PRINT December 2006


James Quandt


1 Colossal Youth (Pedro Costa) An arte povera epic, the final film in Costa’s “Vanda” trilogy portrays the abandoned inhabitants of Lisbon’s suburban slums, achieving grandeur with minimal means.

2 Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) Another serene enigma from the master of Thai tales of transmutation. The film’s title, combining the somatic and the temporal, reflects the director’s twin preoccupations.

3 Still Life (Jia Zhang-ke) Jia, poet of displacement in the new China, returns to the tone of his early feature Xiao Wu (The Pickpocket, 1997) in this melancholy portrait of two people searching for a past that has been washed away.

4 Kodak (Tacita Dean) Dean’s meta-lament about the imminent demise of her medium shows just what we’ll miss when celluloid cedes to digital: images so precise, sumptuous, and palpable, they already look like relics of irretrievable beauty.

5 Army of Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville; 1968) Melville’s clenched existential thriller about the French Resistance, finally released in North America, treats torture and stoicism with the same steely detachment.

6 Bamako (Abderrahmane Sissako) Sissako goes Gore one better with a Brechtian lecture about the impoverishment of Africa by neoliberal economic policies. The proportion of polemics to poetry may be too high for some, but Sissako’s screed is full of grace notes, delicate observation, plangent pageantry.

7 Magic Mirror (Manoel de Oliveira) Richer and funnier, if less concise, than de Oliveira’s current critical hit Belle toujours, this study in spiritual pride features an obtuse heroine who could be sister to Buñuel’s Viridiana in her misplaced piety.

8 I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone (Tsai Ming-liang) Back on home ground, both literally (the film is set in Malaysia, where the Taiwanese director was born) and figuratively (romantic longing and loss in an urban landscape of choking smoke and fetid water). The Raft of the Medusa–on-a-mattress ending is either meretricious or a knockout.

9 Woman on the Beach (Hong Sang-soo) Less complex than many of Hong’s twice-told tales of male callowness and self-absorption, but the Korean director’s sense of social abasement has never been sharper.

10 Kristall (Matthias Müller and Christoph Girardet) This Lacanian nightmare montaged from classic cinema images of mirrors shattered, cracked, or smashed may not have the haunting power of Warren Sonbert’s 1966 Hall of Mirrors, but its anxious-making melodrama gives every looking glass a glistening potential for terror.

James Quandt, senior programmer at Cinematheque Ontario in Toronto, co-organized the retrospective of Roberto Rossellini’s films currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.