COLUMNS

  • 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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  • Pollock

    IT’S CUSTOMARY TO KICK OFF a review of an artist’s biopic with a few chuckling asides about classic cinematic representations of artistic genius, like Lust for Life (Kirk Douglas as Van Gogh!) and The Agony and the Ecstasy (Charlton Heston as Michelangelo!). The reviewer knowingly ticks off the elements of neo-Romantic myth as they pile up madness, creativity, rebellion, berets, work boots, poverty, and, of course, originality. Ed Harris’s new movie is Pollock, but maybe we’re supposed to understand it as Pollock!!!, the larger-than-life version. True to type, the film, which premiered at the

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  • Suzhou River

    I have it on good authority that mermaids don’t exist in China, yet Lou Ye captured one from the depths of Shanghai’s unclean waterways In his second film, Suzhou River, which made its US debut at New Directors/New Films in March and opens this month at New York’s Film Forum. The mermaid in Lou's film is a slippery apparition, the coy ghost of a suicide who swims half-naked in a seedy nightclub floor-show, and her presence intimates that this gritty film, like the man-made river it's named after, is rife with impurities. Suzhou River is a story of love and betrayal, a posthuman noir told by a

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  • Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark

    IT SOUNDS GOOD on paper. Lars von Trier, bold, gifted, iconoclastic Danish director, completes his long, tantrum-filled mission to win the Cannes Film Festival's—and serious filmdom's—award of awards, the Palme d'Or, and is cemented as one of the greats. But this isn't the '70s, and taking first prize at Cannes last May doesn't automatically make Dancer in the Dark a classic or assure von Trier's position in the pantheon. Those who've seen his shape-shifting oeuvre as proof that European avant-garde film survived the senility, retirement, and death of its postwar masters were understandably

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  • Edward Yang’sYi Yi

    DESPITE SOME RECENT, heartening developments—stateside distribution for two Tsai Ming-liang movies (Vive l'amour [1994] and The Hole [1998]) and Winstar's acquisition of an assortment of Hou Hsiao-hsiens (including The Puppetmaster [1993] and Flowers of Shanghai [1998])—Taiwanese cinema is still an unknown quantity in America. It takes time for horizons of cinematic “difficulty” to broaden. Unfortunately, that's the kind of time that few distributors or exhibitors can afford, especially now that the once-flourishing network of independent art houses, the kind that gave an Antonioni semipopular

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  • Jean Rouch

    “WE WANTED TO MAKE A FlLM of love, but in the end it came out somewhat impersonal,” sighs Edgar Morin at the end of Chronique d'un été (Chronicle of a summer, 1961), the sociologist's collaboration with filmmaker and anthropologist Jean Rouch. Beginning with the question “Are you happy?,” the film documents a group of Morin's friends in Paris, following them to dinner parties, at work, and on dates and getting them to reveal their innermost thoughts. A sociological exercise, an experimental film, a passionate inquiry into the meaning of Parisian life ca. 1960, Chronique d'un été, like most of

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  • Jean-Luc Godard

    ECM RECORDS' IMPOSING, slipcased five-disc sound-track album to Jean-Luc Godard's four-and-a-half-hour Histoire(s) du cinéma video project (1988–98), complete with four hardcover books of images and text in three languages—all for a list price of $180—is the last word in dolorous mood Muzak. Godard's eight-part Histoire(s) is his gnomic farewell to an art form—remixing and cross-referencing a century's worth of film to evoke cinema's obsolescence at the same moment its visual traces have replaced memory and history alike. Cahiers du cinéma was thrilled by the sound track's

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  • Steal This Movie!

    I DON'T REMEMBER precisely when I first learned to equate Grateful Dead fandom with class privilege, when I finally figured out that those hokey dancing bears glued to the rear window of a Saab signaled that you were tailgating a pleasure-loving scion of American entitlement, but it must have been around the same time that Abbie Hoffman, having resurfaced after a decade underground, was beginning to dabble in the hopeless leftist causes of the '80s. This unhappy coincidence was no doubt what provoked my first glimmers of doubt concerning the '60s counterculture.

    Yes, there was something genuinely

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  • The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack

    AIYANA ELLIOTT'S DOCUMENTARY about her demi-legend of a folksinger father, The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack (which opens nationally this month), is the kind of plainspoken memoir-cum-biography you might stumble across on PBS some uneventful night and gradually get caught up in, the rhythms of its unspooling anecdotes seducing you against your will. “I've never heard anybody that was so enchanting on subjects I didn't give a damn about,” is Kris Kristofferson's affectionate characterization of the sixty-nine-year-old raconteur, rake, and self-made myth whose pale faux-Guthrie warble may be his least

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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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