TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT December 2020

film

James Quandt

James Quandt, Senior Programmer at TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto, is the editor of Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Austrian Film Museum, 2009) and Robert Bresson (Revised) (Indiana University Press, 2012).

Of the hundreds of films I have watched during the coronavirus lockdown, most were classics on the Criterion Channel or Kanopy, so my pandemic Top Ten is culled exclusively from the superbly curated 2020 New York Film Festival.

Hong Sang-soo, Domangchin yeoja (The Woman Who Ran), 2020, 2K video, color, sound, 77 minutes. Gamhee (Kim Min-hee).

1
THE WOMAN WHO RAN (Hong Sang-soo)

Hong’s brisk, bucolic social comedy comprises a series of seemingly equable conversations that are inevitably invaded by neighborly dispute, marital discord, and, mostly, existential malaise.

Tsai Ming-liang, Rizi (Days), 2020, 4K video, color, sound, 127 minutes. Kang (Lee Kang-sheng).

2
DAYS (Tsai Ming-liang)

Tsai forgoes some of his trademark tropes (urination, for one) in this melancholy and unashamedly sentimental depiction of somatic endurance and romantic longing.

3
THE YEAR OF THE DISCOVERY (Luis López Carrasco)

Immense and intensely moving, López Carrasco’s polyphonic excavation of the Spanish city of Cartagena’s history of militancy focuses on 1992, the year of the Barcelona Olympics and Seville’s World’s Fair, to counter the neoliberal myth of a modern, advanced Spain by contending that, instead, for many workers, “the world eats you up.” This two-hundred-minute split-screen agora, shot on antiquated Hi8 video in a smoky bar, forms the aesthetic antithesis of Gianfranco Rosi’s approach in Notturno.

Jia Zhang-ke, Xiao Wu, 1997, 35 mm, color, sound, 112 minutes.

4
XIAO WU (Jia Zhang-ke)

Perhaps the most necessary restoration of the year, as Jia’s bruising 1997 debut feature about a feckless Fenyang pickpocket has long been available only in crummy prints.

Sergei Loznitsa, A Night at the Opera, 2020, 2K video, black-and-white, sound, 19 minutes.

5
A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (Sergei Loznitsa)

After the colorist splendor of last year’s State Funeral, Loznitsa applies his archival legerdemain to glistening black-and-white footage of actors, aristocrats, heads of state, and foreign royalty arriving at Paris’s Palais Garnier in the 1950s and ’60s, cleverly conflating many “nights at the opera” into one, so that Maria Callas seems to be both in the audience and onstage.

David Dufresne, Un pays qui se tient sage (The Monopoly of Violence), 2020, 2K video, color, sound, 86 minutes.

6
THE MONOPOLY OF VIOLENCE (David Dufresne)

Dufresne’s trenchant inquiry into French police brutality against the gilets jaunes flirts with Gallic self-parody in its propensity for theorizing.

7
MALMKROG (Cristi Puiu)

Puiu, reigning genius of the now-old New Romanian Cinema, returns to the themes of his short masterwork Das Spektrum Europas (2014) in this period piece of interminable palaver—by turns exhausting, exasperating, and exhilarating.

Gianfranco Rosi, Notturno (Nocturne), 2020, 2K video, color, sound, 100 minutes.

8
NOTTURNO (Gianfranco Rosi)

Crucial evidence for the ever-vexing debate over the ethics of documenting the suffering of others—here, civilians traumatized by warfare in the Middle East—with artful enigmas and ravishing studies in symmetry, chiaroscuro, and ritualized movement.

9
WHILE CURSED BY SPECTERS (Burak Çevik)

Just as Jean-Marie Straub has revisited many of his earlier films to fashion new ones, Çevik here returns to the settings of Straub and Danièle Huillet’s Klassenverhältnisse (Class Relations, 1984) to reveal new inflections in its austere images.

Victor Kossakovsky, Gunda, 2020, HD video, black-and-white, sound, 93 minutes.

10
GUNDA (Victor Kossakovsky)

This dauntingly intimate portrait of a sow and her piglets is the best animal movie since Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le quattro volte (The Four Times, 2010).