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January 9, 2010

Favorite Films of 2009

After a semi-accidental unmasking at a NYFF panel in 2008, it seems natural that Benoît Jacquot's Villa Amalia would be the first film I had seen in 2009 that would resonate with me, a film as much about abandoning identity as it is about finding one’s place in the aftermath. In a sense, the films on this year's list also revolve around the theme of identity, whether reconstructed through the imperfect prism of personal and cultural history (The White Ribbon, Independencia, The Beaches of Agnès, and Broken Embraces), or constantly redefined by the roles and spaces (and junctures) that they inhabit (In Comparison, Ghost Town, Everyone Else, Sense of Architecture, and 35 Shots of Rum).

Favorite Films (in preferential order):

The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, 2009)
In Comparison (Harun Farocki, 2009)
Independencia (Raya Martin, 2009)
35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis, 2008)
Villa Amalia (Benoît Jacquot, 2009)
Ghost Town (Zhao Dayong, 2009)
Everyone Else (Maren Ade, 2009
Sense of Architecture (Heinz Emigholz, 2005-2009)
Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodóvar, 2009)
The Beaches of Agnès (Agnès Varda, 2008)

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):

Bellamy (Claude Chabrol, 2009)
Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl (Manoel de Oliveira, 2009)
Liverpool (Lisandro Alonso, 2009)
Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu, 2009)
Wild Grass (Alain Resnais, 2009)

Close Contenders:

The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008)
Un Lac (Philippe Grandrieux, 2008)
Ne Change Rien (Pedro Costa, 2009)
Revanche (Götz Spielmann, 2008)
Sacred Places (Jean-Marie Téno, 2009)

New Discoveries:

Seventeen (Joel DeMott and Jeff Kreines, 1983)
Torero (Carlos Velo, 1956)
Death on a Full Moon Day (Prasanna Vithanage, 1997)
Paria (Nicolas Klotz, 2000)
On the Passage of a Few Persons Through a Rather Brief Unity of Time (Guy Debord, 1959)

Part of Senses of Cinema 2009 World Poll.

Posted by acquarello on Jan 09, 2010 | | Filed under 2009


Interesting choices, acquarello. I missed White Ribbon during its brief run in L.A., but I read up a bit on it, and from what I gather it is -- what's the word? -- relatively delicate for Haneke, is that correct? After seeing several Haneke films over the past couple of years, I'm still calibrating myself to his work. I'm curious about White Ribbon, particularly if it is, in some way, a departure for him.

Speaking of curiosities, what's the Emigholz film like? I'm very fond of his Schindler's Houses.

I had hoped to catch Liverpool last year, but with missing TIFF and being able only to make it to a couple of festival screenings in Los Angeles (and I don't even recall if it made it out here), I didn't have a chance. Gonna keep it on my radar, though.

There's much to admire in Denis' 35 Shots, not the least of which is its restraint.

Posted by: Michael on Jan 17, 2010 12:28 AM | Permalink

Hi Michael, I wouldn't say that it's necessarily more delicate for Haneke. I think it's actually more of a throwback to the menacing atmosphere of his early films like The Seventh Continent, which I like. I think it's the best photographed of his work though.

I think Sense of Architecture is a logical progression for the "architecture as autobiography" films like Schindler's Houses and Loos Ornamental. It examines architecture as organism, interacting with space and redefining it. So in a sense, the autobiography is the environment itself, the people, the landscape.

Liverpool grows on you, it has a very dry, Kaurismäki kind of humor which keeps the film from growing too aimless or ponderous.

I find it interesting the way Denis followed something as intimate as 35 Shots of Rum with something as epic and sprawling as White Material, both using characteristic elisions that in some way project what is "untranslatable" (or "unrepresentable").

Posted by: acquarello on Jan 17, 2010 7:43 AM | Permalink

acquarello, thanks for the clarification about The White Ribbon (I just learned it's still playing in L.A., so I'm going to try to see it if I have time later in the week). I like that phrase "architecture as autobiography" -- quite apt, and I recall that when watching Schindler's Houses I felt as if I was watching a process. White Material is another film on my to-see list, even though I think it received some lukewarm reactions. It's taken me a little while, but I've really come to appreciate Denis' filmmaking -- 35 Shots has been instrumental in this.

Posted by: Michael on Jan 17, 2010 3:01 PM | Permalink

Glad to see Raya Martin's Independencia here!

Posted by: AD! on Jan 23, 2010 5:29 AM | Permalink

Hi AD!, I thought Martin did a really good job in illustrating how imperialism has shaped not only the "outside's" perception of Filipino culture, but more importantly, the culture itself. It reminds me of Trinh Min-ha's essays on the mediated gaze and how native identity and culture cannot be expressed in the dominating language.

Posted by: acquarello on Jan 23, 2010 6:50 AM | Permalink

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