PRINT December 2013

FILM: Best of 2013

James Quandt

Lav Diaz, Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan (Norte, the End of History), 2013, digital video, color, sound,
250 minutes.

1 NORTE, THE END OF HISTORY (Lav Diaz) Lav Diaz’s Dostoyevskian mini-epic—at four hours, a mere sip for this hitherto-oceanic filmmaker—may prove the greatest work of the Philippine New Wave.

2 ’TIL MADNESS DO US PART (Wang Bing) This unfortunately named but excoriating documentary examines a mental institution in southwest China, the inmates of which include the insane, the defiant, and the simply inconvenient.

3 TROIS EXERCISES D’INTERPRÉTATION (Cristi Puiu) Cristi Puiu’s witty trio of extempore acting workshops in Toulouse recalls Éric Rohmer’s late portraits of amorous delusion and self-defeat.

4 WHAT NOW? REMIND ME (Joaquim Pinto) The slug that pulls its soft body across the screen in real time in the opening shot portends the patience required to watch Joaquim Pinto’s protracted self- commemoration. Recording his deterioration from AIDS and cirrhosis, Pinto submits that “we are living through sad times,” but his camera makes a reliquary of everyday beauty and obstinate beasts (voracious wasp, tenacious firefly, stalwart dogs) that evoke all he refuses to lose.

5 THE KING’S BODY (João Pedro Rodrigues) Beefcake parade and history lesson, casting session and male confessional, João Pedro Rodrigues’s tender, funny pageant of Iberian pulchritude probes Portugal’s mythic past and its contemporary duress.

Anri Sala, Ravel Ravel, 2013, two-channel HD video projection, multichannel sound. Installation view, French pavilion, Venice. From the 55th Venice Biennale. Photo: Kate Lacey.

6 A TOUCH OF SIN (Jia Zhang-ke) and MANUSCRIPTS DON’T BURN (Mohammad Rasoulof) Immensely brave and urgent films—one from China, the other Iran— that examine the brutal power wielded against those who resist corruption, humiliation, or censorship.

7 RAVEL RAVEL(Anri Sala) The détente indicated by Germany and France switching their Venice Biennale pavilions was allegorized in Anri Sala’s use of Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, written for the German pianist Paul Wittgenstein (the philosopher’s brother, who lost his right arm in the Great War). The middle segment of Sala’s tripartite video installation Ravel Ravel Unravel proved a sonic thriller whose anticipatory tension turned into a musical whodunit: Which left hand belonged to Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and which to Louis Lortie?

8 THE LAST OF THE UNJUST (Claude Lanzmann) The maker of Shoah revives a 1975 interview with Benjamin Murmelstein, the last of the Judenräte, the Jewish elders accused of collaboration with the Nazis, again ensuring that the past never recedes into either fixity or forgetfulness.

9 STRANGER BY THE LAKE (Alain Guiraudie) Set in a lakeside gay cruising ground, Alain Guiraurdie’s Chabrolian study in the transference of guilt has more lurking in its dark depths than some critics, eager to appear permissive, grant.

10 SALVATION ARMY (Abdellah Taïa) The debut film of the year, Abdellah Taïa’s austerely moving, precisely shot account of growing up gay in Morocco absorbs rather than mimics the mode of Robert Bresson.

James Quandt, senior programmer at TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto, is the editor of Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Wallflower Press, 2009) and Robert Bresson (Revised) (University of Indiana Press, 2012).