TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT December 2019

film

Amy Taubin

Amy Taubin is a Contributing Editor of Artforum and Film Comment. She is currently working on a collection of forty years of her criticism.

Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska, Honeyland, 2019, HD video, color, sound, 85 minutes.

1
HONEYLAND (Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska)

Hatidze Muratova, likely the last female wild-honey gatherer in Europe, is the charismatic hero of this observational documentary in which an almost-abandoned stone village in Macedonia becomes the scene of a battle between sustainable environmental measures and earth-destroying capitalist greed and stupidity.

Ken Jacobs, The Sky Socialist: Environs and Out-Takes, 2019, 8 mm transferred to digital video, color, silent, 85 minutes.

2
THE SKY SOCIALIST: ENVIRONS AND OUT-TAKES (Ken Jacobs)

What was almost lost—the heartbreaking handheld 8-mm footage that Jacobs shot as his first Manhattan neighborhood was being destroyed between 1963 and ’64—has been rediscovered in intense color and stupendous movement thanks to this 2019 celluloid-digital hybrid.

Bong Joon-ho, Gisaengchung (Parasite), 2019, 4K video, color, sound, 131 minutes. Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho).

3
PARASITE (Bong Joon-ho)

The Korean master director crosses over with a virtuoso cinematic rendering of the yawning gap between rich and poor, as sight gags give way to Grand Guignol.

Arthur Jafa, The White Album, 2019, digital video, color, sound, 29 minutes 55 seconds. Val Kilmer.

4
THE WHITE ALBUM (Arthur Jafa) 

A collage of found footage, largely of white people performing for their own cameras, made by a black artist and good friend, who told me as I posed for his camera that white people can never understand how black people see them.

Kirill Mikhanovsky, Give Me Liberty, 2019, digital video and 16 mm, color, sound, 111 minutes. Michelle (Michelle Caspar) and Dima (Maxim Stoyanov).

5
GIVE ME LIBERTY (Kirill Mikhanovsky)

An account of a day in the life of a young Russian Jewish immigrant who drives a van for disabled people around Milwaukee, and among the most exuberant, ingeniously made, and humane American independent films of the year—maybe the decade.

Jordan Peele, Us, 2019, 4K video, color, sound, 116 minutes.

6
US (Jordan Peele)

Should be played on a double bill with Parasite.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa, To the Ends of the Earth, 2019, HD video, color, sound, 120 minutes. Yoko (Atsuko Maeda).

7
TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

A musical, a travelogue, a feminist awakening—every minute is surprising. J-pop idol Atsuko Maeda is the director’s Anna Karina. As of this writing, there is no US distribution, which is insane.

8
HIGH FLYING BIRD (Steven Soderbergh)

A near-perfect demonstration of how power operates and is up for grabs in the digitally driven entertainment industry. 

9
PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE (Céline Sciamma)

Two adult women fall in love, not in real time, but it seems that way, so devoted is Sciamma’s camera to the actors playing a cusp-of-the-nineteenth-century painter and the woman (portrayed by the great Adèle Haenel) whose likeness she has been commissioned to render.

10
BEANPOLE (Kantemir Balagov)/MARTIN EDEN (Pietro Marcello)/THE VAST OF NIGHT (Andrew Patterson)

This was a very good year for movies. But the future US release of these three brilliant works, all by relatively young directors with extraordinary command of the medium, could make 2020 even better.