PRINT December 2003

FILM: Best of 2003

James Quandt


1. Blissfully Yours (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) Rapturous Thai long-take languor; the copious sex and strangeness camouflage the film’s political intent.

2. Come and Go (João César Monteiro) The Portuguese master’s serenely scabrous requiem, a three-hour relinquishing of the world.

3. Distant (Nuri Bilge Ceylan) Adrift and bereft in Istanbul’s snowy gloaming; the insistent homages are to Tarkovsky, but in their glowering shroud, the city and sea suggest Sokurov.

4. The Ground and The Hedge Theater (Robert Beavers) Exquisite in their precision, gorgeous and mystifying in their slant rhyming of landscape, architecture, frescoes, and beatifically lit flesh.

5. The Man Without a Past (Aki Kaurismäki) The po-faced Finn revives the communitarian values of Renoir’s prewar films, fashioning a new Popular Front: an amnesia victim, his Salvation Army sweetheart, assorted paupers and put-upons, and a dog named Hannibal.

6. Model Shop (Jacques Demy) Demy’s only American film, now gloriously restored, subsumes the rest of his ’60s cinema in its tale of Lola lost and languishing in LA.

7. Remembrance of Things to Come (Chris Marker and Yannick Bellon) A dizzying, quicksilver imbrication of histories: artistic, political, domestic, cinematic, and (this being Marker) Olympic.

8. The Son (Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne) A Chabrol film disguised in neorealist drag, The Son aims to be as rough-hewn as a cross; craftsmanship and carpentry are both its central symbols and its formal modus.

9. Ten (Abbas Kiarostami) Pared and spare, but beneath its blanched, matter-of-fact surface lies a minefield of mysteries.

10. Goodbye Dragon Inn (Tsai Ming-liang) The spectral inhabitants of a shuttering Taipei cinema inadvertently mock and mimic the King Hu spectacle onscreen.