BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR 2006
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Three Times / Hou Hsiao-hsien
I can't think of a better narrative film made since 1983, the year Bresson finished L'Argent. This is cinema working on its highest levels, with every cut, every change in focus, every camera movement becoming an event, each of them pushing the boundaries of my mind. People will discuss the differences between the parts in the film, to discover what's great about the film is to see that their similarities are much more telling, the parts are so interrelated as to be the organic parts of the whole, each influencing the others.
It's hard for me to express what I was feeling, the only other film I've seen of Hou is Cafe Lumiere, another unbelievable work of art, that I saw on DVD after discovering Three Times.
The compositions and the camera movements are flawless, and only someone who has such an eye for abstract beauty can also create a whole new way of looking at the world, a new reality of life for us to discover, which would have been left hidden if Hou was not making films. The acting in Hou is completely revolutionary.
There would be much more to say if I had seen more of his films, the true power of Three Times hit me only when it was over, when I realized how far beyond the ordinary world I was flowing during its running time. And when I say running time, I mean the whole running time, his credits alone are worth watching for their taste and beauty.
You can read something I wrote to a_film_by about Three Times and Cafe Lumiere here.
Miami Vice / Michael Mann
Click here to read my review of the film.
Le Temps Qui Reste / Francois Ozon
My first Ozon... Despite its heavy subject matter, the film has a therapeutic effect, probably because of its honesty and straightforwardness in dealing with issues such as death.
Mary / Abel Ferrara
Ferrara is one of the best narrative filmmakers alive, and his new film Mary expands his work both in style and meanings. The point the Forest Whitaker character reaches psychologically has been there in the film since the beginning... For Ferrara, life is constant suffering and struggle with ourselves and that uneasiness is there in the rhythm throughout the film. His dissolves alone are beautiful and expressive.
Free Zone / Amos Gitai
Gitai, one of my favorite filmmakers alive, still finds new forms to express the "inner exile" we all live. The Natalie Portman character says it best when she says "She belongs nowhere". This is true both politically and personally... Free Zone travels between realism, absurdity, surrealism, satire and horror with such ease that it requires some form of madness to follow Gitai's chaotic meanings.
I also agree wholeheartedly with Gitai's politics and admire his courage in trying to explore the narrative/feelings of both the Israelis and the Palestinians. With enough open-mind, one should be able to identify with both sides (and to condemn the crimes committed by both). The political madness happening in the world today and the disillusionment it creates in the individual find a perfect expression in Free Zone.
Espelho Magico / Manoel de Oliveira
Espelho Magico is not as good as A Talking Picture, the only other film I've seen from Oliveira, but still, his sense of rhythm and composition is way above most other new films around. I hope I do get a chance to see some of his earlier films that are considered much better by his enthusiasts, the first half hour of Espelho Magico, or any other scene with the tree branches blowing, is almost as aesthetic as the very best of cinema.
Iklimler (The Climates) / Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Grizzly Man / Werner Herzog
L'Enfant / Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
The New World / Terrence Malick
Hard Candy / David Slade
Hard Candy was shot on 35mm but its colors, its editing and even the way the motions feel are very digital. According to Variety, it was shot with Panavision widescreen on Technicolor. The color correction in the post explains the look of the film, there is a good interview with the film's DI colorist here.
David Slade’s film has a good sense of rhythm, with some totally abstract moments when the camera is moving close behind objects and the colors change from orange to red to black while we have no clue which way the camera is moving or where it's going to come out. I also love the curtain in the background, the rainbow-flare at a "revelation" moment close to the end and any time the black leaders are used.
The close-ups with the out-of-focus background and the photographer's house with its distinct digital-pastel colors give the film a sense of abstraction that suits the narrative really well. After all what we are watching is a psychological war between two people.
There is no real identification with the characters, which is why Hard Candy isn't the suspense movie it is marketed as. It doesn't pose any important questions either. The narrative takes shape with no apparent purpose; it feels like it's just a story Slade felt like telling (although he did not write the script). This modesty allows the film to touch some psychological areas that can't be reached on purpose.
"Hard Candy" is not a great film, partly because the sense of abstraction is taken a bit too far, both in style and content. I don't like it when she says she is "every girl he ever wanted to touch." and the style is not as unpredictable as some greater works but still the film is certainly worth seeing and David Slade needs to be watched very carefully by those who'd like to discover new filmmakers.
Liberty Street: Alive at Ground Zero / Peter JosyphOne of the rare recent films/videos that can only be felt through its rhythm. That critics spend their time talking about many Hollywood films and not ones like this proves their indifference to art. I also love the fact that Josyph is not overtly political in any way (especially considering it's a documentary on the September 11th), The Liberty Street has a deeper politics that comes accross when one pays attention to its humanism.