compiled by Fiona A. Villella
2002 Favourite Films
by James Hewison
Divine Intervention (Yadon Ilaheyya) (Elia Suleiman, 2002)
Filmmakers – Where Has Your Hidden Smile Gone? (Où gît votre sourire enfoui?) (Pedro Costa, France, 2000)
Monday Morning (Lundi Matin) (Otar Iosseliani, 2002)
Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay, 2002)
Ten (Abbas Kiarostami, 2002)
Time Out (L’emploi du Temps) (Laurent Cantet, 2001)
Turning Gate (Saengwaleui Balgyeon) (Hong Sang-soo, 2002)
Unknown Pleasures (Ren Xiao Yao) (Jia Zhang-ke, 2002)
Volcano High (Whasango) (Kim Tae-kyun, 2002)
What Time Is It There? (Ni Nei Pein Chi Tien) (Tsai Ming-liang, 2001)
James Hewison is Executive Director of the Melbourne International Film Festival.
The Good, Bad and the Guiltily Pleasurable
by Lee Hill
Bests (in preferential order):
Time Out (Laurent Cantet, 2001)
Under the Sand (François Ozon, 2001)
The Piano Teacher (Michel Haneke, 2001)
Morven Callar (Lynne Ramsay, 2002)
AKA (Duncan Roy, 2002)
The Pianist (Roman Polanski, 2002)
Love Liza (Todd Louiso, 2002)
Punch Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002)
The Dancer Upstairs (John Malkovich, 2002)
Personal Velocity: Three Portraits (Rebecca Miller, 2002)
Lovely and Amazing (Nicole Holofcener, 2002)
Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (Jill Sprecher, 2001)
All or Nothing (Mike Leigh, 2002)
Guilty Pleasures (you either love these titles or you hate ’em):
Blow (Ted Demme, 2001)
The Bourne Identity (Doug Liman, 2002)
Full Frontal (Steven Soderbergh, 2002)
Hollywood Ending (Woody Allen, 2002)
Ocean’s 11 (Steven Soderbergh, 2001)
Spy Game (Tony Scott, 2001)
Disappointing To Excruciating:
Ararat (Atom Egoyan, 2002)
Spider (David Cronenberg, 2002)
8 Women (François Ozon, 2002)
Possession (Neil LaBute, 2002)
Egoyan and Cronenberg produced two beautiful looking follies that eventually ended up being about nothing much in particular. While Ozon and Labute literally and figuratively lost the plot on the last two.
Notes on a Year of Film Going:
American studio films generally suck more and more, but American TV (news excepted) is getting better and better. “The Sopranos”, “24”, “Law and Order”, etc. are more complex and self-reflexive than 90 per cent of studio releases over the last ten years. Meanwhile, the UK art film is under siege, but still alive and kicking, whilst their TV is getting worse and worse. Film festivals are great, but I detest the growing elitism of the programming process. We need better film magazines, but in the meantime thank god for this e-zine, Film Comment, Sight and Sound, and Canada’s CinemaScope. DVDs are great…Criterion and Anchor Bay deserve special mention for keeping the canon of yore fresh and alive. Watching Herzog’s The Enigma of Kasper Hauser (1974) was a powerful reminder of the visual simplicity of great cinema. With a few exceptions (Roy’s dazzling use of triptych in AKA), I think the quiet formal control of Polanski, Cantet, Ramsay and others had a lot to do with the success of their respective films.
Lee Hill is a writer from Canada currently living in London.
2002: Past and Present
by Bruce Hodsdon
In the era of the “hypertext”, “turbo-charged images” and “intensified continuity”, digital technology is being applied most often to thoroughly conservative ends. What many of us have most valued in cinema – the relationship of performance to the real and the imperatives of technology subsumed, as Geuens suggests, within the unique rituals of the art and craft of filmmaking – seems somehow less secure. Each of the films listed below is there, above all, for the way they maintain basic trust in cinema’s connection with the “real stuff” as opposed to a wholesale substitution for the real. Which is not to imply a turning back of the clock. La Commune (Paris 1871), *Corpus Callosum and Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner each suggest how digital means can be deployed to radically represent the everyday world.
The films (in no particular order):
Shattered Image (Raul Ruiz, 1998)*
La Commune (Paris 1871) (Peter Watkins and collective, 2001)
*Corpus Callosum (Michael Snow, 2001)
Yi Yi (Edward Yang, 2000)
The Cat’s Meow (Peter Bogdanovich, 2002)
Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (Zacharias Kunuk, 2002)
Domestic Violence (Frederick Wiseman, 2001)
Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff)
Monster’s Ball (Marc Foster, 2001)
The Navigators (Ken Loach, 2001)
*DVD (Region 1)
The Tracker (Rolf de Heer, 2002); Fond Memories of Cuba (David Bradbury, 2002)
David Bordwell, “Intensified Continuity: Visual style in Contemporary American Film,” Film Quarterly, 55/2, 2002
Jean-Pierre Geuens, “The Digital World Picture,” Film Quarterly, 55/4, 2002
Chris Fujiwara’s piece on Otto Preminger in Senses of Cinema, Issue 20 (May-June 2002), Great Directors – a critical database, and his book Jacques Tourneur: the Cinema of Nightfall (Johns Hopkins Univ Press, 2001)
Lee Server’s Robert Mitchum: Baby I Don’t Care (St. Martin’s Press, 2001)
Peter Wollen, “Back to the Future,” an essay in his book Paris Hollywood, Writings on Film (Verso Books, 2002)
The opportunity to view Exodus (Otto Preminger, 1960) and The Damned (Joseph Losey, 1961) on 35mm widescreen at the Brisbane International Film Festival was a reminder that cinephiles’ enthusiasms in the 1960s were often well-grounded.
Bruce Hodsdon has found some middle ground between cinephiliac spontaneity and screen studies in curating film collections at the National Library and, latterly the State Library of Queensland.
Film Favourites 2002
by Alexander Horwath
More and more, I feel that a list of why-eligibles and why-not-eligibles, a list of criteria, specifications, explanations, private reasons and biographical changes in film viewing etc. should supplant the actual top ten film list. But that’s a pretty anal thought, I’m sure …
Still: Whose sample is even comparable to anyone else’s?
Are we talking about “world premieres in 2002”? Or about “Alex has seen these fine 10 films this year”? (which would make it look like a “J.P. Melville / R.W. Fassbinder / J. Rivette / J. Epstein / Dietmar Brehm / DEMON LOVER / early anonymous films from 1898 to 1917” list) …
And what about all the great films from your suggestions list – obviously current releases in Australia or Europe or Dubai but really 2001 premieres. I’d write down titles like – Waking Life, Sauvage Innocence, Domestic Violence, L’Emploi du temps, The Royal Tenenbaums, Millennium Mambo, Yi Yi, Dream Work, The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein – (but I’m sure most of them were on my 2001 or even 2000 list, so can I simply repeat them?)
And what about all the 2002 films which I feel would certainly be among my top ten if I had only seen them yet? Can I do a dream list (the better to be disappointed or proven marvellously prescient as soon as they cross my mind, eyes and ears)? Can I just say: Vendredi Soir – Adaptation – Gangs Of New York – Gerry – Dolls – *Corpus Callosum (a 2000 not 2002, video not film, so no purity here, either) … And can I explain why this year I saw maybe only half the number of new films as last year? Who cares?
Or should I be very simple and open to the inevitably super-fragmented viewing harvest of a similarly un-whole year in my life?
About Schmidt (Alexander Payne, 2002, USA)
All Or Nothing (Mike Leigh, 2002, UK)
Demon Lover (Olivier Assayas, 2002, France)
Être et avoir (Nicolas Philibert, 2002, France) documentary
Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002, USA)
Film Ist. (7-12) (Gustav Deutsch, 2002, Austria) experimental
Le Fils (Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, 2002, Belgium)
An Injury To One (Travis Wilkerson, 2002, USA) documentary
The Man Without A Past (Aki Kaurismäki, 2002, Finland)
Racine-1 (Dietmar Brehm, 2002, Austria) short
Ren Xiao Yao/Unknown Pleasures (Jia Zhang-ke, 2002, China)
Therefore making it a top 11, which you may read as my minimal attempt to cross the anal borders.
Alexander Horwath is a freelance writer and curator based in Vienna and the designated director of the Austrian Cinémathèque.
2002: A Reflection
by Peter Hourigan
2002 was the year when many events – including films – had a shadow cast over them by the events of September 11, 2001. From this perspective, In the Bedroom (Todd Field, 2001) stood out as the most obnoxious film of the year. Ultimately the film was an argument for vigilantism, made the more repellent by the way that much of it seemed to be a moving study of grief and the impact of an unexpected and violent death. But the film’s final moments surely can only be read as saying that when the wheels of law don’t move quickly enough for you, it is fine to take the law into your own hands. If he were able to watch the film to its end, George W. Bush would surely endorse this.
By contrast, in 11’09″01 – September 11 (Chahine, Gitai, Iñárritu et. al, 2002), Sean Penn found a perfect metaphor for America’s myopia. This omnibus film contained a number of impressive and intelligent sequences. In his 11 minutes, Penn explored what it is like living in the shadow of your own deliberate blindness, and the shock of having the light suddenly exploded onto your wilful ignorance, in a way that is both liberating and painful. Ernest Borgnine’s performance was the equal of any of the praised turns in In the Bedroom. It is no surprise that one film was nominated for a number of Oscars, and the other is still unreleased in USA.
Peter Hourigan is a Melbourne-based cinephile.
2002 in 12 points
by Christoph Huber
“These pictures will still be here long after we’re gone”, says a melancholy Elisha Cook Jr. in André de Toth’s wonderful, pantheistic western The Indian Fighter (1955). I remembered it when I read about the B-master’s death and felt comforted in a way. Foremost, 2002 was a year of many sad farewells that seemed to put the constant commercial multiplex warmongering in perspective. It may sound cynical, but if you weren’t Billy Wilder you could hardly expect a decent obituary, at least in this country’s papers, but if a hobbit farted on the set of The Two Towers it was a newsworthy item. Incidentally, the only noteworthy thing about Peter Jackson’s endlessly droning digital murk-opus seemed to be that its Manichean worldview mirrored that of US foreign policy. You could only dream of a film with the lucidity and despair of de Toth’s Play Dirty (1968). (John Woo, with Windtalkers , at least tried for the latter, admirably.) Maybe the nihilist zeal of Chang Cheh’s The Heroic Ones (1973) would be even more in place. Due to the indispensable reissues of restored Shaw Brothers DVDs I finally had a chance to check. Only a few months after Chang Cheh’s death. But you wouldn’t have known from reading the papers.
What seems most worth remembering for me weren’t 2002 releases (I’ll get to those in a moment), but the first chance to finally catch substantial glimpses of the works of three major directors. Probably the most exhilarating experience all year was the Locarno Film Festival’s extensive retrospective for Allan Dwan, who seemed incapable of directing a movie badly. If the script was no good, he’d make an interesting movie, if the script was so-so, the film was near-great, if the script was good, the film was brilliant. If the script was a masterpiece, the movie would be like Silver Lode (1954), one of the greatest westerns of all time: utmost complexity achieved with utmost economy. Even memorable achievements like Gus van Sant’s existentialist experience Gerry (2002) or Alain Roust’s remarkably assured debut La Cage (2002) paled in comparison. Nevertheless, seeing the latter together with the Dardennes’ Le Fils (2002) would probably comprise the double bill of the year.
The other two retrospectives were held at home in Vienna’s cinémathèque and were dedicated to two Japanese masters: the unruly Shohei Imamura and the even unrulier Kinji Fukasaku. Imamura’s Vengeance is Mine (1979) may rightfully be the official masterpiece, and I couldn’t name a movie amongst the 13 (and first eleventh) I’ve seen by him that I wouldn’t recommend, but the unexpected discoveries were his early, unheralded Tashlinesque oddball farce Nishi Ginza Station (1958) and a documentary he only conceived, not produced, Kazuo Hara’s The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987), a film to end all films.
So is, in a way, Fukasaku’s unflinching yakuza implosion Graveyard of Honor (1975), which was the weirdest viewing experience of the year. The first time around the audience was speechless, like me. When I returned a week or so later for another viewing, the protagonist’s incredible leap into death caused convulsive laughter. The experience was horrible, but uncannily prescient: it’s as if the others had already known that Takashi Miike was doing the remake.
What connects the three filmmakers is the absence of cheap irony (although Imamura especially has a great sense of irony); it’s what’s so great about Far from Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002). Chalked down as a masterpiece on first viewing, a second visit left me more conflicted (if still enraptured) because the film was so damn sincere: so sincere in fact that it was almost weighed down by it. (In a way rather connected to aesthetics-only the same applies to Alexander Sokurov’s riveting Russian Ark, the hilarious lip-fart incident and other selected throwaway highlights notwithstanding.) But Haynes’ film is still irresistible, and be it only because the thought might hit you that the heroine of Safe (1995), Carol White, had dreamed herself back into the ’50s just to find herself trapped again.
What was most amazing about my first encounter with Far from Heaven was how clearly it seemed to be a film about the present; a claim I make for any of my 2002 favourites. The first three, in particular, I consider the most important pictures I’ve seen 2002: they talk about the present and how art should try to cope with it. Let’s hope it does.
Demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2002)
Blissfully Yours (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2002)
*Corpus Callosum (Michael Snow, 2001)
Gerry (Gus van Sant, 2002)
El bonaerense (Pablo Trapero, 2002)
Undisputed (Walter Hill, 2002)
The California Trilogy (James Benning, 2002)
Far from Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002)
Manifeste (Helene Deschamps/HugoVerlinde, 2002)
Le fils (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2002)
Unknown Pleasures (Jia Zhang-ke, 2002)
Windtalkers (John Woo, 2002)5
Russian Ark (Alexander Sokurov, 2002), Film ist. (7-12) (Gustav Deutsch, 2002), Vendredi soir (Claire Denis, 2002), Reign of Fire (Rob Bowman, 2002), Dracula – Pages from a Virgin’s Diary (Guy Maddin, 2002), Dolls (Takeshi Kitano, 2002), Godard’s segment in Ten Minutes Older: The Cello (2002) and Alexander Kluge’s TV interview with Godard called Blinde Liebe (Blind Love), All or Nothing (Mike Leigh, 2002), SB (Stan Brakhage), Un oso rojo (Adrián Caetano, 2002), Death to Smoochy (Danny DeVito, 2002), Letter from a Yellow Cherry Blossom (Naomi Kawase), Richtung Zukunft durch die Nacht (Jörg Kalt, 2002) and Rollerball (John McTiernan, 2002) which was a subversive act of its own by proving that you can make a film that has all the splendour of an Ed Wood enterprise even with a gigantic budget. Kudos.
The best driving blues ever surprisingly turned up mid-year at the end of Pere Ubu’s new album St. Arkansas. In a way it was the movie of the year, the Two-Lane Blacktop of 2002, cinematic like all of David Thomas’ projects (you even feel the windscreen going widescreen at a certain point in the song) and probably even more gigantic and obsessive than the best films of the year. It was an ode to the unfulfilled promise of an old itself very cinematic youth culture ritual, something that films don’t even show much interest anymore, yet, ever the skeptic, Thomas’s wail is mournful, depressed. Fittingly, the song is called just “Dark”; no other work of art this year drew a more vivid picture of the light at the end of the tunnel fading, going fata morgana, while you hum that little ditty that keeps you going.
And the radio,
Oh, the radio will set you free.
“And I drive to close an open wound/and I drive just to be alone”, Thomas sings, and later: “And I drive into the wilderness/and I drive to find a sense of purpose there/ I drive to find a perfect world/where I hope to build a house”. There was a movie in 2001 that came close to “Dark” and I could beat myself silly for only having it placed amongst my honourable mentions last year. There are indeed a few slight conveniences in Laurent Cantet’s Time Out (2001), just as I had suspected, but they are of no significance: it only grows in mystery and resonance on repeated viewings. It is not afraid, as Aurelien Recoing’s drifter claims for himself in the endlessly fascinating, ambiguous final scene.
That caveat given, these were the major 2001 films I only managed to get a hold of in 2002:
The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
A Tender Place (Shunichi Nagaski, 2000)
The CinemaScope Trilogy (Peter Tscherkassky, 1997-2002)
Pistol Opera (Seijun Suzuki, 2001)
Trouble Everyday (Claire Denis, 2001)
‘R Xmas (Abel Ferrara, 2001)
Ghosts of Mars (John Carpenter, 2001)
Gosford Park (Robert Altman, 2001)
Sobibor, Octobre 4, 16 heures (Claude Lanzmann, 2001)
Elsewhere (Nikolaus Geyrhalter, 2002)
The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein (John Gianvito, 2001)
Hollywood Hongkong (Fruit Chan, 2000)
In Public/A Conversation with God (Jia Zhang-ke/Tsai Ming-liang, 2001), Shallow Hal (Peter and Bobby Farrelly, 2001), Tape (Richard Linklater, 2001; retroactively enhancing Waking Life, 2001), Teenage Hooker Became Killing Machine (DaeHakRoh, Nam Ki-woong, 2000), Sauvage Innocence (Philippe Garrel, 2001), The Legend of Zu (Tsui Hark, 2001), Bubble Boy (Blair Hayes, 2001), Loin (André Téchiné, 2001)
I’d easily exchange all of those for my new favourite film from 2000: Guy Maddin’s mega-short The Heart of the World. I still haven’t figured out what year Peter Watkins’ mega-long La Commune (Paris, 1871) is from, exactly, but the same applies to it. I won’t even get started on the tons of older films. Hell, maybe seeing the unsubtitled DVD of Rawail Rahul’s Anjaam (1994) on a friend’s TV might turn out the most formative experience of the year rather then sitting in front of the restored 70mm-version of Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967) in Cannes. My jaw dropped to the floor in both cases.
What usually gets lost in the list-shuffle are those great moments from imperfect films. The following made enough of an impression to be remembered at an instant:
The first half hour of Michael Mann’s Ali
The opening credits sequence of Alex Cox’ Revengers Tragedy
Tom Greene’s audio commentary on the Freddy Got Fingered DVD
The cat’s death in Eight Legged Freaks (and, for that matter, Tom Noonan’s)
Rhys Ifans jumping the waitress in Human Nature and her matter-of-fact reaction
Seeing Richy Müller in the Harvey Keitel part in xXx
The opening of The Magdalene Sisters
Anita Mui chiding herself for dressing up as a woman in Wu Yen
Sven Pippig’s gesture of final resignation in Toter Mann
The man in the Warhol museum looking at the surveillance camera and saying “this is the greatest telenovela of all time” in I Am from Nowhere
Tears of the Black Tiger revisited in Mon-Rak Transistor
The cinema lights going on in La chatte á deux têtes. That’s a good image to end.
The idea of a 12-point-commentary is shamelessly cribbed from the new Suicide record. They made the other great song of the year, a smack to the head as blunt as its title: “Dachau, Disney, Disco”. After that, there’s nothing left to be said.
Christoph Huber is the main film critic for Die Presse (Vienna). He has published on cinema and pop music for various films magazines, newspapers and websites and writes the program notes for Vienna’s Cinémathèque.
by Darren Hughes
For me, 2002 will be most remembered for the Actors Theatre’s production of Angels in America, which I saw while visiting Phoenix in October and which only qualifies for a mention here because if Mike Nichols’s rumoured seven hour adaptation of the play captures even half of the magic and the joy of Tony Kushner’s language then it will surely be the best film I see in 2003. I spent the rest of the year, though, here in Knoxville, Tennessee with its two screens devoted to interesting fare, leaving me grossly ill-equipped to make sweeping generalizations about the year in movies. (Ask me again in ten months.) Instead, here are some impressions of the 2002 film experiences that still linger.
The only film that I watched three days in a row, more enraptured by it each time, was Tsai Ming-liang’s What Time Is It There? (2001) The magic of the film for me is found in Lu Yi-ching’s performance. In this remarkable woman, a widow experiencing the mysteries of mourning and loss, Tsai has offered a counterargument to all who would summarily dismiss his films as simply Antonioni-like laments of alienation. What Time was also the most beautiful film I saw all year, featuring brilliant camera work from Benoît Delhomme.
My favourite sequence from any film was buried in the middle of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love (2002). Adam Sandler’s Barry Egan stands before his dream woman, Emily Watson, while the rest of his world collapses around him. A screaming telephone harasses him, a forklift crashes, and the voices of his co-workers conspire in a cacophony of fits and shrieks. I actually laughed out loud during the scene, partly as a temporary reprieve from the tension, partly out of sheer admiration for Anderson’s gifts. Punch-Drunk Love earns my “outstanding sound design” award for 2002. Hitchcock would have loved it.
The most consistently entertaining film I saw was Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine (2002), which manages to be both provocative and surprisingly even-handed. Setting out to discover why we Americans are so good at shooting each other, Moore finally offers few concrete answers but succeeds in undercutting the most commonly held misconceptions, by conservatives and liberals alike. Moore still struggles occasionally to balance his earnest concern with parody, but the film makes a quality statement. Bowling is worth seeing for its interview with Charlton Heston alone—the most cringe-inducing moment in a film littered with cringe-inducing moments.
The film experience that I most cherish from this year was getting to sit beside my parents for a screening of Carl Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), which was sponsored by the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts and accompanied by the Annapolis Chorale’s performance of Richard Einhorn’s Voices of Light. My parents had never seen Passion, or anything like it. Their silence as we walked through the hushed crowd toward our car is testament, I think, to the sublime majesty of Dreyer’s film.
And finally, a short list of films that I saw for the first time in 2002 and that made me a better man for it: Au Hasard, Balthazar (Bresson, 1966), La Promesse (Dardennes Bros, 1996), Through a Glass Darkly (Bergman, 1961), Good Men, Good Women (Hou, 1995), Waking Life (Linklater, 2001), The Children of Paradise (Carne, 1945), and Dancer in the Dark (Von Trier, 2001).
Darren Hughes is a doctoral candidate in American literature at the University of Tennessee and author of the website, Long Pauses.
Highs and lows at the movies, 2002
by Dina Iordanova
January: Mexico City
Attending a conference in Cuernavaca and the next day making the one-hour commute to Mexico City. An American friend who does field work for her dissertation here takes me out in the rainy evening. We go to the movies, at a small cinémathèque-like multiplex in an artistic neighbourhood, to see Silvio Soldini’s Pane e tulipani (Bread and Tulips, 2001), an acclaimed European film with Bruno Ganz set in working-class Venice. I had wanted to see it for a while, but do not think it was ever released in the UK, and surely never made it to provincial England where I live, and where we mostly get to choose between Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Good I get the chance to go to places where the interest in European art house film is more intense.
I am to moderate a ‘talk show’ (as they call it here) on Global Cinematic Exchange at the Festival. Among the panellists are Zacharias Kunuk, the Canadian Inuit director of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001) and Mansour Sora Wade, the Senegalese director of Ndeysaan (The Price of Forgiveness, 2001), both films set in isolated indigenous communities and using mostly non-professional local actors. Kunuk says that his film, the first feature by an Inuit using their legends, was received well by the people who acted in the film and those who worked as crew. Things are different in the case of the Senegalese film, however. Though it may have played at various festivals, the Senegalese village amateur actors and crew members involved in the film had not seen it. There isn’t a cinema theatre there, director Mansour Sora Wade says, and he has not yet been able to organise the special truck that would take the equipment to allow screening the film to the community pictured. Writing this in early January 2003, I just read in the latest Sight and Sound issue of one more film that has not been seen by the people pictured in it: Elia Suleiman’s Yadon Ilaheyya (Divine Intervention, 2002), a film that’s been acclaimed at over 20 festivals around the world in 2002, has not been screened in Ramalla where its action takes place. During the incursions, the director says, all places where culture was being presented in Ramallah were destroyed, the theatre was vandalised by the Israeli soldiers and the Dolby stereo looted.
Attending a daytime screening of Makhmalbaf’s Kandahar (2001) at my local art house cinema. The film barely impresses me as much as other films by Makhmalbaf, and yet I find myself thinking a lot of it afterwards. With so many surrealist elements in it – the Magritte-like parachuted legs, the focus on body parts (eye, mouth, ear, palm – as in Cocteau and Buñuel) seen through a curtain opening at the doctor’s – Kandahar comes across as a modern-day work of surrealism. I cannot say, however, if all this surrealist imagery is intended to cross-reference the Western tradition. It rather appears that it all comes straightforwardly from the fact that here one gazes at an intrinsically absurd society. One has the same feeling when watching films using the absurdly surreal landscape of Enver Hoxha’s Albania, with the scattered domes of thousands of concrete bunkers.
Travel to the film festival in this South Korean town, home of the best bi-bim-bap, four hours to the south from Seoul. The theme they have chosen is war and cinema. The programme features many Korean films about World War II. None of these are translated, however, so I opt instead for When the Wind Blows, Jimmy Murakami’s 1986 British animated satire based on Raymond Briggs’ book, and for a new Korean film, KT (Junji Sakamoto, 2002), featuring a real episode of their recent tense history with Japan (it turns out to be a slow-paced political thriller which I find difficult to understand). I end the day attending a screening of the disappointing Escape from Paradise (2001) by the once great Vera Chytilová, in Czech and with Korean subtitles (or rather, side-titles, running vertically on the right of the screen). My paper is translated into Korean, looks so interesting. Cannot understand a single word: did I write this indeed?
A Russian Romani actor living in France comes to visit us for the day. He brings several videotapes of films by Dufunia Vishnevski, the Russian Gypsy director who, like Tony Gatlif, makes features about the ordeal of his people, but who remains unknown beyond the borders of Russia. We go to eat at a vegetarian curry house in the Indian neighbourhood; on the street people hang out in front of the Bollywood cinema. These days my favourite Indian actor, the great Naseeruddin Shah, is appearing in a play at the local Haymarket theatre; the hall is half-empty, the audience mostly consisting of members of the Indian elite in town, I am one of the few ‘British’ in attendance.
June: New York
Attending a packed afternoon screening of the Israeli Hatuna meuheret (Late Marriage, Dover Koshashvilli, 2001) at the art house complex near Lincoln Center, another film that never made it to my provincial English location. The film is a great tongue-in-cheek portrayal of Georgian patriarchal mores transplanted to ‘modern’ Israel, with a sadly realistic focus on domestic power mechanics where love is given up in exchange for a credit card. Late Marriage is directed by Georgian immigrant, Dover Kosashvili. More importantly, it is produced by Marek Rozenbaum, the man behind other important recent films like Circus Palestina (Eyal Halfon, 1998) and Yana’s Friends (Arik Kaplun, 1999) that dared to touch on uneasy subjects like the Israeli humiliation of the Palestinians, the impact of the Gulf war, and the influx of Russian immigrants.
A colleague and I organise a teaching session on Indian film and nation-building for a weekend school with MA communication students. For the talk she shows a clip from Mani Rathnam’s Roja (1992) and I – from Mani Rathnam’s Dil Se (1999), and then we screen Satayajit Ray’s The Chess Players (1977). The students are an international crowd of mid-career professionals working for a range of media, educational and PR agencies; most of them have never heard of these films or seen them before. Our little teaching enterprise coincides with the big Indian summer craze: Selfridges in London’s Oxford Street sell beautiful outfits by Indian designers starting at £1,000; Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bombay Dreams premiered in London during the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations, for the show they have imported the smashing Sophia Loren look-alike Ayesha Dharker (from The Terrorist). The Edinburgh Festival announces they are bringing Bollywood’s heartthrob Shah Rukh Khan as a guest (He often spends time in England anyhow, filming at places like Blenheim Palace or at other stately houses which are regularly rented out by the Bollywood producers).
An acquaintance has given me the web address of a video store in Toronto which, he insists, has most of the classical Yugoslav movies that I want to see. I have printed out their catalogue and have marked about 30 of the films. But I can only appreciate the collection on the day I actually visit the store myself. Amazing indeed, here they are, most classics by the directors of the Black Wave and the Prague Group on videotape. Yugoslavia may have been at war for the past decade, and many of the films in this Serbian-run store are today considered as ‘belonging’ to other national cinemas (Bosnia, Croatia). Yet, the cinematic heritage of the country is available here. How different from my experience with finding other films from the region. In my native Sofia it is not possible to buy a single Bulgarian film classic on video. Romanian friends whom I had asked for copies of a classical film sent me a copy which they had recorded from the American-run HBO channel.
Going to the Renoir cinema in London with my seven-year old son George. We can only see the Iranian title, Babak Payami’s Secret Ballot (2001), because the other film playing has an 18+ rating. I expect George to be bored because he would not understand the language, and even suggest that he plays quietly on his Game Boy. Contrary to my expectations, however, he finds the film fascinating and follows it with great interest. There is little dialogue and as George has just learned how to read, he is in no trouble with the subtitles. I have always known that reading subtitles is an acquired skill: I follow them even when the film is in a language I know. So my message for all those who complain about subtitled films: if you want, you can. Just think of my seven year-old.
My local cineplex Odeon in Leicester, a city of 350,000, has 12 screens. Yet, this year they introduced a new exhibition practice: they only play potential ‘blockbusters,’ resulting in a steadily diminishing number of films shown and shrinking choices. Often there are only several films playing in all 12 theatres, all of the kind that I would not even see. The practice now is that rather than carrying 12 different films in the 12 theatres they have, they would play whatever is perceived to be the blockbuster of the day on two or even three of the screens, and keep the same film on for a number of weeks by adding only one or two new titles. The other mainstream theatre in town is owned by Warner Bros., and they play exactly the same few films that the Odeon has. It has happened several times this year that I have had no reason go to the cinema in Leicester for weeks in a row. If you want to go to a movie, forget it. The way things are set up, now you can only go to the movies.
These days I am reading a newspaper that I used to ignore before: Financial Times. So only now I realise that of all British newspapers, this is the one with best coverage of world cinema. What an irony. People interested in world cinema do not read the Financial Times, and those who read the Financial Times are not interested in world cinema.
It is the last day of the year. I am lining up to see the campy Thai Western Tears of the Black Tiger (Wisit Sasanatieng, 2000) at an afternoon screening at the Paris CineCité Les Halles. The box office manager announces via the PA system that the 3pm screening of Ken Loach’s Sweet Sixteen (2002) is sold out, and I see a number of people going away from the queue, disappointed. According to the weekly guide I hold, Pariscope, Sweet Sixteen can be seen at another 15 locations across Paris, both at the cinemas of the mainstream UGC and at several of the MK2s, as well as at a number of independents. Two weeks ago I was in Marseille, and Sweet Sixteen was playing near my hotel, at a cinema on the main street, La Canebière. The posters for the film could be seen all over the city, and there was a string of them on display at the seaside boulevard in Nice. Some simple arithmetic tells me, therefore, that Sweet Sixteen is being distributed in France in at least 20 copies. I wonder how many copies of the film are in circulation in the UK? Have not had the chance to see it in England, and probably will have to wait until it comes on television.
Dina Iordanova has published extensively on Eastern European and Balkan cinema. Her most recent books are Cinema of Flames: Balkan Film, Culture And The Media (BFI, 2001) and Emir Kusturica (BFI, 2002).
by Robert Keser
Unlike 2001, which brought masterpieces by Lynch, Hou, Yang, Kiarostami, Haneke, Panahi, and Tsai, the year 2002 seemed to produce only five films of comparable quality:
The remarkably controlled Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes): a completely formed achievement, down to its closing shot of blossoms in a snowfall, suggesting an uncertain spring as the heroine’s consciousness belatedly flowers in a cold and hostile world.
In My Mother’s Smile (L’Ora del religione, Marco Bellocchio), a little boy shouts “Get out of my head!” to God, thus anchoring Bellocchio’s refined and clear-headed but consistently surprising investigation of religious deception.
Waltzing to the edge of its ruling conceit – that history streams in continuous space – Russian Ark (Aleksandr Sokurov) finally absorbs time altogether in a characteristically Sokurov abstract meditative stillness.
Laurent Cantet’s riveting Time Out (L’Emploi du temps, 2001) invokes the horror film in the way it shows how the hero’s vanished career position still pulls him with invisible strings, and how the corporate culture controls space, making outsiders trespassers on its privatised property. In the chilling conclusion, every shift of Aurélian Recoing’s eyes reveals that he’s not at all cured, but has in fact become worse.
Outrage bleeds from Paul Greengrass’s impassioned Bloody Sunday (2002), which never flinches in recreating how a peaceful demonstration turned to murderous chaos that respects not even the white flag of truce, and forces the liberal-pacifist idealist to reconsider the earlier advice that “marches won’t solve this thing.”
The most satisfying revivals in Chicago came courtesy of Facets Multimedia (Grémillon’s Pattes Blanches  and Gueule d’Amour , Sokurov’s elegy films, and Im Kwon-Taek’s striking and dynamic Mandala ) and the Film Center of the Art Institute (Pudovkin’s rip snorting Storm Over Asia , de Toth’s The Indian Fighter , the protean Ichikawa in a grand retrospective, and a rare chance to see Frank Urson’s witty 1928 Chicago).
To this viewer, the most welcome reissue on DVD was certainly The Good Fairy (1935), with William Wyler, Preston Sturges and Margaret Sullavan all in tip-top form.
Robert Keser teaches English and Film at National-Louis University in Chicago and writes regularly for Daily-Reviews.com and Bright Lights Film Journal.
by Rainer Knepperges
Festival in Cannes (Henry Jaglom, 2001)
L’emploi du temps (Laurent Cantet, 2001)
Lagaan: Once Upon A Time In India (Ashutosh Gowariker, 2001)
Il mio viaggio in Italia (Martin Scorsese, 2001)
Y tu mamá también (Alfonso Cuarón, 2001)
Desi (Maria Ramos)
Tanguy (Étienne Chatiliez, 2001)
Seifuku de daite (Shinji Imaoka)
Blood Work (Clint Eastwood, 2002)
Bier Brother (Bernhard Lenz)
Birthday Girl (Jez Butterworth, 2001)
Kabhie Kushi Kabhie Gham (Yash Yohar, 2001)
Rudi Rastlos (Piet Fuchs)
Rainer Knepperges, born 1965 in Korschenbroich, Germany, co-founded Filmclub 813 in Cologne and is editor of Gdinetmao. He has written screenplays (Happy Weekend) and has made short films (Tour Eifel). He currently lives in Cologne.
2002: Great and Strange
by Jim Knox
Just when you think you knowitall about the only Technicolour communist children’s musical fantasy (The 5,000 Fingers of Dr T [Roy Rowland, 1953]), a bare $70 finds you in happily bewildered possession of a pristine 16mm print of The Boy with Green Hair (Joseph Losey, 1948). Damn! What a great and strange year 2002 was: thankfully, my years provide me a healthy (?) appetite for the ridiculous, and solong as I can schedule at least a little time in the garden now-and-again I hope to enjoy and survive many equally (at least!) confounding years. I scoped hundreds of incredible things; at least two of those were feature narratives and unspooled in commercial cinemas, which gives me a little (but only a little) hope in that regard. Festival picks were Film Ist. 7-12 (Gustav Deutsch, 2002) at MIFF and The 1001 Nights in the Japanime 2002 program (the latter is one of the most amazing, twisted things I’ve ever seen; in 2003 it comes out on DVD, as does a two-disc set of the complete works of Ladislaw Starewycz!). Fortuitous chance exposed me to some magical local animations: untitled, unheralded works by Neil Taylor… Dave Harris’ unscreened filmclip commissions for the German Digital Hardcore label… and Cornel Wilczek’s unfinished The Tea Monster (I think he telegraphs the twist a little but frackin’ hell it’s great and who am I? to quibble)… Shhh was another native stunner. Kuchar’s Art Asylum (in Ian Haig and Dominic Redfern’s “Wet + Dry” festival, 2001) alerted me to the genius of Martha Colburn and 2002 was the year I got to see almost three hours of her unhinged shorts off of my VCR. Heck, it just got crazier and crazier… On a tip that a greying Egyptian expat’ was laying off his entire collection of Middle East vinyls, I made a rare trip to the wrong side of the Yarra – Allah forfend if he didn’t have also a dozen Bollywood soundtracks, original pressings with pointless-but-elaborately-beautiful packaging… RD Burman is the Subcontinental Morricone and while I doubt so many of you have my patience or madly obsessive resolve to scare up the original vinyls a friendly inquiry directed to your local spice merchants (don’t even dream of wasting time at a “world music” specialty store) will bring you in close contact with one of the most crucial composers of the last hundred years: the mid-to-late ’70s is his halcyon era; Shalimar is commonly regarded as his “funkiest” score but that would be Azhad by my reckoning (and the former somewhat compromised by its concessions to contemporary Western pop styles, rather than Burman jnr’s more usual “marsala” delirium). Hell, he’s done as many scores as Mozza and I confess to total cluelessness about what exactly unguessed-at greatness awaits you at the spice emporium. Federation Square unveiled at last but the “postmodern” curatorial premise I kept reading allusions to makes about as much sense as a mobile dog-washing franchise (can’t hardly figure that shit out, personally)… what I mean is: this whole model of culture via the apparatus of state patronage dates to an immediate post-feudal era so let’s call a spade a shovel and refer to that regrettable nonsense-philosophy of the declining Twentieth Century as “retro-rationalism”, OK? Anyways, abundantly grateful I was to see Sokurov’s Russian Ark (2002) and fingers-crossed we get to see much more of international marginal art cinema in those fine black-and-red (Viva Sandino!) seats. An even greater admiration and affection I feel for those other champions of a marginal screen culture – Jaimie and Aspa’ ‘Meson (Love and Anarchy: The Wild Wild World of Jaimie Leonarder screens on SBS, 8.30pm Friday 31st Jan), Irving G of Splodge!, “Stumpy” Leavold at Trash, and all our like-brained fellow-travellers: cheers, ears!
Jim Knox (reclusive weirdo) programs the Lumpen Intelligentsia Film Society. His films have been screened on SBS and shown at festivals internationally; his most recent musical composition is part of “Variable Resistance” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, September 2002.
2002 Film Favourites
by Maximilian Le Cain
I saw 20 great movies released in 2002. All sorts of movies.
Movies celebrating death: Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001), Baise-Moi (Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi, 2000). Movies celebrating healing: The Son’s Room (Nanni Moretti, 2001), Eureka (Shinji Aoyama, 2000). A movie where death no longer matters: Lovesick (Bill Mousoulis, 2002).
Movies of serene wisdom: I’m Going Home (Manoel de Oliveira, 2001), Lundi Matin (Otar Iosselliani, 2002). Movies of confusion: Ten (Abbas Kiarostami, 2002), Time and Tide (Tsui Hark, 2001). A movie of blind terror made visible: Dream Work (Peter Tscherkassky, 2002).
Movies that undertake a sort of archaeology of cinematic lightness: Va savoir! (Jacques Rivette, 2001), 8 Women (François Ozon, 2002).
An anti-war movie that is even more an anti war-movie: Divine Intervention (Elia Suleiman, 2002).
Movies that access the sadness and isolation of which evil deeds are a by-product: Spider (David Cronenberg, 2002), Talk to Her (Pedro Almodóvar, 2002).
A great love story: Il mio viaggio in Italia (Martin Scorsese, 2001).
Movies that bring to mind Leonard Cohen’s lines “I dreamed about you, baby/ It was just the other night/ Most of you was naked/ But some of you was light”: Millennium Mambo (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2001), Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay, 2002).
A Garrel movie, wonderful in spite of being his weakest to date: Sauvage innocence (2001)
And, best of all, a Godard movie that could well be the Godard movie of his later years: Éloge de l’amour (2001).
Aside from all these fantastic movies, I’d like to mention a man, a woman, a sound and an image.
A man: Nicolas Cage in Windtalkers (2002) battling with John Woo for the soul of this wooden war movie. The tortured, spasmodic intensity of Cage’s performance is so strong that it actually tears the flimsy fabric of this film apart, as if every frame he appears in is stolen from Cassavetes or Ferrara and cut into an otherwise stolidly played, by-numbers Hollywood product. Cage’s ability to hijack portions of this film turns it into the chronicle of a different kind of battle: one man versus the Hollywood machine.
A woman: Samantha Morton. However one defines an artistically relevant modern cinema, Morvern Callar proves that Morton’s sublime acting must feature in the equation.
A sound: Special effects and technological innovations in filmmaking mean precious little to me. Yet in 2002, for the first and only time, I sat in the cinema and silently gave thanks for the power of modern sound technology. The occasion of this gratitude was not a battle or a space ship or some other noisy action scene. It was the awesome boom of Christopher Lee’s voice in Star Wars and Lord of the Rings coming at me in full high-tech, surround-sound glory that was making my hair stand on end!
An image. Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale (2000): Takeshi Kitano, the most immediately fascinating male actor on today’s screens, stands on a dais in a large, deserted yard while loudspeakers bark exercise instructions. As if leading dozens of youths, this homicidal teacher goes through the paces of the exercise regime. In one blow, the film’s villain becomes sympathetic through this hauntingly theatrical declaration of isolation. This scene almost made up for the absence of a new film from Kitano himself last year. Almost.
Maximilian Le Cain is a filmmaker and cinephile living in Cork City, Ireland.
Film Highlights 2002
by Patricia MacCormack
The UK hosted an eclectic mix of festivals particularly oriented to the horror cinephile. Although one would hardly call many of these events mainstream it took someone with a head for the perverse into raptures of unearthed ecstasy. The 2002 Frightfest, an annual horror film festival in the West End showcasing new films, generally featured an array of pear shaped men with sports bags watching the mean-spirited Ted Bundy and Asian-fetishising films disappointingly reaffirming the strong gender bias in the horror world – male organisers, themes oriented toward male libidinality and apparently male spectators. But this year we got to see David Cronenberg’s devastating triumph and my favourite new film of the year Spider (2002) six months before release (and before we exploded with anticipation.) Audiences were treated to Patrick McGrath in a Q&A, but alas no delicious David. The ICA’s Udo Kier Festival was not only a chance to see the former darling of CiNecrophilia in the flesh pulling out his own 8×10 glossies to sign but to see Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1976) and Exposé (James Kenelm Clarke, 1975) on the big screen. Strangely no Blood for Dracula (Paul Morrissey, 1973) or Flesh for Frankenstein (Paul Morrissey, 1973). Melbournians are lucky to be able to see these films relatively frequently and in 3-D. The wonderful Horse Hospital (take note any visitors to London you must exploit this gem) hosted an ultra-rare screening of the almost impossible to see Nazi-paedophile study in profane intensity In a Glass Cage (1986) – far cleverer and less offensive than expected. Outside of the big screen the new addition to the Bizarre Sinema series by Italian publisher Glittering Images Cultish Shock Horror continued the overwhelming beauty of these large, hard-backed glossy books dedicated to less celebrated Italian Gothic, lone gems and generally seductive strange films. D.N. Rodowick’s Reading the Figural, Or, Philosophy After the New Media (Post-Contemporary Interventions) (Duke Univ Press, 2001) was my top academic film book despite its focus on canonical cinema. Der Golem (Henrik Galeen and Paul Wegener, 1915) on DVD was my favourite release, closely followed by Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (Jorge Grau, 1974), a deliriously gorgeous film. Special honours go to graduate student Simon Wilkinson who organised the Exploiting Fear: The Art and Appeal of Horror Film academic conference at the University of Hull, an arena where to not think horror as worthy of post-structural French philosophical analysis made one the outsider for a change. Brilliant speakers, engaging atmosphere and promises to be annual. Disappointment of the year – Red Dragon (Brett Ratner, 2002).
Patricia MacCormack is lecturer in Communication at Anglia Polytechnic University, Cambridge. She has published mainly on Italian Horror, sexuality, feminism and the work of Deleuze and Guattari.
by Nina Menkes
Most of the films I saw this year felt to me like a rehash—either in terms of visual style, the emotional terrain that was being explored, and/or the narrative structure. A fantastic and brilliant exception was Gus Van Sant’s experimental feature Gerry (2002). This inspirational work, like all the films I love best, is hard to even explain. Two men get lost in the desert, and in an almost biblical-like scenario, one kills the other. The men had believed they were lost; in fact they are only a few hundred feet away from the road (salvation). The combination of casual realism and intense surrealism hits a perfect note of tension and beauty. The emotional terrain covered is wild, unexpected, unexplained. I don’t even like to write about this film, because I prefer that you just go see it, and anyway, I’m not a writer. Thank you Gus, for an inspirational work. Gerry is not only my favourite film of the year, but also one of my favourite films of the last ten years.
I would also like to mention a short film: Drowning, 3 min, by James Fotopoulos, which was actually made in 2000, but which I saw in 2002. This strangely disturbing piece shows a nude woman bathed in red light, and weaves in and out of focus in a powerful depiction of a contemporary, sophisticated male heterosexual’s ambivalent feelings when staring at an almost pornographic image.
Nina Menkes is a LA-based experimental filmmaker. Her work was spotlighted in Issue 22 of Senses of Cinema.
by Olaf Möller
Top Ten 2002:
Ali (Michael Mann, 2001)
Araburu Tamashii Tachi (Miike Takashi, 2001)
Bulong Ng Balukyot / Pangarap Ng Puso (Mario O’Hara, 2000)
Hundstage (Ulrich Seidl, 2001)
Isshukan – Aiyoku Nikki (Kobayashi Masahiro)
Lavoura Arcaica (Luiz Fernando Carvalho, 2001)
The Mad Songs Of Fernanda Hussein (John Gianvito, 2001)
Renmin Gongche (Fruit Chan Kuo, 2002)
Sagkoshi (Bahram Beyzai, 2001)
Shin Jingi No Hakaba (Miike Takashi, 2002)
Ten Treasures 2002:
Champagner (Géza von Bolváry, 1929)
Crni Film (Zelimir Zilnik, 1971)
Deux Fois (Jackie Raynal, 1971)
EX (Jacques Monory)
Io La Conoscevo Bene (Antonio Pietrangeli, 1966)
Listopad (Otakar Vávra, 1935)
Nedostaje Mi Sonja Henie (Karpo Godina, & Tinto Brass, Purisa Dordevic, Milos Forman & Buck Henry, Dusan Makavejev, Paul Morrissey, Bogdan Tirnanis, Frederick Wiseman)
Out (Lionel Rogosin)
The Spiritualist (Bernard Vorhaus, 1948)
Toscanini: Hymn Of The Nations (Alexandr Hackenschmied)
Top Ten of Sight & Sound‘s Ten Greatest Films of All Time-Poll-Lists (in no particular order):
– SATO Tadao’s
– Joel David’s
– SHINOZAKI Makoto’s
– Jacques Lourcelles’s
– Bruce La Bruce’s
– Paolo Cherchi-Usai’s
– George A. Romero’s
– Errol Morris’s
– Pierre Rissient’s
– Paul Morrissey’s
A special mention goes to Anurag Mehta (whosoever that might be) for the most brashly vulgar list: At least it’s enjoyable – in contrast to, say, Anneke Smelik’s list which got me running straight to the next comfort room. And: Although Bruce La Bruce as well as George A. Romero wrote wonderful notes commenting on their choices, and although Joel David shot of a great snotty-snide aside to cap his choice, the Award for the best comment simply must go to Shinoda Masahiro who stated that he “tried to select the above ten films from those which depict hell exhibited in the world” – now, THAT’S what I call purpose.
Ten Greatest Film Books 2002 (in no particular order):
– Jacques Zimmer (Sous la direction de): Le cinema X
– Fernao Ramos & Luiz Felipe Miranda (Organizadores): Enciclopedia do Cinema Brasileiro
– Antonio Leao da Silva Neto: Dicionario de Filmes Brasileiros (longa metragem)
– Elisabeth Büttner & Christian Dewald: Das tägliche Brennen
– Michael Omasta (Hrg): Tribute to Sasha
– Vito Zagarrio (a cura de): Non c’e pace tra gli ulivi
– Nancy Spector: Matthew Barney – The Cremaster Cycle
– Anne-Claire Cieutat & Michel Cieutat & Philippe Roger: Le cinematographe selon Gerard Blain
– Alain Philippon: Le blanc des origines
– Johannes Schönherr: Trashfilm Roadshows
Olaf Möller is a writer, translator and curator based in Cologne.
Disappointments and Highlights
by Glen W. Norton
Loving cinema means hating it just as much – perhaps even more. With this in mind, in 2002 I was, like most other years, consumed not by what I should see but by what I should avoid. Even among the films I wanted to see there were many disappointments:
Panic Room (2002) was Fincher’s first real flop. No one can withstand Hollywood’s rush toward absolute mediocrity for long I suppose.
Punch-Drunk Love (2002) was not really a disappointment – after Magnolia (2000) I had learned not to expect much. Maybe I’m idealistic, but I keep waiting for P.T. Anderson to realise that the constant, deafening music in his films is just really, really annoying.
I always have to see the latest Benoît Jacquot. Adolphe (2002) was more of the same, another of those viewing experiences which I remember as being pleasant enough without being able to recall anything of the film itself. 1995’s La fille seule was his last really great work. Now he makes highly accomplished bores. Truffaut would have been proud. (Owch! That was uncalled for…)
There was Soderbergh’s “new” Solaris (2002), which I (fair or not) had decided I was going to dislike going in. But even in this already jaded state its trite, didactic ending managed to piss me off no end. Most unpleasant.
Kiarostami’s Ten (2002) was an interesting experiment, not much more. DV has more potential than the static “candid” shots he uses here. Still, with great filmmakers a certain genius is evident even in their most mediocre effort.
Divine Intervention (Elia Suleiman, 2002)? Tati rolls in his grave. Sorry Mr. Suleiman, but this isn’t even worthy of Jerry Lewis at his worst. Never has a floating balloon gag felt more like a sledgehammer to my skull.
Tykwer’s Heaven (2002) just made me miss Kieslowski all the more.
Sissako’s Waiting for Happiness (2002) was one of those by-the-book “art” films that are beautiful and strange and poignant in exactly the same way a million other “art” films are beautiful and strange and poignant. After a while they all blend together.
Still undecided about Denis’ Vendredi soir (2002) (though after Trouble Every Day  anything looks good). At least the Godard-ness shines through in all the right ways. Sometimes profundity masks itself as banality, even in a great director’s hands. I will definitely give it a second viewing.
And now the highlights:
It was a great year for me as a Godard fan: the DVD release of Le mépris (1963) + lots of extras; the Reading Godard conference at the University of Iowa where I finally got to see Soigne ta droite (Jean-Luc Godard, 1986) in 35mm as well as numerous shorts I had never seen before; and Ten Minutes Older: The Cello (2002), including Godard’s Dans le noir du temps which was easily the boldest of the segments.
Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (2001) was an eye-opener. I have never been a fan of anime but a friend persuaded me to come along for this wondrous ride. I kept waiting for Disney-fied explanations which thankfully never came. For me, the surprise of the year.
Philippe Grandrieux’s La vie nouvelle (2002) is filled with images that stay. Viewing becomes an encounter and not an exercise. See it.
Hidenori Sugimori’s Woman of Water (2002) is another really great “image” film, especially in the simple majesty of seeing Mt. Fuji being painted on a bathhouse wall. This one might be overlooked.
The best of the best:
Gus van Sant’s Gerry (2002), basically a “fuck-you” to Hollywood types who might see it for the “star” power alone, is really a study in boredom, a film Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet might have made if backed by Miramax. One computer-enhanced moment of impurity aside (at least that’s what it looked like to me), this is simplicity at its most inventive. Could this be the mainstream’s first structural film?
Of all the films I saw in 2002, Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible hit me the hardest. You all know the details; let me just say that the backwards plot is no mere contrivance, nor is the rape scene gratuitous. This is a film you have to stick with to the end/beginning. By then I was actually feeling things I couldn’t quite comprehend – feeling, not just theorising about what I as some objective “viewer” should be feeling or cogitating on the ramifications of this or that plot element or even wondering if what I really should be feeling is “guilty” for liking it (which is certainly something I considered later). It had me through and through. The bravest and best of the year.
Glen W. Norton is a doctoral candidate in Social and Political Thought at York University, Toronto. He has written for various journals and magazines, and also maintains the Cinema=Jean-Luc Godard=Cinema website.
TOP 5 x 3 + Bonus Track
by Marcelo Panozzo
5 Argentinean films:
Lugares comunes (Adolfo Aristarain)
Tan de repente (Diego Lerman)
Sabés nadar? (Diego Kaplan)
Por la vuelta (Christian Pauls)
Balnearios (Mariano Llinás)
5 films released in Argentina during 2002:
The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson)
Mulholland Drive (David Lynch)
Lilo & Stitch (Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois)
Brother (Takeshi Kitano)
L’emploi du temps (Laurent Cantet)
5 films not released in Argentina during 2002:
Le Fils (Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne)
Russian Ark (Alexander Sokurov)
Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki)
Vendredi Soir (Claire Denis)
Bonus – 5 soundtracks of my 2002:
Finally We Are No One (múm)
Dead Ringer (RJD2)
Scion Arrange & Process Basic Channel Tracks (Various Artists)
Northern Classic (Donna Regina)
Original Pirate Material (The Streets)
Marcelo Panozzo is a film critic for El Amante (Buenos Aires) and a Programmer for the Buenos Aires International Film Festival.
Favourite Films of 2002
by George Papadopoulos
Adaptation (Jonze, 2002): Clever and witty, this is one of the best films about the movie industry ever made. Cage and Streep are as good as ever but it is Chris Cooper who is the standout as the orchid thief. Brian Cox’s all-too-brief cameo as the real-life screenwriting guru, Robert McKee, is a hoot.
Waking Life (Linklater, 2001): What a year for animation with two masterpieces. Linklater’s is more adult than most animation features and very talky but is just so original and compelling with its plethora of ideas thrown at you from all angles, making it a rich visual and aural experience.
The Royal Tenenbaums (Anderson, 2002): Wes Anderson has a great eye for detail in terms of narrative and visual texture. Great understated performances from Hackman, Stiller, Paltrow and Huston.
What Time Is It There? (Tsai, 2002): Recalling the minimalist direction and familiar themes of Antonioni and Ozu, this masterpiece is a breath of fresh air. Totally engrossing, hauntingly beautiful, ultimately moving and thematically dense, it deserves to be seen beyond the festival circuit.
Raising Victor Vargas (Sollett, 2002): Beautiful, low-budget American independent film depicting coming-of-age story about a young teenage boy living in downtown New York who falls in love with the reluctant neighbourhood beauty. Shot with handheld camera in documentary style, terrific performances by first-time teenage actors and gorgeous cinematography recalls the equally brilliant George Washington (Greene, 2000).
Bowling for Columbine (Moore, 2002): Scathing in its condemnation of his own country, Moore paints a depressing but extremely entertaining picture of gun-crazy, fear-mongering USA.
Spirited Away (Miyazaki, 2001): Brilliantly imaginative Japanese animation feature is a total joy from beginning to end transporting the viewer into another time and place. Conventional animation by design but totally bold in narrative.
Time Out (Cantet, 2001): Absorbing drama about one man’s deception of his family and friends to protect his own ego from the fact that he has recently become unemployed. A brilliant but frightening depiction of the pitfalls of modern capitalist society.
Morvern Callar (Ramsay, 2002): One of the best new directors emerging, Ramsay has a great photographic eye and this film is visually striking with a spellbinding performance by Samantha Morton, her best ever.
Y tu mamá también (Cuarón, 2001): Very funny teen sex comedy and surprisingly quite moving; it’s better than any recent Hollywood efforts dealing with teenage sexuality.
The Eye (The Pang Brothers, 2002): A virtual rip-off of The Sixth Sense but much, much scarier and a better film. A blind girl has her sight restored with an eye transplant but then begins to see dead people. One of the most genuinely frightening films I have ever seen.
The Little Chinese Seamstress (Dai, 2002): Engaging story about two young men in love with the same girl set in a Maoist re-education camp. Outstanding cinematography among lush, mountainous locations and a great visual climax.
Standing in the Shadows of Motown (Jutman, 2002): Engrossing and insightful documentary of the Funk Brothers who were responsible for the sound and songs of Motown but remarkably were never credited.
George Papadopoulos has worked in film finance and acquisitions for over five years.
by Alan Pavelin
The Lady and the Duke (Rohmer, 2001). A masterful return to historical drama, following Die Marquise von O…(1976) and the delirious Perceval le Gallois (1978). Set in French revolutionary times, the sets are worthy of Traunier and the British actress Lucy Russell is a revelation.
Ten (Kiarostami, 2002). Another highly original offering from the Iranian master, utterly simple in its conception and with a stunning performance from the young actor. Typically for Kiarostami, the entire film is set in a car.
Talk to Her (Almodóvar). The Spanish director improves with every film. I don’t care much for his early work, but this one (and his previous All About My Mother ) shows marvellous maturity and a convincing portrayal of the deepest human feelings.
Time Out (Cantet, 2001). That relative rarity, a film about recognisably ordinary middle-class people who have to earn a living doing “normal” jobs – or in this case pretending to.
Va Savoir! (Rivette, 2001). At two hours, this is way below Rivette’s usual running time! A thoroughly playful and entertaining film about a theatre troupe returning to Paris.
Alan Pavelin has been interested in international cinema since the 1960s, and has been writing about it since the 1980s. He has a particular interest in the portrayal of religious themes in film, and wrote a small self-published book, Fifty Religious Films (UK, 1990).