PRINT December 2002

Film: Best of 2002

Ian Birnie


1. Merci pour le chocolat (Claude Chabrol) Merci to Chabrol for this master class in the elegant use of mise-en-scène to subtly reveal character and create drama.

2. Talk to Her (Pedro Almodóvar) Sex for Almodóvar is like murder for Chabrol: It’s a key to the mysteries of the human heart.

3. Russian Ark (Alexander Sokurov) A cinematic enigma, an epic piece of Brechtian theater, themes that overlap and build like a nineteenth-century symphony—a haunting experience.

4. Gerry (Gus Van Sant) This existential buddy film is an aesthetic about-face for Van Sant and a welcome return to the mordant humor and outsider poetry of Mala Noche and My Own Private Idaho.

5. Open Hearts (Susanne Bier) This all too believable story about adultery in Copenhagen is a modern classic thanks to the intimacy and realism of the Dogme shooting style.

6. Far from Heaven (Todd Haynes) Haynes’s imitation of Sirk’s imitation works because the emotions are real and the taboos of race and homosexuality still resonate. Plus it’s gorgeous.

7. Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson) No imitations here: classic screwball comedy made fresh by a punch-drunk style that swings between deadpan and operatic. And families really do act that way.

8. 24 Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom) Shorn of the usual moralizing and melodrama, this wildly entertaining look back at the Birmingham punk scene trades in verbal wit, inventive editing, and quirky characters.

9. Y Tu Mamá También (Alfonso Cuarón) A Mexican road movie that pulses with joie de vivre right up to the bittersweet ending.

10. War Photographer (Christian Frei) A documentary that matches its subject—photojournalist James Nachtwey—in obsessiveness, courage, and moral indignation.

Ian Birnie is director of the film department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where he organized film programs on production designer Dante Ferretti and filmmaker Terry Gilliam last fall. His series on film composer Howard Shore begins this month.