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December 10, 2005

Senses of Cinema End of the Year 'Favorite Film Things' Compilation: 2005


Since I will not be attending the annual Spanish Cinema Now program at Walter Reade this year, it's time to close out my 2005 Journal with my Senses of Cinema submission for their annual World Poll of 'Favorite Film Things' for the year.

My Top Ten for 2005 (in preferential order):

La Blessure (Nicolas Klotz, 2004)
Three Times (Hou Hsiao Hsien, 2005)
Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)
The Sun (Aleksandr Sokurov, 2005)
Regular Lovers (Philippe Garrel. 2005)
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, 2005)
Me and You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July, 2005)
L'Intrus (Claire Denis, 2004)
A Tale of Cinema (Hong Sang-soo, 2005)
A Trip to the Louvre (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 2004)

Honorable mentions:

State of Fear (Pamela Yates, 2005)
The Wayward Cloud (Tsai Ming-liang, 2005)
Seoul Train (Jim Butterworth and Aaron Lubarsky, 2004)
The Squid and the Whale (Noah Baumbach, 2005)
L'Enfant (Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2005)

Posted by acquarello on Dec 10, 2005 | | Filed under 2005


Acquarello, that's a great list. I haven't formalized mine, yet, but I have a feeling it'll look familiar. I loved Three Times, Caché, The Sun, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, L'Enfant, and (last year) L'Intrus. I wasn't so crazy about the two American narratives on your list, especially Miranda July's, but I know you're in good company with both.

The Wayward Cloud I enjoyed a lot until the ending and I think I simply haven't processed it fully, yet. I feel like I've been around the block a few times, not easy to shock, but I really don't know what to make of the film's nasty eleventh-hour shift, after so much levity. Tsai's visual sense of humor, though, is great. I came out of the screening quite negative, but Girish gave me some food for thought over lunch. And somewhere — was it at Darren's site? — Harry Tuttle compared Tsai's visual dexterity in The Wayward Cloud to Carlos Reygadas's in Battle in Heaven, which I found intriguing.

I'm glad to hear that you liked the Garrell so much. I mentioned before that I missed it in Toronto, but I'm hoping for another chance. Is the annual Rendezvous With French Cinema series in New York likely to show it, you think?

Posted by: davis on Dec 11, 2005 6:45 AM | Permalink

Great list; it makes me feel good to see my favorites - Lazarescu, The Sun, Squid - on the list of someone who actually knows what he's talking about. One of my greatest hopes for 2006 is that more than a handful of Americans bother to see Lazarescu when it comes out in May. It was truly one of the best films I've ever seen - just thinking about it gives me chills.

(All that said, as the only person on earth who couldn't stand Three Times, I'm clearly still a philistine at heart.)

Posted by: Martha on Dec 11, 2005 8:10 AM | Permalink

Your lists are always inspiring and suggestive for those of us who rely on festival- and import- savants like yourself to let us know what to catch in eventual (hopeful!) limited release.

The only downside to your lists is that they make such a powerful argument against my checking account, nibbling away at me to buy a region-free DVD player. ;)

Posted by: Nick on Dec 11, 2005 8:40 AM | Permalink

Wow, Acquarello--terrific list.
I just scribbled mine out yesterday on the back of an envelope; we have a huge degree of convergence.
Rob, since the Garrel played both TIFF and NYFF, maybe it'll also play at SFIFF...
The biggest, most left-field and stunning surprise for me was Mr. Lazarescu. I had never seen a Romanian film, never even heard of the director.

Posted by: girish on Dec 11, 2005 8:50 AM | Permalink

Thanks for the comments everyone. So am I the only one who slept in on Sunday? ;)

Rob, I'd say that the Garrel only has a slight chance of making Rendez-vous with French Cinema or Film Comment Selects (the venue for undistributed films). From their track record, they tend to feature films that didn't make the NYFF cut.

I didn't realize that Lazarescu had gotten distribution, great news! Like Girish said, that also came out of left-field for me. I was expecting it to be deadly serious, but ended up being more like a talkative Iosseliani crossed with Tarr and the Dardennes.

The other unexpected surprise for me was La Blessure which didn't get much fanfare at last year's Cannes, so I didn't know what to expect. I think it's a perfect complement to L'Intrus and Caché, and especially relevant in terms of what happened in France last month and the Amsterdam airport fire in October.

Nick, give in, give in! ;) I just checked World Import and they have players starting under $100 now. Of course, I also made the mistake of checking the multi-system VCR page, and I'm thinking that it may be time to upgrade my system. I think I'll go ask Santa. :)

Posted by: acquarello on Dec 11, 2005 12:29 PM | Permalink

Ah, I forgot the Garrel played at NYFF. Yep, it's a candidate for SFIFF, then.

Nick, the $39 CyberHome DVD players at Amazon can play DVDs from any region, with a simple one-time trick you can find online. They have no frills, but mine works like a charm.

Lazarescu came out of nowhere for me, too. In fact it was on my TIFF schedule for hazy reasons, and until the day before I saw it I thought it was a documentary. Obviously I hadn't read much about it.

Posted by: davis on Dec 11, 2005 3:00 PM | Permalink

I'm proud to like the same films you acclaim in your list, more or less. If only you could curate festivals!
I'll be looking forward the ones that weren't released yet.

Thanks for picking up my remarck Robert ;) Reygadas claims his inspiration from Tarkovsky, Tarr, Bresson... but it hit me suddenly how closer he was to Tsai than anybody else, an hemisphere apart.
This connection deserves further thoughts. Except for the musical whim in The Hole and The Wayward Cloud exclusive to Tsai, their concerns meet pretty much everywhere else. Lonely nobody characters unable to meet an existential love, and ultimately compensating through relieving violence or crude sexuality. Spleen, drift, hopelessness, passivity, indifferent environment, dark humor, absence of romantism...

Posted by: HarryTuttle on Dec 11, 2005 3:20 PM | Permalink

Harry, instead of spleen (la rate), I think you meant to say undermotivated or half-hearted or uninspired; spleen is an internal organ. :)

By the way, I'm guessing that Battle in Heaven is exactly the kind of film that will end up in Film Comment Selects.

Posted by: acquarello on Dec 11, 2005 3:55 PM | Permalink

Thanks for the correction, I thought it was an english word with the same double meaning. Baudelaire used the english word for "soul sickness", "existentialist romantism"... in other words it's very "Flowers of evil"

Posted by: HarryTuttle on Dec 11, 2005 5:31 PM | Permalink

"Melancholy" is what I meant in a XIXth C. way.

Posted by: HarryTuttle on Dec 11, 2005 5:51 PM | Permalink

I'm planning to compose my top 10 later this week. It'll likely include several of your choices.

The Tsai/Reygadas comparison is interesting. They definitely share similar concerns, but don't you think their cinematographic styles are quite a bit different? Radically different, even? Rob and I have already had this discussion, but what I loved so much about Battle in Heaven is how subject the camera remains and how elegantly it moves. Tsai's images are also beautiful, of course, but except for the dance scenes, his camera is so static and removed, like an unattached but curious observer.

Posted by: Darren on Dec 11, 2005 8:16 PM | Permalink

I've only gotten to see two of the films on your lists. One of them I loved (Tale of Cinema) and the other (The Sun), I didn't. ;~}

I am especially eager to see "Three Times".

Posted by: Michael Kerpan on Dec 11, 2005 9:22 PM | Permalink

I need to rewatch them side by side, but I thought it was even more obvious in the form. Japón with The River, and Battle in Heaven with Vive l'amour or The Wayward Cloud. The tone and the camerawork would be the distinction, but both prefer medium shots to close-up, and generally a wide shot. Filming characters externaly from a distance, with a contemplative gap that refuses to explain anything by a too significant mise-en-scene. Is there more subjective camera in Reygadas?

Posted by: HarryTuttle on Dec 12, 2005 10:09 AM | Permalink

Looking back on the 2005 festival year and Cannes, it's regretable that Lazarescu, Miranda July, or Forsaken Land didn't get the privilege to compete with the big guns while regular nominees didn't deserve their slot this year (Wenders, Jarmusch, Egoyan, Giordana...?)

Posted by: HarryTuttle on Dec 12, 2005 10:16 AM | Permalink

I just knocked out a first draft of my top 10, and it's a really strong list this year. But I'm having a hard time picking a #1. I typically rely on gut instinct for this choice, but my gut's not cooperating.

Do any of you have particular criteria for choosing a best film?

Posted by: Darren on Dec 12, 2005 2:44 PM | Permalink

I haven't seen Vive l'amour or The River, but I agree with Darren that Reygadas's camera is highly subjective in Battle in Heaven, even playfully so. Marcos breaks his glasses, and the next couple of scenes are shot through a blur (even while he's — gulp — driving). The 360-degree spins actually require some special effects in some scenes (or at least fancy footwork), since the camera ends up in place of a character. The scene that begins with Marcos and his wife standing against a blank background reminds me of Tsai, with its humorously precise compositions. But the sequence of events, the snail's-pace exposition, and the sound design aren't like anything I've seen from Tsai.

Reygadas is a trickster, for sure. Tsai, at least in What Time is it There, Goodbye Dragon Inn, and The Wayward Cloud is more like a painter. I can see a few similarities in subject matter, but Reygadas seems to be the social critic, too. Then again, I already confessed that I don't know what Tsai is up to in The Wayward Cloud.

Is Ce jour-là on DVD, yet? Ruiz is a visual trickster, too, but without Reygadas's subjective camera (at least in that film -- I haven't seen any of his other, um, 90 films).

Posted by: davis on Dec 12, 2005 2:46 PM | Permalink

"Do any of you have particular criteria for choosing a best film?"

Umm...yeah, gut! :) I pretty much go by the film that haunted me the most. Last year, it was definitely trying to unravel The Story of Marie and Julien. This year, L'Intrus occupied me for a while until I saw La Blessure, and the plight (and treatment) of those asylum seekers really bothered me ...a lot. It's exactly the kind of implicit racism that's couched behind issues of immigration, terror surveillance, and homeland security.

Rob, the French DVD of Ce jour-là has English subs.

Posted by: acquarello on Dec 12, 2005 3:30 PM | Permalink

I'm finding it difficult to do strict rank ordering this year. Some of the comparisons seem particularly difficult for me to make. (eg Miranda July and Lazarescu seem worlds apart but I was haunted by both.)
I'm going to be a wuss and go with alphabetical ordering (by--and this is where I "foreground" my auteurist bias, ha--filmmaker.)

Posted by: girish on Dec 12, 2005 3:44 PM | Permalink

I alphabetize, too, but I like to single out one Best Film. Last year's was Cafe Lumiere, which was purely a gut response. (Three Times didn't move me quite so powerfully.) Maybe I'll just cheat: Since so many people consider L'Intrus a 2005 release, I'm tempted to remove it from last year's list and put it at the top of 2005.

I'm planning to watch my new L'Intrus DVD tonight, by the way. :)

Posted by: Darren on Dec 12, 2005 4:24 PM | Permalink

Well I didn't mean to compare the 2 filmmakers on mastery of the medium. Reygadas is immature artistically, an instinctive director who is searching and trying out things.
On the spectrum of cinematic languages out there, they share a lot in common: more idleness than action, more physicality than verbalization...

Posted by: HarryTuttle on Dec 13, 2005 11:19 AM | Permalink

Expect the Garrel to turn up at BAM in 2006, probably just for a single screening.

Posted by: anon on Dec 13, 2005 5:15 PM | Permalink

A great list. My only personal disagreement is with Three Times, which was probably my biggest let-down this year. I was looking so forward to it, and while I still find it to be a commendable film, it just seemed like HHH-lite to me. Happy to see Tale of Cinema on there, and I bet we won't be seeing the Straub-Huillet film on many lists. (I missed it at the NYFF.)

Posted by: Filmbrain on Dec 16, 2005 10:50 AM | Permalink

I suspect that part of my particular attachment to Three Times is that I was a bit underwhelmed by both Millennium Mambo and Café Lumière, so personally, I was feeling a bit disconnected from Hou's newer work since the transitional Flowers of Shanghai...I really wasn't getting a good sense of where he was heading. Three Times has the right "bridge", I think, between his earlier films and his newer (and perhaps a bit more opaque) films.

The "double" take on the Straub-Huillet is something of an interesting experience. I remember some people poring through the frames trying to figure out where the variations between version 1 and 2 were, but I essentially saw it as a "repeated viewing", which is more in keeping with Cézanne's exposition on what constitutes reality and realism, and the artist's struggle to represent that reality and continue to give it relevance in this world. In essence, how does an artist create something so integral to the viewer that he or she will be compelled to engage the work in this "repeated viewing", and also, how does an artist immortalize his art even as it represents our own "human-ness" (and intrinsic mortality)?

Posted by: acquarello on Dec 16, 2005 1:59 PM | Permalink

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