The 90s in when I first really started to paying attention to film, I was 16 and still wanting to be a writer, i was beginning to add more images to my thinking and when I began video classes in 91, my fate was sealed.
I know who I think is the greatest of the decade and I certainly welcoming differing opinions, but for me, it’s Zhang Yimou.
His films are beautiful to see, to hear, the stories are rich and I will honestly claim my infatuation with Gong Li is only a part of why i think his films are amazing and the 90s for him were exquisite.
Ju Dou, Raise the Red Lantern, Story of Qiu Ju, To Live, Shanghai Triad — do I dare sat that this is as impressive a decade as Coppola’s 70s, yes, I dare.
His use of color, I feel, is second to none, but there was also great growth in this film making, and the add in the fact China decided to censor him following To Live, his work is just that much more impressive.
So, who else was the top of the top in the 90s from around the world?
And anyone who honestly believes Tarantino is the greatest of the decade needs to have a rat eat its way through their anus and feed on their entrails — yeah I’m that fuckin’ serious.
Despite a few missteps, I think the 90s was Scorsese’s strongest decade. GoodFellas, The Age of Innocence, Casino, and Bringing Out the Dead are all great films in my opinion. I also like Cape Fear a lot, but wouldn’t put it in the same rank as those others.
Yimou is as good a pick as any, though. I still have to try Shanghai Triad.
Personal preferences aside, I don’t think Tarantino would be a valid pick simply for the fact that he only released 3 movies.
My favorites, with their best achievements of the decade:
Claire Denis (Beau travail, Nenette et Boni, I Cant Sleep, No Fear, No Die, U.S. Go Home)Wong Kar-wai (Chungking Express, Days of Being Wild, Fallen Angels, Happy Together, Ashes of Time)John McTiernan (Die Hard With a Vengeance, The 13th Warrior, The Thomas Crown Affair, Medicine Man, The Hunt for Red October, Last Action Hero)Paul Verhoeven (Starship Troopers, Showgirls, Basic Instinct, Total Recall)Abel Ferrara (New Rose Hotel, Dangerous Game, King of New York, The Blackout, Bad Lieutenant, Body Snatchers, The Addiction, The Funeral)Clint Eastwood (The Bridges of Madison County, Unforgiven, White Hunter Black Heart, A Perfect World)John Woo (Hard Boiled, Bullet in the Head, Blackjack, Hard Target)Brian De Palma (Snake Eyes, Carlito’s Way, Mission: Impossible, Raising Cain, Bonfire of the Vanities) Martin Scorsese (The Age of Innocence, Casino, Kundun, Cape Fear, Goodfellas)
Tarantino and Fincher. Don’t really care if that’s not fashionable around these parts.
The 90s are a difficult decade because there were a lot of people making their greatest works:
David Cronenberg (Crash, eXistenZ, Naked Lunch)
Emir Kusturica (Underground, Arizona Dream, Black Cat White Cat)
Mike Leigh (Secrets and Lies, Naked, Career Girls)
Abbas Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry, Closeup, Life and Nothing More)
Michael Haneke (71 Fragments, Funny Games, Benny’s Video)
The list goes on
Godard had a great decade: Forever Mozart, New wave, Germany 90 Year 9 0, Woe is Me
Woody Allen: Husbands and Wives, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Bullets Over Broadway, Deconstructing Harry
I second Clint Eastwood, great decade.
Dario Argento too
Another vote for Eastwood, Denis, Kiarostami and Cronenberg.
The PuppetmasterGood Men, Good WomenGoodbye South, Goodbye Flowers of Shanghai
Kiarostami easily wins this one with five extraordinary films made throughout the decade:
Abbas Kiarostami (Close-Up; And Life Goes On; Through the Olive Trees; A Taste of Cherry; The Wind Will Carry Us)
Others who deserve a mention:
Sharunas Bartas (In Memory of the Day Passed By; The Corridor; Few of Us; The House)Dariush Mehrjui (Sara; Pari; Leila; The Pear Tree)Nobuhiro Suwa (2/Duo; M/Other)Aleksandr Sokurov (The Second Circle; Whispering Pages; A Humble Life; Mother and Son)Naomi Kawase (Embracing; Katatsumori; Sun on the Horizon; The Weald)Tom Noonan (What Happened Was…; The Wife)Tsai Ming-liang (Rebels of the Neon Light; Vive l’amour; The River; The Hole)
I agree with APURSANSAR! :) Kiarostami definitely hits the 90s as one of the best director of the decade. :)
I’ve not seen some Manoel de Oliveira films, but for now, yes it has to be Kiarostami.
@UliCain: Zhang Yimou started with great promise, but after To Live lost his way i think
Kenji, I think being censored by his government following To Live did effect his film making, but Road Home in 01 is still a beautiful and while he may have chosen to do some high wire films, they are still visually stunning pictures, But I do agree his earlier films are more successful than the latter films.
As for Eastwood, I find that an interesting mention and I do not discount it all — I feel that Unforgiven is one of the top films of the 90s and usually forgotten about in that discussion.
Fincher: I’m not a fan of the Game, bit I’m one of the few that truly liked Alien 3, and Se7en and Fight Club are in my Top 20. I think people choose to hate on them because they are Hollywood productions, but they are also solid fuckin’ films.
I do see my selection for Greatest Director of the 00s+ mentioned here, so he’ll be nice to discuss after the 50s (I’m working on the order as we go).
Plus, I think we see greater diversity here, than in the 70s thread, why do you think that is?
I rewatched To Live recently and i honestly don’t think it’ s all that great. I much prefer Shanghai Triad, which got mixed reviews at the time.
The scope of To Live was huge, and Shanghai Triad brought things back down a little and I think it is a more successful film. And I think it’s Zhang’s homage film to to the likes of Bertolucci and Leone (Conformist, 1900, Once Upon A Time in America I can see as having influenced the film).
^^i think it’s closer to Bertolucci than Leone. it was also the first and only Yimou film i saw on the big screen.
i think the scope is part of the problem i have with To Live to be honest. tries to cover way too much ground.
have you seen Ebert’s review of Shanghai Triad? It’s one of the worst reviews i’ve ever seen. He doesn’t get the film on any level. He claims the movie is told from the boy’s point of view, but the story isn’t about him, so there is a disconnect there, or something along those lines, which is absurd.
^Ebert is a terrible critic anyway. The only reason anyone takes him seriously is because he managed to get on TV. His most pompous criticism was when he claimed that he was the boy who could see that the emperor was naked (real dramatic Roger!) after Taste of Cherry won the Palme D’Or.
I admire Zhang’s 1990s films as much as anyone, but, I too go with Kiarostami.
Now, I know they don’t get a great deal of love around here, but the Coen Bros. had a damned impressive decade as well.
Miller’s Crossing (my personal favorite from them, my third favorite film), Barton Fink (Palme d’Or), Hudsucker Proxy (underrated), Fargo (overrated), and The Big Lebowski. And they snagged two Cannes Best Director awards for their efforts.
Are they just too silly to be taken seriously? Does they knowing smile of their work exclude them from greatness?
I still choose Zhang, and it appears Kiarostami has gained a great deal of respect with his work, but the Coens — who are not Hollywood darlings, let’s not fool ourselves on that matter — have done the work to earn recognition for their efforts.
I agree with most of the suggestions, so I’ll just add a couple of old favourites…
Jacques Rivette, again:
1991: La Belle Noiseuse (240 minutes)
1991: La Belle Noiseuse: Divertimento (120 minutes)
1994: Joan the Maiden, Part 1: The Battles (160 minutes)
1994: Joan the Maiden, Part 2: The Prisons (176 minutes)
1995: Up, Down, Fragile (169 minutes)
1998: Top Secret (173 minutes)
The 90s found Rivette at his most ambitious. Not as obscure as his 70s work, or as hermetic as his 80s work, and not quite as ‘mainstream’ (comparatively) as his work during the last decade, but instead refracting his usual ornate conspiracies, psychodramas and meditations on performance through a prism of historical drama, musical comedy and Hitchcockian intrigue.
1990: Nouvelle Vague
1991: Germany Year 90 Nine Zero
1993: Les Enfants jouent à la Russie
1993: Hélas pour moi
1993: Je vous salue Sarajevo
1994: JLG/JLG: Self-Portrait in December
1996: For Ever Mozart
1997: Seul le cinéma
1997: Fatale beauté
1998: La Monnaie de l’absolu
1998: Une Vague Nouvelle
1998: Le Contrôle de l’univers
1998: Les Signes parmi nous
Godard’s most consistent and provocative decade was probably the 1980s (even though he produced his greatest work in the 00s, Notre Musique), but his work in the 90s is no less of an achievement. The decade that saw the completion of the ambitious Histoire(s) du cinema series was also the decade that gave us two of Godard’s greatest ‘narrative’ features, Nouvelle Vague with Delon and Hélas pour moi with Depardieu, as well as the brilliant hour-long semi-sequel to Alphaville, Germany Year 90 Nine Zero. It was also the decade that saw the release of what could (perhaps) be considered one of the greatest and most powerful short films of the 20th century (hyperbole?), Je vous salue Sarajevo.
Also, I agree with Uli, the 90s was a great decade for the Coens. I’ve fallen out of love with them since, but their run of films from Blood Simple to The Big Lebowski is a tremendous achievement.
Coens were great in the 90’s, and i too have fallen out of love with them since, despite No Country For Old Men and A Serious Man(which grew on me).
Kiarostami definitely gets my vote as one of the best directors of the 90’s. Close Up is a masterpiece, Through The Olive Trees, Taste of Cherry and The Wind……….are great films too.
I’m with Jack on Ferrara, but only for three films. Bad Lieutenant, The Addiction and The Funeral. King Of New York is a good film, but it’s transitional, and essentially an exercise in style. I think the style gets in the way of the ‘substance’, rather than serving it, but it has a few excellent set pieces. I’ve just grown out of it. Loved it in my teen years thoiugh. Body Snatchers to me is just garbage, and The Blackout is just decent. New Rose Hotel was interesting but that’s about it. Dangerous Game was a little pretentious, and Ferrara was biting off more than he could chew with that one, but again, it’s an interesting film with some excellent scenes. Definitely not one of the best of the decade though in my opinion. It’s uneven for that.
and jack mate, don’t argue with me too much or send me links about how meaningful these films i’m dismissing are. I’ve read just about everything important written about them. Hell i wrote a 4,000 word essay on Ferrara and auteur theory that was meant to be part of my honours which i never completed ;-)
Good case for Yimou. I’d tend to agree. I’m not familiar enough with Kiarostami but I imagine he’d probably be neck and neck.
Mike Leigh’s ’90s work is brilliant. Naked (his masterpiece), Secrets & Lies, Life is Sweet, Topsy-Turvy, Career Girls. Five truly great films, which is made all the more impressive because his tv work (most of the films he made pre-1988) is generally pretty meh.
Miyazaki in the ’90s gave us Princess Mononoke and Porco Rosso, his 4th and 3rd best films which is no small achievement considering his two best films (My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away) are both in my top 25.
Tsai Ming-liang boasts The Hole (his best film), Vive l’amour, The River and Rebels of a Neon God, as mentioned above.
Kieslowski gave us The Double Life of Veronique (in my top 25) and Three Colors Red and Blue (White isn’t quite on the same level of greatness).
I’m not really experienced enough to give a lot of answers (there are a lot of directors who I’ve only seen a couple films from from that decade that could qualify once I’ve seen more; Wong, Hong, Sokurov, Bartas), but those four names above came to mind.
Kieslowski is definitely on my list too, no doubt.
I’d like to contribute more here but i just can’t think right now. i’m content to leech off you good people ;-)
Oh, and based on what I’ve seen I’d call Scorsese’s greatest decade the 80s (The King of Comedy and After Hours are his second and third best from what I’ve seen, whilst Raging Bull and The Last Temptation of Christ are both very impressive). From the 90s The Age of Innocence is great, Goodfellas and Casino are good but nothing special and Bringing Out the Dead is an abomination.
I’ve been thinking about the 80s and it’s really a tough one. Scorsese is certainly up there, an I have a couple other in mind, one people will call me crazy and I think we need to be a little crazy sometime.
I think I’ll do the 80s one soon. But the 60s comes first
Zhang’s on the short list but I’d place a few higher. Wong, Coen, Kieslowski, Denis, Bartas, etc.
Fincher only factors on the ‘depressed teenager movie’ list. Fight Club is good, great if you’re a depressed teenager, and Se7en is a scripting clusterfuck.
I agree with Cecil:
In the 90’s, all I did was complain about the bad writing “out there” and then… there was Mike Leigh. The other fine director’s mentioned just don’t resonate as much with me…
quit with all the sexy talk, l’homme!
One name yet to appear in this thread: Atom Egoyan made Calendar, Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter and Felicia’s Journey in the ’90s.
I would definitely agree with Kieslowski on the list, I love each of the Three Colors films and I really need to give Double Life of Veronique another shot, I just wasn’t in the right mind to see it when I did.