PRINT December 2013

FILM: Best of 2013

Amy Taubin

Jia Zhang-ke, A Touch of Sin, 2013, digital video, color, sound, 133 minutes. Xiao Yu (Zhao Tao).

1 “JEAN-LUC GODARD: THE SPIRIT OF THE FORMS” (Film Society of Lincoln Center) Hitched to the back end of the New York Film Festival and organized by Kent Jones and Jacob Perlin, this staggering retrospective of the work of the greatest and most innovative postwar maker of moving images lacked only Godard’s recent forays into 3-D. Ever a showman, JLG knows how to keep us coming back for more.

2 A TOUCH OF SIN (Jia Zhang-ke) The most powerful film yet from the most surprising and serious contemporary Chinese filmmaker finds echoes of classic wuxia tales of injustice and revenge in Internet headlines about violence erupting all over China. The historical dimension only adds to the urgency, grief, and anger suffusing the narrative.

3 SPRING BREAKERS (Harmony Korine) A cautionary tale that never moralizes, this Skittles-colored delirium of young women, intoxicated with power and absolute in their refusal to be victimized, is so in your face that it could be 4-D.

4 COMPUTER CHESS (Andrew Bujalski) Like no other film and utterly, mesmerizingly perfect.

5 OUTTAKES FROM THE LIFE OF A HAPPY MAN (Jonas Mekas) Mercurial, ravishing, and precisely put together, this dancing glance at the past may be the ninety-year-old film diarist’s greatest work.

Top of the Lake, 2013, production still from a TV miniseries on Sundance Channel. Tui (Jacqueline Joe). Photo: Parisa Taghizadeh.

6 ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (Jim Jarmusch) The most exquisite digital film ever is also an achingly romantic vampire tale drenched in irony and boasting a visual punch line as hilariously to the point as Some Like It Hot’s “Nobody’s perfect.”

7 TOP OF THE LAKE (Jane Campion) The very scale of the primeval landscape transforms from melodrama to near tragedy a made-for-TV series about a female detective exposing the perverse patriarchy of a small New Zealand town. An antidote to the testosterone worship of Breaking Bad.

8 THE GRANDMASTER (Wong Kar-wai) All the romantic yearning in Wong’s oeuvre is encapsulated in the image of Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi touching hands as they fly past each other (no wires allowed) in an impromptu martial-arts competition. The last film shot entirely in Fujicolor is already a relic of the radiant age of cinema.

9 BASTARDS (Claire Denis) Pure film noir, darker than Chinatown, sensational, and all too true.

10 LE JOLI MAI (Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme) Somewhat reedited by Lhomme according to Marker’s wishes, this restored version of the two men’s pioneering fusion of personal essay, street- savvy vérité, and cityscape poem is finally available on DVD (from Icarus Films).

Amy Taubin is a contributing editor of Film Comment and Sight & Sound and the author of Taxi Driver (BFI, 2000). This year, Taubin served on the selection committee for the New York Film Festival.