Best Films of 2007

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Re: Best Films of 2007

Postby arsaib4 » Mon Jan 28, 2008 8:21 am

As you regulars know, as usual I'll post my Distributed Films list after watching every applicable film I need to see (from 2007 in this case, of course). I'm currently shooting for late March. I've been very disciplined in that regard for the past few years, and hope to continue. Interesting list, A. Somewhat surprised by your low-ratings of Still Life, Play and Inland Empire. Didn't know you had seen the latest from Kawase (perhaps you didn't bring it up because you aren't very fond of it). As for Twentynine Palms, whose visual and thematic motifs fall in line with Dumont's other efforts so far, I've been slowly inching towards the camp which regards it as the future Zabriskie Point.
arsaib4
 


Re: Best Films of 2007

Postby A » Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:28 pm

I didn't bring up many of the films I watched, did I? 2007 really was a lazy year, regarding my involvement on the board. I hope that 2008 will get better. "Still Life" never completely connected with me. I don't know why, there certainly were some beautiful and incredibly poetic sequences. But i felt that Jia had lost some of his raw energy present in "Platform" (2000), and I couldn't quite reconcile the films minimalist, introverted and personal approach with the epic socio-political project going on in the background. Somehow some scenes and the whole concept seemed a bit uninspired to me. But a friend of mine, who also thinks "Climates" was the best film of the year, loved it. "Climates" got a bit better on a second viewing, and I expect the same will happen with "Still Life". Fortunately I have all of Jia's other films on DVD, so I can explorewhatever I want from this magnificent filmmaker.

Didn't mention the Kawase, because it was a let-down. I thought this was a walk on the tightrope between banality and profundity, and Kawase just managed to hold the balance, so it was a clear 50 out of 100. I don't know, the whole experience was interesting, and a friend of mine, to whom I've been constantly raving about Kawase fell in love with the film. But the whole audience seemed to enjoy the film, and somehow I couldn't get rid of the feeling that Kawase had arrived in viewer-friendly mainstream "arthouse" land... I hope her next feature will be much more radical. This was for me too much of a feel good movie. Even the camerawork was at times completely uninspired, though i always had the feeling that the film is trying for more, that greatness is just beyond the corner, and a small seemingly insignificant change of focus or mood could make the film reach for transcendent levels. Alas, it never really happened. Maybe my expectations were too high, but it felt like somebody was unsuccessfully attempting to copy Kawase.
Have you seen the film, arsaib?

Inland Empire was for me a completely pleasant and satisfying experience. Unfortunately I didn't feel any of the anxiety, shock or even wonder and incomprehension everybody was talking about. To me this was Lynch's most personal film, kind of like Tarantino's ego-trip in Death Proof . It seemed that he just did what he had always wanted to do, and the film feels completely free and had a very positive effect on me. I also think that it has probably so far the most beautiful cinematography of any Lynch film. I had absolutely no problem with the digital look or his choice of aesthetics. There were even two or three scenes that were completely transcendent (that's the thing I appreciate most in art - I use the word in a similar vein as Tarkovsky). But overall it didn't show me anything new or particularly interesting. Unlike most other Lynch films, I felt this was purely a personal exercise, and what I felt was the joy Lynch must have had while filming this. My rating may again go up on further viewings, but I couldn't find the shocking and revolutionary masterpiece everybody was talking about.

Play was simply not for me. When i saw the trailer (which I watched numerous times) I thought that this would be the perfect film for me. Boy, was I wrong. This is as safe a romantic comedy as can be. Everything is made to please the viewer and make him feel comfortable. A very complacent film, that doesn't take even the smallest of risks. This was definitely not for me! The friend I saw this with, disagreed completely (and he also loved "Before we fall in love again").

Twentynine Palms is a different kind of beast. I own the DVD for some time already, and before I went to see it at the cinema, I was sure this would become one of my all time favorites. I had already watched many scenes from the movie out of context, and i had completely fallen in love with the whole concept (my adoration for Katerina Golubeva didn't hurt either ). But when I saw the film at the cinema, with the scenes in context, it had seemingly lost a lot of its energy. I don't know, .. I had no problem deciphering its many layers of meaning, and usually I'm a sucker for this kind of movie. I somehow just COULD NOT get into the film.
In the end I refrained from rating it, because I was unable to decide how i felt about it. Why was I so indifferent to the film as a whole? At home, i started a lengthy essay, which I didn't finish, yet. By now, I think I am with you, leaning towards a modern Zabriskie Point and I do hope that I'll finish my essay as a pean of praise when I rewatch the film. The only problem is: I'm afraid I might actually not like it when I see it again, and maybe even Katerina Golubeva couldn't change that.
A
 

Re: Best Films of 2007

Postby A » Wed Feb 06, 2008 11:17 am

Ok, so I've finally assembled my personal Best of List(s) for 2007. It wasn't too difficult, though I had some problems in finding favorite films in a year which I consider to have been extremely weak - at least for me. Nothing new came into my list after December 31. 2007 - though I tried to find something and even gave some films a second chance. I have "adopted" (or maybe we just had the same idea at the same time) R6dw6C's method of creating two seperate lists with films that I find equally "important" or "significant" (you can interpret my selections any way you want ). The first list focuses more on my personal preferences, while the second lists recommended viewings that were as strong and interesting, but somehow didn't satisfy me as much on a personal level - which of course isn't to say they aren't worth of the same attention. I have refrained from making comments on the films, but this doesn't mean that I don't have anything to say or write about them. If you have any questions, just ask.

PS: It was extremely difficult to rank some of the films in preferential order, and at least the Top 5 on my favorites list are practically interchangable. I tried to use the impact of the films as a guideline, but nevertheless, it was difficult.

Favorite Films

1. Lady Chatterley (Pascale Ferran / France, Belgium / 2006) - 1st viewing
2. Nachmittag "Afternoon" (Angela Schanelec / Germany / 2006) - 2nd viewing
3. State Legislature (Frederick Wiseman / USA / 2007)
4. Nekam Achat Mishtey Eynay "Avenge But One of My Two Eyes" (Avi Mograbi / Israel, France / 2005)
5. Bamako (Abderrahmane Sissako / Mali, USA, France / 2006)
6. Meng Na Li Sha "Mona Lisa" (Li Ying / China, Japan / 2007)
7. Frownland (Ronald Bronstein / USA / 2007)
8. Yi ma de hou xian dai sheng huo "The Postmodern Life of My Aunt" (Ann Hui / Hong Kong / 2006)
9. Haebyuneui Yoein "Woman On The Beach" (Hong Sangsoo / South Korea / 2006)

Alternative List

1. Unser täglich Brot "Our Daily Bread" (Nikolaus Geyrhalter / Austria, Germany / 2005)
2. Twentynine Palms (Bruno Dumont / France, Germany, USA / 2003)
3. Tian bian yi duo yun "The Wayward Cloud" (Tsai Ming-linag / Thailand, France / 2005)
4. Last Days (Gus Van Sant / USA / 2004)
5. Import/Export (Ulrich Seidl / Austria / 2007)
6. Iklimler "Climates" (Nuri Bilge Ceylan / turkey, France / 2006) - 2nd viewing
7. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik / USA / 2007)
8. Away From Her (Sarah Polley / Canada / 2006)
9. Aju teukbyeolhan sonnim "Ad Lib Night" (Lee Yoon-ki / South Korea / 2006)
10. Inland Empire (David Lynch / USA, France, Poland / 2006)

Honorable Mentions :

Binglang "Betelnut" (Heng Yang / China / 2006)
Der Mann von der Botschaft "The Man from the Embassy" (Dito Tsintsadze / Germany / 2006)
La stella che non c'è "The Missing Star" (Gianni Amelio / Italy, France, Switzerland, Singapore / 2006)
Mogari no mori "The Mourning Forest" (Naomi Kawase, Japan, France / 2007)
Reprise (Joachim Trier / Norway / 2006)
Sanxia haoren "Still Life" (Jia Zhang-ke / China, Hong Kong / 2006)
Shoot 'Em Up (Michael Davis / USA / 2007)
Slumming (Michael Glawogger / Austria, Switzerland, Germany / 2006)
Substitute (Fred Poulet, Vikash Dhorasoo / France / 2006)
Un couple parfait "A Perfect Couple" (Nobuhiro Suwa / France, Japan / 2005)

Hmm, going over my selections it doesn't seem such a bad year. I mean, 30 films that I would like to see again, and some of which are worth several re-watches. Even if there probably wasn't a film that I really considered perfect in itself (with the exception of Nikolaus Geyrhalter's "Our Daily Bread"), many films had lots of fascinating and stimulating moments. After all, that's why we watch movies.
A
 

Re: Best Films of 2007

Postby arsaib4 » Thu Feb 07, 2008 4:45 am



Have you seen the film, arsaib?

No, I missed it at Toronto last year. I was hoping that it'd get programmed in the upcoming Film Comment Selects series but that didn't turn out to be the case (new films from the likes of Assayas, Rivette [which I loved] and Akin are there, however).

Thanks for your detailed reply. And I'll comment on your list when I have more time.
arsaib4
 

Re: Best Films of 2007

Postby arsaib4 » Sat Feb 09, 2008 5:48 pm



Lady Chatterley (Pascale Ferran / France, Belgium / 2006)

Glad to see it being rated so high. I think you already know how I feel about the film, which I was fortunate enough to watch theatrically back in August of last year. If I remember correctly, you caught it at Berlinale '07. Do we need to review it?

"Afternoon" (Angela Schanelec / Germany / 2006)

It's on my "to-see" list thanks to Möller...and you.

State Legislature (Frederick Wiseman / USA / 2007)

It will also feature on my (primary) Best of '07 list.

Nekam Achat Mishtey Eynay "Avenge But One of My Two Eyes"/Meng Na Li Sha "Mona Lisa"/Frownland/Yi ma de hou xian dai sheng huo "The Postmodern Life of My Aunt"

These films haven't yet been distributed stateside. Möller did favorably mention Mona Lisa in his Berlinale report.

Haebyuneui Yoein "Woman On The Beach" (Hong Sangsoo / South Korea / 2006)

I was under the impression that you weren't very fond of it. But Hong's deceptively complex films do have a tendency to grow in viewers' minds.

more to come...
arsaib4
 

Re: Best Films of 2007

Postby arsaib4 » Fri Feb 29, 2008 5:19 am

Unser täglich Brot "Our Daily Bread" (Nikolaus Geyrhalter / Austria, Germany / 2005)

As you probably noticed earlier, it made my '07 Undistributed list. Austrian cinema has always been quite strong with non-fiction films, and Geyrhalter's work, which also includes Pripyat, has helped in continuing that tradition.

Twentynine Palms (Bruno Dumont / France, Germany, USA / 2003)

"As for Twentynine Palms, whose visual and thematic motifs fall in line with Dumont's other efforts so far, I've been slowly inching towards the camp which regards it as the future Zabriskie Point."

Tian bian yi duo yun "The Wayward Cloud" (Tsai Ming-linag / Thailand, France / 2005)

I'm glad you included it on your list. Arguably one of the best and most controversial films Tsai has made so far.

Last Days (Gus Van Sant / USA / 2004)

One of my best from '05. I consider it a masterpiece.

Import/Export (Ulrich Seidl / Austria / 2007)

I think R6 also liked it quite a bit.
arsaib4
 

Re: Best Films of 2007

Postby A » Mon Mar 17, 2008 11:03 pm

I'd like to read your review of lady Chatterley. A deceptively simple film.
And the Hong definitely grew in my mind. I can't say that I like it, without another rewatch, but I strongly remember my dislike of the film and especially all of the characters when i saw it at the Berlinale last year. Somehow I suspect, Hong will become the director, whose films I will mostly dislike. Doeasn't mean they won't wind up on some more "favorite" lists, though. A very strange paradox, even for myself.

I'm pretty sure you will love "Avenge but one of my two eyes" and "Mona Liasa" once you get the chance to see them, and have at least some respect for Frownland .
"The Postmodern Life of my Aunt" is pure joy.
A
 

Re: Best Films of 2007

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Mar 18, 2008 4:58 am

Thanks. And yes, as you stated, it is "deceptively simple." Also, compared to a few other adaptations, it's relatively unconcerned about class differences (it's French, after all). More to come, for sure.

Paradox, indeed, regarding Hong. I believe his latest is almost entirely set in Paris.

I don't think any of Li Ying's films are available on DVD. He seems to be a favorite of Berlinale programmers.
arsaib4
 

Re: Best Films of 2007

Postby arsaib4 » Mon Mar 24, 2008 10:36 pm

8. Away From Her (Sarah Polley / Canada / 2006)

I'm glad to see that your praise is guarded. It's not a masterpiece, perhaps not even a great film. A good debut feature with a great lead performance. A second viewing confirmed to me the film's shortcomings in relation to editing and a lack of social network around its primary characters.

9. Aju teukbyeolhan sonnim "Ad Lib Night" (Lee Yoon-ki / South Korea / 2006)

I liked it too. I believe we have a thread for this film.

Binglang "Betelnut" (Heng Yang / China / 2006)

Another one on my list of films to see. I've read somewhere that it's shot in very long takes, is that right or am I confusing it with another film?

Reprise (Joachim Trier / Norway / 2006)

Coming out shortly in the U.S.

Un couple parfait "A Perfect Couple" (Nobuhiro Suwa / France, Japan / 2005)

I've seen two films from this most French of Japanese filmmakers: M/Other and H Story.

Shoot 'Em Up (Michael Davis / USA / 2007)

Interesting. Should I watch it?
arsaib4
 

Re: Best Films of 2007

Postby A » Tue Mar 25, 2008 3:06 am

I thought Away From Her had a lot of great moments. If i ever get to finish that review, I might be able to flesh out my argument.
It may become a personal favorite after further viewings. You are right that there's a lack of social networks around the characters, but that's often a thing I like about characters, although i also like the opposite very much (e.g. Altman). I guess I just like extremes. I thought the way that Polley focused on the two persons, only hinting at everything else, very intriguing. Don't remember much about the editing. What didn't you like about it?

"Ad Lib Night" . We have a thread, and I have another unfinished review. Another film that deals with personal loss, but in a different way. Compared to Polleys economic storytelling, I like the pauses, the rhythm and flow of the film very much. It often felt like it was stumbling, but it never fell. Maybe I'm being too "poetic", but it felt a bit like Free Jazz in certain moments. Very improvised, especially the beautiful beginning. What I loved was the lighting. In the theater i felt like I could almost touch the screen. Looked a lot like natural light sources, and the cinematographer caught them in a particular way. Especially the first drive to the country was very impressive.

"Betelnut" is the one with very long takes. Sometimes they felt too long, though in retrospect the film seems to grow. Nothing much happens, as I don't recall anything you could possibly call a storyline. Just some bunch of kids and teenagers, hanging around, doing nothing all day, trying to stay alive in a world that doesn't care for them and offers no perspectives. Very poor neighborhood, but the director doesn't focus as much on direct social commentary or a bleak vision of the world. The film felt more like a poetic reflection on life in the moment, and its subtlety let the viewer draw his own conclusions. Recommended despite its many shortcomings (if I'm not wrong, this is a debut, and mostly what one would call an improvised amateur film). This is no-budget filmmaking at its most obvious. I think you would like it, though I doubt you'll be particularly overwhelmed by the experience. But maybe a bit more fond of it than me.

Reprise. It has its moments, though the film as a whole isn't memorable in any way. I included it mostly out of sentimental reasons for the way it depicted adolescent relationships, and the way the camera caught the girls' faces. I could identify strongly with some of the multifaceted emotions in these certain scenes (loss, grief, wonder, melancholy, and a little hope, because of the mysteries of human emotions and the transformative powers of experiencing another person, all mixed into one) but besides that I didn't care much for any of the characters. The whole film also often feels like a reprise of Trainspotting, and the kind of films that have become popular since. Not always a good idea... Let me know what you think of it!

What do you think of Suwa's other films? This was my first encounter with his style, and it was very interesting. Usually the kind of film I like, I would say, but it could have used a little more hysteria ans misery. As it was the characters were rather bland, but I guess that's the point of the film. Usually people who behave like that feel very shallow to me in real life. Anyways, I'm sure you'll like the moments in the museum (you'll know when you see the film ). And I adore Valeria Bruni Tedeschi. One of the best actresses working today, and I need to see her films as a director. Have you caught any of them?

Shoot 'Em Up . If you enjoy Clive Owen and Monica Bellucci playing it campy, and have no problem with films that are completely over the top. Despite what most people say, I think director Michael Davis really loves action films, and this is as much a hommage as a parody of the genre. Not always original, though it often seems to try very hard, I nevertheless enjoyed every moment of it, once I accepted the premise and didn't bother with any logic or story. One of the films I enjoyed the most last year. This is still Hollywood, so don't expect any miracles, but I think you might enjoy it, if you are nostalgic for the old times of movies, but kind of know that those times are over. The film is full of references and a quite narcisstic, but it doesn't take itself too serious. I admire the guts the director shows in doing this project with such a mess of a script. The bad and corny dialog seems like it was written like that on purpose, and also the film has a sketchy and improvised feeling a lot of studio film totally lack today. I have a difficult time describing the film, and what exactly it is i like about it. Probably it's the mere joy at making this film which shimmers through most of the time. If you like the words camp and absurd, and don't bother that it's made in Hollywood, then go for it. But I warn you! I'm the guy who also enjoyed Armageddon very much.
A
 

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