PRINT December 2013

FILM: Best of 2013

J. Hoberman

Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity, 2013, digital video, color, sound, 91 minutes.

1 GRAVITY (Alfonso Cuarón) Project it upside down or inside out. Cuarón’s 3-D thriller is blockbuster modernism in the tradition of Intolerance, Napoléon, Olympia, The Birds, and, of course, 2001. “Sort of the human condition,” an artist I know said. I imagine Gravity as a thought balloon in the minds of the people in James Nares’s monument to earthbound evanescence, Street (2011).

2 “HANNAH ARENDT” Not the Margarethe von Trotta movie or the actual person but Brooklyn-based Barbara Sukowa, who plays the moral philosopher as a feisty, furious living doll.

3 IMAGINARY DOUBLE PROJECTION Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring and Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess: two antithetical, deadpan, sci-fi meditations on the way we live now. Show them side by side intermittently accompanied by loops of Scarlett Johansson’s voice-over from Spike Jonze’s Her and with The Fifth Estate, Bill Condon’s hysterical docudrama, playing silently on a tiny monitor tucked in a corner.

4 LE PONT DU NORD (Jacques Rivette) Revived for a week in Brooklyn, Rivette’s 1981 feature uses plein air Paris as the backdrop for a never-explained conspiratorial narrative. What the Surrealists found in Louis Feuillade’s World War I serials, we can find here.

5 PORTRAIT OF JASON (Shirley Clarke) I first pondered Clarke’s racially charged, epic version of a Warhol screen test as an undergraduate. Four decades later, it’s no less problematic. Jason and Jason still have things to teach us about the nature of race, sex, and success in America.

Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez, Manakamana, 2013, 16 mm, color, sound, 118 minutes.

6 SENSORY ETHNOGRAPHY LAB (Harvard University) Up in Cambridge they keep turning out these fantastic avant-docs: Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel’s Leviathan opened this year; the continuous seventy-five-minute dolly shot that was Libbie D. Cohn and J. P. Sniadecki’s People’s Park made New Directors/New Films, and Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez’s similarly structural trip Manakamana likewise made this year’s New York Film Festival.

7 TRISCUITS (Amy Sillman) Currently on view in the artist’s retrospective at the Boston ICA, this twelve-minute monochromatic iPhone animation, inspired by a faculty party, is productively crude in every sense.

8 VIDEO: DAVE KEHR His column has come to an end, but week after week since 2003, the New York Times DVD reviewer serialized pithy, opinionated, knowledgeable chapters in his ongoing history of the movies—termite criticism of the highest order.

9 WATCHING CRIME AND PUNISHMENT The most universal of nineteenth-century novels inspired two of the year’s strongest movies: Darezhan Omirbaev’s precise and ascetic Student and Lav Diaz’s more epic alt version, Norte, the End of History.

10 WHEN EVENING FALLS ON BUCHAREST, OR METABOLISM (Corneliu Porumboiu) Like his Police, Adjective (2009), Corneliu Porumboiu’s latest is an epistemological comedy—a movie about the making of an unmade movie, which you watch between the lines, or rather the shots, of which there are only eighteen.

J. Hoberman’s Film After Film: or, What Became of 21st Century Cinema? (a book that originated with an essay in these pages) has just been published in paperback by Verso.