PRINT December 2010

Film: Best of 2010

James Quandt

1 O acto da primavera (Rite of Spring) and The Strange Case of Angelica (Manoel de Oliveira) Oliveira’s 1963 passion play, now restored to glory, culminates in nuclear apocalypse. His latest film—a love story in which the object of obsession is inconveniently dead, and a documentary about both the constituents of cinema and the disappearance of the Douro à moda antiga—deals with a different kind of eradication, bidding farewell to a world the Portuguese master has taught us to cherish.

2 Mysteries of Lisbon (Raúl Ruiz) The prodigious ex-Chilean’s nesting epic of false, mistaken, multiple, and discarded identities, whose anamorphic distortions and extreme field reversals bespeak Ruiz’s enduring love of Welles, is so dense in incident that one moment of wandering attention translates into an eternity of bewilderment.

3 Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) Apichatpong’s ensorcelling summa reincarnates his previous films while forgoing their customary diptych structure.

4 Film Socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard) Godard follows both Hou Hsiao-hsien in apportioning each part of his three-movement “symphony” to a period-modus of his own cinema, and his beloved Rossellini in fashioning a war trilogy for our times, less immediate than lamenting.

5 Aurora (Cristi Puiu) Obstruction and opacity reign in Puiu’s brilliant study of a mass killer, a film so custodial in disclosure that its final confession appears bizarrely explicit.

6 Carlos (Olivier Assayas) The French critic and cineaste’s immersive assessment of terrorist as solipsistic bungler both extends and disputes Godard’s La Chinoise and Fassbinder’s The Third Generation.

7 Le quattro volte (Four Times) (Michelangelo Frammartino) Called austere and enigmatic but often literal and ingratiating, the first neorealist-absurdist-animist-process film about the transmigration of souls turns Calabria into a landscape as suffused in primitive mystery as Apichatpong’s jungles.

8 La bocca del lupo (The Mouth of the Wolf) (Pietro Marcello) Barely eluding pretension, Marcello’s portrait of a great love, between a petty Genovese criminal and his transsexual cell mate, updates Pasolini’s Accattone, contaminating, to use the Italian master’s term, documentary with manufacture, verismo with poetry, brutality with Buxtehude.

9 The Wanderer (Avishai Sivan) The Israeli filmmaker’s debut feature about a yeshiva student with troubled ultra-Orthodox parents and a testicular malady remains engrossingly oblique until its unfortunate finale.

10 Static (Steve McQueen) The British artist’s swirling tour around the Statue of Liberty provided relief from the Reina Sofía’s punishingly serial “Mixed Use, Manhattan” exhibition last summer.

James Quandt, senior programmer at TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto, is the editor of Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Wallflower Press, 2009) and other monographic studies of filmmakers including Robert Bresson, Kon Ichikawa, and Shohei Imamura.