COLUMNS

  • Mike Figgis’s Battle of Orgreave

    JUNE 17, 2001. In a muddy field in the north of England near a giant slag heap, British film director Mike Figgis is engulfed in a crowd of picketers who are slugging it out with massed ranks of bobbies in full riot gear. As the protesters hurl themselves against a wall of Plexiglas shields, only to be driven back by mounted police brandishing batons, Figgis dodges missiles and blows and keeps on filming. The conflict shifts to the nearby village of Orgreave, and the intrepid auteur is still there in the thick of it, clutching his Steadicam. The acclaimed director of 1995’s Oscar-winning Leaving

    Read more
  • Susan Sontag

    SUSAN SONTAG

    1. Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr) Tarr continues his magistral collaboration with Hungarian novelist László Krasznahorkai, who wrote Sátántangó as well as the source of this film, The Melancholy of Resistance (New Directions).

    2. Southern Comfort (Kate Davis) You’ll never forget this documentary’s wise hero—he animates a brave community of the transgendered in the rural South—who is dying of ovarian cancer.

    3. La Pianiste (Michael Haneke) Won the best-actor/actress prizes at Cannes but didn’t even make it into the New York Film Festival. Not Haneke’s best film, but Isabelle Huppert

    Read more
  • Guy Maddin

    GUY MADDIN

    1. Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff) This movie harpoons me! The director of Crumb adopts Daniel Clowes’s comic book, limning out the hopelessly trapped characters making do in hopeless times—without being mean-spirited. Exquisite agony!

    2. The Blue Bird (Maurice Tourneur) OK, this silent came out in 1918, but it screened around this year (and it’s on VHS, from Grapevine Video). Maeterlinck’s children’s play is as cruel and strange as anything by Hans Christian Andersen. Happily full of beautiful early homages to Méliès.

    3. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg) The year’s longest

    Read more
  • Kent Jones

    KENT JONES

    1. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson) Some saw repetition and inflation, but I found Anderson’s comic epic about a family of eccentric genuises, set in a romantically reconfigured Manhattan, every bit as surprising and inventive as Bottle Rocket and Rushmore.

    2. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch) Probably the best movie ever made about Hollywood.

    3. Waking Life (Richard Linklater) A dizzying, oddly moving metaphysical inquiry, a sort of oneiric first cousin to Slacker.

    4. Loin (André Téchiné) A gorgeous tapestry of emotional, sexual, and cultural crosscurrents in modern Tangier.

    5. Jung (

    Read more
  • John Waters

    JOHN WATERS

    1. Bully (Larry Clark) My favorite movie of the year: a dirty true-crime sexploitation picture that dares to be art. Larry Clark invents the “crotch-cam” shot and inspires the most outraged New York Times review of the season.

    2. Faithless (Liv Ullmann) Liv Ullmann channels Ingmar Bergman. See it on acid.

    3. L.I.E. (Michael Cuesta) A feel-good child molester with a hard-on of gold befriends a confused Long Island teen and his Gacy-bait sidekick.

    4. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch) Lipstick lesbians never had this much celluloid fun.

    5. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (Kevin Smith) GLAAD was

    Read more
  • Ian Birnie

    IAN BIRNIE

    1. Va Savoir (Jacques Rivette) A luminous comedy of manners that follows six characters in search of an exit—from themselves, their lovers, and their routine. As satisfying as Lubitsch.

    2. Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr) Innocence is destroyed in Tarr’s enigmatic and hypnotic survey of human weakness and cruelty, set in a desolate Hungarian village.

    3. My Voyage to Italy (Martin Scorsese) Only a great director could turn four hours of clips—even from these masterpieces of Italian cinema—into a coherent, compelling drama addressing personal, cultural, and aesthetic concerns.

    4. L’Emploi

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more