PRINT December 2003

FILM: Best of 2003

Amy Taubin


1. K Street (Steven Soderbergh) Turning DC into an analogue of Warhol’s Factory, Soderbergh’s ten-part HBO series proves that fact and fiction are inoperable categories and performance the only reality.

2. Elephant (Gus Van Sant) An achingly beautiful meditation on the Columbine massacre. As disassociated as an anxiety dream and elusive as the horror it references.

3. Play Dead; Real Time (Douglas Gordon) Flanked in memory by Chris Marker’s pachyderm tribute Slon-Tango and the monumental Serras that have graced the same space, Gordon’s site-specific video installation at Gagosian had a ghostly weight.

4. Love and Diane (Jennifer Dworkin) An intimate, unruly portrait of a mother/daughter relationship and three generations of a black Brooklyn family struggling with poverty and a Byzantine welfare system. Dworkin’s documentary may sound familiar, but it’s in a league of its own.

5. Bus 174 (José Padilha) One of the rare documentaries that depicts both micro and macro, Bus 174 turns live-TV coverage of a hostage standoff that transfixed Brazil into an indictment of a dysfunctional social system.

6. Star Spangled to Death (Ken Jacobs) Forty-six years in the making and nearly seven hours long, Jacobs’s obdurate, anguished cacophony of personal, political, and movie history is punishing but too grave to ignore.

7. Seaside (Julie Lopes-Curval) The bittersweet tonalities and antimelodramatic structure of this bountiful French first feature suggest Chekhov by the shore.

8. Camp (Todd Graff) Graff’s belief in the redemptive power of performance and his smarts about adolescent romance make this dime-store Fame a joy.

9. Crimson Gold (Jafar Panahi) The Iranian’s Fassbinder-like depiction of class resentment focuses on a Tehran pizza-delivery man, made memorable by the lumbering Hossain Emadeddin.

10. Distant (Nuri Bilge Ceylan) Self-imposed loneliness and the difficulty men have connecting emotionally is the terrain of this subtle Turkish film.