, Stefan Krohmer, 2006)
10. Quinceañera (Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer, 2006)
11. Drama/Mex (Gerardo Naranjo, 2006)
12. O Céu de Suely (Suely in the Sky, Karim Ainouz, 2006)
13. Hamaca Paraguaya (Paz Encina, 2006)

The films above had their first public screenings somewhere in the world in 2006. The list should expand greatly in coming years as other 2006 films make their way to my neighbourhood. A number of other fine films received their first theatrical release in New York in 2006: at the top of the pile were Moartea domnului Lazarescu (The Death of Mister Lazarescu, Cristi Puiu, 2005), Sulanga Enu Pinisia (The Forsaken Land, Vimukthi Jayasundara, 2005) and The Garden of Earthly Delights (Lech Majewski, 2004).

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Howard Schumann

Freelance writer, Vancouver, BC.

Best of 2006

1. The New World (Terence Malick, 2005)
2. Moartea domnului Lazarescu (The Death of Mister Lazarescu, Cristi Puiu, 2005)
3. An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim, 2006)
4. V for Vendetta (James McTeigue, 2005)
5. Sang sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)
6. Sorstalanság (Fateless, Lajos Koltai, 2005)
7. L’Enfant (The Child, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2005)
8. The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006)
9. Bobby (Emilio Estevez, 2006)
10. Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck, 2006)
11. Va, vis et deviens (Live and Become, Radu Mihaileanu, 2005)
12. Haebyonui yoin (Woman on the Beach, Hong Sang-soo, 2006)
13. Sanxia haoren (Still Life, Jia Zhangke, 2006)
14. Ten Canoes (Rolf de Heer, 2006)
15. Milarepa (Neten Chokling, 2006)
16. Nine Lives (Rodrigo Garcia, 2005)
17. Gwoemul (The Host, Joon-ho Bong, 2006)
18. Tsotsi (Gavin Hood, 2005)
19. Le Chiavi di casa (Keys to the House, Gianni Amelio, 2004)
20. Tony Takitani (Jun Ichikawa, 2004)

Worst of 2006

1. Match Point (Woody Allen, 2005)
2. Volver (Pedro Almodóvar, 2006)
3. Whole New Thing (Amnon Buchbinder, 2005)
4. Broken Flowers (Jim Jarmusch, 2005)
5. Qian li zou dan qi (Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, Zhang Yimou, 2005)

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David Sorfa

Managing Editor of Film-Philosophy and lecturer in Screen Studies at Liverpool John Moores University.

This list is taken from the films I saw for the first time in 2006, not a particularly exciting film year in itself:

Lunacy

Sílení (Lunacy, Jan Svankmajer, 2005)
Edgar Allan Poe and the Marquis de Sade force Charles Fourier to hand over his lunch money.

Kocár do Vídne (Coach to Vienna, Karel Kachyna, 1966)
Beautiful and harrowing, a journey into the fog-shrouded woods of middle Europe.

Ikarie XB 1 (Voyage to the End of the Universe, Jindrich Polák, 1963)
Underrated Czech sci-fi film that presages Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972), available on DVD.

Nebestí jezdci (Riders in the Sky, Jindrich Polák, 1968)
Czech pilots join the RAF and have unconvincing affairs.

Marketa Lazarová (Frantisek Vlácil, 1967)
Life is brutal and pouting compulsory in pagan Bohemia.

Caché (Hidden, Michael Haneke, 2005)
Cinema’s hate-letter to itself.

Czlowiek z marmuru (Man of Marble, Andrzej Wajda, 1977)
The finest flared jeans on celluloid.

U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha (Mark Dornford-May, 2005)
Fantastic township opera which will hopefully eclipse the execrable Tsotsi (Gavin Hood, 2005)

Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005)
Werner cooks poisonous tuber for Jeff Goldblum. Genius.

One, Two, Three (Billy Wilder, 1961)
I finally understand why James Cagney exists: to be head of Coca Cola in 1960s Berlin.

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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 more than ten years.

My Top Ten by today’s reckoning, in chronological order of viewing

Kokoda (Alistair Grierson, 2006)
The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
Volver (Pedro Almodóvar, 2006)
Gwoemul (The Host, Bong Joon-ho, 2006)
Dans Paris (Christophe Honore, 2006)
The Pervert’s Guide to the Cinema (Sophie Fiennes, 2006)
A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006)
Krisana (Fallen, Fred Kelemen, 2005)
Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
Sanxia haoren (Still Life, Jia Zhangke, 2006)

And just outside these

Walk the Line (James Mangold, 2005)
Les Amants réguliers (Regular Lovers, Philippe Garrel, 2005)
Ten Canoes (Rolf de Heer, 2006)
13 (Tzameti) (Géla Babluani, 2005)
The Descent (Neil Marchall, 2005)
The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
Flags of Our Fathers (Clint Eastwood. 2006)
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006)

Most rewarding re-viewing
Michelangelo Antonioni Retrospective.

Most over-rated
Babel (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2006)

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Alan Stanbrook

Based in England and writes on film matters for The Economist and the Sunday Telegraph. He has a special interest in Asian cinema and regularly attends festivals dedicated to this area – in Pusan, Hong Kong and even in Udine, Italy, which surprisingly mounts a Far East film week every year.

Azur et Azmar (Azur and Asmar, Michel Ocelot, 2006)
Good Night, and Good Luck (George Clooney, 2005)
The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
Opera Jawa (Garin Nugroho, 2006)
Sanxia haoren (Still Life, Jia Zhangke, 2006)
Volver (Pedro Almodóvar, 2006)
Wo men liang (You and Me, Ma Liwen, 2005)

You and Me is directed by the Chinese woman director, Ma Liwen, and is about the strained relationship that develops between an old woman and the young student to whom she lets living accommodation. The gradual change in their relationship from outright hostility into a form of love and respect recalls the best of Italian neo-realism. It’s a magnificent sequel to Ma’s previous film, clumsily entitled but equally moving, Shijie shang zui teng wo de nageren qu le (Gone is the One Who Held Me Dearest in the World, 2002).

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Brad Stevens

Author of Monte Hellman: His Life and Films and Abel Ferrara: The Moral Vision.

Top Ten

1. Mary (Abel Ferrara, 2005)
2. Zui hao de shi guang (Three Times, Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2005)
3. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
4. Strip Search (Sidney Lumet, 2004)
5. Munich (Steven Spielberg, 2005)
6. Memoirs of a Geisha (Rob Marshall, 2005)
7. Chromiumblue.com (Zalman King, 2001)
8. The Dangerous Thread of Things (Michelangelo Antonioni’s episode of Eros, 2004)
9. Innocence (Lucille Hadzihalilovic, 2004)
10. Kohi Jikou (Café Lumiere, 30-minute deleted scene on French DVD, Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2003).

Small Pleasures

Zivot je Cudo (Life is a Miracle, Emir Kusturica, 2004)
Batalia en el cielo (Battle in Heaven, Carlos Reygadas, 2005)
Breakfast on Pluto (Neil Jordan, 2005),
Clean (Olivier Assayas, 2004)
Last Days (Gus Van Sant, 2004)
Broken Trail (Walter Hill, 2005)
In My Country/Country of My Skull (John Boorman, 2004)
Casanova (Lasse Hallström, 2005)
The White Countess (James Ivory, 2005)
Satan’s Little Helper (Jeff Lieberman, 2004)
Unrequited Love (Chris Petit, 2005)
Zebraman (Miike Takashi, 2004)
“Box” (Miike Takashi’s contribution to Three … Extremes, 2004)
Find Me Guilty (Sidney Lumet, 2006)

Notable restorations

Mr Arkadin (Orson Welles, 1955)
Major Dundee (Sam Peckinpah, 1964)

Retrospective Discoveries

Adieu, Plancher des Vaches! (Farewell, Home Sweet Home, Otar Iosseliani, 1999)
The Steel Helmet (Samuel Fuller, 1951)
The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (Richard Fleischer, 1955)
Madadayo (Akira Kurosawa, 1993)
La Baie des anges (Bay of Angels, Jacques Demy, 1962)
Les Cent et une nuits de Simon Cinema (A Hundred and One Nights of Simon Cinema, Agnes Varda, 1994)
Omohide Poro Poro (Takahata Isao, 1991)
Seven Men from Now (Budd Boetticher, 1956)
Meghe Dhaka Tara (The Cloud-Capped Star, Ritwik Ghatak, 1960)
Track of the Cat (William A. Wellman, 1954)
Once Before I Die (John Derek, 1965)
Lulu on the Bridge (Paul Auster, 1998)

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Richard Suchenski

Graduate film student at Yale University.

Ten Best Films Premièred in 2006

Sang Sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand, 2006)
Sanxia haoren (Still Life, Jia Zhangke, China, 2006)
Iklimler (Climates, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey, 2006)
Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places, Alain Resnais, France, 2006)
Quei loro incontri (These Encounters of Theirs, Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, Italy-France, 2006)
Belle Toujours (Manoel de Oliveira, France, 2006)
Inland Empire (David Lynch, USA, 2006)
Haebyonui yoin (Woman on the Beach, Hong Sang-soo, South Korea, 2006)
The Queen (Stephen Frears, UK, 2006)
Wu qingyuan (The Go Master, Tian Zhuangzhuang, China-Japan, 2006)

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Alexis A. Tioseco

Film critic, lecturer at the University of Asia and the Pacific, and editor-in-chief of Criticine, an online journal of Southeast Asian cinema.

Favourite Film Things: Southeast Asia 2006

It was an exciting year in Southeast Asia, and listed below are the things that excited me the most. A simple look at what’s left out will let you know just how good the year was.

A Short Film About the Indio Nacional

I regret not being able to include other Southeast Asian countries on this list, but, despite efforts, my exposure to their cinema in 2006 has been far too limited to cite favourites.

I have included annotations for this list on The San Francisco Bay Guardian’s blog, Pixel Vision, so for the purpose of saving space (conserving space, even on the internet, is valuable!), I’ll simply include a link to the list with comments, and hope that you read it.

Without further ado, and with hopeful eyes looking toward 2007 …

The Philippines

Features:
Huling Balyan Ng Buhi: O Ang Sinalirap Nga Asoy Nila (Huling Balyan Ng Buhi: Or The Woven Stories of the Other, Sherad Anthony Sanchez, 2006)
Maicling Pelicula Nang Ysang Indio Nacional (o Ang Mahabang Kalungkutan ng Katagalugan) (A Short Film About the Indio Nacional or The Prolonged Sorrow of Filipinos, Raya Martin, 2006)
Todo todo teros (John Torres, 2006)
Heremias, Unang Aklat: Ang Alamat ng Prinsesang Bayawak (Heremias, Book One: The Legend of the Lizard Princess, Lav Diaz, 2006)

Shorts:
Plano, Saling Pusa (Tag Along, Antoinette Jadoane, 2006)
It Feels So Good To Be Alive (Antoinette Jadaone, 2006)

Old:
The Moises Padilla Story (Gerardo De Leon, 1961)

Additional reading:
http://www.sfbg.com/entry.php?entry_id=2461

* * *

Thailand

Feature:
Sang Sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)

Shorts:
Tsu (Pramote Sangsorn, 2006)
Bangkok in the Evening (Sompot Chidgasornpongse, 2006)

Old:
The films of actor-director Sombat Metanee tribute at the 2006 Bangkok Film Festival

* * *

Indonesia

Feature:
Bergagi Suami (Love for Share, Nia Dinata, 2006)

Short:
A Very Boring Conversation (Edwin [no last name], 2006)

Old:
The collected short films of Gotot Prakosa (1975-1984)

* * *

Malaysia

Feature:
Taiyang Yu (Rain Dogs, Ho Yuhang, 2006)

Short:
Majidee (Azharr Rudin, 2006)

Sometimes Tsai:
Hei Yan Quan (I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, Tsai Ming-liang, 2006)

* * *

Singapore

Feature:
The Art of Flirting: As Told in Four Chapters (Kan Lume, 2006)

Short:
4×4: Episodes of Singapore Art (Ho Tzu Nyen, 2006)

Old:
They Call Her … Cleopatra Wong (Bobby Suarez, 1978)

Other Favourite Film things:

1. Sátántangó (Béla Tarr, 1994)
on 35mm print at the VanCity 23 December.

2. Offret (The Sacrifice, Andrei Tarkovsky, 1985)
screened in a tribute to Sven Nykvist at the Pacific Cinémathèque in Vancouver, 28 December, a day before the 20th anniversary of Tarkovsky’s death.

3. Juventude en marcha (Colossal Youth, Pedro Costa, 2006).
4. Iklimler (Climates, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2006).
5. Caché (Hidden, Michael Haneke, 2005).

6. Solntse (The Sun, Aleksandr Sokurov, 2004) viewed on the big screen for the second time.

7. Ritwik Ghatak Restrospective in Osian’s Cinefan in Dehli in July.

8. A better selection of pirated DVDs in Manila.

9. The Short films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul (unavailable on DVD), viewed on a computer in his office.

10. German Silent Films, screened with live musical accompaniment by Filipino Musicians. There were four screenings, but I only caught three, and each were in their own way extraordinary: Tabu ( F. W. Murnau and Robert Flaherty, 1931), with music by Bo Razon; Der Golem (The Golem, Paul Wegener and Henrik Galeen), with music by Drip; Asphalt (Joe May, 1929) with music by the Cynthia and Alexander Group.

11. Screening Lav Diaz’s Ebolusyon ng isang pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family, 2004) and Heremias for my wonderful, patient, open-minded students (at least most of them) and having the director address the students after the Evolution.

12. Screening Raya Martin’s A Short Film About the Indio Nacional for my students, with an incendiary, improvised, live piano score by filmmaker Khavn De La Cruz.

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Rüdiger Tomczak

For the past 11 years has published the film magazine shomingeki. This title is a homage to the Japanese realist movement born in the 1930s, films about the every day life of ordinary people.

Quei loro incontri

1. The New World (Terrence Malick, USA, 2005)
2. Quei loro incontri/Ces rencontres avec eux (These Encounters of Theirs, Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, Italy-France, 2006)
3. 15, Park Avenue (Aparna Sen, India, 2005)
4. Dear Pyongyang (Yan Yong-hi, Japan, 2005)
5. Kaalpurush (Memories in the Mist, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, India, 2005)
6. Umoregi (The Buried Forest, Kohei Oguri, Japan, 2005)
7. De Particulier à particulier (Hotel Harabati, Brice Cauvin, France, 2006)
8. Du hast gesagt, dass du mich liebst (You Have Said That You Love Me, Rudolf Thome, Germany, 2006)
9. In Between Days (So Yong Kim, USA-Canada, 2006)
10. One Way Boogie Woogie/27 Years Later (James Benning, USA, 1978-2005)

Two experiences had a deep impact on me in 2006. The first one was the death of Danièle Huillet on 9 October. It was just a week after she won the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement, together with husband Jean-Marie Straub, at the Venice Film Festival, and just four weeks after their last masterpiece, Quei loro incontri, was – like so many of their films before – attacked by ignorant, mostly German, film critics. The death of Danièle Huillet is a big loss for world cinema.

The other experience was my passage to India, seven days in Mumbai and ten days in Kolkata. For me, Kolkata is one of the sacred places in cinema. Ritwik Ghatak and Satyajit Ray created their films there. But, also, Jean Renoir made in and around Kolkata one of his greatest films, The River (1951). But this voyage was more than a pilgrimage. Meetings with filmmakers, film students and film critics gave me a clear impression about the state of Indian art cinema (the Indian call it Parallel Cinema). Even the contemporary masters of Bengali cinema – Aparna Sen, Buddhadeb Dasgupta and Nabyendu Chatterjee (the first person who introduced me to the films of Ritwik Ghatak) – have to struggle for their projects. The international Bollywood boom made it harder for them to get their films distributed abroad. But, despite this, if I compare the intellectual life in Kolkata with Berlin, the German capital seems to me like a graveyard! Beside that, I met Pradip Biswas, an Indian film critic who writes for big Anglophone Indian newspapers. Having grown up in the middle of the famous cine club movement in Kolkata, he has preserved his passion for cinema for more than three decades without having ever compromised. He has published eight books on cinema, among others on Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Theo Angelopoulus, Sandip Ray and Nabyendu Chatterjee. In all respects, these books are the most beautifully edited film books I have seen for quite a some time, a real work of love for cinema. With a bit more encouragement from outside (especially film festivals), and greater financial investment in all these highly talented filmmakers from Kolkata, this Indian mega-city can became the Paris of the East.

A propos Indian cinema, if there were to be a poll for the “films of the decade” I would include as my absolute favourite to date Aparna Sen’s Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002). A film that breathes with all the wisdom of more than 100 years of cinema, and in which the filmmaker’s daughter, Konkona Sen Sharma, gives one of the most breathtaking performances I have seen in the past 10 years.

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Peter Tonguette

Author of the forthcoming Orson Welles Remembered: Interviews with His Actors, Editors, Cinematographers, and Magicians, to be published by McFarland & Company in 2007.

Top 10 Films of 2006

1. A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006)
2. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
3. Flags of Our Fathers (Clint Eastwood, 2006)
4. The Black Dahlia (Brian De Palma, 2006)
5. Saraband (Ingmar Bergman, 2003)
6. Find Me Guilty (Sidney Lumet, 2006)
7. Scoop (Woody Allen, 2006)
8. Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006)
9. Caché (Hidden, Michael Haneke, 2005)
10. The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)

Honourable Mentions

Bubble (Steven Soderbergh, 2006), Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006), Directed by John Ford (re-edit, Peter Bogdanovich, 1971 and 2006), Superman Returns (Bryan Singer, 2006)

And here are some older titles which I saw for the first time in 2006 (either theatrically or on video) and which have become favourites:

The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957)
Captain Horatio Hornblower, R. N. (Raoul Walsh, 1950)
Comes a Horseman (Alan J. Pakula, 1978)
Magic (Richard Attenborough, 1978)
Professione: reporter (The Passenger, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975)
Rollover (Alan J. Pakula, 1981)
This Happy Breed (David Lean, 1944)

to list of contributors

Andy Townsend

One of the team behind the Second Run DVD label. Now into its second year, it continues to release important and award-winning films from around the world onto DVD.

I have to say that the one major drawback of running a DVD label is that it severely restricts the time you actually spend in a cinema. These days I find so much of my time is dedicated to tending to our own releases that I don’t get out so much. However, 2006 was memorable for the following:

Caché (Hidden, Michael Haneke, 2005)
Provided the most visceral audience reaction to a single scene (the one with the knife) I have experienced in a cinema. Uproar and screaming.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Tommy Lee Jones, 2005)
Been watching any Peckinpah, Tommy?

The Squid and the Whale (Noah Baumbach, 2005)
Funniest film of the year. Were I a member of the Academy, Jeff Daniels would have got the Best Actor Oscar.

Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005)

The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2006)
Surprise of the year. Gawd bless yer maam.

Red Road (Andrea Arnold, 2006)
That rarest of things: a British director with a true cinematic eye. How will she follow this?

Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)

Sang Sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)
The only film I managed to see at this year’s London Film Festival (a reflection on my own poor time management than the selection of films). I came to this at the end of a long, extremely stressful week. The cinema was too hot, I was too tired and for the first half vacillated between catching up on some much-needed sleep and walking out to the pub as Joe’s latest seemed to be heading down a oblique blind alley. Yet, at some point, something just clicked and the film soared for me with the last third switching from inconsequential noodling to a magnificent enigma. The final ’smoking funnel’ scene had me mesmerised with its occult intensity.

Hype of the Year

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006)
If only because for two weeks in November it was impossible to wake in London without having the Kazak reporter thrust into your face. Seemingly every piece of UK media space had been taken over by Borat.

Special mention must go to: Crash (Paul Haggis, 2004). I only managed to catch up with this on DVD this year. So what happened there then? The first half was a serviceable, if heavy-handed, slice of LA life but 50 minutes in it appears the directors were switched. The film ended and we felt as though someone had broken into our house and beaten us up with an ’issues’ baseball bat – an experience akin to being locked in a small room with Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and George Cloooney while they harangue you with a megaphone for 120 minutes. The sequence where the young girl gets ’shot’ is the most ridiculously manipulative piece of film I have seen this century. Quite an achievement, when even our cats predicted the dénouement. I’m as liberal as the next man, but I had to go outside and set fire to a homeless guy to make myself feel cleansed again.

to list of contributors

Robert von Dassanowsky

Professor of German and Film Studies at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs; independent producer and contributor to the International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Senses of Cinema, Bright Lights, Cinema Journal, Undercurrent and Celluloid, among other publications.

Top Ten films of 2006, including those released in the U.S. theatrically or on DVD/cable television

(in no particular order)

Volver (Pedro Almodóvar, 2006)
The Queen (Steven Frears, 2006)
Caché (Hidden, Michael Haneke, 2005)
The Last King of Scotland (Kevin Macdonald, 2006)
When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (Spike Lee, 2006)
Fallen (Falling, Barbara Albert, 2006)
Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006)
Spiele Leben (You Bet Your Life, Antonin Svoboda, 2005)
An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim, 2006)
Moartea domnului Lazarescu (The Death of Mister Lazarescu, Cristi Puiu, 2005)

to list of contributors

David Walsh

World Socialist Web Site.

I thought 2006 was generally a poor year for U.S. and English-language films. In 2005, a number of American films grappled with important problems – including Syriana (Stephen Gaghan, 2005), Munich (Steven Spielberg, 2005) and Good Night, and Good Luck (George Clooney, 2005) – with varying degrees of success. In 2006, there was no comparable work.

On my list of films that screened in American cinemas, I include two Asian films – or three, if one includes Water (Deepa Mehta, 2005) – two U.S. documentaries and three British feature films, two of them dealing with current political issues. The sole American feature film on the list is Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, 2006), not an earthshaking work.

This summer and autumn, it should be noted, numerous films were released that might be considered, by one standard or another, ’serious’ efforts – including The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006), The Good German (Steven Soderbergh, 2006), Blood Diamond (Edward Zwick, 2006), The Last King of Scotland (Kevin Macdonald, 2006), Apocalypto (Mel Gibson, 2006), Catch a Fire (Phillip Noyce, 2006), Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diana Arbus (Steven Shainberg, 2006), Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006), All the King’s Men (Steven Zaillian, 2006), Bobby (Emilio Estevez, 2006) and Stranger Than Fiction (Marc Forster, 2006), among others – but all of them seem to me seriously flawed.

A second list includes the best films I saw at various film festivals. For the most part, this would constitute my overall list of “Best films of 2006”.

In general, in my view, there needs to be more attention to life and society, and less to image, career, money!

Best films released in the US in 2006

(in no particular order)

Death of a President (Gabriel Range, 2006)
A Good Woman (Mike Barker, 2004)
Yeojaneun namjaui miraeda (Woman Is the Future of Man, Hong Sang-soo, 2004)
Jazireh ahani (Iron Island, Mohammad Rasoulof, 2005)
Iraq in Fragments (James Longley, 2006)
Water (Deepa Mehta, 2005)
Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, 2006)
The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2006)
Shut Up & Sing (Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck, 2006)
Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas, Christian Carion, 2005)

Best films that have not yet been released in the US

(in no particular order)

Offside (Jafar Panahi, 2006)
J’ai vu tuer Ben Barka (I Saw Ben Barka Get Killed, Serge Le Péron and Saïd Smihi, 2005)
Dong (Jia Zhangke, 2006)
The Prisoner, or How I Planned To Kill Tony Blair (Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker, 2006)
Bamako (Abderrahmane Sissako, 2006)
Serambi (Garin Nugroho, Tonny Trimarsanto, Viva Westi and Lianto Luseno, 2006)
L’Ivresse du pouvoir (The Comedy of Power, Claude Chabrol, 2006)
Vanaja (Rajnesh Domalpalli, 2006)
Niwe mung (Half Moon, Bahman Ghobadi, 2006)
Bei ya zi de nan hai (Taking Father Home, Ying Liang, 2006)

to list of contributors

Virginia Wright Wexman

Professor Emerita of English and Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her books include Creating the Couple (Princeton, 1993), A History of Film (6th Edition: Allyn & Bacon, 2006), and the anthology Film and Authorship (Rutgers, 2002). As President of Silver Screen Tours, she leads groups to international film festivals on a regular basis.

Best of the Fests, 2006

I attended ten film festivals in 2006: Palm Springs, TriBeCa, Seattle, Bologna, Traverse City, Edinburgh, Montréal, Vancouver, Chicago and AFI-Los Angeles. In these times of poor distribution for international movies, festivals provide a unique opportunity to see concentrated doses of some of the best of world cinema. I have listed below some of the best festival films I saw last year, followed by a list of the highlights of the various fests I attended. I have followed the film descriptions with a notation of the festivals at which I saw them, but most played around at various fests, so viewing them at one place rather than another is partly a matter of chance.

Best New International Films

1. Sanxia haoren (Still Life, Jia Zhangke, 2006)
As China rockets towards a postmodern future under the sway of a corrupt Capitalism, its people savour what small epiphanies they can salvage from the wreckage left in its wake. A deeply moving exercise in nostalgia for the present from one of the Sixth Generation’s premiere talents (Vancouver)

2. Mój Nikifor (My Nikifor, Krzysztof Krauze, 2004)
A knowing, self-aware commentary on art and artists featuring a stand-out performance in the title role by octogenarian actress Krystyna Feldman (playing an outsider painter who is male). (Palm Springs)

3. Qing hong (Shanghai Dreams, Xiaoshuai Wang, 2005)
More contemplative than his 2001 arthouse hit Shiqi sui de dan che (Beijing Bicycle), Wang’s tale traces the vicissitudes faced by a Shanghai family relocated to the provinces as a result of the father’s adherence to a now-outdated political idealism. Filled with a sense of cultural displacement and lost opportunities, the film reads stylistically as a homage to Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, with long takes of characters traversing hillside paths and a slow, ambiguous ending that features a car driving along a mountain road in long shot. (Palm Springs)

Time

4. Shi gan (Time, Kim Ki-duk, 2006)
A deeply disturbing investigation of how issues of identity and romantic love play out in today’s Korea, punctuated by harrowing footage of cosmetic surgeries. Bringing a mystical, sadomasochistic sensibility to bear on his material, director Kim Ki-duk – Seom (The Isle, 2000), Bin-jip (3-Iron, 2004) – is among the most distinctive new talents to emerge in world cinema in recent years. (AFI)

5. Derecho de familia (Family Law, Daniel Burman, 2006)
The most assured offering to date from Argentina’s master of understated comedy. Especially notable: the long moments of silence and the tentative voice-over commentary from a protagonist who is only partly aware of his motives. The last in a trilogy about fathers and sons that began with Esperando al mesías (Waiting for the Messiah, 2000) and El Abrazo partido (Lost Embrace, 2004). (Vancouver)

6. Jayee Dar Dour-Dast (Somewhere Too Far, Khosro Masoumi, 2006)
Another Iranian study of impoverished people with noble souls carried out in the inimitably painstaking manner that has made this national cinema world-famous. (Montréal)

7. The Road to Guantanamo (Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross, 2006)
Winterbottom continues his daring blend of documentary and fiction in this eye-opening indictment of US anti-terrorist policies. (Seattle)

8. Shaere Zobale-ha (Scream of the Ants, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 2006)
Yes, it’s simplistic and, yes, it has something to offend devotees of every religion – especially Hindus. But this meditation on the problem of evil in the world filmed mostly in Benares, India, is shot through with inventive riffs that revel in the connection between the sensations of life and the senses of cinema. Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf was once an Islamic fundamentalist and a hero of the Iranian Revolution, but the film’s depictions of nudity and sexual activity guarantee that it will never be shown in his home country. Not up to the level of Makhmalbaf’s 1996 masterpiece Nun va Goldoon (Moment of Innocence), but that sets a high standard indeed. (Montréal)

9. Yi ma de hou xian dai sheng huo (The Postmodern Life of My Aunt, Ann Hui. 2006)
The tragic ending works better than the comic beginning in veteran Hong Kong helmer Ann Hui’s playful, self-referential tale of a Chinese woman attempting to escape from her past. But there is much here to enjoy. In a particularly delicious turn, Hong Kong heartthrob Chow Yun-Fat plays against type as a sleazy con artist. (Vancouver)

10. Barrio Cuba (Humberto Solas, 2005)
The venerable principles of imperfect cinema are updated in this warm, multi-stranded tale of life in Havana’s poor neighbourhoods from a veteran Cuban master. (Palm Springs)

11. Look Both Ways (Sarah Watt, 2005) An engrossing and wholly original look at the meaning of death to a group ordinary people in Adelaide, Australia, with fanciful animations providing access to the inner lives of its characters. (Palm Springs)

12. Haebyonui yoin (Woman on the Beach, Hong Sang-soo, 2006). Eric Rohmer meets Michelangelo Antonioni in this wry Korean comedy, Hong’s most accessible offering to date. (Vancouver)

Best Revivals and Restorations

1. Lady Windermere’s Fan (Ernst Lubitsch, 1925)
An exquisitely elegant comedy of manners presented with a new score by Timothy Brock, who conducted a full symphony orchestra in a live performance for the Bologna screening. Given the terms it sets for itself, this may be a perfect film. (Bologna)

2. Il Cappotto (The Overcoat, Alberto Lattuado, 1952)
A cutting social satire seasoned with expressionistic filming techniques orchestrated by the underrated Italian filmmaker Alberto Lattuado. Italian comic Renato Rascel delivers a knockout lead performance as a Chaplin-esque little guy bereft of his most cherished possession. (Bologna)

3. Mikaël (Michael, Carl-Theodor Dreyer, 1924)
Maybe not Dreyer’s greatest achievement, but filled with youthful energy and provocative themes (including a barely hidden gay subtext). Not to be missed: a young Walter Slezak as the male femme fatale. (Bologna)

4. Arise, My Love (Mitchell Leisen, 1940)
A polished script by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and others; spot-on performances by Claudette Colbert and Ray Milland; and an assured presentation by Paramount stalwart Mitchell Leisen. Hollywood at its best. (Edinburgh)

Guilty Pleasure

Eden (Michael Hofmann, 2006). True, it featured a hokey plot and cardboard characters, but the erotically charged images of food and eating were mesmerizing. (TriBeCa)

FEST AWARDS

Best Program Notes: Edinburgh

Best Screening Venues: AFI (Arclight Cinemas)

Best Filmmaker Attendance Record: AFI

Best Director Retrospectives: Germaine Dulac (Bologna), Norman McLaren (Vancouver)

Most Ambitious Programming: Bologna’s Cinema Ritrovato

Best Programming for Contemporary International Cinema: Vancouver

Most Informed Introductions: Edinburgh

Best Outdoor Screenings: Bologna (When you have an outdoor plaza like this one, how can you lose?)

Best Roundtable Discussion Session: Screenwriters Salon, Seattle (proving that screenwriters are also sometimes performers and that they have a lot of useful tips to share)

Best Documentary Program: Traverse City (under the guidance of Michael Moore)

Most Stylish Image: Chicago (with posters illustrated by Skrebneski photography and a striking logo designed by fest founder Michael Kutza)

Most Beautiful Surroundings: Vancouver, Traverse City, Bologna, Edinburgh

Most Overhyped: TriBeCa

Weirdest Fest Trailers: Vancouver (I still can’t figure them out)

Most Hospitable to Groups: Palm Springs, Vancouver

to list of contributors

Nicola White

Has worked in independent exhibition and distribution for the past eleven years.

Best 10

(in no particular order)

Old Joy (Kelly Reichardt, 2006)
The Pervert’s Guide to the Cinema (Sophie Fiennes, 2006)
Moartea domnului Lazarescu (The Death of Mister Lazarescu, Cristi Puiu, 2005)
The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006)
Walk the Line (James Mangold, 2005)
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Tommy Lee Jones, 2005)
Ten Canoes (Rolf de Heer, 2006)
Volver (Pedro Almodóvar, 2006)
The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006

Special mention
The Descent (Neil Marchall, 2005)

Other top viewing

La Notte (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1961)
Le Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc, Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928)
Ludwig (complete version, Luchino Visconti, 1972)

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