I should probably make a list of the top ten films that deserve to be on here ahead of 2046, adrift as it was in Wong Kar-wai’s nostalgia-saturated subconscious, but for all its failings, I doubt whether any of the entries on that list will mean as much to movies a decade hence — and I know they won’t mean as much to me.
Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Café Lumiere — in which empathy and restraint make for dazzling filmmaking, and which may be his best film to date — played just a week at Anthology this June, having failed to secure distribution after its entry in the 2004 New York Film Festival; his 2005 NYFF entry, the slighter, self-reflective romantic triptych Three Times, faces a similar limbo. Suggested New Year’s Resolution for U.S. distributors: at least try to get one of the world’s really breathtaking filmmakers the audience he deserves.
Head On (Fatih Akin) “And the way I feel tonight/I could die and I wouldn’t mind/And there’s something going on inside/Makes you wanna feel, makes you wanna try/Makes you wanna blow the stars from the sky/I can’t stand up, I can’t cool down/I can’t get my head off the ground”
With the sustained, symbolic enigma Innocence, Lucile Hadzihalilovic makes childhood more unknown to the adult viewing it than to the children experiencing it; it’s a mystery, surround by a lamplit forest, wrapped in a little bow.
Kontroll (Nimrod Antal) The Budapest underground as hermetic, Rothkothrobbing shadow ecosystem: with The Warriors cult turned cottage industry, another movie transforming the subway into a pop netherworld is ready to replace it.
Forget, for a moment, the Hot Young Things cast, high-gloss decadence and vitally ironic direction of Match Point — when was the last time a Woody Allen movie made you genuinely excited about what he might do next?
Out of an actually pretty solid season for award-angling studio releases, Noah Baumbach’s razor-edged miniature The Squid and the Whale resonated most acutely. All coming-of-age stories should end this honestly: there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s at the end you came in through.
Peter Jackson’s Hallmark Art Deco is all well and good, but no director this year had more fun messing around in a past of his own invention than Katsuhiro Otomo had with Steamboy’s anime simulacrum of Victorian England. (Today, Crystal Palace, tomorrow the Chrysler Building: Steamboy 2 is supposedly in the works, with a glimpse of NYC included. Wanna bet Otomo causes more carnage than Kong?)
Two screenings during BAM’s New Czech Cinema weekend represent the only U.S. exposure it’s yet received, but on the off chance David Jarab’s debut Vaterland: A Hunting Logbook — a flamboyant, foreboding post-communist deadpan satire looking through warped stained glass, darkly, at an uptight family returned to their ass-backwards homeland (where the natives speak, unsubtitled, in scatological gobbledygook) to take up the ancestral mantle of a ritual hunt for a strange beast called the “Skeleter” — ever sneaks back through our borders, you heard it here first.