For this writer, 2006 was a year of disappointments. Foremost among these were Clint Eastwood's two-sided account of the Battle of Iwo Jima, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. The first, in my estimation, was a consequence of a very clunky flashback structure, and the second, though I would argue still good, does not attain the heights of the director's best -- that is, it eschews the autobiographical quality that has long made Eastwood the favorite of hard-core auteurists, myself included. Secondary was one of the most enthusiastically reviewed films of the year, Martin Scorsese's The Departed. In short, as I have argued elsewhere, The Departed marks a troubling turn in the director's art, away from the critical stance that ennobled his otherwise brutal corpus. Then again, I have never been a huge Scorsese fan, though I bow to no one in my admiration for Eastwood.
As such, 2006 was a weird year for me in that I would rank neither of my favorite current American director's new releases among this year's best. At the same time, there were few American films to take their place. To be sure, 2006 seems to me to be a truly bad year for the American cinema. Then again, as I consider those films that I did choose to include, 2006 has the makings of a pretty good year -- I haven't even had the opportunity to see two highly regarded Asian films from the past twelve months, Jia Zhangke's Still Life and Tsai Ming-liang's I Won't Sleep Alone. Moreover, 2006 included a couple of very strong European holdovers from the previous year, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and L'Enfant (which I would have included were it not on my 2005 list). A recent indieWIRE survey, parenthetically, placed these two films as the best works of the year.
So, 2006 does seem to be better than it might appear initially, though I will admit most of the films that I would argue confirm this status are still without theatrical distribution in the U.S., which I suppose is topic for another time. In the meantime, if you haven't already, buy yourself an all-region DVD player and become acquainted with European and Asian websites -- that's how you're going to see the best in world cinema circa 2006.
For those films that might qualify, Ten Best Films, along with Fourteen Seconds, Seen Film and Termite Art will be hosting a blog-a-thon over the next couple of days, where collectively the many learned authors and readers of these sites will share their opinions on the best of world cinema. Here is a list this year's respondents (which will be added to in the coming days):
Michael J. Anderson, Ten Best Films
Lisa K. Broad, Ten Best Films
Pamela Kerpius, Seen Film
Mike Lyon, Fourteen Seconds
Michelle Orange, Ten Best Films
Vicente Rodriguez-Ortega, Ten Best Films
Matthew Singer, Termite Art
R. Emmet Sweeney, Termite Art
Alberto Zambenedetti, Termite Art