COLUMNS

  • Richard Linklater

    NOT UNLIKE ONE OF HIS INTELLIGENT, loquacious characters, Richard Linklater wears his artistry lightly. So lightly, in fact, that he's often confused with the slackers who lent his first film its name. But Waking Life—his latest feature, which opens in October—proves he is something more: a supremely attentive craftsman with a feel for the endless searching that lies at the heart of every well-examined life.

    Like a lot of other filmmakers, Linklater has recently gone digital, with not one but two new projects. Tape (opening in November) is a nervy little chamber piece made on a shoestring

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  • The Man Who Wasn’t There

    IN MICHAEL POWELL’S 1946 fantasy A Matter of Life and Death, the celestial messenger who shuttles between a monochrome afterlife and a color-saturated mortal sphere remarks: “One is starved for Technicolor up there.” Now that all movies are in color (even if it’s color mostly lacking the deep dyes Powell worked with), a different lament emerges: One is starved for black-and-white down here. For that reason alone Joel and Ethan Coen’s The Man Who Wasn’t There provides sustained pleasure. This ostensible homage to film noir doubles as homage to noir et blanc, the only appropriate medium for evoking

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  • Mulholland Drive

    THAT DAVID LYNCH IS A GENUINE VISIONARY may be indisputable, but he has often seemed like an artist with a set of primal obsessions in lieu of a subject. Compelled to plunge headlong into his darkest fears, Lynch has conjured up some of the most mesmerizing passages in American cinema. But the imbalance between the hallucinatory and the desultory has been a constant in Lynch’s work—and a nagging source of frustration. It’s easy to understand his artistic dilemma, though: Creating sequences of such uncanny power necessarily upsets the very idea of narrative or thematic resolution; those spellbinding

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  • William Klein

    “I DREAMED I WAS PLAYING Handel's Messiah,” a temporarily overworked cellist told me one Christmas, “and then I woke up and it was true!” Handel's musical depiction of the passion and resurrection of Christ has provided seasonal employment for musicians since its premiere in 1742. Even in our impious times it remains well loved. But if it's not religious fervor that brings audiences to their feet for the Hallelujah chorus, what is it? Photographer William Klein's 1999 film Messiah—which only recently received its American debut, at New York's Florence Gould Hall—can be taken as a stab

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  • Allen Smithee

    THE EMERGENCE OF ED WOOD as ironic culture hero—a status cemented by Tim Burton’s bemused Hollywood biopic—just about permanently blurred the line between auteurism and autism. Paying homage to an even more peculiar ghost in the studio machine, Directed by Allen Smithee dishes the very latest in anti-auteur theory by way of celebrating the half-life and work of filmdom’s most famous phantom director. Allen Smithee is the official pseudonym designated by the Directors Guild of America for directors who can document the loss of “creative control” of a film and further claim that the

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  • Julian Schnabel's Before Night Falls

    Julian Schnabel’s decision to follow his elliptical 1996 biopic of Jean-Michel Basquiat with a film about Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas might intimate a morbid allegiance to the cult of the dead artist. But beyond vague structural similarities between the two films, there is little in Before Night Falls (which opened Dec. 22) to suggest that the cinematic possibilities that drew Schnabel to Arenas were the same that had drawn him to Basquiat.

    Schnabel’s self-conscious, intermittently beautiful movie about Basquiat’s rapid rise and fall seemed prompted as much by the painter-turned-Director’s desire

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  • John Waters

    JOHN WATERS

    1. Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier) The most hilariously moving, “feel-insane” movie of the year.

    2. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel Coen) The jaw-dropping all-singing, all-dancing Ku Klux Klan—Busby Berkeley number is a real beaut.

    3. L’Humanité (Bruno Dumont) The endless saga of a simpleton cop so desperate to feel emotion that he spies on the sex life of his lusty neighbors and smells and kisses his crime suspects during interrogations.

    4. American Psycho (Mary Harron) A chain-saw movie for the elite; the funniest American comedy of the year.

    5. The Idiots (Lars von Trier) A

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  • Susan Sontag

    SUSAN SONTAG

    1. Yi Yi (A One and a Two) (Edward Yang) Is Yang as great as Hou Hsiao-hsien? Well, he’s different. See this.

    2. Faithless (Liv Ullmann) Ullmann’s best work by far, with one of the greatest film performances ever, by Lena Endre.

    3. L’Humanité (Bruno Dumont) A very ambitious film about looking and about guilt.

    4. Beau Travail (Claire Denis) A dazzling riff on Melville’s Billy Budd. You’ll never forget the final scene, when the amazing Denis Lavant starts to dance.

    5. The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami) The best-known Iranian director has made another incomparable film.

    6. Hamlet (

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  • Ian Birnie

    IAN BIRNIE

    1. You Can Count on Me (Kenneth Lonergan) The most accomplished of this year’s American indie debuts.

    2. Chunhyang (Im Kwon-taek) From Korea, a completely original, magisterial work that combines sung narration with ravishing images.

    3. Chicken Run (Peter Lord and Nick Park) The Ealing comedy is alive and well and living in claymation.

    4. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai) A concerto for two ill-starred couples and pure pleasure for the senses. Elegant, restrained, stylized, brilliantly sure of itself from its first frame to its astonishing epiphany at Angkor Wat.

    5. Long Night’s Journey

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  • Kent Jones

    KENT JONES

    1. The House of Mirth (Terence Davies) Davies’s mesmerizing Wharton adaptation is as physically and emotionally precise a film as I’ve seen in years.

    2. Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr) Passionate, mournful, gorgeous, and genuinely visionary.

    3. Les Destinées sentimentales (Olivier Assayas) Another literary adaptation (from Jacques Chardonne), and one of the director’s most personal films: a devastating meditation on time and identity, made with the lightest touch.

    4. L’origine du XXlème siècle ( Jean-Luc Godard) Godard’s first completed work of the new century wonders where the old

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  • American Psycho

    IN AN INTERVIEW GIVEN AROUND THE TIME THAT “Walk on the Wild Side” became a fluke hit single, Lou Reed was asked how it felt to achieve mainstream fame after years of cult notoriety. He jokingly replied that at least he’d no longer be known as the guy who was in the weird band that did the song “Heroin.” Reed couldn’t have foreseen that, more than twenty years and innumerable songs later, most contemporary pop music fans know him as the guy from that weird band who also sang “Walk on the Wild Side.” Americans’ memories are famously short, except when it comes to the infamous. But while controversial

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  • Sundance 2000

    In recent years, with the media outnumbering filmmakers by about three to one, the Sundance Film Festival’s purported emphasis—challenging, independent film by promising new talent—drastically shifted. Mirroring Hollywood priorities to a disconcerting degree, Sundance succumbed to stars, glamour, parties, and fashion—not to mention profit. Rather than critically appraise even a significant fraction of the films on view (this year, 120 features were screened during the fest’s eleven-day run, January 20–30), Sundance coverage typically reports on buzz, promiscuously propagating gossip about who

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