PRINT December 2011

Film: Best of 2011

Amy Taubin

Lars von Trier, Melancholia, 2011, still from a color film in 35 mm, 130 minutes. Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg).

1 Melancholia (Lars von Trier) In a vision of cosmic amour fou scored to Wagner’s “Liebestod,” the Earth and the errant planet of the title collide. Is it literally the end of the world, or has a cloud of depression finally engulfed one woman’s vulnerable psyche? In either case, the miracle of the film is that it allows us to experience the arrival of the dreaded thing as an exhilarating release.

2 A Dangerous Method (David Cronenberg) At long last, a brilliant intellectual adventure film about the birth of psychoanalysis and Freud’s disruption of early-twentieth-century repressive bourgeois society with his insistence on the reality of the body and its inseparability from the psyche.

3 This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb) Under house arrest and forbidden to make movies for twenty years, the great Iranian director Jafar Panahi defies the authorities with a work so intimate and intricate it just might fly beneath their radar.

4 Contagion (Steven Soderbergh) A genre-film machine as efficient as the lethal virus that is its subject, it champions science as our only hope.

Steven Soderbergh, Contagion, 2011, still from a color film in 35 mm, 106 minutes. Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) and Dr. David Eisenberg (Demetri Martin).

5 J. Edgar (Clint Eastwood) The madness of the movie itself—a combo of Citizen Kane, Psycho, and some best-forgotten ama- teur Tennessee Williams production—mirrors the paranoid delusions of its protagonist, played by Leonardo DiCaprio with astonishing emotional power despite a wandering regional accent and a pound of latex on his face. A late, kick-out-the-jams masterpiece.

6 The Clock (Christian Marclay) The time of our lives synced minute by minute to samplings from a century of world cinema. What an iPhone app it would make!

7 Weekend (Andrew Haigh) A Rohmeresque talkathon punctuated by R-rated gay sex makes for a rom-com so precise, witty, desirous, and true that it beggars almost all recent comers to the genre.

8 Love Like Poison (Katell Quillévéré) French female directors have a way with girl-coming-of-age movies, and this luminous evocation of a fourteen-year-old working out the contradictions between the flesh and the spirit is one of the best.

9 Diary (Tim Hetherington) The great war photographer had just begun to explore the moving image when he was killed in Libya at age forty. In this stunning nineteen-minute balancing of self and other, he takes what for a dedicated journalist is a great risk—bringing himself specifically into the picture.

10 Senna (Asif Kapadia) A heart- stopping portrait of legendary Brazilian Formula One race car driver Ayrton Senna, the romantic genius of the track.

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).