John Gianvito

Antony I. Ginnane

Stephen Goddard

Chiranjit Goswami

Kharálampos Goyós

Benjamin Halligan

Lee Hill

Peter Hourigan

Brian Hu

Christoph Huber

Pasquale Iannone

Rainer Knepperges

Jay Kuehner

Marc Lauria

Maximilian Le Cain

Martina Lunzer

Josh Mabe

Harriet Margolis

Miguel Marías

Paul Martin

Jim May

Benjamin McKay

Jane Mills

Olaf Möller


John Gianvito

A filmmaker, curator, and teacher based in Boston, Massachusetts.

Films this past year that gave me food for thought and sustenance to the spirit, in no particular order

Guda (K. J. Baby and the ‘Inmates of Kanavu’, India, 2003)
Effectively suppressed within India even amongst the so-called Left, never submitted to a festival outside the country, Guda surfaced publicly at the 2007 Viennale Film Festival. Collectively directed by indigenous teenagers from the deep forests of the Niligris in Kerala, Guda tells of a young girl’s coming-of-age amidst the stresses of a culture being pushed toward extinction. A unique, joyful and militant expression.

You, The Living

The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom (Adam Curtis, UK, 2007)
Quei loro incontri (These Encounters of Theirs, Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, Italy-France, 2006)
Du levande (You, The Living, Roy Andersson, Sweden, 2007)
Sag es mir Dienstag (Tell Me on Tuesday, Astrid Ofner, Austria, 2007)
La Question humaine (Heartbeat Detector, Nicholas Klotz. France, 2007)
En la ciudad de Sylvia (In the City of Sylvia, Jose Luis Guerin, Spain, 2007)
Phantom Love (Nina Menkes, USA, 2007)
My Name is Albert Ayler (Kasper Collin, Sweden, 2005)
Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places, Alain Resnais, France, 2006)
Into the Wild (Sean Penn, USA, 2007)
Casting a Glance (James Benning, USA, 2007)
Stella Polare (Anthea Kennedy, Ian Wiblin, UK, 2006)
Autohystoria (Raya Martin, Philippines, 2007)

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Antony I. Ginnane

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

Eligibility: Theatrical or premiere DVD release or festivals in US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, in the calendar year 2007. Alphabetical by title.

28 Weeks Later (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 2007)
Powerful sequel that combines the Romero derived Marxist critique of a post-plague society with a surprisingly moving Freudian overlay.

American Gangster (Ridley Scott, 2007)
A 1930s Warner Bros crime saga pumped up for the post-millennial æsthetic as only Scott (or brother Tony) can do. The police raid equals the intensity of Black Hawk Down (Ridley Scott, 2001) and recalls that Sam Fuller “punch”.

The Brave One (Neil Jordan, 2007)
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976) 31 years later with a little more Michael Winner than Paul Schrader. “I want my dog back”, too.

Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007)
London gets under Cronenberg’s skin, and the new flesh and the new Russian oligopolists bear down on the characters. Extremely radical vision until its surprisingly status quo finale.

The Hills Have Eyes 2 (Martin Weisz, 2007)
The best of the Iraq War reflections and the only one that refracted through cinema instead of politics (Brian De Palma notwithstanding).

I Know Who Killed Me (Chris Sivertson, 2007)
This year’s exploitation throwback: a lurid blend of Sirkian angst, the lyricism of Jacques Tourneur and the rabbit-hole fairytales of David Lynch. A real “guilty pleasure”.

Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood, 2006)
Eastwood’s Ozu-like mediation on Flags of our Fathers (Eastwood, 2006) through the eyes of the “enemy”. Not since Jean-Luc Godard has a senior director played cinematic analyst so effectively.

No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
Brutal and brutally funny. A contemporary reflection on chance, destiny and fate that would give Lang and Bresson a pause.

There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
Baroque blend of Orson Welles and Edward Dmytryk with aspirations to an epic analysis of the wedding of capitalism and religion in the US. Some astonishing images, almost Griffith-like in their simplicity.

Zwartboek (Black Book, Paul Verhoeven, 2006)
The only classic Vincente Minnelli melodrama of the year full of maximum hysteria, fever and crazed delirium.

Another good year for narrative cinema where even the disappointments – Lust, Caution (Ang Lee, 2007), Black Snake Moan (Craig Brewer, 2007), Shooter (Antoine Fuqua, 2007), Shoot ’Em Up (Michael Davis, 2007), Perfect Stranger (James Foley, 2007), Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006), Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia (Curse of the Golden Flower, Zhang Yimou, 2006) – were full of wondrous moments: lean, visceral and meditative.

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Stephen Goddard

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

Heard that Jacques Rivette, at 79, was still visiting the cinema three times a day (at least). Sounds like a cinematic prescription.

In 2007, I felt better taking the following medicine (in screening order):

Centre Pompidou Video Art 1965-2005, ACMI exhibition, 2007
Eyes, Lies and Illusions, ACMI exhibition, 2007
Klimt (Raúl Ruiz, 2006)
Northern Void (Phillip Brophy, 2007)
In the Shadow of the Light (Sarah Payton and Chris Teerink, 2007)
Le Veilleur (The Night Watchman, Clair Denis and Serge Daney, 1990)
Duelle (Jacques Rivette, 1976)
A Nocturne (Bill Mousoulis, 2007)
Almost Always Everywhere Apparent (Sonia Leber and David Chesworth, ACCA, 2007)
Belle toujours (Manoel de Oliveira, 2006)
Falling (Barbara Albert, 2006)
Falkenberg Farewell (Jesper Ganslander, 2006)
Les Anges exterminateurs (The Exterminating Angels, Jean-Claude Brisseau, 2006)
Les Temoins (The Witnesses, André Téchiné, 2007)
The Old Weird America: Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music (Rani Singh, 2006)
Heimatklänge (Echoes of Home, Stefan Schwietert, 2007)
Forever (Heddy Honigmann, 2006)
Making Off, le dernier film (Nouri Bouzid, 2006)
Billy the Kid (Jennifer Venditti, 2007)
Aleksandra (Alexandra, Aleksandr Sokurov, 2007)
Aldrig som första gången! (Never Like the First Time, Jonas Odell, 2006)
Bes vakit (Time and Winds, Reha Erdem, 2006)
OSS 117: Le Cairo nid d’espions (OSS 117: Nest of Spies, Michel Hazanavicius, 2006)
La Faute à Fidel! (Blame it on Fidel, Julie Gavras, 2006)
Dans Paris (Inside Paris, Christophe Honoré, 2006)
Mauvais foi (Bad Faith, Roschdy Zem, 2006)
Brève traversée (Brief Crossing, Catherine Breillat, 2001)
36 fillete (Catherine Breillat, 1988)
Tapage Nocturne (Nocturnal Uproar, Catherine Breillat, 1979)
Adama Meshuga’at (Sweet Mud, Dror Shaul, 2006)
Ma vie n’est pas une comédie romantique (It Had to be You, Marc Gibaja, 2007)
Ha-Buah (The Bubble, Eytan Fox, 2006)
Meduzot (Jellyfish, Shira Geffen and Elgar Keret, 2007)

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Chiranjit Goswami

A contributor for Not Coming to a Theatre Near You.

Despite not having had the opportunity to watch Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (2007), Julian Schnabel’s Le Scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, 2007), and a number of other acclaimed films that probably will not arrive in any of my local theatres for weeks, I’m confident in stating that 2007 was an admirable year for filmmaking, especially for filmmakers willing to relentlessly apply and strictly adhere to their austere personal vision while meticulously exploring their chosen subject matter. In fact, a number of filmmakers thrived while operating within the tacit restrictions of the North American movie industry by smuggling abstract ideas into more conventional narratives.

Particularly prominent within a number of 2007’s most remarkable films was a notable fascination with the ability of media, including movies, to refract our reality. Thus, we were treated to an assortment of films that delicately contrasted recreated reality with manufactured myth or sublimely blended fabricated fact with faithful fiction, often allowing a few enthusiastic filmmakers to scrutinize the mercurial nature of fame by examining how our culture alters and amends our collective conception of prominent public figures.

Top Ten Films of 2007

Zodiac

1. Zodiac (David Fincher). Fincher’s comprehensive investigation of the carnage caused by the Zodiac killings calmly twisted from an ordinary police procedural about the collection of information to a murky depiction of an infamous killer capable of deftly manipulating a media prone towards sensationalistic stories, to a deliberation upon cinema’s deceitful influence upon our collective perceptions of reality, and finally into an intense contemplation upon the destructive aspects of obsession. After allowing his audience to witness the agonizing mental fatigue endured by his persistent protagonist, Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) – who irrationally toiled through a pathetically fanatical investigation that would eventually fray his sanity and isolate him from family – Fincher placed a satisfying solution within our grasp, only to deliver a fittingly unsettled conclusion. The American auteur certainly rewarded his protagonist with the resolution the cartoonist once envisioned, but Fincher also cornered Graysmith into a pitifully impotent position, facing an all too human form of evil, unable to verify the truth he had destroyed his life over and incapable of attaining any substantial amount of relief. Thus, while Zodiac may have appeared to be a meticulously arranged period piece, by emphasizing the eventual futility of obsession and the exasperating evasiveness of truth Fincher’s film felt more like a harbinger of the information age, where the ability to accurately perceive reality frequently remains frustratingly elusive.

2. My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2007)
3. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)
4. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
5. I’m Not There. (Todd Haynes, 2007)
6. 4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
7. Margot at the Wedding (Noah Baumbach, 2007)
8. Wuyong (Useless, Jia Zhang-ke, 2007)
9. Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant, 2007)
10. Ratatouille (Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava, 2007)

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Kharálampos Goyós

A composer. He lives and works in Athens, Greece.

My list includes the feature films I enjoyed among those released in Greek theatres during 2007, in rough order of fascination:

Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
Slavoj Žižek said: “I am afraid to watch this because I hear that David Lynch is repeating himself.” So he is. And there is no one else who can do the things he does.

Batalla en el cielo (Battle in Heaven, Carlos Reygadas, 2005)
We saw it belatedly, but it was worth the wait. I think that Reygadas is the real thing.

Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino, 2007)
A poem in most senses of the word. This year marked my belated conversion to the cinema of Quentin Tarantino.

Direktøren for det hele (The Boss of it All, Lars von Trier, 2006)
Lars von Trier maturing oh-so-wonderfully. And his gimmicks are as endearing as ever.

4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
Unbelievably terse, honest and to the point. The three central performances are also stellar.

Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places, Alain Resnais, 2006)
One of the great formalists of contemporary cinema strikes back with a poignant widescreen study in soap-opera æsthetics. I hardly remember the plot but cannot take the interiors and the music of Mark Snow out of my mind.

Flandres (Flanders, Bruno Dumont, 2006)
I have yet to pin down why I enjoy the films of Bruno Dumont so much.

La Tourneuse de pages (The Page Turner, Denis Dercourt, 2006)
Wonderfully paced and observed, and one of the rare films that capture the deep-rooted rottenness of conservatory education so damn well.

Les Anges exterminateurs (The Exterminating Angels, Jean-Claude Brisseau, 2006)
Yes, I do believe that Jean-Claude Brisseau is an artist, and a brave one, and that he should be taken completely seriously.

Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007)
Who would have thought that Cronenberg would become such a master of traditional narration? The rare film in which clichés work just the way they should.

Cassandra’s Dream (Woody Allen, 2007)
Another touching ode to the effectiveness of traditional narration, by a director in full control of his not inconsiderable means. Splendid sense of pacing and form and, despite rumours to the contrary, excellent performances.

Zwartboek (Black Book, Paul Verhoeven, 2006)
The year also marked my unexpected conversion to the cinema of Paul Verhoeven. What a smart, sly, deftly ironic delight – and what a splendid actress (Carice van Houten).

Ratatouille (Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava, 2007)
Colour me flat-out delighted.

Most overpraised:
Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
A shameless, arrogant, opportunistic piece of covert Ostalgie. A pity that this is the film that the late, wonderful Ulrich Mühe will be remembered for.

Most interesting Greek picture:
I psyhi sto stoma (Soul Kicking, Yiannis Economidis, 2006)
The plot and “message” are paper-thin, but the things it does with language pretty much attain the status of poetry. I am very curious about how this plays abroad, as it’s practically untranslatable.

Rediscovery:
Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)
Thanks to the “Final Cut”, I finally understood why many consider this a “great film”. Maybe it was my fault all along.

Film I most desperately wanted to see (but never made it to Athens):
Ne Touchez pas la hache (Don’t Touch the Axe, Jacques Rivette, 2007)
So, is Rivette still in form?

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Benjamin Halligan

Author of Michael Reeves (Manchester University Press, 2004) and a forthcoming study of film and globalisation theory.

Top Ten for 2007

1. Laitakaupungin valot (Lights in the Dusk, Aki Kaurismäki, 2006)
2. Europa 2005 – 27 Octobre (Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, 2006)
3. St. Trinian’s (Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson, 2007)
4. Flandres (Flanders, Bruno Dumont, 2006)
5. Sílení (Lunacy, Jan Svankmajer, 2005)
6. A fost sau n-a fost? (12:08 East of Bucharest, Corneliu Porumboiu, 2006)
7. Iraq in Fragments (James Longley, 2007)
8. Zwartboek (Black Book, Paul Verhoeven, 2006)
9. Klimt (Raúl Ruiz, 2006)
10. Nuovomondo (The Golden Door, Emanuele Crialese, 2006)

Best revival: Los Olvidados (Luis Buñuel, 1950)

Best book: What Ever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career by Joseph McBride (University Press of Kentucky)

DVD releases: Sweet Movie (Dusan Makavejev, 1974), Berlin Alexanderplatz (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1980), Not Just the Best of the Larry Sanders Show (various, 1990s)

Best festival: International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, Budapest

Best festival retrospective: Werner Schroeter at I Mille Occhi, Festival internationale del cinema e delle arti, Trieste

And some worthy obscurities I caught in 2007: Yûkoku (Yukio Mishima, Domoto Masaki, 1966), Baby Love (Alastair Reid, 1968), Twisted Nerve (Roy Boulting, 1968), Bodil Joensen “A Summerday” July 1970 (Shinkichi Tajiri and Ile Ege, 1970).

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Lee Hill

A writer at large type who lives in London.

Best (in order of preference)

I’m Not There. (Todd Haynes, 2007)
Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
Control (Anton Corbjin, 2007)
Das Leben Der Anderen (The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass, 2007)
The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson, 2007)
Dans Paris (In Paris, Christopher Honoré, 2006)
Breach (Billy Ray, 2007)
Funny Games U.S. (Michael Haneke, 2007)
Hallam Foe (David Mackenzie, 2007)

Honourable Mention (in order of preference)

Atonement (Joe Wright, 2007)
Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007)
Die Fälscher (The Counterfeiters, Stefan Ruzowitzky, 2007)
Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (Stephen Kijak, 2006)
Les Chansons d’Amour (Love Songs, Christopher Honoré, 2007)
Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy, 2007)

Loathsome: Knocked Up (Judd Apatow, 2007) and When Did You Last See Your Father? (Anand Tucker, 2007)

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Peter Hourigan

Chief Assessor in Media for the Victorian Certificate of Education, and teaches classes in Media and Film with the CAE in Melbourne.

Any year’s viewing comes from new commercial releases, films getting limited festival or similarly curated screenings, and now from the burgeoning riches available on DVD. Often the films I enjoy most are films that I’m revisiting, but for this exercise my highlights are films that I saw for the first time in 2007.

Une Vieille maîtresse

The first group (in order of when I saw them) comes from films that did get a commercial cinema release in Melbourne. They are all films that I’d be happy to see a second time (and in most cases, I already have.)

Babel (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2006)
El Laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
This Is England (Shane Meadows, 2006)
Red Road (Andrea Arnold, 2006)
Away From Her (Sarah Polley, 2006)
Lady Chatterley (Pascale Ferran, 2006)
Across the Universe (Julie Taymor, 2007)
Une Vieille maîtresse (An Old Mistress, Catherine Breillat, 2007)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)
4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu, 2007)

Festivals and the Melbourne Cinémathèque are a source of rarer films – some of these have that extra essence that limits their commercial success, but ironically makes them greater films. A special comment should be made for The New Crowned Hope series. Melbourne International Film Festival screened the package, without highlighting their common production source. Several of the films stand out and are in the list below, but all were great.

Nue propriété (Private Property, Joachim Lafosse, 2006)
The Ister (David Barison and Daniel Ross, 2004)
Soom (Breath, Kim Ki-Duk, 2007)
Bes Vakit (Time and Winds, Reha Erdem, 2006)
Sanxia haoren (Still Life, Zhang Ke Jia, 2006)
Aleksandra (Alexandra, Aleksandr Sokurov, 2007)

And from the New Crowned Hope series:
Hei yan quan (I Don’t Want To Sleep Alone, Tsai Ming-liang, 2006)
Sang Sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)
Opera Jawa (Garin Nugroho, 2006)

And, then, there were films I met for the first time through DVDs. Some, of course, are not new. (Oyster Princess was made in 1919 – but is still a sheer delight). All these were works that I felt the richer for having seen.

Die Austernprinzessin (The Oyster Princess, Ernst Lubitsch, 1919)
Viva l’Italia! (Roberto Rossellini, 1961)
When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (Spike Lee, 2006)
Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (Wang Bing, 2003)
To Meteoro vima tou pelargou (Suspended Step of the Stork, Theodoros Angelopoulos, 1991)
Entuziazm: Simfoniya Donbassa (Enthusiasm, Dziga Vertov, 1931, reconstructed version 1972)
I Vinti (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1953)

… and a delightful compendium from the 2007 Cannes Film Festival with 33 major directors making 3 minute vignettes sharing something of their love for cinema – Chacun son cinéma ou Ce petit coup au Coeur quand la lumière s’éteint et que la film commence (conceived and produced by Gilles Jacob, 2007)

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Brian Hu

Managing editor of Asia Pacific Arts and reviews editor of Mediascape Journal. He is a PhD student in Cinema Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The class of 2007 was a fairly good bunch. At the risk of sounding precious, here are my twelve favourites, in rough order of preference.

Most talented: Se, jie (Lust, Caution, Ang Lee, 2007)

Most ambitious: Yi he yuan (Summer Palace, Lou Ye, 2006)

Most likely to be remembered: 4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu, 2007)

Most creative: Sang sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)

Most entertaining: Om Shanti Om (Farah Khan, 2007)

Smartest: Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)

Best personality: Le Voyage du ballon rouge (The Flight of the Red Balloon, Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2007)

Most spirited: Milyang (Secret Sunshine, Lee Chang-dong, 2007)

Most caring of others: The Cats of Mirikitani (Linda Hattendorf, 2006)

Prettiest eyes: Ocean’s Thirteen (Steven Soderbergh, 2007)

Most inspiring: Offside (Jafar Panahi, 2006)

Biggest flirt: La Clave Reserva (The Key to Reserva, Martin Scorsese, 2007)

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Christoph Huber

Main film critic for Die Presse.

The Secret History of 2007

The Internet List Overkill Consensus has spoken: 2007 was a great year. Indeed it was, though hardly for the names not worth singling out as they are encountered inevitably on every other entry, whether inexplicably or understandably overrated, whether from Romania (the new Iran) or the good’ ol US. Speaking of which, doesn’t it seem strange that some of the year’s truly greatest films were indeed American, but saw no or almost no distribution at home? John Gianvito’s Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind, Frederick Wiseman’s State Legislature, even Gregg Araki’s Smiley Face spring to mind readily – and the list could be longer. Then again, the team of 2007 was mostly a festival affair, be it the awesome Catalan Attack (Pere Portabella, Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, two by José Luis Guerín) or the detached Nouvelle Vague Defence (Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette), not to mention a mighty midfield of one-two-punches by (beyond Guerín) Stuart Gordon, Herman Yau or Peter Kern. In short, most of the greatest films of 2007 still await discovery, and I’m not even talking about Kern or Júlio Bressane. Where are the mentions of the video comeback of a giant, Giulio Questi (proof that all you need to make a movie is a gin and a gun – and genius) or Klaus Lemke’s incredible “amateur” film (only caught on German television), a masterpiece about football and fucking (German football, that is), only one of this year’s mind-boggling miracles (and the list could be longer)?

Just as the filmic memory seems to get ever narrower, the year’s greatest films were steeped in history and making it alive again; they were resurrections in decidedly different ways, from Gianvito’s stirring poem of resistance (to a history of violence), a call to utopia unearthed from half-remembered memorials on the one hand to the absurd intensity with which Koji Wakamatsu’s epic conjures a sense of waste and despair on the other. (Whereas, in between, Barbet Schroeder often relishes the absurd in his terror chronicle; there even seems to be a historical lesson in the fact that Stuart Gordon’s feature down to the Canada-co-production resurrects much of the tax shelter era freedom, which may account for its social ferocity – and the list could be longer.)

Even as I offer two lists, they seem way too little to account for the many splendours of the past 12 months, not even factoring in the astonishing 2006 films I only caught up with this year (from Paul Verhoeven and Alain Resnais to Bill Jones and Herman Yau, not to mention Liam Lynch’s Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny) and leaving out 2007 glories – the genre-twisting, for instance, intellectually in Miike Takashi’s Sukiyaki Western Django, metaphorically in Johnny To Kei-fung’s and Wai Ka-fai’s Sun Taam (Mad Detective), crazy-coolly in Olivier Ossayas’ Boarding Gate or simply single-minded in the solid action film that was the one actually really good Brit mainstream (co)production of the year, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s 28 Weeks Later (slight, perhaps, but finally: Haneke on steroids). And the list could be longer.

Where is Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis’ Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theatres (2007), where is Petter Hutton’s exquisite, expansive At Sea (2004-7), or Manoel De Oliveira’s subversive short from that otherwise mostly moribund omnibus for the (mystifyingly overrated) Cannes Anniversary edition – or that other 3-minute-masterpiece of 2007, the awesome trailer for Rambo (Sylvester Stallone, 2008)? And where is Takeshi Kitano’s Kantoku Banzai! (Glory to the Filmmaker, 2007), about which there is nothing to say except that it is the film of a free man. The list could be much longer (as could be the list of historical discoveries – Victor Trivas and Nicole Védrès, man and woman of the year: time to resurrect them). But, as Hartmut Bitomsky reminds us: “Es bleibt immer ein Rest.” More about that in 2008.

The Daunting Dozen

Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind (John Gianvito, 2007)
Jitsuroku Rengo Sekigun: Asama Sansô e no Michi (United Red Army, Kôji Wakamatsu, 2007)
Visitors (Giulio Questi, 2007)
Import Export (Ulrich Seidl, 2007)
Cleópatra (Júlio Bressane, 2007)
Die Stille vor Bach (The Silence Before Bach, Pere Portabella, 2007)
Stuck (Stuart Gordon, 2007)
Die toten Körper der Lebenden (The Dead Bodies of the Living, Peter Kern, 2007)
State Legislature (Frederick Wiseman, 2007)
Finale (Klaus Lemke, 2007)
Unas fotos en la ciudad de Sylvia (Photos in the City of Sylvia, José Luis Guerín, 2007)
[Rec] (Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, 2007)

The Other Daunting Dozen

Go Go Tales

L’Avocat de la terreur (Terror’s Advocate, Barbet Schroeder, 2007)
Smiley Face (Gregg Araki, 2007)
La Fille coupe en deux (A Girl Cut in Two, Claude Chabrol, 2007)
Les Amours d’Astrée et Céladon (The Romance of Astrée and Céladon, Eric Rohmer, 2007)
Ne Touchez pas le hache (Don’t Touch the Axe, Jacques Rivette, 2007)
Staub (Dust, Hartmut Bitomsky, 2007)
Kuro-obi (Black Belt, Nagasaki Shunichi, 2007)
Retour en Normandie (Back to Normandy, Nicolas Philibert, 2007)
Go Go Tales (Abel Ferrara, 2007)
Nur kein Mitleid (Peter Kern, 2007)
En la ciudad de Sylvia (In the City of Sylvia, José Luis Guerín 2007)
Masters of Horror: The Black Cat (Stuart Gordon, 2007)

Twenty-Two From the Treasure Trove

Niemandsland (Hell On Earth, Victor Trivas, 1931)
Tabi yakusha (Travelling Actors, Mikio Naruse, 1940)
Paris 1900 (Nicole Védrès, 1947) and La Vie commence demain (Life Begins Tomorrow, Nicole Védrès, 1949)
Hitlerpinochet (Jörg Hermann and Juan Forch, 1976) and Chile (Jörg Hermann and Juan Forch, 1976)
Hab’ ich nur deine Liebe (Peter Kern, 1989)
Marthe Richard au service de la France (Raymond Bernard, 1937)
Träumt für morgen (Hugo Hermann 1956) and Stahl und Menschen (Hugo Hermann, 1957)
El Desperado (Franco Rossetti, 1967)
Die Lausitz Trilogie (Hochwaldmärchen (Peter Rocha, 1987); Leben am Fließ (Peter Rocha, 1989), and Die Schmerzen der Lausitz (Peter Rocha, 1990))
La Guerre d’un seul homme (One Man’s War, Edgardo Cozarinsky, 1982)
Lang nho ben Song Tra (A Little Village on Tra River, Nghiem phy My, 1971)
Mababangong bangungot (The Perfurmed Nightmare, Kidlat Tahimik, 1977)
Svetlini i hora (Lights and People, Hristo Kovachev, 1960)
Yankee (Tinto Brass, 1966)
Donau 1942-44 (unknown, 1942-4)
L’affaire Lafarge (The Lafarge Case, Pierre Chenal, 1938) and La Foire aux chimères (Devil and Angel, Pierre Chenal, 1946)
Surogat (Substitute, Dusan Vukotic, 1961)
Gonin no shokin kasegi (The Fort of Death, Kudo Eiichi 1969)
Schatten über unserer Heimat (possibly by Frank Ward Rossak, 1953-5)
Matalo! (Cesare Canevari, 1970)
Les Dieux de feu (Henri Storck, 1961)
Die totale Familie (Ernst Schmidt jr., 1981)

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Pasquale Iannone

A PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh writing on the filmic representation of childhood experience of World War II. He also teaches Film Studies and is a producer-presenter on local radio.

These are, in no particular order, my favourite films of 2007. They were all released theatrically in the UK, apart from Riza and The Man From London, which I saw at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in August:

1. Stellet Licht (Silent Light, Carlos Reygadas, 2007)
2. Riza (Tayfun Pirselimoglu, 2007)
3. Old Joy (Kelly Reichardt, 2006)
4. Iklimler (Climates, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2006)
5. L’Amico di Famiglia (The Family Friend, Paolo Sorrentino, 2006)
6. I’m Not There. (Todd Haynes, 2007)
7. A Londoni férfi (The Man From London, Béla Tarr, 2007)
8. Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant, 2007)
9. The Darjeeling Limited (plus short Hotel Chevalier) (Wes Anderson, 2007)
10. Control (Anton Corbijn, 2007)

Bubbling under

Flandres (Flanders, Bruno Dumont, 2006)
Zodiac (David Fincher, 2006)
Transylvania (Tony Gatlif, 2007)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)
Into The Wild (Sean Penn, 2007)
Be Here To Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt (Margaret Brown, 2004)

Retrospectives

Roberto Rossellini (BFI Southbank, London)
Andrei Tarkovsky (Curzon Mayfair, London), in particular the new print of his magisterial swansong, Offret (The Sacrifice, 1986)
Mikio Naruse (Filmhouse, Edinburgh)
Marlon Brando (Filmhouse, Edinburgh)
Tsai Ming-liang (Filmhouse, Edinburgh)

New Prints

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (John Cassavetes, 1976)
Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)

Two Personal Highlights

Discovering Jan Nemec’s staggering wartime drama Démanty Noci (Diamonds of the Night, 1964)

Hosting a Q&A with Paolo Taviani on the occasion of a screening of the Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s film, La Masseria delle allodole (2007), at the Italian Film Festival UK.

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Rainer Knepperges

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

My favourite films in 2007

(screened in movie theatres in Berlin, Cologne, Munich and San Sebastian)

Engelein (Urban Gad, 1914)
Ich möchte kein Mann sein (Ernst Lubitsch, 1918)
Häxan (Benjamin Christensen, 1922)
Stella Dallas (Henry King, 1925)
The Patsy (King Vidor, 1928)
Jesse James (Henry King, 1939)
Deep Waters (Henry King, 1948)
Twelve O’Clock High (Henry King, 1949)
The Gunfighter (Henry King, 1950)
I’d Climb the Highest Mountain (Henry King, 1951)
Wait ‘till the Sun Shines, Nellie (Henry King, 1952)
The Lusty Men (Nicholas Ray, 1952)
The Bad and the Beautiful (Vincente Minnelli, 1952)
L’oro di Napoli (The Gold of Naples, Vittorio de Sica, 1954)
The Sun Also Rises (Henry King, 1957)
Beloved Infidel (Henry King, 1959)
Odds against tomorrow (Robert Wise, 1959)
L’amour existe (Maurice Pialat, 1960)
Brandstifter (Klaus Lemke, 1969)
Quand j’etais chanteur (Xavier Giannoli, 2006)
Thomas Harlan – Wandersplitter (Christoph Hübner, 2006)
Blades of Glory (Will Speck and Josh Gordon, 2007)
Knocked Up (Judd Apatow, 2007)
Superbad (Greg Mottola, 2007)

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Jay Kuehner

A freelance writer in Seattle. He has contributed to Cinema Scope, Senses of Cinema and Green Cine Daily.

En la ciudad de Sylvia (In the City of Sylvia, José Luis Guerín, 2007)
4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu)
Milyang (Secret Sunshine, Lee Chang-dong, 2007)
La Question humaine (Heartbeat Detector, Nicolas Klotz)
I’m Not There. (Todd Haynes, 2007)
La France (Serge Bozon)
Casting a Glance (James Benning)
There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
Wuyong (Useless, Jia Zhang-ke, 2007)
Cinéma d’été (Outdoor Cinema, Raymond Depardon, 2007)

In the City of Sylvia

A year in which ‘the electric princess’ proved all too generous, even if a taxicab delivered me to the wrong theatre in Paris for a screening of Le Ballon rouge (The Red Balloon, Albert Lamorisse, 1956) and not Hou Hsiao-hsien’s flight of fancy (Le Voyage du ballon rouge), thus precluding it from my list. Likewise, Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park (2007), which I await to see in better-than-bootleg circumstances (and, in a curious reversal, since when has Van Sant been more anticipated than Béla Tarr?). Still, it was the same cinema that yielded up Serge Bozon’s unclassifiable war-musical La France – what a beguiling beauty, as if Eugene Green had stumbled into Sam Fuller territory (or so I thought at the time). Come to think of it, not a bad time for a movie about soldiers deserting, either. Beguiling horror, of the corporate variety and beyond, however, belonged to Nicolas Klotz’ La Question humaine, drawn from François Emmanuel’s book and featuring a turn from Mathieu Amalric that involves an altogether different grotesquerie than a drowned butterfly (apologies to Julian Schnabel). In 2007, was there a better performance than Anamaria Marinca’s in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu)? (Tracking down the director on a street corner at a film festival in a small mountain town in Colorado, I pressed the director on how he feels women are receiving his ‘abortion movie’: “I can say that more than one has thanked me, but I can’t speak for the rest.”) Possibly Jeon Do-Yeon’s not-since-Cassavetes enigma in Secret Sunshine (Lee Chang-Dong), or Daniel Day Lewis’ frothing profiteer in There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson), both included herein – now if only the latter had taken its rendition of faith as honourably as the former. Jia Zhang-ke now glides sumptuously among his country’s host of sewing tables, though not seamlessly; the split between low labour and high fashion is less easily sutured. Was Todd Haynes reading any number of Fernando Pessoa’s heteronyms (Keeper of Sheep, with due respect to Charles Burnett) when conceiving his Dylan spree? Loved the colour of cinematographer Ed Lachman’s grass, and couldn’t resist thinking that Christian Bale would make a good Tim Buckley, too (if only someone would get started on that biopic; Anton Corbijn did wonders with Manchester but …). Of Buckley, I’m reminded of a recording from a concert in London, long ago, during which he takes his sweet time tuning his guitar, then somewhat apologetically says to the audience: “When you think how long it takes a tree to grow …” James Benning waited thirty years to make Casting a Glance, his concentrated look at Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, as his subject was submerged for all too natural reasons (honourable mention to John Gianvito for similarly taking the long view in his genuinely patriotic Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind, 2007). Was it coincidence that I discovered José Luis Guerín’s En la ciudad de Sylvia concurrently with Gary Winograd’s “Women Are Beautiful” (1975) series? Ripe with cinematic allusion and rigorous formal execution, Guerín’s simply astonishing film could just as easily take as its script the slightest kernel of memory: here the mere name of a bar scrawled on a coaster where once, perhaps, a young man met a woman. Just when it appears that Spanish cinema has found a voice as eloquent as Victor Erice’s, Guerín disavows any claims to a ‘nationalist’ cinema. Which makes the inclusion of Raymond Depardon’s perfect 3-minute ode (part of the Cannes commissioned Chacun son cinéma ou Ce petit coup au Coeur quand la lumière s’éteint et que la film commence anthology) to an open-air cinema in Alexandria, Egypt – apparently not slated to close anytime soon – that much more appropriate.

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Marc Lauria

A screenwriter and an FC (Freelance Cinéphile).

1. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, US, 2007)
The best of its kind since Sam Peckinpah’s Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) – which is, to say, a great modern Western.

2. I’m Not There. (Todd Haynes, US, 2007)
Six characters in search of Bob Dylan – the cinematic equivalent of The Basement Tapes.

3. Inland Empire (David Lynch, US, 2007)
A surrealists’ paradise; like I’m Not There., this moves backwards, forwards, in and out of time.

4. Taxidermia (György Pálfi, Hungary, 2006)
Couldn’t put it better than the tagine: “Three stories. Three generations. Three men. One bizarre and shocking universe”.

5. Brand Upon the Brain! (Guy Maddin, Canada, 2007)
More silent imagery, gender confusion, œdipal conflict and vampirism, courtesy of the Wild Man from Winnipeg. Sample intertitle: “What’s a suicide attempt without a wedding?”

6. Offside (Jafar Panahi, Iran, 2006)
Soccer-as-metaphor for the battle of the sexes.

7. 4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu, Romania, 2007)
Abortion’s the issue, Ceausescu’s the subtext, attempting to escape the prison house of self is the bottom line.

8. Gabrielle (Patrice Chéreau, France, 2005)
Marriage is hell: this couple’s house resembles a mausoleum.

9. Hei yan quan (I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan 2006)
Even in his native Malaysia, Tsai’s alter ego – Hsiao-kang (Lee Kang-sheng) – sleepwalks through society’s chaos.

10. Zodiac (David Fincher, US, 2007)
Police procedural as cinema: Quinn Martin lives!

Runners-up, alphabetically

Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino, US, 2007)
Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, US, 2007)
Sanxia haoren (Still Life, Jia Zhang-ke, China, 2006)
Sang Sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand, 2006)
A fost sau n-a fost? (12:08 East of Bucharest, Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania 2006).

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Maximilian Le Cain

A filmmaker and cinéphile living in Cork City, Ireland.

Films of the year

Faux depart (Jean-Claude Rousseau, 2006)
Ne Touchez pas la hache (Don’t Touch the Axe, Jacques Rivette, 2007)

The Man from London

Other outstanding new films that I saw (no particular order)

Mary (Abel Ferrara, 2005)
Medee Miracle (Tonino De Bernardi, 2007)
Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
The Sky Song (James Fotopoulos, 2007)
A Londoni férfi (The Man from London, Béla Tarr, 2007)
Nightshots (Stephen Dwoskin, 2007)
Iklimler (Climates, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2006)
July Trip (Waël Noureddine, 2007)
Boarding Gate (Olivier Assayas, 2007) and, better still, Assayas’ episode of the otherwise awful Paris, je t’aime (2006)
Silêncio (F. J. Ossang, 2007)
A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006)
Zwartboek (Black Book, Paul Verhoeven, 2006)
El Laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro, 2006)

Best Irish film
Late Arrival (Barry Ronan, 2006)

Most intriguing debut
Love Runs Faster Than Blood (Hideki Kitagawa, 2007)

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Martina Lunzer

Mainly Vienna-based artist and writer. In Febuary 2007, she arrived in Australia and stayed for one year without leaving the island.

Due to this year in Australia, my filmic encounters were embedded in a stumbling (oh, I should say archaic!) tour de force, intersecting retrospectives and festivals, from rain-sodden New South Wales to the dustlands of Victoria. I had the chance to see some works that I overlooked, or missed, in 2006. And while just making up for that, the earth turned one year further. Needless to say, that the border of 2006/2007 is erratic.

Here is my AUSTRALIAN-WORLD Poll 2007.

Retrospective

Thirdworld (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 1998)
Normalitaet 1-10 (Hito Steyerl, 1999-2003)
Herzschlag des Anubis (Bettina Gruber and Maria Vedder, 1988)
Workshow: Corinne Cantrill, Arthur Cantrill
La Hora de los hornos: Nostas y testimonios sobre el neocolonialismo, la violencia y la liberación (The Hour of the Fournaces, Octavio Getino and Fernando Solanos, 1968)
Anatomie d’un rapport (Anatomy of a Relationship, Luc Moullet, 1976)
Wholly Communion (Peter Whitehead, 1965)
Like the Relentless Fury of the Pounding Waves (Apichtapong Weerasethakul, 1996)
Leben – BRD (Harun Farocki, 1990)
Narayama bushiko (Keisuke Kinoshita, 1958)
Ningen Johatsu (A Man Vanishes, Shohei Imamura, 1967)
Go Go Tales (Abel Ferrara, 2007)
Kasba (Kumar Shahani, 1991)

Video Installation

The Third Memory (Pierre Huyghe, 1999) – at ACMI
Bohemian Rhapsody Project (Ho Tzu Nyen, 2006)

At International Festivals in 2007

Fiction
Daratt (Dry Season, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, 2006)
Yella (Christian Petzold, 2007)
A fost sau n-a fost? (12:08 East of Bucharest, Corneliu Porumboiu, 2006)
Ne Touchez pas la hache (Don’t Touch the Axe, Jaques Rivette, 2007)
Juventude em Marcha (Colossal Youth, Pedro Costa, 2006)
Control (Anton Corbijn, 2007)
Gwoemul (The Host, Bong Joon-ho, 2006)
Indigènes (Rachid Bouchareb, 2006)
Soom (Breath, Kim Ki-duk, 2007)
Sanxia haoren (Still Life, Jia Zhang-Ke, 2006)

Experimental
. ….. .:.:…:::ccccoCCoooo:: (Ben Pointeker, 2007)
Popkitsch (Paul Winkler, 2006)

Documentary (best of orthodox docu style)
Blindsight (Lucy Walker, 2006)

Saddest Tautolgy
Rescue Dawn (Werner Herzog, 2006)

Overpraised
Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)

Shown at ACMI, Adelaide Film Festival, 5th Asia Pacific Triennal of Contemporary Art, Germany Faces Australia, Melbourne Cinémathèque, Melbourne International Film Festival, Sydney Underground Film Festival.

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Josh Mabe

A professional archivist-librarian who makes some films and programs some screenings as unprofessionally as possible.

New Films

1.
Kittens Grow Up (Luther Price, 16mm, 2007)
18 Videos #1 (Kyle Canterbury, 2006-7)

3.
SpaceDisco One (Damon Packard, video, 2007)
Belle toujours (Manoel de Oliveira, 35mm, 2006)

5.
And We All Shine On (Michael Robinson, 16mm, 2007)
Black and White Trypps Number Three (Ben Russell, 16mm or 35mm, 2007)

7.
Ready to Cope (Aleesa Cohene, video, 2007)
Set and Setting (Neil Henderson, 16mm, 2007)

9.
Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 35mm, 2007)

10.
Alla Te Alcanzo (I’ll See You There, Luis Sanchez Ramirez, video, 2007)

Comedy

I have to make two separate lists, since I’ve yet to figure out how to mix my appreciation for Stan Brakhage and Stan Schmenge.

1.
30 Rock (Tina Fey, NBC, 2007 season)
Superbad (Greg Mottola, 35mm, 2007)

3.
Maria Bamford Show (Maria Bamford, Super Deluxe, 2007)
[“(Layers)”] (Nick Kroll and Sklar Bros, Super Deluxe, 2007)

5.
Reno 911: Miami (Robert Ben Garant, 35mm, 2007)
I’m Keith Hernandez (Rob Perri, video, 2007)
The Ten (David Wain, 35mm, 2007)
Knocked Up (Judd Apatow, 35mm, 2007)
Balls of Fury (Robert Ben Garant, 35mm, 2007)

10.
“Cats”, episode 3 of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! (Tim and Eric, Cartoon Network, 2007)

Old Films seen For the First Time

Arabic 2 (Stan Brakhage, 16mm, 1980)
Scotch Hop (Christopher Maclaine, 16mm, 1953)
You’re Never Too Young (Norman Taurog, 35mm, 1955)
Babylon #3 (Stan Brakhage, 16mm, 1990)
Wildflowers In the Battlefield (Lee Man-hui, 35mm, 1974)
Terror in a Texas Town (Joseph H. Lewis, 35mm, 1958)
The Lion and the Zebra Make God’s Raw Jewels (Stan Brakhage, 16mm, 1999)
Sexual Meditation: Open Field (Stan Brakhage, 16mm, 1972)
Untitled (for David Gatten) (Phil Solomon and Mark LaPore, video, 2005)
Miss Jesus Fries on Grill (Dorothy Wiley, 16mm, 1973)

A Few More Important Moments

Revisiting almost all of Marie Menken’s work, and finally realizing how colossally great Notebook (16mm, 1963) is.

The last reel of Espelho Mágico (Magic Mirror, Manoel de Oliveira, 35mm, 2005)

Continuing my inability to appreciate new Ken Jacobs (my problem, not his) – I love everything else he’s done but these stereoscopic digital works.

Moving to Chicago where I can easily get 20-30 people to show up when I rent some Brakhage prints to share.

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Harriet Margolis

Senior Lecturer, Film Programme, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

Best Films of 2007 (sort of, from the Perspective of Aotearoa New Zealand)

In Aotearoa, New Zealand, 2007 has been a bad year for the talent pool. Significant deaths include that of Witarina Harris, Edith Campion, Brad McGann and Don Selwyn. Harris starred in Under the Southern Cross (Gustave Pauli), a Hollywood film made here in 1927, and was long-time kuia for the New Zealand Film Archive. Yes, Jane is Edith’s daughter, but Edith was herself a major player – “this country’s first great actress”, according to the Listener (29 Dec 2007, p. 27). McGann directed the critically acclaimed In My Father’s Den (2004) but was dying of cancer even as positive reviews were still coming in. Don Selwyn was an actor, director and producer; he also mentored generations of Maori and Pacific talent through whose work his legacy lives.

My viewing of current films has grown haphazard since I put a widescreen television on the wall and bought a sofa in 2006; between Sky and Rialto, I generally get to see many of the films of interest to me within a couple of years of their release. I’m therefore in no position, even if I wanted to, to argue on the basis of any criteria that the list that follows represents “the best” of the year.

That said, 2007 has brought many films of interest. The following list is idiosyncratic, reflecting what I was exposed to during a year in which I travelled widely.

Away from Her (Sarah Polley, Canada, 2007)
Featuring Julie Christie and Olympia Dukakis as well as Canada’s senior male actor, Gordon Pinsent, Away from Her is a maturely understated look at relations among couples affected by senile dementia. It manages simultaneously to investigate their past lives, to consider their possible futures and to weigh the ethics of their choices without being moralistic about it. It’s a conte morale in Rohmer’s style, and it deserves the wide attention it got across Canada and in NYC upon its release. Yes, please, more from Sarah Polley.

La Vida secreta de las palabras (The Secret Life of Words, Isabel Coixet, Spain, 2005)
More from Sarah Polley, this time as superb actress, matched in acting skills by Tim Robbins, who plays an intelligent, sensitive roughneck incapacitated by serious burns and moral guilt. Through a brief role played by Julie Christie, we learn that Polley’s character is equally burdened, leading to a wonderfully satisfying resolution.

Stephanie Daley (Hilary Brougher, USA, 2006)
Once again Tilda Swinton takes on a role of subtle intensity to do with the moral pros and cons of life or death issues. But Stephanie Daley also has one of the funniest lines of the year, “Have you talked with the cat?”, as response to a character’s describing finding evidence in the kitty litter of her husband’s adultery.

Noise

Efter brylluppet (After the Wedding, Susanne Bier, Denmark-Sweden 2006)
As Ken Turan wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “It’s that paradoxical melodrama that point-blank refuses to acknowledge that it’s being melodramatic”, an effect achieved through a performance by Mads Mikkelsen that contrasts nicely with his Le Chiffre from Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006) – a performance that helped the latter film be one of the better-than-expected films of the year.

Noise (Matthew Saville, Australia, 2006)
A sensitive dope-smoking cop suffers from tinnitus, although his supervisor doesn’t believe him. This combination of unexpected qualities, along with wry humour and well-written dialogue, characterizes what might otherwise be a dull mystery.

Romulus, My Father (Richard Roxburgh, Australia, 2007)
With John Maynard as producer and Eric Bana as lead actor, naturally a film with integrity. A good melodrama is hard to find, but worth the effort. This one has added poignancy because it’s based on Raimond Gaita’s book about his father.

Documentaries/other films based on real life

Quinceañera, (Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, USA, 2005)
In case you hadn’t noticed, until the two preceding Australian films, the others I’ve listed have been directed by women. This film should have been directed by a woman. I might not have known that had not Glatzer and Westmoreland accompanied the screening of their film at the Wellington International Film Festival this year. The story of a Latina going through a rite of passage in LA’s Echo Park community, Quinceañera is heart-warming and charming, but, as the two directors described how they came to make the film, it sounded more like an instance of exploitation on the part of two gay guys who came into the community and took what was useful to them. They’ve included two alter ego characters who, intentionally or not, represent what’s wrong with this picture.

Swimming in Auschwitz (Jon Kean, USA, 2007)
As Jon Kean told an audience at New York City’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, most documentaries about the Holocaust have neglected the specificity of women’s experiences, and so he wanted to give six LA-based survivors a voice. My response was (as with Quinceañera), “So why not help a woman (or Latino/a) director make this movie?” For a very different response, yet one that I agree with, see Tom Teicholz’s opinion.

Freedom Writers (Richard LaGravenese, USA, 2007)
Renee Firestone, one of the survivors featured in Swimming in Auschwitz (Jon Kean, 2007), also appears, as herself, in this film about a young schoolteacher from an upper-class background who succeeds in a lower-class high school by bucking management. The story is uplifting and Hilary Swank is convincing, but, as the film presents it, teachers with experience have nothing important to say to newcomers. I probably wouldn’t remember it except for the coincidence of seeing Renee Firestone in two different films in the space of two months, with Firestone herself in attendance at one screening.

Jesus Camp (Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, USA, 2006)
Scariest film of the year.

Run Granny Run (Marlo Poras, USA, 2007)
This year’s uplifting documentary about the continued existence of grassroots democracy in the US goes some way toward counterbalancing the impression of US political opinion represented by Jesus Camp.

“Documentary” most wished by some to have been based on real life

Death of a President (Gabriel Range, UK, 2006)
Notorious for posing as a documentary about the assassination of George W. Bush, but ultimately outlasts its premise.

Because there has to be an Asian section

Fong juk (Exiled, Johnnie To, Hong Kong, 2006)
The world of ironic humour and casual violence that Johnnie To depicts in his Hak se wui (Election, 2005) and Hak se wui yi wo wai kwai (Election 2, 2006) appears again in this later film. Fortunately, the Hong Kong and Macau that tourists see avoids looking like the gangsters’ playground that To puts on screen, which still doesn’t explain why the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office would be sponsoring festival screenings of this film. But the consistent quality of To’s recent films makes him an auteur to watch.

Paprika (Kon Satoshi, Japan, 2006)
Okay, I’m not a regular fan of anime, but this is a good one. Often visually beautiful as well as self-consciously aware of international film history, Paprika is one of those narratives about whether characters know when they’re dreaming. In the inevitable battle between science and ethics (this is an anime, after all), a gadget that allows others to enter a person’s dreams has been stolen and is being misused. Again, this being an anime, a shape-shifting young woman saves the day. But this film is unquestionably for adults, and for film buffs it’s full of wonderful moments.

Most significant New Zealand film of the year

Eagle vs Shark (Taika Waititi, Aotearoa New Zealand, 2007)
Taika Waititi is part of a group of Wellington-based talents that includes Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie of The Flight of the Conchords (various, 2007). Their various recent successes will help others in their informal collective, including the wonderful Loren Horsley, who provided the original story and the too-good-to-be-true lead performance (overseas, the response has sometimes been that she can’t be acting). This is also this first feature produced by Ainsley Gardiner and Cliff Curtis’s Whenua Films, from which we can expect much more of interest.

Most interesting film because of technology and despite everything else

Beowulf 3D (Robert Zemeckis, USA, 2007)
“Filmed entirely in motion-capture”, as the advertising screams, this is one of the weirdest looking films ever. If we didn’t know that some of these actors are capable of better, one might think the ads were making a virtue of necessity. As for the obvious: 3D is always fun, but there’s nothing exceptional in what Zemeckis has done with it.

Most disappointing “sequel”

Rescue Dawn (Werner Herzog, USA, 2006)
In 1998 Werner Herzog’s Little Dieter Needs to Fly told the true story of Dieter Dengler, a survivor of not one but two plane crashes. One was as pilot of an American warplane shot down over Laos. Rescue Dawn is the less interesting dramatization of this episode in Dengler’s life, featuring another “thin” performance by Christian Bale.

Most ultimately annoying film

Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Germany, 2006)
After glancing at someone else’s summation of 2007’s films, I’m reminded of two other titles. Mira Nair’s The Namesake (2006) is a perfectly lovely but unexceptional film. The Lives of Others is really very good – except that the plot requires the death of the leading female character for its resolution. From such an otherwise subtle script, this reliance on such a fundamental – and fundamentally unacceptable – cliché sticks in the craw. Haven’t these filmmakers seen Sally Potter’s Thriller (1979)!!

The two most disappointing films of the year (despite American Cinematographer write-ups that promised work of interest)

El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro, Spain, 2006)
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Tom Tykwer, Germany-France-Spain, 2006)

Finally, the quirkiest film of the year – and it isn’t from the Antipodes!

Den brysomme mannen (The Bothersome Man, Jens Lien, Norway-Iceland, 2006)
Hard to imagine this as the radio play it was based on, given the visual humour of Lien’s film. Perhaps much of it is derivative, but it’s a satisfying evocation of wishful thinking on the part of those who feel sardonic about conformity.

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Miguel Marías

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

A) Best first seen in 2007, made after 2001

Syndromes and a Century

Sanxia haoren (Still Life, Jia Zhang-ke, 2006), Lady Chatterley et l’homme des bois (television version, Pascale Ferran, 2006), Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (Aparna Sen, 2002), Sang sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006), Lost Dreams (Stephen Dwoskin, 2003), Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places, Alain Resnais, 2006), La Vie nouvelle (Philippe Grandrieux, 2002), Lady Chatterley (Pascale Ferran, 2006), Fu zi (After This Our Exile, Patrick Tam, 2006), Dear Frances (in memoriam) (Stephen Dwoskin, 2003), Intoxicated by My Illness (Stephen Dwoskin, 2001), Ne Touchez pas la hache (Don’t Touch the Axe, Jacques Rivette, 2006), Tarrafal in O Estado do Mundo (The State of the World, Pedro Costa, 2007), Luminous People in O Estado do Mundo (The State of the World, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2007), Autohystoria (Raya Martin, 2007), Maicling pelicula nañg y sañg indio nacional (o Ang Mahabang Kalungkutan ng Katagalugan) (A Short Film About the Indio Nacional or The Prolonged Sorrow of the Filipinos, Raya Martin, 2005), La Question humaine (Nicolas Klotz, 2006/7), Tout est pardonné (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2007), Sing gung hok jeh sup yaht taam (Whispers and Moans, Herman Yau Lai To, 2007), Les Amours d’Astrée et de Céladon (Éric Rohmer, 2007), Il Regista di matrimoni (Marco Bellocchio, 2006), Mogari no mori (Mourning Forest, Naomi Kawase, 2007), Hei yan quan (I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, Tsai Ming-liang, 2006), Zoo (Robinson Devor, 2007), Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant, 2007), The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom: “Fuck You Buddy” (part one), “The Lonely Robot” (part two), “We Will Force You to Be Free” (part three) (Adam Curtis, 2007), Brutality Factory in O Estado do Mundo (The State of the World, Wang Bing, 2007), Flags of Our Fathers (Clint Eastwood, 2006), Luz de domingo (José Luis Garci, 2007), En la ciudad de Sylvia (In the City of Sylvia, José Luis Guerín, 2007), Yamiutsu shinzo (Heart, Beating in the Dark, Shinichi Nagasaki, 2005), Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood, 2006), Thomas Harlan-Wandersplitter (Christoph Hübner, 2006), Mujeres en el parque (Felipe Vega, 2006)

B) Best first seen in 2007, made before 2002

State Fair (Henry King, 1933), The Woman Disputed (Henry King, 1928), The Winning of Barbara Worth (Henry King, 1926), Moments choisis des histoire(s) du cinéma (Selected Moments from “Histoire(s) du Cinéma”, Jean-Luc Godard, 2004), Trying to Kiss the Moon (Stephen Dwoskin, 1994), Behindert (Hindered, Stephen Dwoskin, 1973-4), Stella Dallas (Henry King, 1926), Ningen no joken II (The Condition of Man II, Masaki Kobayashi, 1959), Ching Se (Green Snake, Tsui Hark, 1993), Xiang Gang zhi zao (Heung Gong jai jo, aka Made in Hong Kong, Fruit Chan, 1997), Over the Hill (Henry King, 1931), Remember the Day (Henry King, 1941), Insiang (Lino Brocka, 1976), Ningen no joken I (The Condition of Man I, Masaki Kobayashi, 1959), Sha shoo hu die meng (My Heart is that Eternal Rose, Patrick Tam, 1988), Adieu au TNS (Jean-Luc Godard, 1996), Tokyo yakuoku (Tokyo Lullaby, Jun Ichikawa, 1966), Trys dienos (Three Days, Šarunas Bartas, 1991), Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren, 1943), Tinimbang Ka ngunit Kulang (You Were Judged and Found Wanting, aka Weighed But Found Wanting, Lino Brocka, 1974), Way Down East (Henry King, 1935), Finis Terræ (Jean Epstein, 1928), Gong gong chang suo (In Public, Jia Zhang-ke, 2001), Une Aventure de Billy le Kid (A Girl is a Gun, Luc Moullet, 1970), Pain is … (Stephen Dwoskin, 1997), Diary 1/2/3/4/5/6 (David Perlov, 1973-83), Face Anthea (Stephen Dwoskin, 1990), Docteur Chance (François-Joseph Ossang, 1997), Hell to Eternity (Phil Karlson, 1960), Le Stade de Wimbledon (Mathieu Amalric, 2001), Peaux de vaches (Patricia Mazuy, 1988), Ningen no joken III (Masaki Kobayashi, 1961)

C) Second-best list of films first seen in 2007, made after 2001

En jouant ‘Dans la compagnie des hommes’ (Arnaud Desplechin, 2003), I’m Not There. (Todd Haynes, 2007), Uno de los dos no puede estar equivocado (Pablo Llorca, 2007), Jour après jour (Day After Day, Jean-Paul Fargier, 2006), Zwartboek (Black Book, Paul Verhoeven, 2006), Free Zone (Amos Gitaï, 2005), No pongso do tedted no mondo (Ang isla sa dulo ng mundo, aka The Island at the End of the World, Raya Martin, 2004), Vincent mît l’âne dans un pré et s’en vint à l’autre (Pierre Zucca, 1975), Cristóvão Colombo – O Enigma (Manoel de Oliveira, 2007), Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007), Vitus (Fredi M. Murer, 2006), La Peur, petit chasseur (Laurent Achard, 2004), Les Anges exterminateurs (The Exterminating Angels, Jean-Claude Brisseau, 2006), a brûle (Claire Simon, 2006)), Dad (Stephen Dwoskin, 2003), Broken Trail (Walter Hill, 2005), Homecoming (Joe Dante, 2005), Très bien, merci (Emmanuelle Cuau, 2007), Blokada (Blockade, Sergeí Loznitsa, 2005), Qui était Kafka? (Wer war Kafka?, aka Who Was Kafka?, Richard Dindo, 2006), Jardins en automne (Otar Iosseliani, 2006), Boarding Gate (Olivier Assayas, 2007), Klimt (Raúl Ruiz, 2005), 10e Chambre-Instants d’audiences (Raymond Depardon, 2004), The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2005), Le Dernier des fous (Laurent Achard, 2006), All the Ships at Sea (Dan Sallitt, 2003), Tai yang yue (Rain Dogs, Ho Yuhang, 2006), Hak bak do (On the Edge, Herman Yau Lai To, 2006), Bushi no ichibun (Love and Honor, Yoji Yamada, 2006), Le Papier ne peut pas envelopper la braise (Rithy Panh, 2006), Into The Wild (Sean Penn, 2007), L’intouchable (The Untouchable, Benoît Jacquot, 2006), Tony Takitani (Jun Ichikawa, 2004), A Londoni férfi (The Man from London, Béla Tarr, 2007), Tombée de nuit sur Shanghai (3 avril 2007) in O Estado do Mundo (The State of the World, Chantal Akerman, 2007), Germano in O Estado do Mundo (The State of the World, Vicente Ferraz, 2007), The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear: “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (part one), “The Phantom Victory” (part two), “The Shadows in the Cave” (part three) (Adam Curtis, 2004), Rofuto (Loft, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2005), Bug (William Friedkin, 2006), Mataharis (Iciar Bollain, 2007), Charly (Isild Le Besco, 2007), Gau nga gau (Dog Bite Dog, Cheang Pou Soi, 2006), Elle s’appelle Sabine (Sandrine Bonnaire, 2007), Le Ravissement de Natacha (Marcel Hanoun, 2007), Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006), Die Stille vor Bach (El silencio antes de Bach, aka The Silence Before Bach, Pere Portabella, 2007)

D) Second-best list of films first seen in 2007, made before 2002

At Land (Maya Deren, 1944), Take Me (Stephen Dwoskin, 1969), Deux fois (Jackie Raynal, 1969), Deep Waters (Henry King, 1948), Nikutai no mon (Gate of Flesh, Seijun Suzuki, 1964), Shunpu den (Story of a Prostitute, Seijun Suzuki, 1965), Irozumi ichidai (Tattooed Life, Seijun Suzuki, 1965), Louise (Abel Gance, 1938), Tsugumi (Jun Ichikawa, 1990), Do ma daan (Peking Opera Blues, Tsui Hark, 1986), Nihon no ichiban nagai hi (The Emperor and the General, Okamoto Kihachi, 1967), Kuro no tesuto kea (Black Test Car, Yasuzo Masumura, 1962), In the Year of the Pig (Emile de Antonio, 1968), Kanto mushuku (Kanto Wanderer, Seijun Suzuki, 1963), Wie will ich lustig lichen: Danièle Huillet und Jean-Marie Straub und ihr Flim “Klassenverhältnisse” (Manfred Blank, 1984), Les Voitures d’eau (Pierre Perrault, 1968), Le Règne du jour (Pierre Perrault, 1967), Paria (Nicolas Klotz, 2000-1), En un jardín imaginado (José Antonio Sistiaga, 1991), Honeymoon (Dan Sallitt, 1998), Pandora’s Box – A Fable from the Age of Science: “The Engineer’s Plot” (part one), “To the Brink of Eternity” (part two), “The League of Gentlemen” (part three), “Goodbye Mrs. Ant” (part four), “Black Power” (part five), “A is for Atom” (part six) (Adam Curtis, 1992), Paisaje inquietante – Nocturno (José Antonio Sistiaga, 1991), Rouge-Gorge (Pierre Zucca, 1984), Arbeiten zu “Klassenverhältnisse” von Danièle Huillet und Jean-Marie Straub (Haroun Farocki, 1984), A Blueprint For Murder (Andrew L. Stone, 1953), Man in the Attic (Hugo Fregonese, 1953), … ere erera baleibu izik subua aruaren … (De la Luna a Euskadi, 2nd version, José Antonio Sistiaga, 1968-70), Without Honor (Irving Pichel, 1949), Hakachu no torima (Nagisa Oshima, 1966), Alouette, je te plumerai (Pierre Zucca, 1988), Le Secret de Monsieur L (Pierre Zucca, 1983-5), Le Souvenir de l’avenir (Chris Marker and Yannick Bellon, 2001), Elvis: That’s The Way It Is (R. Denis Sanders, 1970-2001), A Sporting Chance (Henry King, 1919), Father and Daughter (Michael Dudok de Wit, 2000)

E) Rediscoveries, revalorizations and confirmations of films seen again after years

The Fountainhead (King Vidor, 1948), I’d Climb the Highest Mountain (Henry King, 1951), The Shadow Box (Paul Newman, 1980), Husbands (John Cassavetes, 1970), Nagareru (Flowing, Mikio Naruse, 1956), Naniwa ereji (Osaka Elegy, Kenji Mizoguchi, 1936), The Unchanging Sea (David W. Griffith, 1910), The New Centurions (Richard Fleischer, 1972), Rally ’Round The Flag, Boys! (Leo McCarey, 1958), Along The Great Divide (Raoul Walsh, 1951), Man Without A Star (King Vidor, 1955), Von heute auf morgen (Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, 1996), Downstairs (Monta Bell, 1932), Alexander’s Ragtime Band (Henry King, 1938), The Revolt of Mamie Stover (Raoul Walsh, 1956), I Shot Jesse James (Samuel Fuller, 1949), Unas fotos en la ciudad de Sylvia (José Luis Guerín, 2003-7), Bronenosets Potyomkin (Battleship Potemkin, Sergeí M. Eisenstein, 1925), Wilson (Henry King, 1944), Not Wanted (Ida Lupino; begun by and credited to Elmer Clifton, 1949), Wait Till The Sun Shines, Nellie (Henry King, 1952), When Willie Comes Marching Home (John Ford, 1950), Stanley and Livingstone (Henry King, 1939), Gion no shimai (Sisters of Gion, Kenji Mizoguchi, 1936), Puissance de la parole (Jean-Luc Godard, 1988), Taiyo no hakaba (The Burial of the Sun, Nagisa Oshima, 1960), Seventh Heaven (Henry King, 1937), Ramona (Henry King, 1936), Ernest Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” (Henry King, 1952), The Bigamist (Ida Lupino, 1953), Ball of Fire (Howard Hawks, 1941), King of the Khyber Rifles (Henry King, 1953), Klassenverhältnisse (Relations of Class, Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, 1983), Blowup (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966), Koshikei (The Hanging, Nagisa Oshima, 1968), Aerograd (Alieksandr Dovzhenko, 1935), Upstage (Monta Bell, 1926), Alter Midnight (Monta Bell, 1927), Duelle (une quarantaine) (Jacques Rivette, 1976), The Tamarind Seed (Blake Edwards, 1974), Mikey and Nicky (Elaine May, 1973-6; 1986), Bangiku (Late Chrysantemums, Mikio Naruse, 1954), La Petite Marchande d’allumettes (Jean Renoir, 1928), Desire (Frank Borzage [and Ernst Lubitsch], 1936), Il Tempo si è fermato (Ermanno Olmi, 1959), Shonen (Boy, Nagisa Oshima, 1969), Espelho Mágico (Magic Mirror, Manoel de Oliveira, 2005), Les Visiteurs du Soir (Marcel Carné, 1942), The Locket (John Brahm, 1946), After Dark, My Sweet (James Foley, 1990)

F) Second-best list of films seen again and rediscovered or confirmed

Tender is the Night (Henry King, 1961), Chad Hanna (The Story of ‘Red Wheels Rolling’, Henry King, 1940), The Hand in Eros (Wong Kar-wai, 2004), Le Tempestaire (Jean Epstein, 1947), Lady of the Night (Monta Bell, 1925), Pretty Ladies (Monta Bell, 1925), Lights of Old Broadway/Little Old New York) (Monta Bell, 1925), Shen nu (The Goddess, Wu Yonggang, 1934), Harry & Son (Paul Newman, 1984), In Old Chicago (Henry King; cl. Bruce Humberstone, 1938), Hell and High Water (Samuel Fuller, 1954), Les Modèles de “Pickpocket” (Babette Mangolte, 2003), Sotto il sole di Roma (Renato Castellani, 1948), The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980), The Big Steal (Don Siegel, 1949), Woman Of The Year (George Stevens, 1942), The Undercover Man (Joseph H. Lewis, 1949), Man, Woman and Sin (Monta Bell, 1927), Waltzes from Vienna (Alfred Hitchcock, 1934), Impresiones en la alta atmósfera (José Antonio Sistiaga, 1988-9), The Damned Don’t Cry (Vincent Sherman, 1950), El crimen de la pirindola (Adolfo G. Arrieta, 1964), The Dangerous Thread of Things in Eros (Michelangelo Antonioni, 2004), Mon oncle d’Amérique (Alain Resnais, 1980), Merlín (Adolfo G. Arrieta, 1990)

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Paul Martin

A committee member of Melbourne Cinémathèque, maintains a film blog, Melbourne Film Blog, and works in IT.

My favourite genres are social realism and surrealism, but enjoy films across all genres. I particularly like serious French films (but abhor most of the middle-of-the-road comedies and family dramas). The offering of new releases seemed a bit thin in 2007, though there were plenty of excellent festival and retrospective screenings. My favourite rediscovery of the year was Krzysztof Kieslowski.

While not anywhere near my favourite David Lynch film, Inland Empire (2007) is significant for its enthusiastic embracing of new technology and pushing the boundaries of narrative even further than Lost Highway (1997; my all-time favourite film). The Coen brothers have crafted their most masterful and mature film to date. And who would have thought a film about abortion could be so compelling?

New cinema releases

1. 4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
2. Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
3. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
4. Boxing Day (Kriv Stenders, 2007)
5. Old Joy (Kelly Reichardt, 2006)
6. The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006)
7. Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
8. Paris, je t’aime (various, 2006)
9. Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007)
10. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)

Festival screenings

1. Mister Lonely (Harmony Korine, 2007)
2. Nue propriété (Private Property, Joachim Lafosse, 2006)
3. A London férfi (The Man from London, Béla Tarr, 2007)
4. Sanxia haoren (Still Life, Jia Zhang-Ke, 2006)
5. Shotgun Stories (Jeff Nichols, 2007)
6. Beaufort (Joseph Cedar, 2007)
7. Ma Mère (My Mother, Christophe Honoré, 2004)
8. Snow Angels (David Gordon Green, 2007)
9. El Violin (The Violin, Francisco Vargas Quevedo, 2005)
10. Les Amitiés maléfiques (Poison Friends, Emmanuel Bourdieu, 2006)

Retrospective screenings

1. Trois couleurs: Bleu (Three Colours: Blue, Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1993)
2. La Double vie de Véronique (The Double Life of Veronique, Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1991)
3. Beau travail (Good Work, Claire Denis, 1999)
4. Idi i smotri (Come and See, Elem Klimov, 1985)
5. La Séparation (The Separation, Christian Vincent, 1994)
6. La Belle noiseuse (Jacques Rivette, 1991)
7. Made in Britain (Alan Clarke, 1982)
8. Przypadek (Blind Chance, Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1981)
9. Family Life (Ken Loach, 1971)
10. The Bellboy (Jerry Lewis, 1960)

Also

Scener ur ett äktenskap (Scenes from a Marriage, Ingmar Bergman, 1973)
Soy Cuba (I Am Cuba, Mikheil Kalatozishvili, 1964)

Worst 10 films

1. Il mio miglior nemico (My Best Enemy, Carlo Verdone, 2006)
2. Ne le dis à personne (Tell No One, Guillaume Canet, 2006)
3. Dream Girls (Bill Condon, 2006)
4. Prête-moi ta main (I Do: How to Get Married and Stay Single, Eric Lartigau, 2006)
5. Désaccord parfait (Twice Upon a Time, Antoine de Caunes, 2006)
6. Breaking and Entering (Anthony Minghella, 2006)
7. Stranger Than Fiction (Marc Forster, 2006)
8. Fauteuils d’orchestre (Orchestra Seats, Danièle Thompson, 2006)
9. Changement d’adresse (Change of Address, Emmanuel Mouret, 2006)
10. Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places, Alain Resnais, 2006)

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Jim May

Teaches English in Prague.

At the beginning of 2007 I made a decision to recommit myself to cinema. I hadn’t really been away from it, but I felt like it was time to reaffirm my faith as a true believer. As it happened, 7.5 hours of Sátántangó (Béla Tarr, 1994) and 16 hours of Berlin Alexanderplatz (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1980) gave me plenty of chances. But then, in an act of apparent self-sabotage, I moved to Prague and away from New York, aka Greatest Film City in the World. Ah well, the beer is cheaper here. My film viewing in 2007 was consequently cut-in-half. A pity, considering how much critics have slobbered over this past year, taunting me with their “Greatest Year for Movies Ever” hyperbole. Well, half-a-year can at least give y’all half-a-list. My top 5 of 2007:

1. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
Fincher’s grandiose procedural is so contagiously obsessive that I came out stripped of critical distance. Sure, I was awed by the masterful tracking shots, the eye-popping tableaux, and the almost fetishized attention to detail. But mostly I wanted to know who the Zodiac killer was! Brecht, be damned. Immersion is where it’s at.

2. Once (John Carney, 2007)
For me, the words “Sundance favourite” are usually right up there with “congealed bouillon”. Add to that a lovesick busker singing Sensitive Man Music and I really wasn’t supposed to like this thing. And yet, in this movie era of generic film scores and faux-hip soundtracks, Once’s straightforward, temporal relationship to music came across as, dare I say it, revolutionary.

3. Sang Sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)
If Apichatpong’s latest deep dish is more modest than his last – the landmark Sud pralad (Tropical Malady, 2004), it is no less sublime. His formal innovations are well-noted, but can we pause for a moment to mention his unrivalled mise en scène? Certainly, there is no greater composer of shots working in film today.

4. Les Amants réguliers (Regular Lovers, Philippe Garrel, 2005)
I’m not quite sure what to make of this you-are-there slice of May ’68. Masterpiece or just moody chamber piece? Whatever. The kids look great and the film itself looks like it was found in Henri Langlois’ private stash. Also, did anyone know The Kinks were so danceable to?

5. Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
A feel-good movie about the Stasi? Well, okay, but one whose hero (beautifully played by Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler) ends up in total obscurity, his life wrecked by the system. Those who championed the film for its theme of personal and political awakening also conveniently forgot the voyeurism that made that awakening possible. It’s Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954) for our wire-tapping decade. All that and the National Review put it on its cover (!), proclaiming it a masterpiece. Republicans go to foreign films?

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Benjamin McKay

Lectures in Film Studies at the Kuala Lumpur campus of Monash University, writes film reviews for Kakiseni in KL and on Southeast Asian cinema for Criticine in Manila.

Best Films from Southeast Asia Screened Legitimately or Otherwise in Malaysia

The following Southeast Asian films were given a commercial release, were screened on college campuses in Malaysia or were furtively viewed while visiting neighbouring countries. They are listed in alphabetical order.

Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, Auraeus Solito, The Philippines, 2006)

Village People Radio Show

Apa Khabar Orang Kampung (Village People Radio Show, Amir Muhammad, Malaysia, 2007)
Banned in Malaysia but shown elsewhere in the region, this sequel to his also banned Lelaki Kommunis Terakhir (The Last Communist, 2006) only again confirms that Amir Muhammad is one of the finest essayists working in film today.

Berbagi Suami (Love For Share, Nia Dinata, Indonesia, 2006)
Dang Wo Nen Tong Zai Yi Qui (Things We Do When We Fall in Love, James Lee, Malaysia, 2007)
881 (Royston Tan, Singapore, 2007)
Flower In The Pocket (Liew Seng Tat, Malaysia, 2007)
Hei Yan quan (I Don’t Want To Sleep Alone, Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan-France-Malaysia, 2006)
Kolam (Pool, Chris Chong Chan Fui, Malaysia-Indonesia, 2007)
Kubrador (The Bet Collector, Jeffrey Jeturian, The Philippines, 2006)
Maicling pelicula nañg y sañg indio nacional (o Ang Mahabang Kalungkutan ng Katagalugan) (A Short Film About The Indio Nacional or The Prolonged Sorrow of the Filipinos, Raya Martin, The Philippines, 2005)
Mukhsin (Yasmin Ahmad, Malaysia, 2007)
Nian Ni Ru Xi (Before We Fall In Love Again, James Lee, Malaysia, 2006)
Opera Jawa (Garin Nugroho, Indonesia-Austria, 2006)
Sang Sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apitchatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand-Austria-France, 2006)

Sepuluh Tahun Sebelum Merdeka (Ten Years Before Independence, Fahmi Reza, Malaysia, 2007)
No copyright and easily downloadable

And Honourable DVD Mention:
The wonderful people at the Asian Film Archive in Singapore released the superb DVD collection Royston’s Shorts by Singapore filmmaker Royston Tan.

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Jane Mills

Associate Senior Research Fellow of the Australian Film, Radio & Television School, Series Editor of Australian Screen Classics (Currency Press/National Film & Sound Archive), and a founder member of Watch on Censorship (WoC).

Top Ten favourite films of 2007

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr T (Roy Rowland, 1953)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)
Control (Anton Corbijn, 2007)
Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino, 2007)
Dong (The Hole, Tsai Ming-liang 1998)
El Laberinto del Fauno, (Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo Del Toro, 2006)
Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2007)
Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood, 2006)
Om Shanti Om (Farah Kahn, 2007)
This Is England (Shane Meadows, 2006)

I’m convinced that ‘best’ and ‘worst’ is only ever personal taste masquerading as a quasi-scientific search for the universal. My list (in alphabetical order) is simply those I most enjoyed for a range of reasons.

Letters from Iwo Jima and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford put everything else in the shade. I think it’s their directors’ obvious sheer love of cinema that does it for me, which is why I enjoyed Om Shanti Om and Death Proof. (Shame on Harvey Weinstein for separating the original Grindhouse double bill; how much more fun to have viewed the Tarantino film with Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, 2007, as intended.) Talking of fun, Hairspray (Adam Shankman, 2007) just missed out from my list – perhaps because I revisited John Waters’ 1988 original.

I expect to add I’m Not There. (Todd Haynes, 2007), Sang sattawat (Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006) and No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007) when I eventually see them. But I caught up with a couple of older films that made my heart sing. Tsai Ming-liang’s awesome minimalism (and, rare for him, moments of bizarre excess in The Hole), made me search out all his other films. And at long last I saw the fabulous The 5,000 Fingers of Dr T. It’s a glorious multi-hybrid of child and adult, mainstream and avant-garde, drama and musical, Hollywood and European arthouse. If ever proof were needed of the creative tensions produced by global cultural flows criss-crossing the screenscape, here it is. Thank you, Sydney Film Festival.

I didn’t much like Pan’s Labyrinth initially – it almost exceeded my limits for violence while downplaying the realities of Franquista brutality with ludic fantasy. But it well repaid a second viewing. I remain underwhelmed, however, by the Davids Fincher (Zodiac, 2007), Lynch (Inland Empire, 2007) and Cronenberg (Eastern Promises, 2007). And while Michael Winterbottom usually delights me, I missed his innovatory approach to cinema in the otherwise excellent A Mighty Heart (2007). This and Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy, 2007) reminds us that Hollywood can always confound those who dismiss it for being apolitical commercial mass culture.

The powerful ideas, images and music in Control and This Is England may have converted me into a British film fan. Thomas Turgoose in the latter easily wins my top acting award. And Sam Riley playing the Joy Division lead singer in Control is so good that I can scarcely listen to the original band any more.

A brickbat to the OFLC for censoring a slew of films including seven titles picked for the Melbourne Underground Film Festival. Will Labor liberate screen culture? If Kevin Rudd can see a pole dancer and remain apparently uncorrupted, could I please be allowed to see Destricted (2007) by a range of directors including Matthew Barney, Larry Clark and Gaspar Noé?

Finally, a sad farewell to Tony Wilson, a friend from way back, who played himself or was played by others in Control and in Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People (2002) and A Cock and Bull Story (2005).

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Olaf Möller

A cinéphile, writer, translator and curator based in Cologne, Germany.

Indeed, it was a good year for cinema, once again – for the true searcher always knows where to look, even if it doesn’t really feel like it – the films are there, in spades as my lists show, yet the year as a whole didn’t really deliver. That might have to do with the way things played out: for the good happened only late in the year and then in such rapid succession.

Rotterdam was below par: while it delivered some fine new goodies, it fell so flat on its face retro-wise that one left wanting. Berlin, then, might have delivered far better on the new-film-front – half a dozen certifiable masterpieces plus another half dozen of truly fine finds – yet still felt like a killing box for inspiration, ambition, and vision – total social democratic hell (i.e., the rule of the lower middle-brow in all its piss-poor pettiness and disgusting self-satisfiedness; no number of masterpieces gets you over the miasma surrounding it …). Graz (Diagonale) was inconclusive, memorable only for its Synema-done Wolfgang Suschitzky-tribute. Udine (Far East Film Festival) did once again way okay, especially on the retro-front with its huge program devoted to the films and television-shows of Hong Kong New Wave master maverick Patrick Tam Kar Ming: my man of the year. Izola (Kino Otok) was paradise, as usual. Lame-ass summer. Came late August and September and suddenly everything went into overdrive: Venice slung the masterpieces around so easily that one stopped caring about all the litter in-between; Trieste (i 1000 occhi), then, less than two weeks later, was paradise II, also as usual. Vienna (Viennale) delivered better than expected, on all fronts; Leipzig (International Documentary and Animation Festival) became the retro-high point of 2007: the 50th anniversary program was so choke full with masterpieces and eye-openers that one could almost forget how many strong new films the festival had on offer. Amsterdam (Shadow Festival) brought the year to a lovely, mellow close with some wonderful films and even more wonderful people. And don’t think that you know all the places I went.

But: aside for the extraordinary program of 50+ shorts from just-about half a century of Japanese animation (sans anime) that the Japan Foundation’s Cologne office presented all through November and December, there was nothing retro-wise beyond what the festivals had on offer which somehow satisfied me – and visits of Der geheimnisvolle Filmclub Buio Omega don’t really count as retro, like … That’s probably another reason for my reluctance to fête 2007: too much retro-happiness only at home which doesn’t really count.

Oh, well, let’s get on to the lists.

Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind

The one sporting recent films is lead by a quintet of works which I’d have liked to put into the shape of a wind rose, with David Gatten’s pæan to !FILM! as the nave, and John Gianvito’s Song of Songs as northern point: a moral compass, which will see to it that I’ll never get lost, and always find my way home – Cross of the South, North Star. A matter of harmony, that quintet. Then, the movies of the year. Followed by films I loved, none of them less-perfect and -achieved than the one’s before, yet maybe not as close as those are. Same with the older films, just that I don’t have a wind rose here, just one film that blew my mind biggest time, a bunch of masterpieces that did similar things to my heart and soul and brain, followed by a second helping of more signs and wonders. One rule: only one film per auteur – the Other First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Ferroni Brigade, brother-comrade Christoph Hüber, will tell you everything about this year’s double impact-glories plus a few more things.

Oh, and just in case you might wonder: Romania is the new Iran, and Kees is its prophet (talk about religion and doom); Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007) is a wonderful film but not the masterpiece too many good folks make it into, but it certainly is a fine work; Ratatouille (Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava, 2007) is a perfectly decent movie, a nice slice of comfy-cosy Capra light – and absurdly overrated (don’t get me started on all the richer, more complex and demanding and adventurous animation films of 2006/7!); No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007) sucks; and we’re all dust.

OLAF MÖLLER’S BEST OF 2007

Film for Invisible Ink, Case no. 71: Base-Plus-Fog (David Gatten, 2006)
Into the Wild (Sean Penn, 2007)
Jitsuroku rengô sekigun. Asama sansô e no michi (United Red Army, Kôji Wakamatsu, 2007)
Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind (John Gianvito, 2007)
Visitors (Giulio Questi, 2006)
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Les Amours d’Astrée et de Céladon (Romance of Astrée and Celadon, Eric Rohmer, 2007)
At Sea (Peter Hutton, 2007)
L’Avocat de la terreur (Terror’s Advocate, Barbet Schroeder, 2007)
Bakushi (Hiroki Ryuichi, 2007)
La France (Serge Bozon, 2007)
Gruz 200 (Cargo 200, Aleksej Balabanov, 2007)
Kagadanan sa banwaan ning mag engkanto (Death in the Land of Encantos, Lav Diaz, 2007)
Kramasha (…To Be Continued, Amit Dutta, 2007)
Nichts als Gespenster (Nothing But Ghosts, Martin Gypkens, 2007)
A Short Film for Laos (Allan Sekula, 2006)
Sing gung jok jeh sup yaht taam (Whispers and Moans, Herman Yau Lai To, 2007)
State Legislature (Frederick Wiseman, 2007)
Staub (Dust, Hartmut Bitomsky, 2007)
Die Stille vor Bach (The Silence Before Bach, Pere Portabella, 2007)
Stuck (Stuart Gordon, 2007)
Substitute (Vikash Dhorasoo and Fred Poulet, 2006)
Sukiyaki Western Django (Miike Takashi, 2007)
Sun taam (Mad Detective, Johnnie To Kei Fung and Wai Ka Fai, 2007)

Abandoned House (James Herbert, 2007), L’Aimée (The Loved One, Arnaud Desplechin, 2007), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007), Autohystoria (Raya Martin, 2006), Centochiodi (One Hundred Nails, Ermanno Olmi, 2006), Cleopatra (Julio Bressane, 2007), Cochochi (Laura Amelia Guzman & Israel Cardenas, 2007), Doch (But Still, Erwin Michelberger, 2006), En la ciudad de Sylvia (In the City of Sylvia, José Luis Guerín, 2007), Far North (Asif Kapadia, 2007), Ferien (Vacation, Thomas Arslan, 2007), Finale (Final, Klaus Lemke, 2006), La France (Serge Bozon, 2007) Fu zi (After This Our Exile, Patrick Tam Kar Ming, 2006), He Fengming (Chronicle of a Chinese Woman, Wang Bing, 2006-7), Heya fawda (Chaos, Youssef Chahine and Khaled Youssef, 2007), Iskwaterpangk (Squatterpunk, Khavn, 2006-7), Kenen joukoissa seisot (Revolution, Jouko Aaltonen, 2006), Lovely Andrea (Hito Steyerl, 2007), Madonnen (Madonnas, Maria Speth, 2006), Matka (Travelling, Markku Lehmuskalio and Anastasia Lapsui, 2007), Médée miracle (Medea Miracle, Tonino de Bernardi, 2007), Ne Touchez pas la hache (Don’t Touch the Axe, Jacques Rivette, 2007), Nur kein Mitleid (Forget About Compassion, Peter Kern, 2007), Oji-san tengoku (Uncle’s Paradise, Shinji Imaoka, 2006), REC (Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza, 2007), Rescue Dawn (Werner Herzog, 2006), Schindlers Häuser (Schindler’s Houses, Heinz Emigholz, 2007), Shisha no sho (Book of the Dead, Kihachirô Kawamoto, 2006), Sống trong sợ hãi (Living in Fear, Bùi Thạc Chuyên, 2007), Waarom heeft niemand mij verteld dat het zo erg zou worden in Afghanistan (Why Didn’t Anybody Tell Me it Would Become This Bad in Afghanistan, Cyrus Frisch, 2007), Wolfsbergen (Nanouk Leopold, 2007), Wuyong (Useless, Jia Zhang-ke, 2007), Xiaoshuo (The Obscure, Lü Yue, 2007), Yella (Christian Petzold, 2007)

RECOGNITIONS OF 2007

Niemandsland (Hell on Earth, Viktor Trivas, 1931)
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Baby Ryazanskie (Women of Ryazan, Olga Preobrazhenskaya and Ivan Pravov, 1927)
Les Dieux du feu (Gods of the Fire, Henri Storck, 1961)
Đường dây lên sông Đà (Installing Electric Cable at Da River, Lê Mạnh Thích, 1982)
Ecco la radio! (That’s Radio!, Giacomo Gentilomo, 1940)
Hitlerpinochet (Jörg Hermann and Juan Forch, 1976)
Kaze. Ippun yonjûbyô (Wind. A Minute and 40 Seconds, Tsutomu Shinozuka, 1985)
Lit foh ching chun (Nomad, Patrick Tam Kar Ming, 1982)
March to Aldermaston (Film and Television Committee for Nuclear Disarmament, 1959)
Paris la nuit (Paris By Night, Jacques Baratier and Jean Valère, 1955)
Snow (Geoffrey Jones, 1965)
Svetlinin i hora (Lights and People, Hristo Kovacev, 1960)
Yield to the Night (John Lee Thompson, 1956)

Les Bicyclettes de Belsize (Douglas Hickox, 1969), Chikarabashi (The Bridge of Strength, Tadanari Okamoto, 1976), Chromophobia (Raoul Servais, 1966), Door (Fukushima Hal, 1971), Es genügt nicht, 18 zu sein (Being 18 Ain’t Enough, Kurt Tetzlaff, 1964), Grenada, Grenada, Grenada moja (Grenada, Grenada, My Grenada, Roman Karmen and Konstantin Simonov, 1967), Group Marriage (Stephanie Rothman, 1973), Hanyas Vagy? (What Age-Group Are You?, Béla Vajda; 1983), Homunculus 5. Teil. Die Vernichtung der Menschheit (Homunculus, Part 5., Otto Rippert, 1916), Hoogstraat (Andor von Barsy, 1930), H²O (Ralph Steiner, 1929), Impressionen vom alten Marseiller Hafen (Marseille Vieux Port, László Moholy-Nagy, 1929), Das Jahr 1945 (1945, Karl Gass, 1985), Kachôfûgetsu (Four Seasons of Japan, Tatsuo Shimamura, 1985), Kumo to Tulip (The Spider and the Tulip, Kenzô Masaoka, 1945), Laila (George Schnéevoigt, 1929), Made in Japan (Renzô Kinoshita, 1972), Madina Boe (José Massip, 1968), A Man to Remember (Garson Kanin, 1938), New Left Note (Saul Levine, 1968-82), Nikui anchikushô (I Hate But Love, Koreyoshi Kurahara, 1962), Oni (The Demon, Kihachirô Kawamoto, 1972), Osen (Autumn, Andrei Smirnov, 1974), Rompiendo el Silencio (Breaking the Silence, Iván Argüello, 1984), Lo scippo (The Snatch, Nando Cicero, 1965), Show People (King Vidor, 1928), Signal (Takehiko Kamei, 1972), Skoro leto (Soon It Will be Summer, Pavel Kogan, 1987), Song. Die Liebe eines armen Menschenkindes (Song, Richard Eichberg, 1928), Stridulum (The Visitor, Giulio Paradisi, 1979), Tahousse (Mahine Rouhl and Olivier Fouchard, 2005), La taglia è tua … l’uomo l’ammazzo io (The Reward’s Yours … The Man’s Mine, Edoardo Mulargia, 1969), Tetraplan (Amanda Flor Daliso through Slobodan Valentincic, 1985), Theatre of Death (Samuel Gallu, 1966), La Tierra Quema (The Land Burns, Raymundo Gleyzer, 1965), Vandet på landet (Water from the Land, Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1946), La venere d’Ille (Venus of Ille, Mario and Lamberto Bava, 1979)

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