PRINT December 2009

Film: Best of 2009

Amy Taubin


1 White Material and 35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis) The first is a vision of hell, the second, of heaven—both impure and both filtered through Denis’s tender/tough depiction of human beings defined by attachment and inevitable loss.

2 Wild Grass (Alain Resnais) The eighty-seven-year-old director’s best film since Muriel (1963) is an homage to Surrealism, the ravishments of color film, cameras that soar, and characters whose flights of fancy land them in gloriously romantic and dangerous situations.

3 Bluebeard (Catherine Breillat) A brilliantly written, exquisitely realized feminist reworking of the cautionary mixed message in Charles Perrault’s fairy tale. No woman should blindly obey her husband, especially when he’s a serial killer.

4 The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow) It could have been titled Seven Instances of Dismantling an IED. Bigelow stays true to her ’70s art-world roots while proving herself one of the most exciting action directors in Hollywood.

5 The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel) A description of a condition of consciousness, Martel’s toughest film places us inside the, um, head of a woman who, despicably though she behaves and adored though she is by family and friends, is probably more like me and you than we would care to admit.

6 Garapa (José Padilha) More than a great film, this observational documentary about three Brazilian families struggling to survive on a government stipend of fifty dollars a month makes most other films seem irrelevant.

7 Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu) There’s not a wasted shot in this understated police procedural, which proves that, two decades after Ceauşescu was deposed, there is no justice in Romania except as decreed by the state.

8 Lake Tahoe (Fernando Eimbcke) Fulfilling the promise of his sweetly absurdist Duck Season (2004), Embcke embraces color and ’Scope without losing the sense that life is ephemeral and that, sooner or later, one will be overwhelmed by grief.

9 Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (Damien Chazelle) The exceptionally promising first-time director also wrote, shot, and edited this ebullient, thriftily made 16-mm black-and-white musical romance, set in Boston’s struggling but vibrant jazz scene.

10 The Beaches of Agnès (Agnès Varda), Bright Star (Jane Campion), Pandora’s Box (Yeşim Ustaoğlu), and Sugar (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck) That all four of these titles lay equal claim for inclusion here underscores the startling statistic that nine of the best fourteen films I saw in New York this year were directed by women.

A contributing editor of Film Comment and Sight & Sound and a frequent contributor to Artforum, Amy Taubin is the author of Taxi Driver (BFI, 2000).