compiled by Fiona A. Villella
On Two Films from 2002
by Mark Peranson
Year 2002: the attack of the clones. This year in movies, everything seemed to be replicated, duplicated, adapted – from literature, nonfiction, comic books, Saturday morning cartoons, the New Wave, the Land of Geekdom, and sometimes, not just according to the Raelians, real life. Continuing a long-germinating trend, originality continued to reach another new nadir in American film, with the laboratory known as Hollywood continuing to eat its own tail. With the recent discovery of the vast riches to be found in the shudders of Japanese horror and the wackiness of South Korean misfit comedies – currently being bought by rapacious Yankees spin doctors to shelve and remake – we should prepare ourselves for more second-hand goods in A-level packaging.
To wit, the usual array of I Spy’s aside, this year saw six remakes of honest-to-goodness films of all shapes and sizes playing at the same time for one week: see, The Ring, The Truth About Charlie, Red Dragon, Solaris, Swept Away … okay, I cheated, that last one only played for one week. Still, with all the adaptation came the anxiety of adaptation. (See the collected works of Charles Kaufman, which I support, but am tired of talking about already.) Although Tsai Ming-liang continues with his daring circular project of endlessly remaking the same movie (only 395 blows left!), the old auteuristic project of telling the same story over and over seems to be heading to the point of no return. While Mike Leigh spinned his wheels, De Palma continued… well, you know. Talk to Her finds another one of the year’s baffling sensations, the obvious horndogs on the road Y tu mamá también, being crossed with the TBS staple Weekend at Bernie‘s. Antown Fisher – Oprah meets Dr. Phil.
But context is everything. Give P.T. Anderson an Adam Sandler film, and watch critics who normally haven’t the time of day for Sandler’s usual shenanigans fall into line. The year’s greatest critical hit, Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven, is also a remake, of sorts. Although Douglas Sirk may have died while in self-imposed exile in Lugano in 1987, 2002 will go down as the year when the reinterpretation and revival of his once-dismissed Hollywood melodramas crosses over from academics to full-blown filmic practice. Intimations of Sirk have been present in films from Fassbinder to Scorsese to Almodóvar – this is the type of Sirkian suffusion present in François Ozon’s genetics experiment gone horribly wrong, 8 Women. (And is it just me or does Talk to Her just demand to be remade by Cameron Crowe starring Tom and Penelope?) Still, no director, ever, has been as pastiche-dedicated as Haynes, the former Brown semiotics major. Was film not one part inspiration, one part perspiration, one part acting, Sirk’s estate could easily demand a co-director credit. Rather than simply splicing together All That Heaven Allows (Sirk, 1955) and Fear Eats the Soul (Fassbinder, 1973), Haynes uses Sirk’s cinematic syntax and Julianne Moore’s sublime face to write a supremely strange balancing act: Haynes on Sirk would be completely unimaginable without a close reading of Sirk on Sirk, but a film whose artificiality is the very key to its emotional depth.
It seems to me that one can’t resolve one’s feelings to Far From Heaven without dealing with this artificiality (many are replacing it with a more value-laden term, “irony”), and artificiality that Haynes sees as indicative of not just “film” itself (as he has often said in interviews), but this very culture. I wasn’t alive in the ’50s, neither was Haynes, and nor were many of the revisionist critics intent on defending the ’50s – and the nuclear family, á la Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can – and shoving Sirk back into the academic closet. The most curious (and, possibly, unquantifiable) thing about Far From Heaven is how it manages to be contemporary: the frisson caused by a well-placed cuss word? More than the people who were alive when Sirk was churning them out, Jackass-generation critics – a collectively cynical-by-nurture bunch – perhaps might be the ones who are on Haynes’ wavelength, though the cynical comments about the film are coming from the conservative elders (one local critic pushing 50, and prodding homophobia: “I can’t imagine the audience for this. Gay film geeks?”). True, we’re cynical – we can’t stomach the tearjerking feelgood sentimentality of a film like Antwon Fisher – but years of conditioning have mutated our reactions, leading to a place where emotions are not all that separate from intellect. Artificial melodramatists, whether Haynes or PTA, are cut from the same jib, realizing the anguish inherent in the fact that in the DVD age everything seems to be replicated, duplicated, and adapted.
Abetting the Sirkian wave is the Criterion Collection’s release of dazzling remastered (“as good as new!”) DVDs of All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind (Sirk, 1956) (with essays by Laura Mulvey, natch). These are the real treasures for us cineastes who were not alive in the ’50s, the greatest decade for American sound and colour – Russell Metty’s Technicolor – cinema. Haynes’ recreation of ’50s cinema is, to allude to one of Sirk’s subversive contemporaries Nick Ray – perhaps next in line for revival – bigger than life: it’s a factor of impeccable set decoration and to-die-for costumes, detached camera angles and colours; on the last two counts, Haynes is abetted by Ed Lachman’s cinematography; I have no idea how anyone can say this film does not look good. Lachman, co-director with Larry Clark of the film maudit Ken Park (which languishes without a North American distributor), is deserving of artist-of-the-year accolades. And as for Ozon? If Sirk was still alive he’d surely sue for defamation of character. (Note to America: Sirk’s best film may be in black and white. Are Haynes and Quaid up for a CinemaScope revival of The Tarnished Angels [Sirk, 1957]?)
Is there any doubt that Manoel de Oliveira is the greatest living filmmaker? We should clone him before it’s too late.
A special “Oh, the Humanity” award for most species combined in one breathing organism goes to Martin Scorsese for the year’s controversial film folly, Gangs of New York, the Last Picture of the 20th Century – an achievement it aspires to quite consciously with its capping shot of the Twin Towers. After the action started in cloned-on-an-Italian-soundstage Civil War-era New York whole hog, I stopped trying to catch the reference points (e.g., after the first Gone With the Wind pullback, the fireworks from Les Amants du Pont-Neuf, the set-ups from Once Upon a Time in America, Lean’s Oliver Twist, and The Warriors, The Man in the Iron Mask, the reveal from The Ladies’ Man, to name just a few of the rides we’re on) and gave in to the amusement park sensation of watching exotic history come to life. Whatever complexity may be sacrificed for cartoony in the character depiction, the thematics of violence and history are more complex than any other film I’ve seen this year. Whether it’s the puffed up DiCaprio or the self-important (and very brilliant) Day Lewis, these two fully driven characters are ultimately overrun, their personal struggle rendered minute in comparison to the government and mob atrocities transpiring alongside them. Whatever liberties have been taken with real events, Scorsese literally breathes life into history, a not-insignificant accomplishment in an age where historical memory is constantly sacrificed – and even more importantly, depicts it rightly as an American history written in (Captain) blood, xenophobia, and racism. Any similarities with The Birth of a Nation are clearly intentional; as he deftly moves from micro to macro and back again with mounting complexity, Scorsese is painfully pointed on the futility of valour. He also destroys one of the oldest myths in American history (as seen through its films), by melding the Frontier with so-called civilization. Billy the Kid, after all, was born in New York City.
Even though he takes great pleasure in historical reconstruction, Scorsese, like Haynes, is ultimately just as concerned with the present as the past, and is deeply cynical about it – he has to be, to make a movie-movie like this one, littered with thieving politicians, bloodthirsty gang members whose modern-day counterparts are well-dissected in Nick Broomfield’s Biggie and Tupac. A film made on the cusp of the last presidential election, Gangs makes politics into theatre – indeed, into a bona fide combat sport. The final coup de grace is how it reminds us of a stone cold fact that the rest of Hollywood seems to have erased with the ease of the stroke of a computer key: “The ballots don’t matter, it’s the counters. So keep counting!”
Closing rant: Some critics have pointed out ideological issues with Gangs of New York, but the true ideological con job of the year – and also the true pompous, bloated, “hellish horror of failed ambition,” to quote another colleague on Gangs – is Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Most film critics are predisposed to like this kind of crap, indeed, revere it, because they read Tolkien under the covers while they were kids: I say anyone who has picked up a copy of The Hobbit should recuse themselves from any public comment on this catastrophic bore. Though horrific in its own right, The Attack of the Clones was a more enjoyable film – I’ll take Yoda’s nimble light-sabering over the Strom Thurmond lookalike Gollum’s schizophrenic babble any day. War films are by their nature delicate enterprises, and many others, including most recently Salman Rushdie, have pointed out how irresponsible is it in this climate of saber-rattling to present one where good and evil are so clearly demarcated? One in which the faceless hoards of ultimate evil – there’s even a suicide bomber in their evil midst! – are fending off by our motley crew of racially mixed, unquestionably pure heroes, who engage in a running tally of how many lowdown dirty Orcs they’ve felled with a mighty video-game swoop? (Oh, not to mention that the film is indeterminable, ridiculous – 45 minutes of talking trees!), and, ultimately, pointless – the hobbits start out two miles or so from The Two Towers, and end up 20 miles in the opposite direction. The audience for this – clearly repressed gay film geeks. Remind me again why this film was made? Oh yeah, 26 million dollars on opening day.
20 from 2002:
Adaptation (Spike Jonze, US)
Blissfully Yours (Joe Weerasethakul, Thailand)
Camel(s) (Park Ki-yong, South Korea)
Demonlover (Olivier Assayas, France)
Dracula – Pages from a Virgin’s Diary (Guy Maddin, Canada)
Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, US)
Gangs of New York (Martin Scorsese, US)
Gerry (Gus Van Sant, US)
An Injury to One (Travis Wilkerson, US)
Japón (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico)
Ken Park (Larry Clark and Ed Lachman, US/Netherlands)
Le Fils (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium)
The Man Without a Past (Aki Kaurismäki, Finland)
Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay, UK)
Oasis (Lee Chang-dong, South Korea)
Punch-Drunk Love/Blossoms of Blood (P.T. Anderson and Jeremy Blake, US)
Russian Ark (Alexander Sokurov, Russia/Germany)
24 Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom, UK)
Unknown Pleasures (Jia Zhangke, China)
The Uncertainty Principle (Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal)
Mark Peranson is editor/publisher of CinémaScope and a programmer at the Vancouver International Film Festival.
2002 Film Favourites
by Alberto Pezzotta
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (Park Chan-wook, 2002)
Russian Ark (Aleksandr Sokurov, 2002)
Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
Sur mes lèvres (Jacques Audiard, 2001)
L’ora di religione (Marco Bellocchio, 2002)
Springtime in a Small Town (Tian Zhuangzhuang, 2002)
Un homme sans l’Occident (Raymond Depardon, 2002)
Most useless, overrated, gross movie of 2002: Magdalene (Peter Mullan). If you want to see a daring movie about catholic religion, see Bellocchio’s L’ora di religione. Fascist movie of the year: Irréversible by Gaspar Noé.
Alberto Pezzotta writes for Corriere della sera and (too) many Italian film magazines. He has written books on Hong Kong Cinema, Mario Bava, Taxi Driver, and Abel Ferrara. He is based in Milan, Italy.
2002 Film Favourites
by Jit Phokaew
(in preferential order)
Bunny (Mia Trachinger, 2000) While the scene in which a guy sings a song about sweet old summertime is the most uplifting I have ever seen, the ending of is also the saddest scene ever. Trachinger is not only capable of revealing the heart and soul of her two main characters, but also the heart and soul of the city in which they live. What Trachinger did for the city in this film reminds me of what Antonioni did for Rome in L’Eclisse (1962) and what Tsai did for Taipei in Vive L’Amour (1994). If My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Joel Zwick, 2002) makes you lose faith in independent cinema, Bunny can help you regain that faith.
Before the Storm (Reza Parsa, 2000) This film makes me cry a bucketful of tears.
Pas de Scandale (Benoît Jacquot, 1999) I like that Jacquot treats characters in this film as if they were real humans rather then ciphers to convey a message or advance the plot.
Vacancy (Matthias Müller, 1998) If you found Fata Morgana (Werner Herzog, 1971) bewitching in the way it magically transforms the Sahara desert into a sci-fi landscape, Vacancy does the same by magically transforming a city from the past into a futuristic town. For me, Mueller is not only one of the greatest experimental filmmakers, he is also one of the greatest filmmakers. There are a lot more emotions in his films than in most narrative cinema, and they films prove very well that there is more to experimental films then style, forms or concepts.
Lovely Rita (Jessica Hausner, 2001) This film reminds me of Robert Bresson, and of Bu su (Jun Ichikawa, 1987), my favourite film about teenagers. Oddly, Lovely Rita was promoted as “a film for those who love Amelie”. Yet it is unfair to compare Rita (Barbara Osika) and her love interest (Peter Fiala) with Amelie (Audrey Tautou) and her love interest (Mathieu Kassovitz), because Rita is a ‘human’ of flesh and blood and true emotions and her love interest an ordinary guy, whilst Amelie is a ‘character’ used to represent an idea and her love interest seems like a handsome reward for being a good girl.
Nabi (Moon Seung-wook, 2001) Three people search for something in a hostile land, which may or may not exist. As in Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979), Nabi uses a sci-fi plot to explore something else. You don’t have to understand everything in this film; its viewing experience is more about being immersed in a downpour of feelings and emotions. Its most touching moment is the simplest—when the two heroines enjoy cooking noodle together. Kim Ho-jung gives an intense performance, and seems like a Korean answer to Maggie Cheung. Nabi is my favourite Korean film after 301-302 (Park Chul-soo, 1995); both are highly recommended for those who like that particular sub-genre—films that explore female psychology, personality, memory, trauma, and the interaction between two or more women—of which Full Moon in New York (Stanley Kwan, 1989) and Midnight Fly (Jacob Cheung, 2001) are examples.
Blissfully Yours (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2002) Though not as exhilarating as Mysterious Object at Noon (Apichatpong, 2000) nor as hypnotic as Windows (Apichatpong, 1999), the second part of this film is a real wonder. Blissfully Yours proves very well that Apichatpong is capable of handling subtle and delicate human emotions, in addition to exploring and experimenting with image, sound, text, voice-over, time, memory, dream, fiction, and reality in cinema. Though I’m not particularly biased towards Thai films, I must admit that as a cinephile in Bangkok, I am very much indebted to Apichatpong and his friends for their role as terrific film festival organizers and for bringing to this country the films of Marcel Duchamp, Joris Ivens, Man Ray, Mike Hoolboom, Dominique Gonzalez-Foester, Lewis Klahr, Leighton Pierce, Martin Arnold, Peter Tscherkassky, and Bruce Baillie.
Aftershocks (Rakesh Sharma, 2001) A documentary about villagers who have been cheated out of their land by greedy businesses. Its form is novel and poetic: it both shows directly how the villagers suffer, but also their everyday activities, which may appear incidental and irrelevant, but that allows the audience to feel the air, the heat, the dryness and the spirit of the earth as do the villagers.
A Wedding in Ramallah (Sherine Salama, 2002)
The Greatest Thing (Thomas Robsahm, 2001) In this film, female friendship takes precedence over romantic love. The heroine, Petra, reminds me of the heroines from Shirley Valentine (Lewis Gilbert, 1989), Miss Firecracker (Thomas Schlamme, 1989), and Muriel’s Wedding (PJ Hogan, 1994). These films don’t just end when the romantic dilemma is resolved; instead, they allow the heroine to discover her true nature and to realize her dreams, knowing full well she deserves much more than love from a nice guy. The Greatest Thing may be a feel-good movie, but it may also be one of the greatest feel-good movies.
Die Blume der Hausfrau (Dominik Wessely, 1999)
The Tale of the Floating World (Alain Escalle, 2001)
Innocence (Paul Cox, 2000)
No Place to Go (Oskar Roehler, 2000)
Nine Good Teeth (Alex Halpern, 2002)
Days of Grace (Jaakko Pyhala, 1998)
Queen of the Damned (Michael Rymer, 2002)
And Then (Yoshimitsu Morita, 1985)
Buenos Aires, meine Geschicte (German Kral, 1998)
Cache (Carolyn Coal, 1998)
Favourite video/TV viewing:
Static (Mark Romanek, 1985)
All the Vermeers in New York (Jon Jost, 1990)
I…comme Icare (Henri Verneuil, 1979)
Victor Schoelcher, l’abolition (Paul Vecchiali, 1998)
La Vie moderne (Laurence Ferreira Barbosa, 1999)
Jit Phokaew is a Bangkok-based cinephile.
by Mike Plante
(Foreword disclaimer: Unless you saw every single film shown in any single theatre, art gallery, film festival, microcinema and basement, a top ten list is only personal and timely.)
American Splendor (Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini, 2002)
Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau, 1946/2002 re-release)
Blissfully Yours (2002) and Mysterious Object at Noon (2000) (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
James Benning’s California Trilogy [El Valley Centro (2000), Los (2001), Sogobi (2001)]
Gosford Park (Robert Altman, 2001)
Happy Here and Now (Michael Almereyda, 2002)
Irréversible (Gaspar Noé, 2002)
Jackass (Jeff Tremaine, 2002)
Paradox Lake (Przemyslaw Shemie Reut, 2002)
War (rough cut, Jake Mahaffy)
Chris Cunningham retrospective
James Fotopoulos retrospective
Buffalo Common (Bill Brown, 2001)
Fishtank (Richard Billingham, 1998)
Historia del Desierto (Desert Story, Celia Galan Julve, 2002)
OPENMINDS (Joe Sedelmaier, 2002)
Periodical Effect (Stom Sogo, 2001)
Putnam (Paul S. Myers, 2002)
Skellahellavision (2002) and Cats Amore (2002) (Martha Colburn)
A Soft Warrior (Nina Menkes, 1984)
Terminal Bar (Stefan Nadelman, 2002)
Terry Tate, Office Linebacker (Rawson Marshall Thurber, 2001)
Favourite underground videos (in no particular order):
Damnation (1988) and Sátántangó (1994) (both by Béla Tarr, finally released by Cinema Parallel)
Laz Rojas screenplay sample tape
Nardwuar video interviews
The Two Winners (trilogy by Chris Peters, 2002)
“Johnny Cash Live At Folsom Prison” (TV special)
Gong Show Movie (Chuck Barris, 1980)
Adult Swim (late night cartoon series on Cartoon Network, specifically the genius of Space Ghost, Brak, Harvey Birdman and Sea Lab 2021)
Outtakes of Carrot Top on “Weakest Link”
Wanda (Barbara Loden, 1971)
S.O.S. Boxcar (16mm film projection by Bill Daniel onto passing trains, 2000)
Meet Marlon Brando (The Maysles Brothers, 1966)
Making of Husbands (BBC, 1970)
Mike Plante is editor and publisher of Cinemad magazine, programmer at the CineVegas International Film Festival and short film coordinator at the Sundance Film Festival.
Best of 2002
by Jared Rapfogel
Though I loved Far from Heaven, Russian Ark, Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, and Talk to Her as much as the next cinephile, here are a few comments on some of the lesser noted films of 2002:
Domestic Violence (Frederick Wiseman, 2001): Another great Wiseman documentary and, after Belfast, Maine (1999), proof that he is at the height of his powers. This is one of his most affirmative films, an investigation of domestic violence but from the perspective of a progressive shelter, and therefore emphasizing the process of rehabilitation and empowerment. Wiseman’s great strength is his broad-minded even-handedness – by beginning and ending the film with almost unbearable glimpses of abuse, he makes sure we don’t get lulled into a false sense of optimism, but he chooses primarily to approach his subject by portraying the excruciatingly difficult but not impossible task of taking control of one’s life.
Love and Diane (Jennifer Dworkin, 2002): A portrait of a poor, beleaguered Brooklyn family and the inadequate social services system that acts more to bar than to help them in their attempts to stay together. Dworkin’s film is Wisemanesque in its refusal to make ‘black and white’ a situation that is nothing but shades of grey, however, it’s a more expressive, impressionistic film than Wiseman generally allows himself, and thanks to the several years Dworkin spent with the family, a more intimate one. It’s most Wiseman-like quality, though, is the feeling of relief and thankfulness it inspires for having captured a part of American experience that is so often ignored or glossed over.
Esther Kahn (Arnaud Desplechin, 2000): A brilliant, mysterious film that was inexplicably dismissed by many critics. It’s that rare creature – a period piece that feels almost magically transporting and authentic, but also cinematically exhilarating and innovative.
Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay, 2002): Above all a perplexing film, one you begin to make sense of only after it’s at least halfway over. The feeling you have while watching it, the sense of mystery as to its tone, its attitude towards its central character, and its ultimate direction, is one regrettably few movies give us these days. A movie that needs to be seen twice, once to experience it, once to try to begin to make sense of it (I’ve only seen it once so far)..
Le Fils (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2002: Maybe the best movie of the year, and certainly one of the most emotionally and intellectually satisfying, it’s a film of heartbreaking delicacy and directness, in which every gesture and every camera movement feels profoundly purposeful. A moral film in the best, most challenging, most substantive sense of the term.
Ararat (Atom Egoyan, 2002): Messy, often clumsy, and awkward, it’s nevertheless an important film, too full perhaps, but exhilaratingly so. It’s a movie that, in a sense, doesn’t need to succeed to be successful – it’s full of flaws, but its ideas and ambitions are important and serious enough and its conviction so strong that most of the year’s relatively polished, well-made films pale in comparison. A movie of great, impassioned urgency.
La Commune (Paris 1871) (Peter Watkins, 2001): At once a riveting, heavily researched historical drama, a document of a highly theatrical communal acting exercise, a gleefully anachronistic assault on the media (the central conceit of the movie is that the events are being covered by two opposing television stations – one state-owned, the other revolutionary), and a frank investigation of its participants’ political views. Surely the richest, boldest, and most politically engaged cinematic experience of recent years.
Loin (André Téchiné, 2001): Largely dismissed on the festival circuit and almost unseen in America, Téchiné’s latest Loin is not at all a weak effort. Shot on DV, it’s a typically intense, focused drama, filmed in Techine’s characteristically muscular, rhythmically disorienting style. Set in Morocco and concentrating on a French truck driver and his relationship with a young Moroccan man desperate to emigrate to France, it’s small-scaled and unspectacular, but emotionally perceptive, moving, and honest as ever.
Taurus (Alexander Sokurov, 2001): Another film that has been unfairly maligned at the festivals and virtually unscreened in the US, Taurus is the second in what will reportedly be Sokurov’s trilogy of films on 20th century leaders. Here the subject is Lenin, and like Moloch (1999), which portrayed a short period in the life of Hitler, Sokurov limits himself to the final days before Lenin’s death, his mind and body already well on the road to dissolution. Like Moloch, Taurus is a strange animal, a mysterious, poetic work that has little apparent interest in its subject’s extraordinary life, treating him simply as a dying human being. A study in moods, Taurus is an exploration into the passage from life to death rather than a character study – that the particular human animal happens to be Lenin serves essentially to ground these meditations, to act in counterpoint to the universality of the film’s themes. Lenin’s importance in life serves only to emphasize the insignificance of such things in the face of the disintegration of a human being.
Barren Illusion (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 1999): Another remarkable Kiyoshi Kurosawa film, perhaps the strangest, least accessible of them, certainly the most non-narrative. Almost an experimental film.
Revived or newly encountered in 2002:
Ace in the Hole (1951), The Fortune Cookie (1966) and The Apartment (1960) (Billy Wilder)
Arabic Numeral Series (Stan Brakhage, 1981)
Castro Street (Bruce Baillie, 1966)
Cluny Brown (1946) and Unfaithfully Yours (1948) (Lubitsch)
D’Est (Chantal Akerman, 1993)
The Fall of Otrar (Ardak Amirkulov, 1990)
The Lost Man (Peter Lorre, 1951)
Love Me Tonight (Rouben Mamoulian, 1932)
Mahagonny (Harry Smith, 1980/2002)
Pennies from Heaven (Herbert Ross, 1981)
Star Spangled to Death, Part I (Ken Jacobs, 1960/2002)
The Strange Mr. Victor (Jean Gremillon, 1938)
Wind Across the Everglades (Nicholas Ray, 1958)
Jacques Tourneur retrospective (esp. Out of the Past, 1947)
Jacques Becker retrospective (esp. Antonie and Antoinette, 1947 and Le Trou, 1960)
Films of Barry Gerson
Films of Robert Beavers
Jared Rapfogel is a regular contributor to both Senses of Cinema and Cinema Scope.
Favourite Films 2002
by Girish Shambu
In no particular order:
Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, USA)/Gosford Park (Robert Altman, USA)
Two sublime American movies, one by an established master and the other by the most exciting director working in America today. Major works by two European directors, All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1955) and Rules Of The Game (Jean Renoir, 1939) respectively, stand firmly behind these films. With their canny journeys into the past, both Altman and Haynes remind us that the best period films are not those that illuminate merely their own time, but more importantly illuminate our own.
Vendredi Soir (Claire Denis, France)/Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis)
Denis followed up her epochal Beau Travail (1999) with these two remarkable and remarkably different films, and given the current critical response to them, both have been as misunderstood as Beau Travail was universally embraced. “Cinema is montage,” Denis has said, and all her films combine a poetic examination of the physical and sensual with an ability to lead from one image to another with thrilling surprise. But these are just means to an end—that of transmitting the metaphysical through the physical.
Unknown Pleasures (Jia Zhang-ke, China)/Blissfully Yours (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand)
The crème de la crème of Asian cinema this year. While Unknown Pleasures is the more overtly political of the two, the identity of Burmese refugees in Thailand forms the silent bedrock upon which Blissfully Yours is built. Both films use richly minimal schemes employing long takes, laconic narratives and poignant humour.
The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, USA)/Punch-Drunk Love (PT Anderson, USA)
The two Andersons, among the brightest talents of American cinema, produced these two strange and wondrous films. If one had to draw a line between the two, the fertile, underlying soil of family dysfunction (which has sprouted a million and one inferior American movies) might be said to be the common denominator, but in the end what they truly share are absurd and witty visions of American life.
Ten (Abbas Kiarostami, Iran)/Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay, UK)
Object lessons in wedding avant-garde vision and methods to incisive narrative content, these bold, woman-centred films beg for multiple repeat viewings to illuminate the significance and uncover the poetry hidden in their corners and edges.
The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke, Austria)/The Son (Jean-Luc & Pierre Dardenne, Belgium)
The fiercely struggling protagonists of these two films live inside the fragile shells of their chosen professions (musician/carpenter). One of the two attains redemption (or at least the beginnings of it) while for the other waits the black void of nothingness. This is rigorous and viscerally honest filmmaking with a knife-like social and political purpose—what higher praise could one proffer?
The Fast Runner (Zacharias Kunuk, Canada)/Russian Ark (Alexander Sokurov, Russia)
Time is elastic like taffy in these artefacts from the cold North. While Russian Ark sweeps and tracks confidently from one historical era to another, The Fast Runner accomplishes the even greater feat of making it impossible to determine (even after its three hours are concluded) exactly when it is set. Rumoured to take place in the 11th century, it is nevertheless a film that feels truly and purely eternal.
Shadow Kill (Adoor Gopalakrishnan, India)/Waiting For Happiness (Abderrehmane Sissako, Mali)
The rhythms of life in societies with ancient origins often tend to placidity, acceptance of nature’s moods, and consecration of ritual. In Shadow Kill, an inwardly conflicted son unquestioningly accepts his father’s mantle of state executioner, and in Waiting For Happiness, a young man returns to his sandy native village from exile to find himself a stranger in a strange land. The very act of being in unison with one’s environment, and subjugating one’s individual will to the larger powers of fate (so antithetical to Western ideologies) is respectfully presented in these films. For this reason alone, they feel like dispatches from another planet.
Femme Fatale (Brian De Palma, USA)/Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, USA)
Over the years, one of the great contributions of American cinema has been the infusing of genre films with personal voices and imprints. Donnie Darko is a teen/horror film steeped in foreboding, political allegory and tainted romance. Femme Fatale is a giddy and dense Parisian noir that like De Palma’s best and most personal films (Sisters, Obsession, Dressed To Kill, Body Double, and above all Raising Cain) demonstrates that he is one of the wittiest and most playful directors working anywhere today.
Talk To Her (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain)/Y tu mamá también (Alfonso Cuarón, Mexico)
These two stunning Spanish-language films are as distinct as they are affecting and exhilarating. The Almodóvar is a lyric poem, and the Cuarón is a rollicking road movie that packs an unexpected significance which it wears with admirable ease. As for Talk To Her, it is Almodóvar’s best film yet—and the black-and-white silent film about a shrinking lover that he folds into its narrative is hands down the most sublime moment at the movies this year.
Lovely & Amazing (Nicole Holofcener, USA)/Secretary (Steve Shainberg, USA)
These two female character-centred, American low-budget films, exemplary in their vision and trenchancy, possess inverse forms. Lovely & Amazing is a tough and humanistic social satire that comes to us in a velvety wrapping of irresistible lightness of touch and wit. On the other hand, Secretary, a transgressive comedy about sadomasochism which won a special Sundance award for “originality”, turns out to be hiding sweet-spirited romance beneath its black leather and chains.
Highest Pleasure Quotient:
OK, if you want to get technical, we’re talking television and not the movies, but there was no better time to be had this year than cocooning oneself with the 6-DVD set of all 45 episodes of the brilliant late-’90s show Sports Night. The spirit of Howard Hawks has been tragically absent at the movies since he made El Dorado in 1967. It is restored to its bracing and bittersweet glory by Aaron Sorkin in this situation comedy set backstage at a sports television network. The hallmarks of the Hawks universe are all present—easy camaraderie, fiery romance, obsessive professionalism, rapid-fire dialogue, and rich ambiguity of character. And wouldn’t you know it: the show languished in the deep end of the ratings pool, and was unceremoniously executed after two seasons. If all good things do indeed come to an end…may they then go on to DVD.
Girish Shambu is on the faculty at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York.
Top Ten 2002
by Jason Sound
Éloge de l’amour/In praise of love (Jean-Luc Godard, 2001)
Katakuri-ke no kôfuku/Happiness of the Katakuris (Takashi Miike, 2001)
Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay, 2002)
Bowling for Columbine (Michael Moore, 2002)
Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002)
Ararat (Atom Egoyan, 2002)
*Corpus Callosum (Michael Snow, 2001)
The Provider (Matt Smith, 2002) (short narrative)
The Girl on the Train in the Moon (Bill Daniel, 2002) (short documentary)
Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002)
Jason Sound is a filmmaker and artist from Seattle, WA.
Top Ten 2002
by Megan Spencer
Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001, USA)
The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke, 2001, FRA)
Waking Life (Richard Linklater, 2001, USA)
The Gleaners and I (Agnès Varda, 2001, FRA)
Behind The Sun (Walter Salles, 2001, BRA)
Intimacy (Patrice Chereau, 2001, FRA/UK)
The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001, USA)
Heaven (Tom Tykwer, 2002, GER/USA)
Rain (Christine Jeffs, 2001, NZ)
Beneath Clouds (Ivan Sen, 2002, AUS)
Megan Spencer is the resident film critic at Australian national broadcaster Triple J Radio and is an independent video documentary maker. She is based in Melbourne.
by Mark Spratt
[Released in Melbourne]
Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001)
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
+ Best Restoration/Rediscovery:
The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
Swing (Tony Gatlif, 2002)
No Man’s Land (Danis Tanovic, 2001)
Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2002)
The Tracker (Rolf de Heer, 2002)
Minority Report (Steven Spielberg, 2002)
About A Boy (Chris and Paul Weitz, 2002)
The Navigators (Ken Loach, 2002)
A Beautiful Mind (Ron Howard, 2001)
My Wife Is An Actress (Yvan Attal, 2001)
Swimfan (John Polson, 2002)
Sweet Home Alabama (Andy Tennant, 2002)
In The Bedroom (Todd Field, 2001)
The Count Of Monte Christo
The Last Kiss (Gabriele Muccino, 2001)
Heaven (Tom Tykwer, 2002)
8 Femmes (François Ozon, 2002)
Man Without A Past (Aki Kaurismäki, 2002)
About Schmidt (Alexander Payne, 2002)
One Hour Photo (Mark Romanek, 2002)
Y tu mamá también (Alfonso Cuarón, 2001)
Walking on Water (Tony Ayres, 2002)
Best at Fests/Unreleased:
Wild Innocence (Philippe Garrel, 2001)
Sweet Sixteen (Ken Loach, 2002)
Dark Water (Hideo Nakata, 2002)
Dog Days (Ulrich Seidl, 2001)
Laissez-Passer (Bertrand Tavernier, 2002)
Russian Ark (Alexander Sokurov, 2002)
Irréversible (Gaspar Noé, 2002)
Three by Kim Ki-duk – Address Unknown (2001), Crocodile (1996) and Birdcage Inn (1998).
[P.S. Declaration – I’m the distributor of Swing and The Conversation.]
Discovering Canadian journal CineAction!
Re-reading James Harvey’s Romantic Comedy In Hollywood, from Lubitsch to Sturges (DaCapo Press, 1998)
4th edition of David Thomson’s A Biographical Dictionary of Film
Mark Spratt has a long working background in exhibition, cinema management, programming and freelance reviewing. The director of Potential Films, he has now been a distributor for over 10 years.
Ten Best of 2002
by David Sterritt and Mikita Brottman
Ten best films (in alphabetical order):
The Believer (Henry Bean, 2001)
Dahmer (David Jacobson, 2002)
Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002)
Frailty (Bill Paxton, 2001)
The Good Girl (Miguel Arteta, 2002)
Hell House (George Ratliff, 2001)
The Hours (Stephen Daldry, 2002)
Late Marriage (Dover Koshashvilli, 2001)
Love Liza (Todd Louiso, 2002)
24 Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom, 2002)
Ten best films without a US release in 2002:
Irréversible (Gaspar Noé, 2002)
Cul de Sac: A Suburban War Story (Garrett Scott, 2002)
The Man Without a Past (Aki Kaurismäki, 2002)
Ten (Abbas Kiarostami, 2002)
Lost in La Mancha (Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, 2002)
Spider (David Cronenberg, 2002)
Les Diables (Christophe Ruggia, 2002)
My Mother’s Smile (Marco Bellocchio, 2002)
Kedma (Amos Gitaï, 2002)
Horns and Halos (Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, 2002)
Mikita Brottman is the author of three books on the horror film published by Creation Books, and the forthcoming book Car Crash Culture (St. Martin’s Press). She writes for various publications and teaches literature and film at Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore. David Sterritt is a New York-based critic, film professor, and author/editor of several film-related books.
Top Ten 2002
by Brad Stevens
In preferential order:
‘R Xmas (Abel Ferrara, 2000) The new Ferrara. What else is there to say?
Millennium Mambo (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2001)
Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
The Hold Up (Abel Ferrara, 1972) An old Ferrara short rediscovered. What else is there to say?
Berlin Alexanderplatz (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1980)
That Day, On The Beach (Edward Yang, 1982) Now if only I could find a copy with legible subtitles!
Gosford Park (Robert Altman, 2001)
Rosebud (Otto Preminger, 1976) 2002’s biggest surprise, a film which even Preminger’s most devoted admirers appear to detest. Though far from perfect (Preminger’s treatment of the Palestinians is straight out of Drums Along The Mohawk [John Ford, 1939]), this is a model example of intelligent mise en scéne, and the issues it raises are, sadly, more topical than ever.
Scarlet Diva (Asia Argento, 2000) Another imperfect work, but so sincere, so lacking in defensive post-modern irony, that one can forgive it anything. Argento’s commentary track on the American DVD vastly increased my admiration for the film.
Riff-Raff (Ted Tetzlaff, 1947) and The Man From The Alamo (Budd Boetticher, 1953) America’s B-cinema seems to be an inexhaustible source of treasures.
The two low points of my film viewing year were Michael Douglas’ press conference scene near the end of Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000), and the moment in At Sundance (1995) when Michael Almereyda observes that “Sometimes an open sky, full of stars, can be more satisfying than any movie”. Uh…yeah.
Brad Stevens is the author of forthcoming books on Abel Ferrara and Monte Hellman.
2002: A Reflection
by Christos Tsiolkas
Given the vagaries of distribution and exhibition, I’ve decided that any attempt at a list of best films I saw in 2002 should be limited to the films that I saw during that year, rather than by year of production or by official release in Australia. It can take years for films to make their way down here, and conversely, it can sometimes take a while for me to get to a film. But I can’t begin any retrospective glance at the last year without acknowledging three films which I saw in 2001 but which were only officially released in Australia in 2002: they are Agnès Varda’s The Gleaners and I; Bolado, Goldberg and Shapiro’s Promises; and Jafar Panahi’s The Circle.
The Gleaners and I is the first film I have seen which justifies the sometimes euphoric rhetoric about the possibilities of the digital camera. But I dare say that much of its power comes from the wisdom and experience of the director behind the apparatus. Varda had a great subject: homelessness and ageing. The directors of Promises also had an immense subject, the lives of Israeli and Palestinian children living in Jerusalem. And just as in Varda’s film, the intelligences at work in Promises show evidence of compassion, experience and commitment. There was every possibility that the use of children to illuminate the realities of occupation, terrorism and war would slide into sentimentality or simplistic moralism. That didn’t happen and I think it’s because of the great care the filmmakers took with both their theme, and their subjects.
The Circle is further evidence that if there is any hope to be had from contemporary narrative cinema, it is coming from humanist realism (whether from Iran, Belgium or Scotland). This is filmmaking, which is brave, rigorously committed to aesthetic and intellectual exploration, and which is, I believe, truly feminist.
That’s 2001. The best film I saw this year was probably Claude Chabrol’s Le Beau Serge, which was made in 1959. I caught it on video. I have to confess to an ignorance of Chabrol’s work. I’ve always assumed that he has been making Hitchcock derived thrillers from the beginning of his career. I certainly didn’t expect this exquisite, sad exploration of friendship, loss, and rural life. It’s made me hungry to see more of his films.
Gosford Park (2001) I saw twice in the same week, once at the multiplex in the northern suburbs and then at an art-house cinema in the inner city. I can attest that Robert Altman’s exhilarating and moving exploration of class is loved by both the proles downstairs and the bourgies upstairs. I’m tempted to say, forget film school, just watch Gosford Park. Or watch it, then Renoir’s The Rules of the Game (1939), then watch it again. Gosford Park is a film shimmering with the love of what cinema can do – performances, editing, cinematography, art direction, sound, music, all of it was terrific. And you could feel that from the beginning, you could see it on the actors’ faces.
Lynch gave us another of 2002’s best delights. From the opening scene of Mulholland Drive (2001) to the very end I was riveted; nothing would have budged me from my seat. I think Lynch is up there with the greatest of Surrealists. The audition scene and sequence in the Silencia nightclub were cinema’s finest moments in 2002. It’s a great film about the contradictions of the “Hollywood dream”, a Sunset Boulevard for the new century.
Over the last decade I have been consistently impressed and challenged by Michael Haneke’s work. The Piano Teacher (2001) was the year’s most disturbing film, a powerful examination of a woman’s masochism but one in which the psychosexual politics were connected to an investigation of the stratification of bourgeois culture. It featured the best performance of the year, by Isabelle Huppert. In daring to suggest that elite art production may not necessarily be worth the social and individual cost, it was probably the year’s most despairing film.
At the Melbourne International Film Festival I saw four films which have yet to receive an Australian release but I thought were fantastic. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s The Son (2002) was a tough and meticulously structured story about work and about reconciliation. It made me realise how few films have dealt at all well with the physicality and reality of working lives. I’d be hard pressed to say whether it or the Dardennes’ Rosetta (1999) is the better film. Tsai Ming-liang’s What Time is it There? (2001) was magical, as was Damien Odoul’s Deep Breath (2000), both managing to conjure refreshing and idiosyncratically individual perspectives on, respectively, urban and rural life. The Palestinian film, Divine Intervention (2002), by Elia Suleiman was the most audacious and inventive film I saw all year. It was hard and funny and tragic. And unashamedly accusatory and political. All these films deserve a release. No, make that they demand a release.
The best Australian film of the year was A Wedding in Ramallah (2002) by Sherine Salama. Her previous documentary about a Yugoslavian family’s migration to Australia, Australia Has No Winter, was impressive. The new film, also about migration, its process and its cost, is even better. None of the Australian features I saw this year come close to matching it.
Two other films that have stayed with me over the year are Spirited Away (2001) and Time Out (2001). The former, directed by anime wizard Hayao Miyazaki, is a superbly imaginative film, which literally does to an audience what its title promises: it spirits you away for two wonderful hours. Time Out was a sobering film by Laurent Cantet and built on the strengths of his earlier film, Human Resources (2000). In daring to suggest that work enslaves us rather than liberating us, it was also a bleakly radical film (and very different to recent English socialist realist films in which unemployment rather than work itself is the problem). Time Out featured the year’s best performance by a male actor, by Aurélien Recoing. For my money, Cantet and Robin Campillo’s script takes joint honour for best screenplay of the year, alongside Elia Suleiman’s script for Divine Intervention.
Other joys in 2002? Edward Yang’s Yi Yi (2000), which finally made it to Australian screens. Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s Kandahar (2001) was rough and uneven, but some of it was terrific, and all of it – given the inevitability of the bloody oil merchants and their lackeys sending us off to war – essential. Equally rough but equally special was Jia Zhang-ke Unknown Pleasures (2002), which had a unique look and a pacing: his is a China I’ve never seen on the screen before. I put my hand up as a fan of Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tennenbaums (2001) and I’ll put up my hand as a fan of Gwyneth Paltrow after seeing her in that film. She was very good. Also released this year and under-rated were Larry Clark’s Bully (2001) and James Toback’s Black and White (2000). Toback’s film is all-over the place but the better work, and a hard, fascinating examination of white folks’ obsession with black culture. Clark’s film looked surprisingly ordinary but the writing and performances were fine.
Of course, in 2002, there was The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), and just at year’s end, The Two Towers (2002). Peter Jackson and his colleagues have re-invested the fantasy blockbuster with energy and imagination. George Lucas should be making a pilgrimage to them on his hands and knees. The most riotous time I had in the cinema this year was at The Lord of the Rings, and they are the best films to take drugs to. Bring on Boxing Day 2003.
Ghost World (2001) was my year’s biggest disappointment. I seemed alone of all my friends in not admiring Terry Zwigoff’s film. I liked much of its imagery of suburbia but I thought the human life execrable. Zwigoff seems unaware that little girls grow up into those harridan women he obviously can’t stand. And he wastes Terri Garr in a throwaway nothing of a scene. That’s unforgivable.
Panic Room (David Fincher, 2002) was another disappointment. I was not expecting much, just wanting to be thrilled and looking forward to watching Jodi Foster and Forrest Whittaker. I wasn’t thrilled, except for the credits, and Foster was good in a shallow role. But the great Forrest Whittaker was wasted. Panic Room probably had the year’s most derivative and silly script.
I walked out of A Beautiful Mind (Ron Howard, 2001) because it started boring the Hell out of me. I assume it has a happy ending. I also walked out of Waking Life (2001). I think I’ve now walked out of every film Richard Linklater has made. I am certainly not interested in his whiny LA-slacker-philosophical speculations. The film was just plain stupid. As was the Australian film The Tracker (Rolf de Heer, 2002). It has received glowing reviews but I don’t think I am a misanthrope in not liking it. There were moments of power in it but overall it failed to do justice to its subject and the final half-hour is particularly terrible, like bad amateur theatre. We needed to see real blood, if even once.
I saw Godard’s In Praise of Love (2001) again in 2002. It is his best work in years, poetic and harsh all at the same time. It shows up the hollowness of a Waking Life, the mediocrity of so much cinema. As yet, the film has not had a release in Australia. For all the good in 2002, that fact depresses the Hell out of me.
Christos Tsiolkas is the author of The Devil’s Playground (Sydney: Currency Press, 2002), and the novels Loaded (filmed as Head On) and The Jesus Man. He has also collaborated with Sasha Soldatow on Jump Cuts: An Autobiography, and has worked as a writer in theatre and film. His passions are movies, books, politics and Wayne van der Stelt.
by Erik Ulman
Once again, I have seen too few new releases this past year for my comments to have any general validity (I’m still waiting for Russian Ark, for example); but the best new film I’ve seen was definitely Godard’s Éloge de l’amour (2001). More time and viewings will be needed to begin to unravel its many intricacies; but even on early acquaintance one is grateful for its density of form and argument and for its sheer beauty. The bulk of the film is shot in an austere but rich black and white, resembling the formality of Bresson; but the end, shot in digital video, overcomes the traditional limitations of its format with luxuriantly intensified colors, a breathtaking contrast with and release from what precedes it. As for the film’s content, one may briefly say that this seems one of Godard’s most sustained meditations on memory and history, in which prevailing bleakness and mordant critiques of Hollywood’s colonization of the past (Steven Spielberg is the target of special scorn) can not wholly erase a sense of hope—an attention to immanent grace, a tonic appetite for complexity.
I should also mention the best revival of 2002: the restored edition of Lang’s Metropolis (1927), which clarified both images and structure admirably and was a remarkably intense and thought-provoking experience, whatever its ideological confusions. Among older films that I first saw last year, standouts would include Rivette’s magnificent fantasia on paranoia Paris nous appartient (1960) (which quotes Metropolis, incidentally) and Griffith’s Isn’t Life Wonderful (1924) and Sally of the Sawdust (1925), at San Diego’s Museum of Photographic Arts—these last two starring Griffith’s most underrated star, the extraordinarily intelligent Carol Dempster, proving herself as adept at comic exuberance as at heartbreaking innocence and patience.
Erik Ulman is a composer and writer currently teaching music at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
2002 In Review
by Fiona A. Villella
Not only is there something to be said for the whole list-making exercise, the very notion of assuming that a year is significantly distinct in meaning from others is equally suspect as is the whole idea of duration as a measurable, quantifiable unit. Regardless, the practice of taking stock of time just passed is no doubt a good thing. For me, a whole group of films can be favourites; it’s difficult to order one above the other when each one is different and unique in their own way. And furthermore, what is the definition of ‘favourite’: is it the revelation gained from a film overall or a specific moment in a film, a moment unlike any other that can totally enrapture, and do so over and over again? Is it judged according to a film’s aesthetic accomplishment, political leaning, originality, obscurity, or a combination of these? Ultimately, one presumes, every list or reflection is specific not only in terms of the time and place from which it derives but of course the ‘sense and sensibility’ of that individual.
To quit the jiving and start the listing, below is my 2002 selection, remembering that (a) the year of release as 2002 is not a criterion for eligibility, (b) it is culled from an entire viewing spectrum (new release, film societies, home-video, film festivals etc) and (c) I certainly didn’t manage to see all that I intended to this year (as is always the case).
All I Desire (Douglas Sirk, 1953)
Australian Rules (Paul Goldman, 2002)
Baise-moi (Coralie Trinh Thi and Virginie Despentes, 2000)
Bloody Sunday (Paul Greengrass, 2002)
*Corpus Callosum (Michael Snow, Canada, 2002)
Detour (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1945)
Domestic Violence (Frederick Wiseman, US, 2001)
Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001)
Dream Work and Outer Space (Peter Tscherkassky, 2002 and 1999)
L’emploi du temps (Time Out, Laurent Cantet, France, 2001)
Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001)
Kandahar (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 2001)
Leave Her to Heaven (John M. Stahl, 1945)
Le Fils (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2002)
Il mio viaggio in Italia (Martin Scorsese, US/Italy, 2001)
Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, US, 2001)
L’Ora di religione (Il sorriso di mia madre) (My Mother’s Smile, Marco Bellocchio, 2002)
Où gît votre sourire enfoui? (Pedro Costa, France, 2000)
Ouvrières du monde (Working women of the world, Marie-France Collard, Belgium, 2000) (documentary)
Phantom Lady (Robert Siodmak, 1944)
Peggy and Fred in Hell (Leslie Thornton, US, 1985-2001)
The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
Sauvage Innocence (Wild Innocence, Philippe Garrel, France, 2001)
Sicilia! (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, France/Italy, 1999)
Silence…on tourne (Silence…We’re Rolling, Youssef Chahine, France, 2001)
T-Shirt Travels (Shantha Bloemen, US/Zambia, 2001) (documentary)
The Universal Clock: the Resistance of Peter Watkins (Geoff Bowie, Canada, 2001) (documentary)
Unknown Pleasures (Jia Zhang-ke, 2002)
Vou para casa (I’m Going Home, Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal/France, 2001)
Waking Life (Richard Linklater, US, 2001)
What Time is it There? (Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan/France, 2001)
The Woman in the Window (Fritz Lang, 1944)
Fiona A. Villella is General Editor and Manager of Senses of Cinema.
by Wim Wenders
The Pianist (Roman Polanski, 2002)
The Man Without a Past (Aki Kaurismäki, 2002)
I am Sam (Jessie Nelson, 2001)
Mondays in the Sun (Fernando Léon de Aranoa, 2002)
Respiro (Emanuele Crialese, 2002)
Half the Rent (debut feature by Swiss Marc Ottiker, 2002)
But the re-issues of some of John Cassavetes’ films in Europe towered above everything else, especially Woman under the Influence (1974). WOW! To see that film again was the absolute highlight for me.
Favourite Film Criticism:
Believe it or not the L.A. Weekly. Yes, an American weekly newspaper, even if overall film criticism in America is pretty much obsolete. The L.A. Weekly is truly independent, intelligent, sharp, merciless but not cynical. (Which has become very rare…)
Other than that, I found the continuing return of documentaries to the big screen one of the great positive developments of 2002. And the irresistible rise of digital cinema which will guarantee the survival of independent filmmaking for years to come …
Wim Wenders is an internationally esteemed film director. His latest film is The Soul of Man (2002).
by Jake Wilson
Top ten new features (in preferential order):
What Time Is It There? (Tsai Ming-liang, 2001)
The Day I Became A Woman (Marzieh Meshkini, 2000)
Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
Yi Yi (Edward Yang, 2000)
Wild Innocence (Philippe Garrel, 2001)
Gosford Park (Robert Altman, 2001)
Bully (Larry Clark, 2001)
The Tracker (Rolf de Heer, 2002)
Va Savoir! (Jacques Rivette, 2001)
The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
Note: I’ve excluded films which were released in Melbourne in 2002, but which I happened to see earlier; some of these (e.g. The Piano Teacher, The Gleaners And I) might have made my 2001 list if I’d compiled one.
Worst (from least to most unbearable):
5. Panic Room (David Fincher, 2002)
4. Mr Deeds (Steven Brill, 2002)
3. Road To Perdition (Sam Mendes, 2002)
2. Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back (Kevin Smith, 2001)
1. Just A Kiss (Fisher Stevens, 2002)
Rather than nominate my favourite film books or articles for the year, I’d like to recommend two eccentric and stimulating Web critics: Darragh O’Donoghue, whose reviews are available here and here on the Internet Movie Database, and at the Amazon website; and the indispensable Ray Davis, whose Bellona Times blog features regular commentary on movies and on every other subject under the sun.
Jake Wilson is a Melbourne-based writer.