COLUMNS

  • The Circle

    THE CHADOR IS A STRANGE GARMENT. A square of black fabric draped over a woman's head and falling to her ankles, this ancient covering, currently a symbol of Iran's revolution, has over time served various ideologies. The shah banned it; the mullahs now enforce it. “Death out for a walk” was how Guy de Maupassant described the dark figures he saw moving through nineteenth-century Persian streets.

    By most accounts, the chador is difficult to wear—held in place by a hand under the chin and perennially slipping. Though it allows women to mingle publicly with men, it is both physically and

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  • Dennis Cooper on Wong Kar-wai

    WONG KAR-WAI MAKES RAUCOUS, loose-jointed, love poem–like films with oddly decisive titles—Fallen Angels, Happy Together, even the super-propulsive (if inconclusive) Chungking Express. In the Mood for Love, the less tidy, more evocative moniker of Wong’s latest film (which opens February 2), is the first sign that the director is up to something different. Rather than transmute the rush and joggled logic of the protagonists’ passions into bastard, improvisational story lines that go nowhere on purpose, Wong’s new film is a careful, even overly deliberate attempt to have his lovers’ emotional

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  • Jean-Luc Godard

    WHEN THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART commissioned Anne-Marie Miéville and Jean-Luc Godard to create a “reflection on the arts” (and by implication the museum itself), one would have thought the venerable institution was asking for it. But aside from a few oblique jokes and Godard's reference to “the people in New York” who wanted something particular from him “but didn’t know what,” the two collaborators seem to let the Modern off the hook In The Old Place, a forty-seven minute video completed in 1999 but only now premiering, on February 23, at MoMA. The problematic known in the Anglophone world as “

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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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  • 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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  • 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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