PRINT December 2007


James Quandt


1 These Encounters of Theirs (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet) Straub-Huillet’s final feature, a declamatory pastoral about gods and mortals, has a grandeur and passion that make Huillet’s death last year all the more grievous.

2 Pour vos beaux yeux (Henri Storck) The eyes have it in Storck’s 1929 ocular minimasterpiece, lost for four decades and now beautifully restored by the Cinémathèque Française.

3 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu) Already the subject of critical backlash, Mungiu’s grim Palme d’Or winner at Cannes treats abortion less as an issue than as a pretext to explore the distortion of everyday life by a totalitarian regime.

4 Useless (Jia Zhang-ke) Jia confirms his status as the bard of the new China in this devastating inquiry into fashion design and expendable humanity, sartorial metaphor giving way to tropes of disposability, oblivion, burial.

5 Tarahi V (Haris Epaminonda) Epaminonda’s eerie Scriabin-scored collages taken from Cypriot television and Greek movies from the 1960s provided, along with Tsai Ming-liang’s It’s a Dream, the filmic highlight of this year’s Venice Biennale.

6 La Morte rouge (Víctor Erice) The Arvo Pärt music aside, few recent films are as eloquent or plangent as Erice’s half-hour elegy for the cinema, Spain, and his own life and career.

7 Fengming, A Chinese Memoir (Wang Bing) Speak, memory: For three hours, a woman recounts heart-bruising tales of political internment in Maoist China—a telephone call, a lighting cue, and a pee break rupturing the film’s implacable sense of fixity.

8 Les Amours d’Astrée et de Céladon (Eric Rohmer) It’s tempting to treat Rohmer’s fête champêtre, in which shepherdesses, druids, and nymphs disport in fifth-century Gaul, as barmy divertissement, but the film is in its way as devout as Bresson’s Lancelot du Lac, deadly serious about faith, fidelity, and forgiveness.

9 Alexandra (Alexander Sokurov) Forming a diptych with Sokurov’s recent Elegy of Life and reviving the lunar landscape of his early Days of the Eclipse, Alexandra blears into gorgeous generality, the Chechen war left vague and emblematic even as babushka/grande dame Galina Vishnevskaya broods over the damage it has done to the Russian soul.

10 At Sea (Peter Hutton) Surprisingly narrative and less lovely than his black-andwhite Hudson River films, Hutton’s latest aqueous silent is nevertheless exquisitely attentive to light, accidental pattern, and meteorological effect.

James Quandt, senior programmer at cinematheque ontario in Toronto, is currently preparing a retrospective of Japanese new wave master Nagisa Oshima.