PRINT December 2011

Film: Best of 2011

Regina Schlagnitweit

Aki Kaurismäki, Le Havre, 2011, still from a color film in 35 mm, 93 minutes. Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) and Marcel Marx (André Wilms).

1 Le Havre (Aki Kaurismäki) Often taken as a “lightweight,” Kaurismäki has made his most urgent film so far. A “utopian fable,” yes, but one that is fully grounded, summoning the spirits of cinema history in order to speak, with love and anger, about Europe Now.

2 The Forgotten Space (Allan Sekula and Noël Burch) If Le Havre were in need of a companion piece, I would pair it with Sekula and Burch’s eye-opening and richly woven essay about capitalism at sea.

3 Century of Birthing (Lav Diaz) Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz’s latest epic again makes the case for a cinema that you can—and must—inhabit, a cinema in which time is figured not as a cost but as a gift.

4 This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb) In terms of rendering the practice of filmmaking as an irrepressible, existential force, Diaz had only one equal in 2011: Jafar Panahi, who was banned in 2010 by an Iranian court from making films for twenty years—so this act of civil disobedience is not one.

Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, This Is Not a Film, 2011, still from a color digital video, 75 minutes. Jafar Panahi.

5 Meteor (Christoph Girardet and Matthias Müller) The cinema of 2011 reminded us, of course, that there is also a Cosmos outside film and politics, with God and Grace and Leaves of Grass galore. Straying a bit from the bombastic general line, one could also find the cosmic side of things, and things of great beauty, in Girardet and Müller’s short film Meteor.

6 & 7 A Dangerous Method (David Cronenberg) and 13 Assassins (Takashi Miike) Men of culture. Men of violence. Men for whom popular cinema is the battleground of ideas.

8 & 9 Putty Hill (Matthew Porterfield) and Twenty Cigarettes (James Benning) Independent filmmaking is still going strong in the US, but it needs spirits as free as Benning and Porterfield to reach a state where immersion and precision become one.

10 Im Freien (In the Open) (Albert Sackl) A sequence of single frames taken every three minutes over the course of seventy days, Sackl’s twenty-three-minute ghost dance of weather, body parts, and strange objects in the Icelandic wilderness is the real deal for those who, in 2011, began to think of film in terms of a clock.

Regina Schlagnitweit is the program and print coordinator at the Austrian Film Museum in Vienna.