Thursday, December 31, 2009

50 greatest films & videos of the 2000's

frame enlargements from Robert Breer's What Goes Up

Here is my favorite 50 films made between 2000-2010.

One film per film-maker. In a very arbitrary order of preference:

  1. What Goes Up (2003) - Robert Breer
  2. Three Times (2005) - Hou Hsiao-hsien
  3. The God of Day Had Gone Down Upon Him (2000) - Stan Brakhage
  4. Un Lac (2009) - Philippe Grandrieux
  5. As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (2000) - Jonas Mekas
  6. Poetry and Truth (2003) - Peter Kubelka
  7. Glider (2001) - Ernie Gehr
  8. Corpus Callosum (2002) - Michael Snow
  9. Miami Vice (2006) - Michael Mann
  10. Worldly Desires (2005) - Apichatpong Weerasethakul
  11. 'R Xmas (2001) - Abel Ferrara
  12. Yi Yi (2000) - Edward Yang
  13. Chats perchés (2004) - Chris Marker
  14. Ten Videos: 3 (2006) - Kyle Canterbury
  15. Le silence de Lorna (2008) - Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
  16. Va savoir (2001) - Jacques Rivette
  17. The Decay of Fiction (2002) - Pat O'Neill
  18. The Legend of Nile (2009) - Eytan Ipeker
  19. L'arrotino (2001) - Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub
  20. Two Lovers (2008) - James Gray
  21. Sobibór, 14 octobre 1943, 16 heures (2001) - Claude Lanzmann
  22. Kedma (2002) - Amos Gitai
  23. A Talking Picture (2003) - Manoel de Oliveira
  24. Süt (2008) - Semih Kaplanoğlu
  25. İklimler (2006) - Nuri Bilge Ceylan
  26. Le Temps Qui Reste (2005) - François Ozon
  27. Still Life (2006) - Jia Zhang Ke
  28. Zodiac (2007) - David Fincher
  29. 30 Days of Night (2007) - David Slade
  30. Grizzly Man (2005) - Werner Herzog
  31. Ohio Postcard (2009) - Ekrem Serdar
  32. The Host (2006) - Bong Joon-ho
  33. Lachrymae (2000) - Brian Frye
  34. Eureka (2000) - Shinji Aoyama
  35. Breaking News (2004) - Johnnie To
  36. Vicdan (2008) - Erden Kıral
  37. Où gît votre sourire enfoui? (2001) - Pedro Costa
  38. Songs from the Second Floor (2000) - Roy Andersson
  39. EVO (2002) - Oliver Hockenhull
  40. La fille coupée en deux (2007) - Claude Chabrol
  41. Ten (2002) - Abbas Kiarostami
  42. The New World (2005) - Terrence Malick
  43. The Edge of Love (2008) - John Maybury
  44. Engulfment (3) (2009) - Adam Rokhsar
  45. Russian Ark (2002) - Alexander Sokurov
  46. I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (2006) - Tsai Ming-liang
  47. La frontière de l'aube (2008) - Philippe Garrel
  48. Tatil Kitabı (2008) - Seyfi Teoman
  49. Buffalo Postcard (for Ekrem) (2009) - Can Eskinazi
  50. Orchard (2004) - Julie Murray

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Philippe Grandrieux's "Sombre" (1998)



Philippe Grandrieux is one of my favorite filmmakers alive. His films are a new voice, almost a shriek, that could have only been expressed through a rediscovery of the medium it's using. Every new vision, like Sombre, requires its own form of expression, and therefore redefines, and expands the cinematic language. It frees thinking, embellishes our experience of the world.

Here's what Adrian Martin says in his article about La Vie Nouvelle:
"The films of Philippe Grandrieux pulsate. They pulsate microcosmically: in the images, the camera trembles and flickers so violently that, even within a single, continuous shot, no photogram resembles another. And they pulsate macrocosmically: the soundtrack is constructed globally upon unidentifiable, layered, synthesised, ambient noises of breath or wind, sucked in and expelled, which underlie the entire film and constitute its disturbed heartbeat, returning to our ear when all other sounds have disappeared."




Sombre, as Grandrieux's first feature film, establishes some of the important characteristics of his art: An insistence on vision, with characters beyond psychologies, driven by biology or metaphysical forces.

Love (a mix of brotherly and sexual Love, a true awareness of the other, a communion) mostly overrules all, and its discovery by Jean creates waves that emanate in every shot, every cut and every sound in the rest of Sombre.




While the movement in Un Lac is from perfect love (a paradise communion) to the loss of innocence, here the movement is reversed, not in the sense that the film has a happy ending, there are no clear conclusions (nor clear beginnings) in Grandrieux... The discovery of the other (an other?) disturbs the existing rules of behaviour.

This is also true for Claire, who have a face to face conversation with a stranger, something completely unexpected in a film of such few words. A scene that would have been ordinary in another film (except the abusively frontal camera) acquires a huge force by its contrast to the rest of the work.




What is truly impossible to describe in words is the sense of rhythm, and Grandrieux's Brakhage-like belief in the transformative powers of vision and perception. It's a sombre film alright, content-wise, but Grandrieux also shoots in extremely low-light situations, abstracting bodies, faces, expressions. He teaches us to care less about what's happening, and this increases in every new film of his. Instead, we learn to care about the how, and the way, the feeling, the sense of the presence, not of the actual happenings, because the films are not realistic, but the presence of the director, filtering, flirting and dancing with the events that are taking place.

Important to note that he is the cameraman in all his films, he says there wouldn't be a point making films otherwise. Here's something from an interview with him in Balthazar (first in original French, then my English translation):
"Je ne pourrais pas imaginer, même avec le plus grand cadreur du monde avec qui je m’entendrais parfaitement bien… C’est le regard, c’est la vision… C’est le regard : comment moi je vous regarde là maintenant, je ne peux le dire à personne. C’est vraiment une question sur l’altérité, c’est la limite."
"I could not imagine, even with the greatest cameraman in the world with whom I get on very well... It's the look, it's the vision... It's the look: how I look at you here and now, I cannot describe anyone. It's really a question of otherness, it's the limit."




The art of cinema only speaks strongly when every cut matters. In Sombre, every cut is an event, a comment about the rest of the film. Every formal choice, or everything that happens storywise have meanings that constantly expand. Grandrieux never chews on the same idea, the same feeling, he constantly looks for new ways to perceive the rest. And he doesn't stop doing it even after everything is over.

It's unfortunate that I had to see it in a terrible .avi version, but I would call Sombre sublime simply because I felt missing so much by not experiencing it in its true medium. It's a film that asks us to be aware of the film grain. There lies the true expression in Un Lac. And seemingly in Sombre.


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