PRINT December 2003

FILM: Best of 2003

Geoffrey O’Brien


1. Mystic River (Clint Eastwood) Dennis Lehane’s dense and tragic saga is pared down and filmed with unerring tone and timing.

2. The Flower of Evil (Claude Chabrol) Chabrol’s fiftieth, recombining favorite elements of family corruption and perverse longing, is steeped in his rapt pattern-making genius.

3. The Fog of War (Errol Morris) This feature-length portrait of Robert S. McNamara—all the more devastating for avoiding a polemical approach—is like an overview of twentieth-century warfare as seen from the control booth. Mournful and terrifying.

4. To Be and To Have (Nicolas Philibert) A beautifully exact movie about early childhood education that’s fresh enough to make you want to learn the alphabet again for the first time.

5. Chihwaseon (Im Kwon-taek) A nineteenth-century Korean artist’s life told as a skein of gaudy fragments. Best shot: the painter buried under his rejected sketches.

6. The Man Without a Past (Aki Kaurismäki) Finland, degree zero: a comedy about soup kitchens, rock ’n’ roll, and other matters.

7. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola) Sonata for two oddly matched people and a gigantic hotel: The spaces are elegantly deployed, and Bill Murray was never better.

8. Elephant (Gus Van Sant) The hours before the Columbine massacre rendered as lyrical abstraction; when the shooting starts, however, the effect is oddly numbing.

9. PTU (Johnnie To) Tumultuous Hong Kong all-nighter, grippingly shot.

10. Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (Quentin Tarantino) The ’70s grind house that is Tarantino’s mind puts on a mesmerizingly stylized wall-to-wall retrospective of its past hits, spotlighting woman-on-woman martial-arts action.