• 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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  • 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


    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


    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


    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


    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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