Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Decade in Film: the 2000s

The past ten years have not been the strongest internationally in the history of the art form. Certainly, as with the previous, vaunted decade-and-a-half, wherein notably Iran and the new cinemas of the Chinese world emerged, vital and compelling art has come from unexpected places: in the present decade, Argentina, Germany, Romania and Southeast Asia have all developed into new epicenters of the medium. Likewise, masterpieces have continued to stream in from these earlier hot-spots, and particularly from Taiwan, whose trio of masters - Hou Hsiao-hsien (Millennium Mambo, 2001; Café Lumière, 2003; Three Times, 2005; Flight of the Red Balloon, 2007), Tsai Ming-liang (Goodbye Dragon Inn, 2003 - pictured; I Don't Want to Sleep Alone, 2006) and the late Edward Yang (Yi Yi, 2000) - produced some of the very best work of the 2000s, even if the greatest director of last fifteen years of the twentieth century, Iran's Abbas Kiarostami (whose 2002 Ten continued his virtually unbroken streak of master works), has largely left the festival circuit for the gallery. However, with the exception of Tsai, none of the aforementioned has done their greatest work during the past ten years.

This perhaps is the first theme for the 2000s decade: major filmmakers continuing their mastery, though perhaps not quite at the peak of their achievement. To the above list, one might add the names of
Terence Davies (The House of Mirth, 2000), centenarian Manoel de Oliveira (I'm Going Home, 2001; The Uncertainty Principle, 2002; A Talking Picture, 2003; Belle Toujours, 2006), Béla Tarr (Werckmeister Harmonies, 2000; here the director was very close to his pinnacle, producing a film that was for the second consecutive decade the finest European film) and Wong Kar-wai (In the Mood for Love, 2000; 2046, 2004 ); each again made genuinely great films during the past ten years, though not entirely to equal their absolute best. (For the record, Distant Voices, Still Lives, 1988; Doomed Love, 1978; Sátántangó, 1994; and Days of Being Wild, 1991, respectively.)

While the same was technically true of the active French 'New Wave' masters, the very fact of their continued high level of achievement - unseen in this depth since at least the twilight of the Hollywood classical period - ranks as one of the decade's most important cinematic stories. Among the many exceptional works produced by this contingent were
Claude Chabrol's Merci pour le chocolat (2000) and The Flower of Evil (2003); Jean-Luc Godard's Notre Musique (2004); Alain Resnais's Not On the Lips (2003) and perhaps the finest nouvelle vague film of the decade, Private Fears in Public Places (2006 - pictured); Resnais's 2009 Wild Grass, on the other hand, may be the decade's most significant film for which this writer will have to wait until the 2010s; Jacques Rivette's The Story of Marie and Julien (2003), The Duchess of Langeais (2007) and Around a Small Mountain (2009); Eric Rohmer's The Lady and the Duke (2001; a landmark in the nascent digital medium) and swansong The Romance of Astrea and Celadon (2007); and Agnes Varda's essayistic The Gleaners and I (2000).

French cinema remained otherwise strong thanks to the highlights of mid-career filmmakers
Olivier Assayas (Summer Hours, 2008), Catherine Breillat (Fat Girl, 2001), Claire Denis (Friday Night, 2002; 35 Shots of Rum, 2008; White Material, 2009), Arnaud Desplechin (Kings and Queen, 2004; A Christmas Tale, 2008), and Michael Haneke (Caché, 2005). Laurent Cantet continued his profile on the art circuit (The Class, 2008), while Nicolas Philibert directed one of the decade's better documentaries (To Be and to Have, 2002). Belgium yielded two more Bressonian encoded major works by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, The Son (2002) and L'Enfant (2005), as well as one of the decade's finest first films in Lucile Hadzihalilovic's strongly metaphorical Innocence (2004). Italian cinema was less impressive, but did produce high points in Marco Tullio Giordana's The Best of Youth (2003) and especially Paolo Sorrentino's The Consequences of Love (2004). Spain, however, fared better with Pedro Almodóvar doing the best work of his career (Talk to Her, 2002; Volver, 2006), José Luis Guerín breaking through with the exceptional In the City of Sylvia (2007), and Albert Serra renewing the time image to particularly haptic effect (Birdsong, 2008). Portugal likewise proved every bit as noteworthy, due to the combination of the seemingly eternal Oliveira's continued productivity and ultra-formalist Pedro Costa's festival breakout Colossal Youth (2006), which was in some distant recess of cineaste culture the film of its year.

Among the more newly alive corners of European cinema were once again Germany and Romania. In the former, the critically lower profile of the two stateside,
Valeska Grisebach (Longing, 2006 - one of the most under-appreciated films of the 2000s), Stefan Krohmer (Summer '04, 2006), and Christian Petzold (Jerichow, 2008) produced the best work - which coincidentally or not all shared the subject of bisecting romantic entanglements. (Austrian director Götz Spielmann's Revanche [2008] manifested many of the same virtues.) Much more popular, though to substantially lesser effect, was Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's Oscar winner The Lives of Others (2006). In Romania, the similarly temporally obsessed The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, 2005 - pictured) and Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu, 2009) rank as the high points, easily besting, in both instances, critical favorite 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007).

Elsewhere in Eastern Europe,
Aleksandr Sokurov did some of his finest work, including his single-take, DV masterpiece Russian Ark (2002) and in his ineffable, Hirohito biography, The Sun (2005). Kazakhstan produced at least two major films in Chouga (Darezhan Omirbaev, 2007) and Tulpan (Sergei Dvortsevoy, 2008). While in Scandinavia, Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson returned after a quarter-century hiatus with the estimable Songs from the Second Floor (2000) and You, the Living (2007); Liv Ullmann's Faithless (2000) bested maestro Ingmar Bergman's final film, Saraband (2003); in neighboring Denmark, Lars von Trier did his best work when furthest removed from his 'American trilogy': namely The Five Obstructions (2003) and The Boss of It All (2006); and in Finland, Aki Kaurismäki directed one of his best films, the 1930s, socially conscious Hollywood inspired The Man without a Past (2002).

In Asia, the southeast emerged, largely due to the considerable achievement of Thai filmmaker
Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Indeed, were I to single out a single director as the key figure of the decade, it would have to be Apichatpong, who was responsible for no less than three structuralist-inspired masterpieces - Blissfully Yours (2002 - pictured), Tropical Malady (2004) and Syndromes and a Century (2006) - each of which was among the very best films of their respective years. Beyond Apichatpong, fellow Thai's Aditya Assarat (Wonderful Town, 2007) and Pen-ek Ratanaruang (Last Life in the Universe, 2003), Indonesian Garin Nugroho (Opera Jawa, 2006), and the Malaysian-born Tsai (in return to his country of birth with I Don't Want to Sleep Alone) all contributed to the region's cinematic vitality. Significantly, the 2006 "New Crowned Hope" initiative, marking the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth, was responsible for three of the above films, as it was also for Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's Daratt (2006), which rated along with the director's 2002 Abouna as among the finer African films of the decade.

In East Asia, mainland China presented another of the major figures of the 2000s, director
Jia Zhangke, whose ambivalent depictions of his nation's progress, Platform (2000 - pictured), Unknown Pleasures (2002), The World (2004) and Still Life (2006), bested nearly everything else China produced. Among the only works to merit discussion alongside the aforesaid were 'Fifth Generation' filmmaker Tian Zhuangzhuang's remake of the greatest of all Chinese films, Springtime in a Small Town (2002), and Wang Bing's outstanding non-fiction Fengming: A Chinese Memoir (2007). Outside the mainland, Taiwan witnessed the aforesaid continued prominence of its greatest directors, though they were often led to work outside the Republic of China, as Hou did with Flight of the Red Balloon in France (his best of his uniformly strong works this decade). Taiwan also lost the very great Edward Yang, who created one of the two extraordinarily great films released in 2000, Yi Yi, which promised a qualitatively continuation of the 1990s that the decade ultimately did not keep. Indeed, in this spirit, Hong Kong witnessed a further decline from the earlier decade, though Wong's first two features of the decade and Johnnie To's work (Throw Down, 2004; Exiled, 2006; Sparrow, 2008) were undeniable high points.

Korea and Japan were likewise contenders on the world stage, with
Hong Sang-soo ranking as the leading figure of the former, thanks to his twice-told Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (2000), Turning Gate (2002) and Woman on the Beach (2006). Additional major works were produced by Bong Joon-ho (Memories of Murder, 2003; Mother, 2009), Im Kwon-taek (Chihwaseon, 2002), Lee Chang-dong (Peppermint Candy, 2000), Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, 2003) and Park Ki-yong (Camel(s), 2002). In Japan, the heights and depth of accomplishment were even more considerable with Hiyao Miyazaki's Spirited Away (2001 - pictured), the best animated film of the decade, and Kiyoshi Kurosawa's career peak Tokyo Sonata (2008) on top, with the latter director's Doppelgänger (2003), Shinji Aoyama's Eureka (2000), Hirokazu Kore-eda's Nobody Knows (2004) and Still Walking (2008), Takeshi Kitano's Dolls (2002) and Zatoichi (2003) - Kitano, however, did not equal his '90s stature - and Seijuin Suzuki's late period Pistol Opera (2001) not far behind. Outside of the art cinema, Japan also produced Mamoru Oshii's fine, animated Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004) and some of the truly outstanding comedies of the decade, including The Taste of Tea (Katsuhito Ishii, 2004), Linda Linda Linda (Nobuhiro Yamashita, 2005), Adrift in Tokyo (Satoshi Miki, 2007), and Fine, Totally Fine (Yosuke Fujita, 2008).

In the rest of the non-English speaking world, Kiarostami's disciple,
Jafar Panahi, in the former's absence, developed into Iran's leading director (with The Circle, 2000, and Crimson Gold, 2003). 2000, in particular, proved a very good year for the Iranian cinema with Marzieh Makhmalbaf's The Day I Became a Woman (2000) and Bahman Ghobadi's A Time for Drunken Horses (2000) joining The Circle. Nuri Bilge Ceylan emerged in Turkey with the Tarkovskian Distant (2002) and especially Climates (2006). Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir (2008) was the highest profile Israeli film of the decade, while Dover Kosashvili's Late Marriage (2001) was also noteworthy. In Latin America, Mexico proved quite vital with the best of Carlos Reygadas (Japon, 2002; the masterful Silent Light, 2007) and Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, 2006) ranking above art film juggernauts Amores Perros (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2000) and Y tu mama tambien (Alfonso Cuarón, 2001; Cuarón, however, did make a franchise best with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2004). Uruguay featured the strong, droll Whisky (Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll, 2004), while Argentina, lastly, proved to be one the western hemisphere's cinematic epicenters with the films of Lisandro Alonso (the super-Bazinian Los Muertos, 2004; Liverpool, 2008), Lucrecia Martel (La Ciénaga, 2001; her full masterpiece The Headless Woman, 2008) and Celina Murga (Ana and the Others, 2003; A Week Alone, 2008) all among the finest films made anywhere in the 2000s. (By contrast, Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund's art film blockbuster City of God [2002] looks threadbare indeed.)

Then there was Hollywood, which as always was the source of the majority of the films I saw in the past ten years (as I suspect was also true of most of this blog's readers), even if came nowhere near dominating the category of great art similarly - as it might have during, say, the classical era. That Hollywood wasn't what it once was - hardly a new sentiment; the same could be said with authority since at least the mid-1960s - is not to say that the American cinema failed to produce very strong work, however. Indeed,
David Lynch's career best Mulholland Drive (2001 - pictured) was one of the truly great "art films" of the 2000s, imbibing a surreal logic for its Hollywood critique, while refracting Rivette's Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974). Lynch also provided the even more opaque, though no less moving Inland Empire (2006). Among other Hollywood directors of note to do their best work (at a very high level) in the 2000s were David Fincher with his exceptional, Dirty Harry inversion Zodiac (2007) and his digital era Oscar picture of quality The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008); James Gray, with his elegant Two Lovers (2008); Curtis Hanson, whose Wonder Boys (2000) bested, however marginally, his universally critically acclaimed L.A. Confidential (1997); Michael Mann, who produced an organic masterpiece in Collateral (2004), which he followed impressively with his Miami Vice (2006) remake; and most implausibly of all, perhaps, Tony Scott, who released the surprising Domino (2005) before providing one of the best American films of the decade, Déjà Vu (2006). Additional major works by auteurs, most often just below their directors' respective peak achievements, included Robert Altman's Gosford Park (2001), Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale (2002), Jim Jarmusch's The Limits of Control (2009), Richard Linklater's Before Sunset (2004), Terrence Malick's minor masterpiece The New World (2005), Steven Soderbergh's surprisingly successful remake of Solaris (2002), Steven Spielberg's A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001) and Catch Me if You Can (2002), Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (2004), and Gus Van Sant's Elephant (2003) and Paranoid Park (2007).

Scott's film, moreover, joined
Paul Greengrass's impressively sober United 93 (2006) in engaging fruitfully with 9/11, as did one of Spike Lee's most generous - and finest - works, 25th Hour (2002). While Hollywood did not seem equally suited to dealing with the ramifications of the Iraq war, Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker (2008) was a highlight. Politics, of course, would play a very large role in the decade's documentaries, as it did in one of the peak achievements of the form, Errol Morris's The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003), though Nathaniel Kahn's My Architect (2003) and Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man (2005) were equally impressive on the apolitical end of the spectrum. In fact, politics even made its way into children's entertainment with Pixar's WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008) the most conspicuous example. Yet, Pixar's finest achievements belonged to auteur Brad Bird, whose depictions of individual excellence, The Incredibles (2004) and Ratatouille (2007), equaled the best entertainments Disney ever produced. Outside of Pixar, the finest work of Hollywood animation may have been Gil Kenan's Monster House (2006).

Among those films receiving Oscar recognition in non-animated categories, none were better than Clint Eastwood's back-to-back, culturally attuned master works, Mystic River (2003) and Million Dollar Baby (2004 - pictured). In so doing, Eastwood matched his 1990s feat with Unforgiven (1992) and A Perfect World (1993), while reaffirming himself as Hollywood's greatest living director - which his revisionist Gran Torino (2008) further confirmed. Other relatively deserving Oscar winners included Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003), this Griffithian structured work was easily the best of the trilogy; and Joel and Ethan Coen's fine, revisionist No Country for Old Men (2007). (Two strong, noteworthy, similarly Oscar nominated companions to the last two were Peter Weir's Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World, 2003, and Andrew Dominik's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007.) Still, Oscar got it wrong far more often that it got it right with the atrocious A Beautiful Mind (Ron Howard, 2001), Chicago (Rob Marshall, 2002; Baz Luhrmann's striking Moulin Rouge!, 2001, was the more impressive work in every respect); Crash (Paul Haggis, 2004), and Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle, 2008). Even Martin Scorsese's arguably belated Oscar came for one of his lesser films, The Departed (2006; Andrew Lau and Alan Mak's source Infernal Affairs, 2002, was the superior achievement). In general, the 2000s were not Scorsese's decade.

The 2000s, on the other, did belong to
Wes Anderson and Judd Apatow, at least in the realm of US comedy. The former produced the finest American comedy of the decade, The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and the woefully undervalued The Darjeeling Limited (2007). Apatow's mark, on the other hand, was even more significant with numerous producer credits joining noteworthy directorial efforts, Knocked Up (2007) and Funny People (2009). The latter, however, is perhaps more significant for contributing to the further revision of Adam Sandler's star persona, which was signaled by works like Paul Thomas Anderson's major Punch-Drunk Love (2002; for this writer, the aforesaid comedy ranks above Anderson's There Will Be Blood, 2007) and James Brooks's Spanglish (2004). Among Sandler's Saturday Night Live successors, Will Ferrell starred in some of the best Hollywood comedy of the decade, such as Adam McKay's Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006), while appearing in others, including David Dobkin's exceedingly funny Wedding Crashers (2005). In a more commercially modest, auteurist vein were Jared Hess's Nacho Libre (2006), Harold Ramis's The Ice Harvest (2005) and Terry Zwigoff's Bad Santa (2003).

In the realm of the action blockbuster,
Christopher Nolan directed the notable Batman Begins (2005) and decade box office champion The Dark Knight (2008); Greengrass elevated visceral experience over visual decipherability in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007); Matt Reeves theorized the digital image in Cloverfield (2008); and Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor made one of the decade's most singular works (for better or for worse) in Crank (2006). Working in a more genre-based tradition, substantial work was done by David Mamet (Redbelt, 2008) and Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, 2008); the latter of these films, significantly, was built around a reference to Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (2004), a work of sacred art that was one of the decade's biggest money-makers. On the other end of the commercial spectrum, the American avant-garde, there was the 'devotional' cinema Nathaniel Dorsky (Song and Solitude, 2006; Sarabande, 2008) and the structuralist corpus of James Benning, the leading American experimental director of the decade, whose 13 Lakes (2004), Ten Skies (2004) and RR (2007 - pictured) articulated the minimal conditions for the art form. In the gallery world, Tacita Dean's Kodak (2006), as with RR, eulogized the death of the 16mm medium. At the same time, Michel Gondry sought to bring theatrical distribution into contact with the art world, which he did to increasing success in The Science of Sleep (2006) and particularly Be Kind Rewind (2008). Gondry's collaboration with Charlie Kaufman, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), was likewise successful, as was Spike Jonze's Adaptation. (2002) - in both instances far more than Kaufman's miserablist directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York (2008). (Stronger American first features included David Gordon Green's George Washington [2000], Kenneth Longergan's You Can Count On Me [2000], Phil Morrison's Junebug [2005].)

North of the border,
David Cronenberg continued his outstanding run of achievements with directorial signature Spider (2002), masterpiece A History of Violence (2005), and the criminally under-valued Eastern Promises (2007); Cronenberg was clearly another of the decade's leading figures. His countryman Guy Maddin did some of his best work in the quasi-avant garde, as for instance with his Cowards Bend the Knee (2003); likewise, Canada also produced the extraordinary, first-ever Inuit-language picture, Zacharias Kunuk's The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat) (2001). In the United Kingdom, Mike Leigh (Vera Drake, 2004) and Stephen Frears (The Queen, 2006) made some of the better films, while in Australia, Jane Campion made of a comeback at the decade's conclusion with Bright Star (2009).

Michael J. Anderson's Ten Best Films of the 2000s

Blissfully Yours (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2002, Thailand)
Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2007, France)
Goodbye Dragon Inn (Tsai Ming-liang, 2003, Taiwan)
The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, 2008, Argentina)
I'm Going Home (Manoel de Oliveira, 2001, France)
Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001, United States)
Mystic River (Clint Eastwood, 2003, United States)
Russian Ark (Aleksandr Sokurov, 2002, Russia)
Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr, 2000, Hungary)
Yi Yi (Edward Yang, 2000, Taiwan) - pictured


Eric said...

Great round up, but I would argue that 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE and THE REGULAR LOVERS are other films that were worth mentioning.

Michael J. Anderson said...

Ah, REGULAR LOVERS, the first major omission... I imagine there will be many more. (Do I update or do I not? I suppose it's better to resist and stick by the films I thought of initially.) For reasons unknown even to myself, however, I really don't care for 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE that much, which is strange because I am a fanatical follower of certain Manchester scene bands.

filmbo said...

No worries about the Manchester flick. I did also notice no mention of MUTUAL APPRECIATION or KISS KISS BANG BANG, but my guess is those too were deliberate editorial choices.

Maybe in a year you write a mea culpa post for all the films of the decade you have since screened, at which point you can also include films you inadvertently left out. Who knows.

Regardless, keep up the great work!

just another film buff said...

Terrific, terrific round up of the decade in cinema, Michael. This is an absolutely essential post, especially for those like me, who're relatively new to quality film viewing. Thanks a lot. It's gonna be easier now to catch up with the happenings around the world. And what an eclectic top 10 to round it off with!

And A+ for the comments on Kiarostami :)

Nathaniel Drake Carlson said...

Michael, what did you think of Jose Padilha's Elite Squad? For me that was absolutely one of the decade's very finest works.

Anonymous said...

Excellent summary.
The only omission I was surprised by was Claire Denis' L'intru which I thought was an adventurous accomplished masterwork much akin to the best films on your list. (And I personally would have struggled to get one film apiece from Almadovar and Van Sant who consolidated their claim to being masters in the 00's in my opinion.) But great overview.

Larry Gross

Neil Young said...

a useful overview, even if I usually disagree with you.

However: to mention three films by Denis and not specify L'INTRUS is bizarre.

To mention three films by James Benning and not include CASTING A GLANCE is simply perverse.

Michael J. Anderson said...

I concede that L'INTRUS is a major omission - perhaps the biggest - but it was choice made on the basis of my personal preference for the other three Denis films I listed; clearly, I am out-voted in my Denis tastes.

Of a couple of other omissions, I haven't had the opportunity to see either ELITE SQUAD (I haven't even heard of this one, actually) or CASTING A GLANCE (I just wasn't able to get to a screening). Perverse seems to be greatly overstating the case, though I do appreciate the rhetorical value of saying so.

Michael J. Anderson said...

Also, thanks both to "filmbo" and "just another film buff" for your kind comments.

Buff, I was in the relatively new position ten years ago, leading me to search for lists to bring me up to date on what had happened in the 1990s. Jonathan Rosenbaum's choices were of particular, formative interest to me; the fact that his choices were so unfamiliar, in most cases, really stimulated my curiosity.

Filmbo, had I chosen a 'mumblecore' film, I would have opted for FUNNY HA-HA, though to tell you the truth, it really never came to mind. Another of many oversights, I guess... I may have to do as you say.

David Marin-Guzman said...

Amazing list...but Deja Vu one of the best of the decade?? Really? "engaging fruitfully with 9/11"? Really! Apart from being an atonal and inelegant addition to the time travel genre (the gizmo is the gimmick but Scott hardly makes the most of it), I consider the movie a pretty insidious framing of Sept 11:

Neil Young said...

well, yes, I -was- being a touch hyperbolic for rhetorical ends!

My own top 30 (shamefully Anglophone- and US-centric, I'm afraid):

1. Punch-Drunk Love (Anderson 02)
2. casting a glance (Benning 07)
3. United 93 (Greengrass 06)
4. A History of Violence (Cronenberg 05)
5. The Wrestler (Aronofsky 08)
6. Elephant (Van Sant 03)
7. Who Killed Cock Robin? (Wilkerson 07)
8. Los (Benning 01)
9. Who Is Bozo Texino? (Daniel 05)
10. Dead Man's Shoes (Meadows 04)
11. The Call of the Wild (Lamothe07)
12. Capturing the Friedmans (Jarecki 03)
13. Los Angeles Plays Itself (Andersen 03)
14. Satan (Chapiron 06)
15. Tropic of Cancer (Polgovsky 04)
16. District 9 (Blomkamp 09)
17. El Valley Centro (Benning 00)
18. Profit motive and the whispering wind (Gianvito 07)
19. Volver (Almodovar 06)
20. The Intruder (Denis 04)
21. With a Girl of Black Soil (Jeon 07)
22. René (Trestikova 08)
23. Fantasma (Alonso 06)
24. Dancer in the Dark (Von Trier00)
25. Far From Heaven (Haynes 02)
26. Gunnar Goes Comfortable (Jensen03)
27. The State I Am In (Petzold 00)
28. Revolutionary Road (Mendes 08)
29. WALL-E (Stanton 08)
30. Ten Skies (Benning 04)

Michael J. Anderson said...

David, I wrote a rather long piece on DEJA VU for FILM CRITICISM, which they published earlier this year (Winter 2008). You may be able to access the essay here: Forgive me if it sounds as if I am avoiding your criticism; I think I make a fairly strong case for the film in it, and don't really think I can do it justice in the space of the comments section (with the time I currently have).

Neil, there is a veritable bonanza of films I missed on your list, and many more that I failed to mention... beyond "L'Intrus." What about my failure to mention "Far from Heaven"? Suffice it to say that we have very different sensibilities.

Neil Young said...

Michael isn't the only one to esteem DEJA VU. Christoph Huber, the leading Austrian critic (arguably the leading German-language critic) is also a major fan:

Personally I prefer DOMINO, which I am delighted to see in Michael's rundown as it's easily one of the decades most unfairly-maligned 'films maudits'.

Yes, Michael, different sensibilities. And I'd be surprised if you were, say, as knocked out by SATAN (aka SHEITAN) as I was...

But I am sure there are certain "hidden gems" on my list that would tickle your palate.

For example, I have yet to find anyone who doesn't delight in Ron Lamothe's CALL OF THE WILD (a hard-to-see and, I suspect, semi-suppressed documentary mainly on Chris McCandless of INTO THE WILD fame, but touching on so much more).

Omar said...

An impressive list; although you overlook Haneke's CACHE/HIDDEN. Otherwise, I do agree that the late Edward Yang came up with one of the great films of the past ten years. Michael Mann's middle brow work also doesn't stand up to his illustrious nineties period.

Michael J. Anderson said...

Neil, thanks for linking to Huber and Peranson's fine piece.

I look forward to working my way through your list; unless a list surprises - which yours certainly does - it isn't terribly useful. I hope my does as well... beyond the shock-horror of my Tony Scott advocacy.

Omar said...

Apologises; just seen your other comprehensive and brilliantly summarised lists from the decade and I was wrong, you do rate 'Cache'; this one hell of a film canon to take in - makes me realise how much I have also missed.

Michael J. Anderson said...

Not a problem, Omar. Though your point calls to attention to my listing of only a single Haneke, which is perhaps too few. I also liked "Code Inconnu" (2000) and "Time of the Wolf" (2003), and look forward to seeing "White Ribbon" (2009) in early 2010.

R. Emmet Sweeney said...

It's hard to quibble with your exhaustive roundup here Mike, but I would urge you to see Kiarostami's Shirin, which the BFI just put out on a nice DVD. It's the best of his experimental works that I've seen, and ultimately quite moving. I have a piece going up on TCM abou it. It'll at least be worth a mention.

I would've added 12:08 East of Bucharest as also superior to 4 WEEKS...

In the auteur section I would have saved a spot for John Woo's WINDTALKERS, which is severely underrated.

And please expound upon your enigmatic "for better or for worse" aside regarding Crank. Our friendship rides upon your answer.

Tim Grierson said...

Like everyone else here, Michael, I just want to say what a great rundown this is. I would add Pere Portabella's The Silence Before Bach to the list of the decade's best films, although it has not been widely seen (or even available) in the U.S.

Nathaniel Drake Carlson said...

As far as I'm concerned Code Inconnu is the only Haneke worth being in a 00's top ten list(though I also really like Funny Games US and aspects of White Ribbon). To be honest, though, to denigrate something as truly great as Mann's Miami Vice as "middle brow" but yet to champion Cache and not see the irony suggests a particular limit of vision I can't happily accept.

Michael J. Anderson said...

Thanks for all the kind words, guys.

Tim, though it certainly was on my radar, I missed SILENCE BEFORE BACH when it played in NYC (at Film Forum, if I remember?); I will be sure, however, to see it when belatedly I get the opportunity.

Nathaniel, I'm very pleased to hear that you MIAMI VICE in such high regard. I certainly agree.

Robert, I do need to see SHIRIN (which, excitingly, a BFI disc will make possible at last) and WINDTALKERS, I suppose. I trust your taste enough to give this one a shot. Lastly, I like CRANK, I really do - it portends a new form narrative exposition, according to my lovely wife - but there are respects (aesthetic, moral) that I don't wish to become normative.

Mike Lyon said...

Look, you did a Top 100 after all! Or Top 200, I didn't count but I expect it's close to that number, and well-organized, to boot!

A part of me finds it distasteful to say "Oh, but aren't you forgetting XXXXXX"; and yet:

The one major omission I detect in (well hey, it's me here) the Asian film contingent is any work whatsoever from Takashi Miike, who in my estimation is a major and indeed iconic new-millenial director! I can guarantee that some mix of his finest work, potentially including AUDITION, ICHI THE KILLER, DEAD OR ALIVE 2: BIRDS, GRAVEYARD OF HONOUR, GOZU or IZO, will appear on my own list, with potential top-10 placement!

To further nit-pick (really I'm just being a dick at this point, it's an inspirationally complete summary, good sir), I think that EXILED and SPARROW are fantastic To choices, but THROWDOWN over either of the ELECTION pictures, or his more abstract comedies like RUNNING ON KARMA or MY LEFT EYE SEES GHOSTS? Madness!

And in conclusion, let me just say: no ANCHORMAN? Are you high?

Much love for such a cohesive essay! I'm already trying to hunt down a few features I've not yet seen...

PS - LIKE YOU KNOW IT ALL is, for my money, Hong's best since TURNING GATE; check it out at your earliest possible convenience! I wish I coulda brought it to you in New Haven this past month, but someone else did the 6 month visit :P Maybe in another 5!

Mike Lyon said...

Rob, you are a handsome gentleman, please be my gay lover, etc etc, but WINDTALKERS? I say thee nay! Now RED CLIFF, on the other hand...

Michael J. Anderson said...

Mr. Lyon,

I was waiting to hear from you... and I could have predicted you would call me on the absence of Miike. I was going to include AUDITION, but upon further review, I found that it was first released in 1999, not 2000 as I had thought, disqualifying it from the list. It is the only of the director's films that I have seen and liked, so I decided to pass on Miike. A blind spot, I guess.

I do look forward to Hong's latest. Sometime soon. Also, I stand by THROW DOWN - I do like it better than the majority of To's films - and ANCHORMAN is not my favorite of the Adam MacKay-Will Ferrell teaming; to me, TALLADEGA NIGHTS is their best - a worthy heir to WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER?

Sam C. Mac said...

Good to see that someone else thinks "Days of Being Wild" is Wong's best. As much as I love both "In the Mood for Love" and at least half of "2046" (not to mention "Happy Together," "Ashes of Time," pretty much anything that isn't "My Blueberry Nights"), I always come back to 'Days,' which I've seen probably an embarrassing amount of times at this point.

I would never suggest this is a blind spot, but did you consider Joao Pedro Rodrigues? One of my favorite new filmmakers, with three films to his name that are all worthy of decade consideration (well, maybe "Two Drifters" isn't quite on that level). His debut, "O Fantasma," in particular, is such a darkly compelling film, and his latest, "To Die Like a Man," is maybe his best yet. I like to describe it as an Almodovar film as directed by Tsai Ming-Liang.

Speaking of Tsai: have you seen "Face" yet? Seems to be dividing people, but I can't see a Tsai fan such as yourself thinking it's anything but great.

In any case, invaluable piece you've put together here, and a great top 10 to cap it off. We've got 3 overlaps, which is something.

Mike Lyon said...

AUDITION did screen at a Canadian film fest in '99, but its Japanese theatrical release was in 2000, which makes it an aughtie by my convoluted, OCD rules of engagement ^_^

[reposted to correct spelling]

R. Emmet Sweeney said...

Lyon - Red Cliff is superior to Windtalkers, yes. But the deft handling of multiple characters, bouncing from intimate to epic, and organizing masses to express individual moods begins in the earlier film. I wrote an article about this that should pop up next week. It's underrated!

It's hard to pick just a couple Johnnie To movies. Along with Exiled and Sparrow, which are tops, I'd go PTU, Breaking News, Triad Election. I'm not a Throwdown guy.

ANCHORMAN is in my top ten of the decade, but it stands in for the whole McKay oeuvre. To be honest, STEP BROTHERS is my personal favorite, the purest, but ANCHORMAN is the most influential, important, etc.

Sebastián Santillán said...

Amazing list Michael!

This is my first draft of the decade:
1) In the City of Sylvia, by José Luis Guerin
2) Mulholland Drive, by David Lynch
3) In the Mood for Love, by Wong Kar Wai
4) The Regular Lovers, by Philippe Garrel
5) Los Angeles Plays Itself, by Thom Andersen
6) The Headless Woman, by Lucrecia Martel
7) Independencia, by Raya Martin
8) Notre Musique, by Jean-Luc Godard
9) Shara, by Naomi Kawase
10) Millennium Mambo, by Hou Hsiao Hsien

Michael J. Anderson said...

Sebastián, let me return the compliment: excellent choices.

Sam, Rodrigues is a director I am going to need to catch up with; I heard good things about TO DIE LIKE A MAN (mostly after its NYFF screening); living in Connecticut, I am a bit limited with which festival screenings I can make it to - meaning that I did not make it to INDEPENDENCIA either. The 2000s for me will not end until well into the next decade, which was also true of the 1990s ten years ago. After all, I would argue that THE WIND WILL CARRY US (1999) was the best theatrically distributed film I saw this decade.

Which leads me to Mike Lyon's point: I had to draw the line somewhere, otherwise not only AUDITION but also Oshima's extraordinary GOHATTO would have made my run down.

ElChapa said...

I'm from Argentina, so you must imagine I have really enjoyed reading this (you liked "The Headless Woman" that much?? that's great).

I think the list and the whole decade review is just great. The only thing, because I loved it and nobody mentioned it -not even you- I wanted to know why you left it behind: "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly".

Greetings from the land of Lucrecia Martel :D

Jeremy Nyhuis said...

Wonderful commentary as always, Mr. Anderson, but I'm not sure why you decided to completely exclude Ousmane Sembène's Moolaadé. Is it not even worth a mention?

Michael J. Anderson said...

THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY and MOOLAADE were both conscious omissions, though for different reasons. The former as I really don't think it rates - it is for me a film that lacks any surprise whatsoever, a film of conventionality in the worst sense - and the latter simply as I didn't find it to director Sembene's high standard. I suppose I could (and perhaps even should) have noted MOOLAADE as the great director's final feature, but again I don't think it approaches the critical richness of a XALA, CEDDO or GULEWAAR, nor does it equally the importance of say a BLACK GIRL. A decent film , sure, but in my humble opinion, not among the director's better films. (Then again this was a theme for the decade...)

Jean-Louis said...

The French magazine Les cahiers du cinéma recently listed the 10 best films of 2000s: 1 Mulholland drive; 2 Elephant; 3 Tropical malady; 4 The host; 5 A history of violence; 6 La graine et le mulet, Abdellatif Kechiche, France, 2007; 7 West of the rails,Wang Bing, China, 2002; 8 War of the worlds, 9 The new world; 10 Ten.

Jean-Louis said...

Here are my best films of 2000s: 1 Mulholland drive; 2 Tropical malady; 3 Last days; 4 Eureka; 5 The host, Bong Joon-Ho, 2006; 6 Still life, Jia Zhang-Ke, 2006; 7 Inland, Tariq Teguia, 2009; 8 Tokyo sonata; 9 Dernier maquis, Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche, 2008; 10 Serbis, Brillante Mendoza, 2008.

Michael J. Anderson said...


Thank you for the Cahiers picks and your own fine choices. At some point, I will have to find the time to see "West of the Tracks" in particular, given my admiration for "Fengming: A Chinese Memoir."