Acquarello

Peg Aloi

Geoff Andrew

Sean Axmaker

Martyn Bamber

Michael Bartlett

Paolo Bertolin

Rochelle Boland

Stephen Brower

Thomas Caldwell

Dan Callahan

Michael Campi

Ben Cho

Lesley Chow

David Church

John Conomos

Jesús Cortés

Fergus Daly

Adrian Danks

Dustin Dasig

John Demetry

Wheeler Winston Dixon

David Ehrenstein

Patrick Friel

Jean-Michel Frodon


Acquarello

NASA Design Engineer and author of the Strictly Film School website.

My Top Ten for 2007 (in preferential order)

Alexandra

Aleksandra (Alexandra, Aleksandr Sokurov, 2007)
Tachiguishi retsuden (Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters, Mamoru Oshii, 2006)
Memories (part of the Jeonju Digital Project, Harun Farocki, 2007)
Kader (Destiny, Zeki Demirkubuz, 2006)
En la ciudad de Sylvia (In the City of Sylvia, José Luis Guerín, 2007)
Juventude Em Marcha (Colossal Youth, Pedro Costa, 2006)
4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
Quei loro incontri (These Encounters of Theirs, Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, 2006)
Milyang (Secret Sunshine, Lee Chang-dong, 2007)
Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant, 2007)

Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

Enemies of Happiness (Eva Mulvad, 2007)
Go Go Tales (Abel Ferrara, 2007)
La Leyenda del tiempo (The Legend of Time, Isaki Lacuesta, 2006)
Quand j’étais chanteur (The Singer, Xavier Giannoli, 2006)
Sanxia haoren (Still Life, Jia Zhang-ke, 2006)
Sehnsucht (Longing, Valeska Grisebach, 2006)
Stellet licht (Silent Light, Carlos Reygadas, 2007)
La Soledad (Solitary Fragments, Jaime Rosales, 2007)
Une Vieille maîtresse (An Old Mistress, Catherine Breillat, 2007)
White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Steven Okazaki, 2007)

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Peg Aloi

Freelance critic for The Boston Phoenix and co-author of the forthcoming The Celluloid Bough: Cinema in the Wake of the Occult Revival.

1. The Wind That Shakes the Barley (Ken Loach, 2006)
This story of young Irish men drawn into fighting for the IRA is Loach’s most ambitious and stunning film to date.

2. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Tom Tykwer, 2006)
A sensual, disturbing, epic story, with wonderful star turns by Alan Rickman and Dustin Hoffman, based on the acclaimed German novel, adapted in grand, ambitious style.

3. Atonement (Joe Wright, 2007)
With first-rate performances and jaw-dropping cinematography, this sumptuously moving film brings to life Ian McEwan’s smouldering love story, set in a class-conscious English household torn apart by lust, lies and the surreal horrors of war.

4. Le Scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Julian Schnabel, 2007)
The filmmaker creates half-formed visionscapes of colour and light to tell the story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby’s stroke and subsequent loss of movement, language and expression as he experiences “locked-in” syndrome.

5. Lady Chatterley (Pascale Ferran, 2006)
A wonderful adaptation of D. H. Lawrence’s novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, first made for French television, with refreshingly erotic love scenes and appropriately rustic sensibility.

6. La Môme (La Vie en Rose, Olivier Dahan, 2007)
Marion Cotillard is astonishing as the hard-living, self-destructive singing sensation Edith Piaf in this engaging, beautifully-rendered biopic.

7. I’m Not There. (Todd Haynes, 2007)
Haynes’ five-doored fantasy is huge, lush and eminently watchable, with differing visual styles for each Dylanesque personæ, and a playfully surreal approach to what is being called a biopic, but is more accurately a wishful memoir: my favourite ‘Dylan’ is Richard Gere’s Billy the Kid.

8. Glastonbury (Julien Temple, 2007)
Thirty years in the life of a constantly changing music festival in the English countryside. It’s not England’s Woodstock, it’s England’s attempt to consistently capture a time of passionate, angry innocence. The year this film was released, the festival was cancelled for the first time since its inception.

9. Factory Girl (George Hickenlooper, 2006)
Siena Miller is luminous and raw as Edie Sedgwick in this cock-eyed biopic, but the real standout is Guy Pearce as the best Andy Warhol ever.

10. Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007)
Every corny cop movie ever made is referenced in this hilarious, brilliant action-horror flick. It will be interesting to see what the team of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Wright does next, because it isn’t likely another genre-based parody will work a third time.

11. Chats Perchés (The Case of the Grinning Cat, Chris Marker, 2004) This sweet, funny and quirky documentary, about a painted cat who pops up in neighbourhood graffiti and on posters at protest rallies, is a quietly triumphant pæan to the underdog – or, in this case, undercat.

12. Efter brylluppet (After the Wedding, Susanne Bier, 2006)
Excellent performances by Mads Mikkelsen and Rolf Lassgård make this drama of family secrets and revelations a roller-coaster of emotion that manages to be thoughtful and, despite its depressing plot twists, uplifting.

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Geoff Andrew

Head of Film Programme at the British Film Institute, National Film Theatre.

The 25 films (plus Correspondences) below are in no precise order, except that the films I consider the very finest are at or near the top of the list and the ones I like less are further down; Correspondences – short digitally filmed ‘letters’ to and from Abbas Kiarostami and Victor Erice, currently on display at the Centre Pompidou in the exhibition of the same name – are at the bottom simply because they are rather unlike anything else here and may be an ongoing series.

Everyone keeps on insisting it’s been a great year for the American cinema, but I confess I was generally a little underwhelmed by The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007) Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007), Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006) and other films, and that I thought The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson, 2007) fairly offensive, smug and hollow. Still, there was fine stuff made and it’s listed below; for me, the Coen Brothers’ film was undoubtedly the best US movie of the year, though I should say here that I’ve yet to see the Paul Thomas Anderson, which most folks seem to like a lot.

Whatever, internationally it’s been as interesting as usual, with both established names and newer talents contributing impressive work. And while we recently lost Ingmar Bergman, Michelangelo Antonioni and (all too prematurely) Edward Yang, not long after the likewise irreplaceable Robert Altman, it’s great to see so many veterans making brave, brilliantly intelligent and enormously rewarding movies.

Retour en Normandie (Back to Normandy, Nicolas Philibert, 2007)
No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
Ne touchez pas la hache (Don’t Touch the Axe, Jacques Rivette, 2007)
Les Amours d’Astrée et Céladon (The Romance of Astrée and Céladon, Eric Rohmer, 2007)
Centochiodi (One Hundred Nails, Ermanno Olmi, 2007)
Nue propriété (Private Property, Joachim Lafosse, 2006)
My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2007)
Du levande (You, The Living, Roy Andersson, 2007)
Tejút (Milky Way, Benedek Fliegauf, 2007)
4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
Le Voyage du ballon rouge (Flight of the Red Balloon, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 2007)
I’m Not There. (Todd Haynes, 2007)
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (Sidney Lumet, 2007)
Une Vieille maîtresse (An Old Mistress, Catherine Breillat, 2007)
Le Scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Julian Schnabel, 2007)
Unrelated (Joanna Hogg, 2007)
Interview (Steve Buscemi, 2007)
Honeydripper (John Sayles, 2007)
Capitaine Achab (Captain Ahab, Philippe Ramos, 2007)
Naissance des pieuvres (Water Lilies, Céline Sciamma, 2007)
Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant, 2007)
Die Unerzogenen (The Unpolished, Pia Marais, 2006)
Ploy (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, 2007)
A Walk into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory (Esther Robinson, 2007)
Parpados azules (Blue Eyelids, Ernesto Contreros, 2007)
Correspondences (Victor Erice and Abbas Kiarostami, 2005-2007 and perhaps ongoing)

Horror of the year (ignoring all those I walked out of at festivals, and remembering that I try not even to see films I suspect I won’t enjoy, so let’s just focus on respected ‘auteurs’): Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited.

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Sean Axmaker

DVD columnist for MSN Entertainment, film critic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and a member of the Online Film Critics Society.

Top Ten (in order)

Into the Wild (Sean Penn, 2007)
No Country For Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
I’m Not There. (Todd Haynes, 2007)
There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
A fost sau n-a fost? (12:08 East of Bucharest, Corneliu Porumboiu, 2006)
Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
Starting Out in the Evening (Andrew Wagner, 2007)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)

Was not able to give these films the attention and time they deserve

Juventude Em Marcha (Colossal Youth, Pedro Costa, 2006)
Les Amants réguliers (Regular Lovers, Philippe Garrel, 2005)
Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett, 1977, theatrical debut 2007)

Runners-up and honourable mentions (in alphabetical order)

Away From Her

“14th Arrondissement” segment of Paris, je t’aime (Alexander Payne, 2006)
51 Birch Street (Doug Block, 2005)
Allegro (Christoffer Boe, 2005)
Away From Her (Sarah Polley, 2006)
Belle toujours (Manoel de Oliviera, 2006)
Fong juk (Exiled, Johnnie To, 2006)
Gwoemul (The Host, Bong Joon-ho, 2006)
Margot at the Wedding (Noah Baumbach, 2007)
Nuovomondo (Golden Door, Emanuele Crialese, 2006)
El Orfanato (The Orphanage, Juan Antonio Bayona, 2007)
Paprika (Satoshi Kon, 2006)
Sunshine (Danny Boyle, 2007)
This Is England (Shane Meadows, 2006)
The Wind That Shakes the Barley (Ken Loach, 2006)
Zwartboek (Black Book, Paul Verhoeven, 2006)

Most memorable film event of 2007:
Out 1: Spectre (Jacques Rivette, 1971) – I did not get to see the original 12-hour version, which did not play in Seattle.

Most exciting DVD release ever:
Ford at Fox: 21 discs, 24 features, 17 DVD débuts. Has there ever been a DVD release with such commitment to rescuing and showcasing both established classics and rarities and forgotten works (both major and minor) of a Hollywood master? In a word: No.

Notes

2007 is an unusual year in that so many high-profile, substantially budgeted American films have proven to be so interesting, so inventive, so creative and so demanding. Films like I’m Not There., There Will Be Blood, The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford and Into the Wild are auteur films in the studio system (calling them indie is to abuse the word too much, but they are certainly produced more frugally than such productions as Rush Hour 3 (Brett Ratner, 2007) and Evan Almighty (Tom Shadyac, 2007), and with more to show for onscreen). Into the Wild, though produced with studio backing, is more of an indie production, shot with an unconventional timetable, on and off over a couple of years, and perhaps that’s part of the cinematic chemistry behind the unadulterated passion and the vividness of the experience and texture that Penn gets on screen. Regardless, it’s the most exciting, thrilling, passionate and compassionate film I saw all year.

But it’s taking longer for exciting and interesting foreign films to get a Stateside release, and those that do get picked up are being relegated to niche releases, rarely getting out of the top-ten markets and even landing direct-to-video in my home, the city of Seattle (which has no less than three non-profit screens in addition to a healthy arthouse chain). It’s a concern, to be sure. If the film critic matters at all, it’s in creating audience interest in things like the thrilling burst of cinema coming from Romania right now. Hopefully the wave of praise for Milyang (Secret Sunshine, Lee Chang-dong, 2007), the tough and emotionally prickly Korean drama that won praise at both Cannes (where it earned an award for the starring actress) and Toronto, will help find it a distributor and a stateside release.

Also, a few thoughts on why I love the cinema and will keep returning to the theatre with high hopes and an open heart can be found on the New Year’s Day post of my homepage: http://www.seanax.com/?p=21.

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Martyn Bamber

Provides English subtitles for a variety of films and television programmes, and is a freelance writer for a number of online film magazines, including 6 Degrees Film, Cinemattraction and Close-Up Film. He has also contributed several articles to CTEQ: Annotations on Film.

Favourite new release films from 2007 seen in the UK (in alphabetical order)

Apocalypto (Mel Gibson, 2006)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)
Bug (William Friedkin, 2006)
Control (Anton Corbijn, 2007)
Electroma (Daft Punk’s Electroma, Thomas Bangalter, Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo, 2006)
Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino, 2007, international version)
Efter brylluppet (After the Wedding, Susanne Bier, 2006)
Gedo senki (Tales from Earthsea, Goro Miyazaki, 2006)
Laitakaupungin valot (Lights in the Dusk, Aki Kaurismäki, 2006)
Lions for Lambs (Robert Redford, 2007)
Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia (Curse of the Golden Flower, Zhang Yimou, 2006)
Paprika (Satoshi Kon, 2006) – straight-to-DVD release in the UK
A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006)
Rescue Dawn (Werner Herzog, 2006)
La Science des rêves (The Science of Sleep, Michel Gondry, 2006)
Southland Tales (Richard Kelly, 2006)
Sunshine (Danny Boyle, 2007)
This Is England (Shane Meadows, 2006)
Youth Without Youth (Francis Ford Coppola, 2007)
Zwartboek (Black Book, Paul Verhoeven, 2006)

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Michael Bartlett

Freelance film critic and frequent contributor to www.close-upfilm.com. He also keeps his own blog at www.myspace.com/mikesmoviehouse.

Despite the claims made by many critics that this was a fantastic year for movies, I couldn’t help thinking the opposite. Here were the only six films released in the UK in 2007 that really got me excited:

Le Voyage du ballon rouge (Flight of the Red Balloon, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 2007)
Wuyong (Useless, Jia Zhang-ke, 2007)
This Is England (Shane Meadows, 2006)
Die Große Stille (Into Great Silence, Philip Gröning, 2005)
Blade Runner: The Final Cut (Ridley Scott, 2007)
300 (Zack Snyder, 2006)

The last was the year’s greatest – and most surprising – guilty pleasure. It’s a 14-year-old boy’s adolescent wet dream of sex ‘n’ violence for sure, but it’s also a striking move for mainstream Hollywood cinema into the world of myth and self-conscious artifice. Think of it as a CGI Perceval le Gallois (Eric Rohmer, 1978) – a strange appropriation of the techniques of pantomime and epic simile for a modern genre movie.

But, overall, there was a sense that the latest films were not up to the standard of those belatedly receiving a release after festival success in 2006: Sang Sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006), Iklimler (Climates, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2006) and El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro, 2006) – three of the best films of the decade so far, in my view.

However, it was a great year for personal discoveries from cinema’s back catalogue, largely thanks to some stunning retrospectives at the recharged BFI Southbank (ex-National Film Theatre) and the UK’s two outstanding DVD labels, Masters of Cinema and Second Run. As a sample, I’d like to mention, in the style of Sight and Sound’s 75 Hidden Gems, five movies that are often overlooked but are worthy of a place in anyone’s canon:

Robinson Crusoe (Luis Buñuel, 1954). Not just a charming and definitive version of the story, but one of Buñuel’s greatest – and most humane – achievements.

Ninjo kami fusen (Humanity and Paper Balloons, Sadao Yamanaka, 1937). If this isn’t as well known as say La Règle du Jeu (The Rules of the Game, Jean Renoir, 1939), that’s not due to any demonstrable difference in quality but more likely to the vicissitudes of film critical history. Put simply, it is one of the great Japanese movies and comparable to anything produced by Kenji Mizoguchi.

Sud Sanaeha (Blissfully Yours, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2002). A film in love with nature, skin, sensuality and people. Like a long, extended summer daydream.

Léon Morin, prêtre (Leon Morin, Priest, Jean-Pierre Melville, 1961). Last year, everyone (re)discovered Melville’s L’Armée des ombres (Army of Shadows, 1969), but this film, also set during the Occupation, is his greatest achievement – an examination of faith as searing and rigorous as the works of Robert Bresson. Jean-Paul Belmondo and Emmanuelle Riva were never better.

Marketa Lazarová (Frantisek Vlácil, 1967). This extraordinary epic is best summed up as … well, it’s hard to say. A brilliant recreation of the mediæval world? A moving, sometimes frightening, saga of lust and betrayal? Or a playful inversion of narrative strategies and points of view? Every time you think you’ve grasped it, it just slips out of reach. There’s nothing quite like it – totally sui generis, totally unique.

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Paolo Bertolin

Italian film critic, journalist, and festival consultant regularly contributing to the newspaper Il Manifesto and the film magazine Cineforum.

Out of the many excellent new films I watched in 2007, I would like to just single out the two that I most viscerally loved, and whose arresting images, sounds and unfathomable spell persistently haunt me:

Kagadanan sa banwaan ning mga Engkanto (Death in the Land of Encantos, Lav Diaz, 2007)
Wonderful Town (Aditya Assarat, 2007)

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Rochelle Boland

A recent graduate of the cinema studies program at La Trobe University and currently living in Metz, France, and teaching English.

Highlights and Lowlights of 2007 (or first seen in 2007)

Best films: Cassandra’s Dream (Woody Allen, 2007) and La Science des rêves (The Science of Sleep, Michel Gondry, 2006)

Most overrated: I’m Not There. (Todd Haynes, 2007)

Most underrated: Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006)

Most disappointing: Control (Anton Corbijn, 2007)

Best comedies: 2 Days in Paris (Julie Delpy, 2007) and Scoop (Woody Allen, 2006)

Best documentary: Sicko (Michael Moore, 2007)

Best animation: Persepolis (Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi, 2007)

Worst film: Paris, je t’aime (various, 2006).

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Stephen Brower

Lives in Santa Monica, CA, and works as Director of Marketing and A&R Development for Vanguard and Sugar Hill Records. He is also the publisher of the film blog pocketcinephile.blogspot.com.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

1. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
Fincher’s Grand Procedural is nothing short of masterful filmmaking. Exquisitely paced, unsparingly meticulous and remarkably taut, Zodiac is utterly engaging for each of its 158 minutes.

2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominick, 2007)
Dominik’s obsessive, lyrical film is possessed of a sensual acuity borne at once of Terence Malick’s prairie, all windblown grasses and hissing cicadas, and the snowbound saddle tramps of Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) and André de Toth’s Day of the Outlaw (1959). Perhaps more impressively, however, the film’s resolute narrative drive is an absolute exercise in tone, mood and precision.

3. Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
The Lives of Others is classic, populist cinema. Engaging, exacting, deliberately paced and genuinely affecting, von Donnersmarck’s Cold War tale of surveillance and the surveilled is more accessible, and finally more successful, than Jean-Pierre Melville’s recently rediscovered (and much celebrated) L’Armée des ombres (Army of Shadows, 1969), which treads much the same psychological ground.

4. I’m Not There. (Todd Haynes, 2007)
Haynes’ sprawling Bob Dylan tapestry is part riff, part caricature, part revision and part hallucination, it’s ultimate, overwhelming and bewitching success won from Haynes’ precision in managing his film’s myriad parts.

5. Hei yan quan (I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, Tsai Ming-liang, 2006)
Tsai’s supremely austere film is a stirring meditation on human companionship in its most primitive, visceral forms, employing the director’s trademark long takes and static compositions to great and lasting effect.

6. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
The Coen Brothers exhibit a level of restraint and craft both deceptively skilful and all too uncommon in bringing Cormac McCarthy’s dark tale of destructive wills to the screen.

7. Flandres (Flanders, Bruno Dumont, 2006)
Dumont, the unflinching poet of humanity’s most base instincts, here conflates his familiar agrarian hopelessness with the severe, blunt realities of war.

8. Great World of Sound (Craig Zobel, 2007)
Zobel’s well-crafted tale of music-biz hucksterism buoys a seemingly limited premise with impeccable comic timing and an emotional heft rarely present in this sort of fare.

9. Se, Jie (Lust, Caution, Ang Lee, 2007)
Ang Lee’s sumptuous, neo-classical film sharply recalls the star-crossed lovers of Michael Curtiz’ Casablanca (1942) and is, likewise, by turns sweeping and intimate. Much of the credit for its ultimate success is due Wei Tang, who, as Wong Chia Chi, lives a whole life in her prodigious lead performance.

10. Direktøren for det hele (The Boss of it All, Lars von Trier, 2006)
Von Trier, inhabiting once again the guise of cinematic Merry Prankster, here expertly deploys his acerbic, subversive wit for a theatrical, metafilmic comedy of power and performance.

Special Mention

The Brave One (Neil Jordan, 2007)
Jordan’s fever dream tale of revenge treads in dark, icy and downright strange psychological waters. Much like Jane Campion’s similarly hallucinatory In The Cut (2003), Jordan first acknowledges, then subverts, Hollywood cobs-and-robbers conventionality, leaving a fractured, disjointed film light on procedure but rich with moral ambiguity.

There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
Anderson’s mercurial character study is impressive if wildly uneven, creating in oil man Daniel Plainview a conflicted and ultimately incomplete vision. Daniel Day Lewis’ lead performance is likewise inconstant, reminiscent in its best moments of Jimmy Stewart’s steel-headed work with Anthony Mann, but also possessed of overwrought, all too familiar histrionics.

Away From Her (Sarah Polley, 2007)
Polley’s directorial feature début is nothing if not assured, a measured and unsentimental portrayal of marriage, loss, ageing and redemption with a debt to Ingmar Bergman’s icy domesticity.

Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007)
Cronenberg’s underworld saga, which plays like a fierce, unrepentant conflation of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes’ L’Enfant (2005) and Stephen Frears’ Dirty Pretty Things (2002), suffers slightly from a lack of narrative focus, but nonetheless masterfully maintains a mood of palpable, grimy menace throughout.

Atonement (Joe Wright, 2007)
Wright’s realization of Ian McEwan’s epic meditation on regret is a resolutely assured one, deploying an impressive compliment of affecting visuals in service of its tragic narrative.

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Thomas Caldwell

An Australian freelance writer specialising in film criticism and film education, currently based in Bristol, UK. He is the author of Film Analysis Handbook and regularly reviews for the Australian edition of The Big Issue.

Some of the films here probably should have gone on my 2006 list and there are probably some missing that will wind up on 2008’s list. Nevertheless, here are my top ‘new’ films that I happened to see in 2007 (which were all released theatrically somewhere during 2007 for the first time!)

Top 10

1. Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007)
2. Control (Anton Corbijn, 2007)
3. Atonement (Joe Wright, 2007)
4. Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
5. Jindabyne (Ray Lawrence, 2006)
6. Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
7. El Laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
8. Once (John Carney, 2006)
9. Die Fälscher (The Counterfeiters, Stefan Ruzowitzky, 2007)
10. I’m Not There. (Todd Haynes, 2007)

Honourable mentions

Although I didn’t see anything that I would describe as a masterpiece or a potential classic, there were many excellent films in 2007 and I had a difficult time narrowing this list down. So, here are another 15 films that I couldn’t bring myself to not mention:

11. The Last King of Scotland (Kevin Macdonald, 2006)
12. The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass, 2007)
13. Bridge to Terabithia (Gabor Csupo, 2007)
14. Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino, 2007)
15. Ne le dis à personne (Tell No One, Guillaume Canet, 2006)
16. La Môme (La Vie en rose, Olivier Dahan, 2007)
17. Knocked Up (Judd Apatow, 2007)
18. A Mighty Heart (Michael Winterbottom, 2007)
19. Bikur Ha-Tizmoret (The Band’s Visit, Eran Kolirin, 2007)
20. Rescue Dawn (Werner Herzog, 2006)
21. Ten Canoes (Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr, 2006)
22. Away From Her (Sarah Polley, 2006)
23. Stranger Than Fiction (Marc Forster, 2006)
24. Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant, 2007)
25. This Is England (Shane Meadows, 2006)

Reflections

At a glance it is clear from this list what a fantastic year 2007 was for music films. Not only was there the understated yet unashamedly life affirming Once, but three music biopics that focused on the music and its relationship to the performer rather than a standard tabloid-style life-story approach that is often favoured. The brilliant Ingmar Bergman meets English kitchen-sink melancholy of Control, the radical impressionist symbolism of I’m Not There. and the non-lineal narrative of La Môme all transcended the restraints of the genre.

Germany provided two of the year’s finest films with The Lives of Others and The Counterfeiters, both of which explored moral complexities during two of the country’s darkest chapters. Hollywood demonstrated that there are filmmakers still capable of making crowd-pleasing genre films that rise above mediocrity and blandness. Quality action, comedy and family films all made a tentative come-back in 2007 with The Bourne Ultimatum, Knocked Up and Bridge to Terabithia leading the pack. Last year, I was impressed with Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006) and Inside Man (Spike Lee, 2006) for skilfully infusing serious examinations of racial and class politics in England and the USA respectively into entertaining thriller narratives. This year, Tell No One did the same things for France and Jindabyne did the same for Australia.

Two of the few directors who can still genuinely be regarded as auteurs took their preoccupations in new directions. David Lynch alarmingly went further out of left field than he has ever done before with Inland Empire but still produced a startling film about identity, artifice and male violence. On the other hand, David Cronenberg presented his fascination with the mutability of the body, the complexities of identity and the impact of violence and its sexual connotations in his most mainstream film yet with Eastern Promises.

Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof was simply too well written to properly pay homage to ‘70s exploitation films like it was supposed to, but was nevertheless a thrill for people who loved good dialogue and great car chases. El Laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006) is Guillermo del Toro’s best film to date and The Last King of Scotland was an impressive fiction film début by the brilliant documentary filmmaker Kevin Macdonald.

The biggest surprise of the year was Atonement, which was probably the most richly cinematic film I saw this year. It may have been a literary adaptation but its masterful cinematography, editing and sound design explored concepts of memory and perception in a way that transcends the limitations of the printed word.

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Dan Callahan

Began loving films at the age of eight when he abandoned Star Wars for Alfred Hitchcock. He has been writing about films for various publications for a few years now.

La Môme

We Own the Night (James Gray, 2007)
No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
Into the Wild (Sean Penn, 2007)
Southland Tales (Richard Kelly, 2007)
Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007)
La Môme (La Vie en Rose, Olivier Dahan, 2007)
Away from Her (Sarah Polley, 2006)
Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino, 2007)

One of the best movie years in recent memory, 2007 saw the return of sorely missed auteurs (James Gray, Paul Thomas Anderson, Richard Kelly), a return to form for the Coen Brothers, and Sean Penn’s very touching, assured Into the Wild. There were disappointments, like Todd Haynes’ weirdly mindless Dylan biopic I’m Not There. (2007), and a few outright atrocities, like Brian De Palma’s unfortunate, inept Redacted (2007) and Tamara Jenkins’ dreadful The Savages (2007). All the major films this year had flaws, some of them serious, but almost all of them were interesting in some way; artists were stretching and reaching for new things. It was a year of great sequences, such as the car chase in We Own the Night, the nightmare tracking shot in La Môme where Marion Cotillard’s Edith Piaf learns that her boxer lover has been killed, and, best of all, the bathhouse murder sequence in Eastern Promises, which suggests what might have happened if Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane had managed to grab that knife from Norman Bates/Mother and fought back in her shower stall.

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Michael Campi

Under the spell of moving images for many decades, Michael has been involved with film exhibition events and is a programming consultant to the Melbourne International Film Festival as well as being a full-time health professional in Melbourne.

Polls, whether locally based or on a global scale, are dependent on the various individual time zones of experience. This makes comparative analysis more than difficult when works seen one year by some are included the following year(s) by others. With this in mind, the movies that most kept this heart beating in the dark in the last year are:

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)
Control (Anton Corbijn, 2007)
Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007)
Wu Qingyuan (The Go Master, Tian Zhuangzhuang, 2006)
Hyazgar (Desert Dream, Zhang Lu, 2007)
Majimak babsang (The Last Dining Table, Gyeong-tae Roh, 2006)
Opera Jawa (Garin Nugroho, 2006)
No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
Milyang (Secret Sunshine, Lee Chang-dong, 2007)
Yureru (Sway, Nishikawa Miwa, 2006)
Du levande (You, The Living, Roy Andersson)
Tai yang zhao chang sheng qi (The Sun Also Rises, Jiang Wen, 2007)
Les Témoins (The Witnesses, André Téchiné, 2007)

Followed by

Shi san ke pao tong (Thirteen Princess Trees, Lü Yue, 2006)
Belle toujours (Manoel de Oliviera, 2006)
Binglang (Betelnut, Yang Heng, 2006)
Juventude Em Marcha (Colossal Youth, Pedro Costa, 2006)
The Elephant and the Sea (Ming Jin Woo, 2007)
Hei yan quan (I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, Tsai Ming-liang, 2006)
Nian ni ru xi (Before We Fall in Love Again, James Lee, 2006)
At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World in the Last Cinema of The World (David Cronenberg, episode of Chacun son cinéma ou Ce petit coup au Coeur quand la lumière s’éteint et que la film commence, 2007)
Hamaca paraguaya (Paraguayan Hammock, Paz Encina, 2006)
The Home Song Stories (Tony Ayres, 2007)
Aleksandra (Alexandra, Aleksandr Sokurov, 2007)

Most resonant film from the past first seen in 2007:
Sans lendemain (Max Ophüls, 1939)

Most significant DVD releases in 2007:
The various volumes of films by Mikio Naruse released with English subtitles and “The Past Unearthed”, Korean films made from 1941 and 1943.

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Ben Cho

A programmer for the Brisbane International Film Festival. He occasionally contributes articles for magazines and the internet.

It seemed 2007 was overshadowed by the loss of several cinematic icons which drew some to question whether a certain kind of era was over for cinema. While mourning definitely was in order for the passing of, say, Ingmar Bergman, Michelangelo Antonioni, Edward Yang and Ousmane Sembene, I don’t think it’s time to give up hope on thought-provoking, rigorously intelligent and insightful cinema just yet. Glancing through my list of highlights, I’d bank on several filmmakers to continue to carry the torch for great cinema well in to the future. Sure, sequels, comic-book adaptations, torture-porn and deeply calculated indie-wood efforts appeared to be the only stuff clogging the arteries of local cinemas, but there were numerous treasures to savour on the festival circuit or via region-free DVD.

Diao Yinan’s Ye che (Night Train, 2007) proved to be the most impressive, emotionally gripping and technically impressive film of ‘07, although Lee Chang-dong’s Milyang (Secret Sunshine, 2007) came in at a very close second. The way in which memory, urban space, love and longing all hopelessly intertwine in the modern world was marvellously portrayed in José Luis Guerín’s En la ciudad del Sylvia (In the City of Sylvia, 2007) and after my fourth viewing of Jiang Wen’s Tai yang zhao chang sheng qi (The Sun Also Rises, 2007) more seemingly-hidden pleasures get teased out. Joy Division fans should have been completely satisfied by Anton Corbijn’s eye-pleasing biopic, Control (2007), but maybe a little less so with Grant Gee’s perfectly acceptable Joy Division (2006); Majimak babsang (The Last Dining Table, Gyeong-tae Roh, 2006) and Du levande (You, The Living, Roy Andersson, 2007) made a terrific double-bill; Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s Ploy (2007) managed to be both deeply sensual and have its jetlagged moodiness ring resoundingly true; and Asian genre cinema benefited from Sion Sono’s outrageously trashy (faux) J-horror Ekusute (EXTE: Hair Extensions, 2007), which contained some of the best (or maybe only?) horror set-pieces involving constantly-sprouting hair (apparently possessed by the spirit of a tortured victim of an organ-harvesting ring, no less), and Joko Anwar’s Dead Time: Kala (2007) which managed to fuse Sam Raimi-inspired energy with political smarts to awesome effect. All in all, a pretty good year for world cinema.

Highlights – In no particular order

Brand Upon the Brain!

There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
Wo Ruhuasiyu de Erzi (My Fair Son, Cui Zi’en, 2006)
When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (Spike Lee, 2006)
Wu Qingyuan (The Go Master, Tian Zhuangzhuang, 2006)
Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places, Alain Resnais, 2006)
Sønner (Sons, Erik Richter Strand, 2006)
Majimak babsang (The Last Dining Table, Gyeong-tae Roh, 2006)
Women de Shi-nian (Our Ten Years, Jia Zhang-ke, 2007)
Ling Yiban (The Other Half, Ying Liang, 2006)
A fost sau n-a fost? (12:08 East of Bucharest, Corneliu Porumboiu, 2006)
Zwartboek (Black Book, Paul Verhoeven, 2006)
Hyazgar (Zhang Lu, 2007)
Brand Upon The Brain! (Guy Maddin, 2006)
Ne touchez pas la hache (Don’t Touch The Axe, Jacques Rivette, 2007)
Control (Anton Corbijn, 2007)
4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
Mu Bang (Timber Gang, Yu Guangyi, 2007)
Xiawu Gou Jiao (Mid-Afternoon Barks, Zhang Yuedong, 2007)
Ye Che (Night Train, Diao Yinan, 2007)
Woori, Jjongnaeja! (Let’s Finish!!!, Whang Cheol-man, 2006)
Duk Luw Kun Ka (Bangkok Time, Santi Taepanich, 2007)
Wuyong (Useless, Jia Zhang-ke, 2007)
Jin Bi Hui Huang (Fujian Blue, Robin Weng, 2007)
Du levande (You, The Living, Roy Andersson, 2007)
Ploy (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, 2007)
The Elephant and the Sea (Woo Ming-jin, 2007)
En la ciudad del Sylvia (In the City of Sylvia, José Luis Guerín, 2007)
Tai yang zhao chang sheng qi (The Sun Also Rises, Jiang Wen, 2007)
Milyang (Secret Sunshine, Lee Chang-dong, 2007)
Ekusute (EXTE: Hair Extensions, Sion Sono, 2007)
Dead Time: Kala (Joko Anwar, 2007)
BomBomBomb (Kim Gok and Kim Sun, 2006)
Living on Nanjing Road (Zhao Dayong and Li Qing, 2007)
Up the Yangtze (Yung Chang, 2007)
Trois Minutes (Theodoros Angelopoulos, episode of Chacun son cinéma ou Ce petit coup au Coeur quand la lumière s’éteint et que la film commence, 2007)
The Electric Princess Picture House (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2007) – from Chacun Son Cinema
Artaud Double Bill (Atom Egoyan, 2007) – from Chacun Son Cinema
La Fonderie (The Foundry, Aki Kaurismaki, 2007) – from Chacun Son Cinema
Occupations (Lars Von Trier, 2007) – from Chacun Son Cinema

Brisbane’s GoMA seasons on 1930s Shanghai cinema and French New Wave

Lowlights

Saibogujiman kwenchana (I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK, Park Chan-wook, 2006)
Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia (Curse of the Golden Flower, Zhang Yimou, 2007)
Lynch (blackANDwhite, 2007)
Angel (François Ozon, 2007)
Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino, 2007)
The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006)
Death of a President (Gabriel Range, 2006)
The Hottest State (Ethan Hawke, 2006)
Sherrybaby (Laurie Collyer, 2006)
Weirdsville (Allan Moyle, 2007)
The Insurgents (Scott Dacko, 2007)
Le Dibbouk de Haifa (Amos Gitai, episode of Chacun son cinéma ou Ce petit coup au Coeur quand la lumière s’éteint et que la film commence, 2007)
The Lady Bug (Jane Campion, 2007) – from Chacun Son Cinema
No Translation Needed (Michael Cimino, 2007) – from Chacun Son Cinema

The absence on Australian festival screens of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Le Voyage du ballon rouge (Flight of the Red Balloon, 2007) and Wang’s He Fengming – two films I’ll have to catch up with sometime in 2008

The film-related policies of the Thai government.

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Lesley Chow

Writer on film, art, dance and theatre for Bright Lights and Spark.

Best Films

1. The Good Shepherd (Robert De Niro, 2006)
Unlike most spy films, this one doesn’t involve a lot of hissing or showboating. In this film’s version of the CIA, direct threats are rare: just the vague insinuation that one knows is generally enough to control behaviour. The perception of intelligence is constructed out of signs; espionage is based on giving consistent indications that one is aware of certain facts. Even men who are socially graceless can be great at it. Spies live in intense solitude: they can adjust their minds to suit polygraphs, and recite cover stories without missing a beat. De Niro turns this mysterious code of men and fraternity into a story of how knowledge is acquired. It begins with footage of what appears to be a conversation between lovers. At the core of the film is a very simple question: did desire exist between these two people? In a world of surveillance, where motives are mixed and every image has a filtered soundtrack, it’s hard to tell. The entire film consists of signs swimming in vagueness – without any of the conventional suspense of movie espionage.

2. Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places, Alain Resnais, 2006)
Among the best images in this film are: a glass wall which seals the characters from each other, creating the thinnest of gauze-like partitions; an oddly shaped bar which requires people to do a hesitant little two-step around it; piles and piles of ice crystals, which fall like the inevitable snow in James Joyce’s The Dead.

3. Hairspray (Adam Shankman, 2007)
Perhaps the most glorious musical since the ‘60s, with a classically uplifting shape and a break-through exuberance all its own. It’s a film passionate about desegregation and every kind of border-crossing; all the characters are too big for the frames they inhabit. Director-dance specialist Adam Shankman makes the camera a conspirator in the choreography. His lens is stunningly attuned to movement: always perfectly placed to capture a visual joke, in the style of a Buster Keaton film, and ready to catch Christopher Walken in the midst of a double-take. When the heroine takes an unexpected leap, the camera re-discovers (and naturalizes) her on top of, say, a garbage truck, or climbing through the window of the men’s toilets. The film is palpably excited by the spectacle of black talent bursting out of a restricted Baltimore; as characters gaze toward screens for “representation”, televisions and billboards herald change, while a super-size African-American trio scales onto the side of a building. Throughout, there’s a feeling of persuasive overrun: something like the paradise of anarchy conjured by Mae West, where opposition melts in the face of lasciviousness.

4. Shi gan (Time, Ki-duk Kim, 2006)

5. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
Fincher’s best film is – like his others – frighteningly and exhilaratingly impersonal; in this instance, the style is a perfect match for the subject. For a reporter obsessed with the Zodiac killer, the world is a mass of proliferating codes: any two signs that happen to align are seen as a “narrative” which needs to be pursued. Each “coincidence” opens up a new area for fixation; even a film buff’s collection is seized on as a potential code-breaker. As such, the film is about the allure of the banal, and the suspense of flat and toneless imagery – a yellow cab at a street corner becomes a device of Hitchcockian tension.

6. Sunshine (Danny Boyle, 2007)
Thanks to the intelligent use of CGI, the sun itself is a mesmerizing golden disc: like a colossal version of the Rank symbol. People who explore the sun seem to be skating along the rim of a giant shield, with little fires burning inside it. It’s part force of nature, part emblem – as if we could reverse it, to expose its synthetic black backing. Sunshine also makes creative use of space imagery in pop culture: one astronaut is a Bowie-like spaceman, a pale London clubber in a glittery suit. In his past two films, Boyle has been unafraid to explore archetypal concepts: money, the city, the rudiments of society. Here, he takes on an icon that’s almost too big to contemplate. What is the sun? The sun is an angry god – or it’s an object that makes us smile. Without it, every act has a soundless dying-off.

Performances

1. John Travolta, Hairspray
Travolta has always been his own best choreographer – even in his minutely detailed work as the technician in Blow Out (Brian de Palma, 1980). However, this shyly wistful housewife may be his best creation yet. All of his dancing is a dream, from the subtlest finger-wave to a full-blown tango fantasy. Even Christopher Walken, rarely at ease with actresses, gives himself permission to get excited. Walken has never looked at another actor with such virile or lustful eyes – his character can’t keep his gaze off Travolta’s, sizing up every curve.

2. Toby Jones, Infamous (Douglas McGrath, 2006)
This Capote is not only a thrilling raconteur and name-dropper, but a sexual and mysterious being: gasping with incredulity at his reflection after a tryst in a jail cell.

3. Leslie Mann, Knocked Up (Judd Apatow, 2007)

Puzzles

1. The Notorious Bettie Page (Mary Harron, 2005)
Like Sofia Coppola, Harron makes purposely aggravating films: locked into style and daring us to probe the surface. As with Coppola’s heroines, Bettie is able to be “nude without seeming naked” and take part in images that are actually remarkable for their lack of frisson. The best moments occur when Bettie attempts to make ferocious little barks and yelps, but is unable to work up any spasm of energy – no matter how hard she tries, she can’t make a dent in the film’s surface.

2. Man of the Year (Barry Levinson, 2006)
Despite the premise of a Robin Williams feel-good comedy, this film has a surprisingly lucid approach to politics: for instance, the self-tainting of whistleblowers (their tendency to act guilty), and the quick shift from political chaos to a consensus, with dissenters marginalized as conspiracy theorists. Williams, whose blustery “outrageousness” can often be irritating, only touches on that mood sparingly here.

3. Reign over Me (Mike Binder, 2007)

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David Church

San Francisco State University.

My list for the 2007 World Poll is as follows:

1. Brand Upon the Brain! (Guy Maddin, 2006)
2. The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (Simon and Timothy Quay, 2005)
3. My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2007)
4. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
5. Control (Anton Corbijn, 2007)
6. Sunshine (Danny Boyle, 2007)
7. Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
8. The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
9. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
10. Grindhouse (Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, 2007)
11. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2006)
12. Rescue Dawn (Werner Herzog, 2006)
13. Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007)
14. Atonement (Joe Wright, 2007)
15. Gwoemul (The Host, Bong Joon-ho, 2006)

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John Conomos

Teaches at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. His new book of essays, Mutant Media (Artspace/Power Publications), will be released this coming March.

Dear Rolando and Scott,

Just five hundred words for a year spent inside and outside “the dark cave” (Miguel Marias). Now that is a little unfair, for what we are really speaking about is our entire lives – so far – spent watching movies. Or, as that clandestine self-described “film-buff kid”, Serge Daney, whose much awaited ‘post-card’ ‘sea-bottles’ are starting to reach the shores of our Anglo-phone world of cinéphilia, once put it, movies “watching us” (1).

As we all know, cinéphilia, whatever it may be, is never simply just love for the cinema. It is something that is very complicated, full of ambiguities, obsessions, detours, contradictions and subtle shifts in one’s life, memories, time and space. But all of us who have spent our lives underneath Roland Barthes’ “dancing cone which pierces the darkness like a laser beam”, despite Andrew Sarris’ recent playful parting exchange with Kent Jones, as he was exiting Sarris’ apartment, about whether one has wasted their lives watching movies will probably have already addressed this question in the quieter moments of their lives. (2) These are matters belonging to, to use Tennesse William’s apposite expression, “the home of the heart”.

I am still, contrary to André Breton’s belief, in my “cinema age” (3). Like Sarris, I too am of Greek descent, and, as the expression goes, “the Greeks have a word for everything”, there is a specific Greek word that Sarris once used in a Film Comment essay many years ago (“sachlamareas”) which describes something – like cinéphilia – as an empty, trivial pursuit of no lasting life importance. Thankfully, I have no regrets about this. I am still “charged” by cinema (to use Breton’s term).

It is an axiomatic these days to speak of a changing global film culture thanks to the internet, DVDs, new technologies, shifting exhibition/distribution demographics, of many new national cinemas – beyond the Eurocentric spectrum of film festivals, retrospective programs, film and media studies, etc. – and of the continuous fragmentation of classical cinema and its recent museological exhibition and reception. This is old news.

Therefore, we are living in an era where DVD supplements are starting to represent ‘a cinema of cinemas’, just as the internet – that ‘archive of archives’ – has created a new generation of networked cinéphiles (blogs and on-line journals like yours, Rouge and Screening the Past, just to mention three important local websites, plus audio-commentaries, documentaries, etc.), these days with my cinéphilic friends I often asked them “What supplements are on the DVD?” Don’t we all?

For now, as we all can testify, ‘the herd has moved on’ so to speak (cinematically) in many new (as yet) uncharted directions. (4) This is not to say that the cinema that we have known in the past century is dying or is dead. Far from it. For now we need to be alert to all the emerging dazzling possibilities of cinema’s potential as an art form that still enchants us. It is a question, as it always has been, but more so than before, of finding the right words to adequately describe what cinema means to us as an æsthetic, cultural, cinéphilic and technological experience, of why it matters in our individual and collective lives and what we expect from it. As always, despite what forms it has these days, ‘the dark cave’ will still entrance us for many years to come.

My list is limited in the sense that no longer do I attend trade screenings like I once use to do. I see what I can see in my local cinemas and on television and borrow and purchase DVDS, etc. So I do not claim that I am privy to seeing – in a global sense- what is available in festivals overseas unlike some of my more lucky peers have been doing in more recent times. My list is not in any order of priority. However, it was definitely a good year for lovers of popular music.

Control

1. Control (Anton Corbijn, 2007, UK). Memorable for its lead performance (Sean Riley as Joy Division’s Ian Curtis) and Corbijn’s unerring poetic eye.

2. Across the Universe (Julie Taynor, USA, 2007) For its certain tour-de-force parts than for its total. Nik Cohn and Guy Peellart’s ‘70s classic picture book, Rock Dreams, comes alive in 3D.

3. Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, UK, 2007). Francis Bacon (the painter) in Turkish baths at Finsbury Park. Cronenberg back in form: a worthwhile companion piece to his recent masterpiece, A History of Violence (2006).

4. The Walker (Paul Schrader, USA, 2007). A finely calibrated and
witty look at USA politics worthy of Gore Vidal’s Swiftian pen. Woody Harrelson is brilliant as ‘the walker’ and Schrader is forever the consummate cinéaste and storyteller.

5. The Ister (David Barison and Daniel Ross, Australia, 2004). DVD. Missed it at the Sydney Film Festival three years ago. One mighty ‘river-movie’ where Jean Vigo meets Martin Heidegger (via the late Jean-Luc Nancy, Bernard Steiger and Phillipe Lacoue-Labarthe). A masterpiece.

6. Citizen Langlois (Edgardo Cozarinsky, France, 2005). SBS TV. Pure delight. A cinéphilic banquet. An Edgardo Cozarinsky retrospective, please, pretty please.

7. I’m Not There. (Todd Haynes, USA, 2007). A Whitmanesque poem ‘channelling’ the vast river of American popular music as it courses through the enigmatic art and career that is Bob Dylan’s. Heath Ledger and Cate Blanchett – what can’t she do? – steal the show.

8. Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten (Julien Temple, UK, 2007)
The film’s Blochian sub-title says it all. A mesmerising ‘utopian’ work that deftly shows us the many intricate connections between post-war English pop music, the class system, the art school and squatting movements of the 1960s and 1970s, etc.

9. My Dad is 100 Years Old (Guy Maddin, Canada, 2006) A DVD accompanying Isabella Rossellini’s recent book, In the Name of the Father, the Daughter and the Holy Spirits (2006). A pleasantly surprising homage film to Isabella’s father. Only 17 minutes in duration, but what a revealing 17 minutes they are! When Roberto Rossellini died in June 1977, Jean-Luc Godard sent the following telegram to Isabella and her siblings: “Now we are alone in the woods.”

10. Speaking of Buñuel (Jose Luis Lopez-Linares and Javier Rioyo, Mexico-Spain, 2000) A DVD supplement. Buñuel the surreal “Stone Face” sorcerer. Rare interview clips and wonderful testimonials from his friends and collaborators like Carlos Fuentes, Michel Piccoli, Jean-Claude Carrière, amongst others.

May I sneak in one more film please? Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places, Alain Resnais, France, 2006). Eighty-four years old and elegant as ever, Resnais, the “Left-Bank” enchanter, can still create magic after all these years.

Notes

  1. Serge Daney, Postcards from the Cinema, translated by Paul Douglas Grant (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2007).
  2. Roland Barthes, “Upon Leaving a Movie Theatre”, in The Rustle of Language, translated by Richard Howard London (London: Basil Blackwell, 1986) and Kent Jones, Physical Evidence: Selected Film Criticism (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2007).
  3. According to Breton, everyone passes “the cinema age”. See André Breton, “As in a Wood”, in Paul Hammond (Ed.), The Shadow and its Shadow (Edinburgh: Polygon, 1991 [1978]), p. 81.
  4. Including, of course, the move of cinema during the past twenty odd years into the gallery/museum world. See, for example, the 2006 show, “Erice-Kiarostami. Correspondences”, curated by the late Alain Bergala and Jordi Ballo (The Centre De Cultura Contemporania De Barcelona).

P.S.:
I forgot to mention the Godards released in 2006-2007! I am, of course, referring to the much awaited and finally released Histoire(s) du cinéma and the Jean-Luc Godard-Anne-Marie Mieville recent collaborations, Four Short Films.

Thanks, John.

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Jesús Cortés

Writes for El Unicornio, a Spanish magazine about cinema and culture, and for the Rotten Tomatoes website.

BEST NEW FILMS I HAVE SEEN THIS YEAR (made relatively recently)

These are my favourite films of the past year in an approximate order of preference. I will use three Rolling Stones song titles in order to group them. A good part of these films have not been commercially released in my country.

“LIVE WITH ME”:

Sanxia haoren (Still Life, Jia Zhang-ke, 2006), Rois et reine (Arnaud Desplechin, 2004), Lady Chatterley (Pascale Ferran, 2007), Zui hou de shi guang (Three Times, Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2005), Juventude em marcha (Colossal Youth, Pedro Costa, 2006), Tickets (Ermanno Olmi, Abbas Kiarostami and Ken Loach, 2005), especially Olmi’s part, De l’autre côté (From the Other Side, Chantal Akerman, 2002), Le Promeneur du Champ de Mars (Robert Guédiguian, 2004) and Petites coupures (Small Cuts, Pascal Bonitzer, 2002).

“HAPPY”: Last Days (Gus Van Sant, 2005), Mary (Abel Ferrara, 2005), Dong (Jia Zhang-ke, 2006), Sang sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006), Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007), The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006), Aleksandra (Alexandra, Aleksandr Sokurov, 2007), Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood, 2006), Belle toujours (Manoel de Oliveira, 2006), Five: dedicated to Ozu (Abbas Kiarostami, 2003), A London férfi (The Man from London, Béla Tarr, 2007), Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007), Fong juk (Exiled, Johnnie To, 2006), Iklimler (Climates, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2006), Les Artistes du Thêatre brûlé (Rithy Panh, 2005) and Ruang rak noi nid masahan (Last Life in the Universe, Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, 2003).

“MIXED EMOTIONS”: Ne touchez pas la hache (Don’t Touch the Axe, Jacques Rivette, 2007), Odete (Two Drifters, João Pedro Rodrigues, 2005), En la ciudad de Sylvia (In the City of Sylvia, José Luis Guerín, 2007), Mogari no mori (The Mourning Forest, Naomi Kawase, 2007) and Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places, Alain Resnais, 2006).

I have not been not able to see many features that interested me like the recent films from Olivier Assayas, Nicolas Klotz, Céline Sciamma, Wong Kar-wai, Francis Ford Coppola, Gus Van Sant, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Serge Bozon, Sharunas Bartas, Abdellatif Kechiche, Eric Rohmer, Tsai Ming-liang, Nicholas Philibert, Jacques Nolot and many others.

There are of course some new films that have disappointed me, but I think it’s a waste of time thinking about them now.

OLDER FILMS. Seen for the first time in 2007. Masterpieces or great films

Sauve qui peut (la vie) (Slow Motion, Jean Luc Godard, 1980), Le Petit Thêatre de Jean Renoir (Jean Renoir, 1969), Noce blanche (Jean Claude Brisseau, 1988), Musashino fujin (Lady of Musashino, Kenji Mizoguchi, 1951), Erotikon (Mauritz Stiller, 1920), Boriets i kloun (Boris Barnet, 1957), Loulou (Maurice Pialat, 1980), Words for Battle (Humphrey Jennings, 1941), L’enfance nue (Maurice Pialat, 1968), Nouvelle vague (Jean Luc Godard, 1990), Naniwa eregi (Elegy of Naniwa, Kenji Mizoguchi, 1936), Sauvage innocence (Philippe Garrel, 2001), Enchantment (Irving Reis, 1948), Ashani sanket (Distant Thunder, Satyajit Ray, 1973), Fires Were Started (Humphrey Jennings, 1944), Socrate (Roberto Rossellini, 1970), La leggenda del santo bevitore (Ermanno Olmi, 1988), I’ve Always Loved You (Frank Borzage, 1946), Passion (Allan Dwan, 1954), The Suspect (Robert Siodmak, 1944), Les Baisers de secours (Philippe Garrel, 1988-9), Soshun (Yasujiro Ozu, 1956), A Diary for Timothy (Humphrey Jennings, 1945), Xiao Wu (Pickpocket, Jia Zhang-ke, 1997), Uncertain Glory (Raoul Walsh, 1944), There’s Always Tomorrow (Douglas Sirk, 1956), Comment je me suis disputé… (ma vie sexuelle) (Arnaud Desplechin, 1996), Détective (Jean Luc Godard, 1985), Toutes peines confondues (Michel Deville, 1992), L’ange noir (Jean Claude Brisseau, 1994), The Enforcer (Raoul Walsh and Bretaigne Windust, 1950), The Eddy Duchin story (George Sidney, 1956), Lightning Strikes Twice (King Vidor, 1951), Chantal Akerman par Chantal Akerman (Chantal Akerman, 1996), Le Vent de la nuit (Philippe Garrel, 1999), A Valparaíso (Joris Ivens and Chris Marker, 1962), La Glace à trois faces (Jean Epstein, 1927), Ponette (Jacques Doillon, 1996), The Bigamist (Ida Lupino, 1953), Hamsarayan (The Chorus, Abbas Kiarostami, 1982), Bildmakarna (Ingmar Bergman, 2000), Family Portrait (Humphrey Jennings, 1951), La Fille de quinze ans (Jacques Doillon, 1988), Big Business (Leo McCarey, 1919), Liberty (Leo McCarey, 1929) and The Sea of Grass (Elia Kazan, 1947).

OLDER FILMS. Also new to me in 2007. Very good or very interesting films

La Femme qui pleure (Jacques Doillon, 1978), Dongxie xidu (Ashes of Time, Wong Kar-wai, 1994), Une Femme est une femme (Jean Luc Godard, 1961), Ceiling Zero (Howard Hawks, 1935), Braza dormida (Humberto Mauro, 1928), Night of the Big Heat (Terence Fisher, 1967), Hangover Square (John Brahm, 1945), Prénom: Carmen (Jean Luc Godard, 1983), Kawaita hana (Pale Flower, Masahiro Shinoda, 1964), Most Dangerous Man Alive (Allan Dwan, 1958), Dive Bomber (Michael Curtiz, 1941), Breezy (Clint Eastwood, 1973), La Societé du spectacle (Guy Debord, 1973), Akai tenshi (Red Angel, Yasuzo Masumura, 1966), Shestaya chast mira (The Sixth Part of the World, Dziga Vertov, 1926), The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell (Otto Preminger, 1955), Gunnar Hedes saga (Mauritz Stiller, 1919), Tide of Empire (Allan Dwan, 1929), Pampa bárbara (Hugo Fregonese, 1945), La Drolesse (Jacques Doillon, 1988), Taiyo no hakaba (The Tomb of the Sun, Nagisa Oshima, 1960), Kanchenjungha (Satyajit Ray, 1962), Bangiku (Late Chrysanthemums, Mikio Naruse, 1954), Sangue mineiro (Humberto Mauro, 1928), Saddle Tramp (Hugo Fregonese, 1950), Hatsukoi (Inferno of First Love, Susumu Hani, 1969), La Lectrice (Michel Deville, 1988), Il Mistero di Oberwald (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1980), Brute Force (Jules Dassin, 1947), Si Versailles m’était conté (Sacha Guitry, 1956), Brève traverse (Brief Crossing, Catherine Breillat, 2001), Gonggong shang huo (In Public, Jia Zhang-ke, 2001), Le Voyage en douce (Michel Deville, 1980), The Scarlet Letter (Victor Sjöstrom, 1928), La Rupture (Claude Chabrol, 1971), Brumes d´automne (Dimitri Kirsanoff, 1928), Dillinger (Max Nosseck, 1945), Tavazsi zápor (Paul Fejos, 1932), Pattes blanches (Jean Grémillon, 1948), Xala (Ousmane Sembene, 1975), Le Coup de berger (Jacques Rivette, 1956), The Black Shield of Falworth (Rudolph Maté, 1954), Hai shang hua (The Flowers of Shanghai, Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1998), Selon Mathieu (Xavier Beauvois, 2000), The Wicked Darling (Tod Browning, 1919), Dark City (William Dieterle, 1950), Hamlet (Sven Gade and Heinz Schiller, 1920), Le Vampire (Jean Painlevé, 1945), Susan Slade (Delmer Daves, 1963), Los Motivos de Berta (José Luis Guerín, 1983), Douro, faina fluvial (Manoel de Oliveira, 1930), Tesouro perdido (Humberto Mauro, 1928), Jean Renoir, le patron (Jacques Rivette, 1965), Fixed Bayonets (Sam Fuller, 1951), Macho dancer (Lino Brocka, 1988), and London Can Take It (Humphrey Jennings, 1940).

Great films I have already seen but I have CONFIRMED as great, RECONSIDERED, or maybe REDISCOVERED

Der tiger von Eschnapur and Das indische Grabmal (Fritz Lang, 1958), Jet Pilot (Josef von Sternberg, 1950), People Will Talk (Joseph Leo Mankiewickz, 1951), Faces (John Cassavetes, 1968), Les Bonnes femmes (Claude Chabrol, 1960), Captain Lightfoot (Douglas Sirk, 1955), David and Bathsheba (Henry King, 1951), Indiscreet (Stanley Donen, 1958), Lundi matin (Otar Iosseliani, 2002), Fedora (Billy Wilder, 1978), Wake of the Red Witch (Edward Ludwig, 1948), The Carey Treatment (Blake Edwards, 1972), Faustrecht der freiheit (Fox and His Friends, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974), The Prowler (Joseph Losey, 1950), Juste avant la nuit (Claude Chabrol, 1971), The Beguiled (Don Siegel, 1971), The Addiction (Abel Ferrara, 1994), The Breaking Point (Michael Curtiz, 1950), Harry and Son (Paul Newman, 1984), Timbuktu (Jacques Tourneur, 1958), El bruto (Luis Buñuel, 1952), The Ninth Gate (Roman Polanski, 1999), Diary of Lady M (Alain Tanner, 1988), Mutter Küsters fahrt zum himmel (Mother Küsters Goes to Heaven, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1975), L’Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1959), Stranger than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch, 1986), Inserts (John Byrum, 1975) and Profondo rosso (Dario Argento, 1975).

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Fergus Daly

Director of Experimental Conversations (2006).

Favourite Feature Films Seen in 2007

Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
Haebyonui yoin (Woman on the Beach, Hong Sang-soo, 2006)
De Son Appartement (Jean-Claude Rousseau, 2007)
The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson, 2007)
Quei loro incontri (These Encounters of Theirs, Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, 2006)
A Londoni férfi (The Man from London, Béla Tarr, 2007)
Stardust (Matthew Vaughn, 2007)
Bridge to Terabithia (Gabor Csupo, 2007)
Into the Wild (Sean Penn, 2007)
Ne Touchez pas la hache (Don’t Touch the Axe, Jacques Rivette, 2007)
En la ciudad de Sylvia (In the City of Sylvia, José Luis Guerín, 2007)
O Estado do Mundo (Chantal Akerman, Pedro Costa, et al, 2007)

Short films

Chant Sauvage (Chaab Mahmoud, 2007)
It’ll Always Be 11:16 (Christopher O’Neill)
Patterns (Garry Keane, 2007)
Silencio (F. J. Ossang, 2006)
July Trip (Wael Noureddine, 2007)
InsaissaBLe Image (Marcel Hanoun)

Rediscovery of the Year
Wheel of Ashes (Peter Emanuel Goldman, 1968)

Film Books of the Year

Abel Ferrara by Nicole Brenez
Cinémas d’Avant-Garde by Nicole Brenez
Traitement du Lumpenprolétariat par la cinéma d’avant-garde by Nicole Brenez
Sayat Nova by Erik Bullot
Mulholland Drive de David Lynch by Hervé Aubron
A History of Artists’ Film and Video in Britain by David Curtis

Essay of the Year
The Grocer Who Dreams: Postcards From the Cinema by Serge Daney” by Tony McKibbin in Senses of Cinema 44

Blogs of the Year

supposedaura.blogspot.com
donalforeman.com/blog

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Adrian Danks

Senior Lecturer and Head of Cinema Studies in the School of Applied Communication, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (University). He is co-curator of the Melbourne Cinémathèque, and editor of Cteq: Annotations on Film, published in Senses of Cinema.

25 best ‘new’ films screening somewhere in Australia (in order of preference)

1. When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (Spike Lee, 2006)
2. Deep Water (Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell, 2006)
3. Video Quartet (Christian Marclay, 2002) and Crossfire (Christian Marclay, 2007)
4. 4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
5. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
6. Bes vakit (Times and Winds, Reha Erdem, 2006)
7. Control (Anton Corbijn, 2007)
8. Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
9. Muse of Cinema (Kerry Laitala, 2006)
10. Bruce McClure multi-projector performance @ Tapespace (OtherFilm Festival)
11. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)
12. Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále (I Served the King of England, Jirí Menzel, 2006)
13. Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood, 2006)
14. Sacris Pulso (Ana Vaz, 2007)
15. Gwoemul (The Host, Bong Joon-ho, 2006)
16. The King and Noise (both Matthew Saville, 2007)
17. Niwemang (Half Moon, Bahman Ghobadi, 2006)
18. Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film (Ric Burns, 2006)
19. Red Road (Andrea Arnold, 2006)
20. La Noche de los girasoles (The Night of the Sunflowers, Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo, 2006)
21. Belle toujours (Manoel de Oliveira, 2006)
22. Zidane, un portrait du 21e siècle (Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno, 2006)
23. In the Beginning was the Image: Conversations with Peter Whitehead (Paul Cronin, 2007)
24. Sanxia haoren (Still Life, Jia Zhang-ke, 2006)
25. Atonement (Joe Wright, 2007)

13 worst ‘new’ films of the year (that I actually saw)

1. La Science des rêves (The Science of Sleep, Michel Gondry, 2006)
2. Jardins en automne (Gardens in Autumn, Otar Iosseliani, 2006)
3. Laitakaupungin valot (Lights in the Dusk, Aki Kaurismäki, 2006)
4. The Journals of Knud Rasmussen (Norman Cohn and Zacharias Kunuk, 2006)
5. Lions for Lambs (Robert Redford, 2007)
6. Quelques jours en Septembre (A Few Days in September, Santiago Amigorena, 2006)
7. Brand Upon the Brain! (Guy Maddin, 2006)
8. La Strada di Levi (Primo Levi’s Journey, Davide Ferrario, 2006)
9. Ghosts (Nick Broomfield, 2007)
10. Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places, Alain Resnais, 2006)
11. Aleksandra (Alexandra, Aleksandr Sokurov, 2007)
12. Soom (Breath, Kim Ki-duk, 2007)
13. A Londoni férfi (The Man from London, Béla Tarr, 2007)

Overrated & Major Disappointments

I’m Not There.

I’m Not There. (Todd Haynes, 2007), Zwartboek (Black Book, Paul Verhoeven, 2006), Sang Sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006), Hei yan quan (I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, Tsai Ming-liang, 2006), Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino, 2007), The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass, 2007), Mogari no mori (The Mourning Forest, Naomi Kawase, 2007), Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006), Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten (Julien Temple, 2007), The Monastery (Pernille Rose Gronkjaer, 2006), In the Shadow of the Light (Sarah Payton and Chris Teerink, 2007), Hollywoodland (Allen Coulter, 2006), Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck, 2006), Notes on a Scandal (Richard Eyre, 2006), Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007), El Laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro, 2006), The Notorious Bettie Page (Mary Harron, 2005), Centochiodi (One Hundred Nails, Ermanno Olmi, 2007), Babel (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2006), Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007).

Retrospective Highlights

Screenings of the restored Spione (Fritz Lang, 1928), The Innocents (Jack Clayton, 1961), Ucho (The Ear, Karel Kachyna, 1970), Hell in the Pacific (John Boorman, 1968), The Professionals (Richard Brooks, 1966), and the Michael Mann retrospective at the Melbourne Cinémathèque; Lost Lost Lost (Jonas Mekas, 1976), Great Expectations (David Lean, 1946), La Chute de la maison Usher (The Fall of the House of Usher, Jean Epstein, 1928), Kerry Laitala (with the OtherFilm Festival) and Peter Whitehead programs at ACMI (a considerable improvement on 2006 but still a little too incoherent in its programming); Shohei Imamura retrospective at MIFF (Vengeance is Mine, 1979, and Ballad of Narayama, 1983, were absolute highlights). And, finally, a vintage year for DVD including: Criterion’s Ace in the Hole (Billy Wilder, 1951), Les Enfants terribles (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1950), 49th Parallel (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1941 – particularly for the bonus short feature, The Volunteer, 1943), Overlord (Stuart Cooper, 1975) and the Late Ozu box set (on the Eclipse label); Ford at Fox (particularly 1926’s Three Bad Men, one of Ford’s great silent films); Madman’s Wim Wenders Road Movies and The Experimental Films of Osamu Tezuka (particularly the extraordinary Tales of the Street Corner, 1962); Edition Filmmuseum’s Alexander Kluge – The Films for Cinema; Histoire(s) du cinéma (Jean-Luc Godard, 1988-98); Warner’s Film Noir Classic Collection, vol. 4 (especially the wonderful double bill of Anthony Mann’s Side Street, 1950, and Nick Ray’s They Live by Night, 1949, and André de Toth’s masterpiece, Crime Wave, 1954); New Video Group’s Don’t Look Back – 1965 Tour Deluxe Edition; Masters of Cinema’s Le Silence de la mer (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1949); the BFI’s Distant Voices, Still Lives (Terence Davies, 1988) and Science is Fiction/The Sounds of Science: The Films of Jean Painlevé; Lions Gate’s Jean Renoir 3-Disc Collector’s Edition; Fantoma’s The Films of Kenneth Anger.

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Dustin Dasig

A training director, freelance film reviewer and author of two unpublished anthologies of film critiques.

2007 was an ordinary year for film viewing and criticism for me, though there were a good number of movies that impressed my æsthetic standards (considering the 236 films that I have seen until 2 January 2008). As always, I shunned big budget Hollywood films, including The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass, 2007) and the latest Harry Potter), in favour of arthouse, foreign-language releases. There were some movies that I saw during embassy-sponsored film festivals while a big number were seen on DVD.

Here are the 10 best films that I have seen from January 2007 to 2 January 2008:

Jazireh ahani (Iron Island, Mohammad Rasoulof, 2005)
This little seen gem by Mohammad Rasoulof is a thematically urgent movie about dictatorship and traditional politics set in a rundown ship. It proves that Iranian cinema isn’t passé after all, despite the booming critical reception for Romanian films in various film festivals.

Offside (Jafar Panahi, 2006)
Jafar Panahi’s latest feature is a blatant critique of gender insensitivity in his home country set during the World Cup qualifying match. The theme may not be new, but Panahi’s gift for well timed humour and drama makes this message movie accessible to everyone.

Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
The plot and setting of German filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s critically hailed, Academy Award-winning film resembles mid-1970s American political suspense films like The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974) and The Parallax View (Alan J. Pakula, 1974. The script was braced with well-timed suspense, the plot was unpredictable, and the tone and mood was created and sustained as events unfolded with dramatic tension.

Ren xiao yao (Unknown Pleasures, Jia Zhang-ke, 2002)
Juvenile apathy amidst the changing times in working-class China is the theme of Jia’s critically adored 2002 feature.

The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941)
John Huston’s classic whodunit masterpiece set the tone for the film noir genre. Easily 2007’s Best Classic Film for me.

Journal d’un cure de campagne (Diary of a Country Priest, Robert Bresson, 1951)
Robert Bresson’s masterpiece is an emotionally rich, dramatically tense character study that gave justice to Georges Bernanos’ novel.

Iklimler (Climates, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2006)
Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan cemented his status as a critics’ favourite and a disciple of Michelangelo Antonioni with this Cannes Filmfest 2006 FIPRESCI Prize winner. The narrative recalls the late Italian director’s trilogy of L’Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961), and L’Eclisse (1962), while the dramatic and narrative techniques are purely Antonioni, however handed masterfully.

Insiang (Lino Brocka, 1976)
It was in the late 1970s that Philippine cinema reached its third Golden Age, and the late filmmaker first gained immense critical traction and festival exposure with this well acted critique of poverty stricken urban life.

Tony Takitani (Jun Ichikawa, 2004)
Japanese filmmaker Ichikawa’s festival favourite is a masterpiece of cinematic invention without being showy, pretentious, facile, or haughty.

No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy’s novel was brought to life in this genre bending, dramatically pungent film from the movie industry’s masters of cinematic invention. The plot structure and pacing may be wayward at times, but the assured direction and strong performances by Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin make up for such flaws (however obvious).

Best Contemporary FilmJazireh ahani (Iron Island, Mohammad Rasoulof, 2005)

Best Classic FilmThe Maltese Falcon (John Huston, USA)

Most Moving Performances

Male Actor – Ulrich Muhe, Das Leben der Anderen
Female Actors – Julie Christie, Away from Her (Sarah Polley, 2006) and Mona Lisa, Insiang

Outstanding Technical Achievements

Best Direction of a filmFlorian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Das Leben der Anderen

Best Writing of a filmFlorian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Das Leben der Anderen and Jia Zhang-ke, Ren xiao yao (tied)

The next ten best

Gwoemul (The Host, Joon-ho Bong, 2006)
Il Conformista (The Conformist, Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970)
Meng ying tong nian (Electric Shadows, Xiao Jiang, 2004)
Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (Ashutosh Gowariker, 2001)
Hei yan quan (I Don’t Want To Sleep Alone, Tsai Ming-liang, 2006)
La Tourneuse de pages (The Page Turner, Denis Dercourt, 2006)
Zwartboek (Black Book, Paul Verhoeven, 2006)
Les Diaboliques (Diabolique, Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955)
Kamyu nante shiranai (Who’s Camus Anyway?, Mitsuo Yanagimachi, 2005)
Be with Me (Eric Khoo, 2005)

DISAPPOINTMENTS (Considering the critical traction, box-office receipts, film festival(s) reception, and advanced word of mouth)

Atonement (Joe Wright, 2007)
Klass (The Class, Ilmar Raag, 2007)
Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007)
L’homme de sa vie (The Man of My Life, Zabou Breitman, 2006)
Jiang cheng xia ri (Luxury Car, Wang Chao, 2006)

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John Demetry

Revolution To Revelation: The John Demetry Archive Of Criticism (2000-2007).

Ten Best Movies of 2007

1. Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007)
2. The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson, 2007)
3. The Brave One (Neil Jordan, 2007)
4. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (Dennis Dugan, 2007)
5. Amazing Grace (Michael Apted, 2007)
6. Zwartboek (Black Book, Paul Verhoeven, 2006)
7. Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places, Alain Resnais, 2006)
8. Lions for Lambs (Robert Redford, 2007)
9. Ha-Buah (The Bubble, Eytan Fox, 2006)
10. Boy Culture (Q. Allan Brocka, 2007)

Runners-up (Preferential)

Italianetz (The Italian, Andrei Kravchuk, 2005)
Rescue Dawn (Werner Herzog, 2007)
Angel-A (Luc Besson, 2005)
No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
Why Did I Get Married? (Tyler Perry, 2007)
L’homme de sa vie (The Man Of My Life, Zabou Breitman, 2006)
War (Philip G. Atwell, 2007)
The Nanny Diaries (Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, 2007)
Because I Said So (Michael Lehmann, 2007)
Norbit (Brian Robbins, 2007)

Lead Performances

1. Eddie Murphy, Norbit
2. Jodie Foster, The Brave One
3. Diane Keaton, Because I Said So
4. Terrence Howard, The Brave One
5. Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, El Cantante (Leon Ichaso, 2006)

Supporting Performances

1. Jill Scott, Why Did I Get Married?
2. Tasha Smith, Why Did I Get Married?
3. Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
4. Kelly Macdonald, No Country for Old Men
5. Steve Zahn, Rescue Dawn, and Ken Marino, Diggers (Katherine Dieckmann, 2006)

Visionary Achievements in Cinematography

1. Robert Yeoman, The Darjeeling Limited
2. Michel Amathieu, The Man of My Life
3. Eric Gautier, Coeurs
4. Philippe Rousselot, The Brave One
5. Aleksandr Burov, The Italian

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Wheeler Winston Dixon

No Country for Old Men

The James Ryan Endowed Professor of Film Studies, Professor of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and, with Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, Editor-in-Chief of Quarterly Review of Film and Video. His newest book is Film Talk: Directors at Work (Rutgers University Press, 2007).

No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
Waitress (Adrienne Shelley, 2007)
Breach (Billy Ray, 2007)
The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2007)
Efter brylluppet (After the Wedding, Susanne Bier, 2006)
Water (Deepa Mehta, 2005)
Die Große Stille (Into Great Silence, Philip Gröning, 2005)
El Laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
Volver (Pedro Almodóvar, 2006)
Curse of the Golden Flower (Zhang Yimou, 2007)

2007 was a better year for cinema, both US and international, than 2006, simply because an air of hope seems to be permeating the cinema of late. With Bush on the way out, and the possibility of a new and more enlightened administration coming in, more serious films are being attempted by the industry, even if they aren’t exactly burning up the box office, which continues in thrall to the likes of Enchanted (Kevin Lima, 2007) and I Am Legend (Francis Lawrence, 2007). But at least more interesting films are being made, and seen widely, thanks to the ubiquity of DVDs, and also IFC’s interesting new program which releases films theatrically and on cable pay per view on the same day. A new day is coming, with new platforms and new possibilities; the digital era is truly here.

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David Ehrenstein

Author of Open Secret: Gay Hollywood 1928-2000, The Scorsese Picture and Film: The Front Line 1984. His essays have appeared in Film Comment and Film Quarterly.

In many ways this is a difficult question to answer because far and away the best film I saw in 2007 was made in 1971. I am, of course, referring to Jacques Rivette’s absolute masterpiece Out 1: Noli Me Tangere.

Philippe Garrel’s Les Amants réguliers (2005), Abel Ferrara’s Mary (2005), and Eric Rohmer’s Triple Agent (2004) had brief theatrical debuts this year.

As for the temporal heart of the matter

I’m Not There. (Todd Haynes, 2007)
Ne Touchez pas la hache (Don’t Touch the Axe, Jacques Rivette, 2007)
Hei yan quan (I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, Tsai Ming-liang, 2006)
Sang sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)
There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
La Môme (La Vie en Rose, Olivier Dahan, 2007)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Tim Burton, 2007)
L’homme de sa vie (The Man of My Life, Zabou Breitman, 2006)
Away From Her (Sarah Polley, 2006)
L’Avocat de la terreur (Terror’s Advocate, Barbet Schroeder, 2007)

Also

Le Scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Julian Schnabel, 2007)
Brand Upon the Brain! (Guy Maddin, 2006)
Sicko (Michael Moore, 2007)
The Walker (Paul Schrader, 2007)
Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy, 2007)
Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (Duncan Roy, 2006)
Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
Into the Wild (Sean Penn, 2007)
Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places, Alain Resnais, 2006)
Knocked Up (Judd Apatow, 2007)
Stephanie Daley (Hilary Brougher, 2006)
The Lookout (Scott Frank, 2007)
Chacun sa nuit (One to Another, Jean-Marc Barr, 2006)
Ha-Buah (The Bubble, Eytan Fox, 2006)
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (Sidney Lumet, 2007)
Paris, je t’aime (various, 2007)

Just saw Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park, which won’t be released Stateside until March. It’s sublime.

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Patrick Friel

Program Director at Chicago Filmmakers from 1996-2007. He is currently the Festival Director and Programmer of The Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival (run by Chicago Filmmakers) and Founder and Programmer of White Light Cinema, a new independent screening series in Chicago. He is also a would-be freelance writer.

My film viewing is so heavily skewed towards old films and experimental works that my list cannot be considered any kind of general commentary on world, or even U.S., cinema. Rather, it is a good road map for the best in avant-garde film and video with side trips to some great contemporary international work and retrospective films. The main list is followed by some additional experimental items. All works were seen for the first time in 2007. The ordering is approximate.

NEW/RECENT FILMS AND VIDEOS (with some cheats)

1. Out 1: Noli Me Tangere (Jacques Rivette, 1971) and India Matri Bhumi (Roberto Rossellini, 1959)

3. Films by Robert Breer: Recreation (1956), Eyewash (1959) and Eyewash (alternate version, 1959). New 35mm blow-up prints. Experimental shorts.

4. Videos by Kyle Canterbury (all 2006 except where noted): Slowly Dreams; Man and The Search (2007). Plus Colored Particles; 02; October 2006; LX; Building in Detroit #3; Fourth; Confusion; Untroubled; Untitled 1 (2007); and Untitled 2 (2007). Experimental shorts.

5. Eniaios IV “Nefeli Photos”, Reel 2 (Gregory Markopoulos, circa 1980s-1990s/2004). Part of Markopoulos’ ambitious “Eniaios” cycle. The editing was completed before he died in 1992, but the film was not printed until 2004. Experimental short.

6. Sang Sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)

7. Evertwo Circumflicksrent … Page 298 (Bruce McClure, 2007) and Untitled (from the Crib and Sift series, Bruce McClure, 2006). Experimental multi-projector performance works.

8. Victory over the Sun (Michael Robinson, 2007). Experimental short.

9. Black and White Trypps Number Three (Ben Russell, 2007). Experimental short.

10. Kittens Grow Up (Luther Price, 2007). Experimental short.

11. Capitalism: Child Labor (Ken Jacobs, 2007). Experimental short.

12. Films by Pedro Costa: The Rabbit Hunters (2007), Juventude em Marcha (Colossal Youth, 2006), Où gît votre sourire enfoui? (Where Lies Your Hidden Smile?, 2001) and No Quarto da Vanda (In Vanda’s Room, 2000).

13. Los Muertos (Lisandro Alonso, 2004)

14. Blade Runner: The Final Cut (Ridley Scott, 1982/2007)

15. Once Upon a Time (Corinna Schnitt, 2005). Experimental short.

16. Les Amants réguliers (Regular Lovers, Philippe Garrel, 2005)

ADDITIONAL EXPERIMENTAL FILMS AND VIDEOS OF NOTE (alphabetical by artist)

Bouvier and Prusakova (Marya Alford, 2005)
Moby Dick (2000, Guy Ben-Ner) and Wild Boy (Guy Ben-Ner, 2004)
Ready to Copy (Aleesa Cohene, 2006)
At the Heart of a Sparrow (Barry Doupé, 2006)
Tahousse (Olivier Fouchard and Mahine Rouhi, 2007)
Clut (Joe Gilmore and Paul Emery, 2007)
Set and Setting (Neil Henderson, 2006) and Tidal (Neil Henderson, 2006)
33rd and LaSalle (Ken Josephson, 1962)
Footnotes to a House of Love (Laida Lertxundi, 2007)
Observando el Cielo (Jeanne Liotta, 2007)
In Memoriam trilogy (Phil Solomon, 2005-2007), comprised of Untitled (for David Gatten) (Phil Solomon and Mark LaPore, 2005), Rehearsals for Retirement (Phil Solomon, 2007) and Last Days in a Lonely Place (Phil Solomon, 2007)
There (Robert Todd, 2006)
Children of Shadows (Naoyuki Tsuji, 2006)
Weep, O Mine Eyes (Choir Version) (Louise K. Wilson, 2007)

And three strange, fascinating “accidental” avant-garde films

Double Exposed Baby (unknown director, circa 1950s) and Dance Party (unknown director, circa 1950s). Found home movies that unintentionally border on the experimental.

Babbit Blast (Jack Behrend, 1982). Documentation of the detonation of explosives at a mining site which, again, unintentionally borders on the experimental.

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Jean-Michel Frodon

Editorial Director of Cahiers du Cinéma.

My favourite 2007 films (alphabetical order)

Les Amours d’Astrée et Céladon

Aleksandra (Alexander, Aleksandr Sokurov, 2007)
Les Amours d’Astrée et Céladon (The Romance of Astrée and Céladon, Eric Rohmer, 2007)
Avant que j’oublie (Before I Forget, Jacques Nolot, 2007)
Body Rice (Hugo Vieira da Silva, 2007)
Charly (Isild Le Besco, 2007)
Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino, 2007)
La Graine et le mulet (The Secret of the Grain, Abdellatif Kechiche, 2007)
Hei yan quan (I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, Tsai Ming-liang, 2006)
Honor de Cavalleria (Albert Serra, 2006)
Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
Ne Touchez pas la hache (Don’t Touch the Axe, Jacques Rivette, 2007)
Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant, 2007)
Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind (John Gianvito, 2007)
Roma wa la n’touma (Rome Rather than You, Tariq Teghia, 2007)
Sad Vacation (Shinji Aoyama, 2007)
Sang sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)
Sanxia haoren (Still Life, Jia Zhang-ke, 2007)
Tout est pardonné (All is Forgiven, Mia Hansen-Løve, 2007)
Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)

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